EXPENSIVE ASTRO MIRACLE FILTER?
Welcome to my Kenko Astro LPR filter review, and this is one heck expensive filter. Priced at 32000 JPY or about USD 320 for the 77mm version, this is the most expensive filter I have bought till date.
But what is so interesting and so good about this filter? Well, the name of the filter will sort of explain itself – Astro Light Pollution Resistant (LPR) filter. In most modern cities, you will not see the stars because the night skies are concealed by light pollution from the city lights.
The Astro LPR filter will supposedly filter off (some of) the light pollution off the street lamps and city lights, revealing the stars like magic. This is like an astro-photographer’s dream come true. How cool is that?
AN HONEST DISCLOSURE
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Good build quality, but watch that reflection.
Astro photographers will love this one. For “night sky only” filter.
Very expensive, no other uses except for astrophotography.
An interesting filter to have… except the price.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN TYPE I AND TYPE II?
Kenko offers 2 types of Astro LPR filters – Type I and Type II. I guess the very first question for people who are interested is – What is the difference between the 2? There is very limited information on the Internet regarding these filters, but this is what I managed to dig out.
- The Type I filter is cheaper, but supposedly cuts off way too much of the light spectrum, resulting in a funky color balance.
- The Type II filter is more expensive, but supposedly cuts off only most of the light spectrum in city lights. This results in a better color balanced photo.
So conclusion, both filters work. With the exception that you will need more color balancing and post-processing work with the Type I filter.
I got the more expensive Type II, because Type I sold out… and I figured that having a little more light spectrum data will do good in the final photos. But either way, both versions received pretty good reviews on Amazon Japan.
PACKAGING AND BUILD QUALITY
This is one excitingly expensive filter. So it is only natural for one to expect “premium quality and packaging” out of this “luxury filter”. But when I got the filter, I was a little disappointed with the packaging. At least the filter is of good quality.
The Astro LPR comes in a rather standard packaging, box and a hard case inside. Rather disappointing for the price paid, Singh-Ray did better with a unique leather carrying case.
The optical quality is excellent though. What struck me is that this filter is reflective. Yep, it looks pretty much like a one-way mirror.
The filter profile is at 0.7mm thick, made of… aluminum? Definitely not some cheap plastic. Has a front filter thread, so filter stacking is possible. Although I do not recommend stacking filters with such a thick profile.
Astro filter or not, we are still subjected to wait for a clear night sky. So it was only 2 weeks after I bought the filter that I had a chance to use it. Went to “the secret darkest spot” in Singapore to test drive this filter… Which is still not too dark. At least there are no street lamps nor lights from nearby buildings.
Do forgive my newbie star shooting skills, this is my maiden attempt to “seriously” try to catch the milky way in a light polluted city. With the help of the Star Tracker app, I barely made out where the milky way was. The rest is pure luck.
First photo: The raw. Taken with Nikon D800E, 16-35mm and the Astro filter. Setting at 16 mm, f/4, 30 seconds and ISO 1600. I first thought that annoying “halo” in the center to be a bad filter “side effect”… but later found out what it is.
Second photo: The processed. Yep, the milky way is visible! If you take a long hard look at that “halo”, it is actually the reflection of my 16-35mm lens… So yep, there is some “internal reflection” going on, which is really no good.
Third photo: Some more Photoshop magic to enhance the contrast, and remove some of those annoying “halo”. Pretty usable photo if I crop and clean it further.
So after a round of actual field test, we can conclude that the astro filter works as advertised. While it may not be a “miracle filter” that pierces through those “dirty” city lights, it does filter out some of them. It does bring the milky way back into the photo.
There are a couple of things you need to take note though.
- Use a lens hood with this filter to keep the stray lights off.
- Reflections mean that you will not want to use this filter under a street light, or point this at any strong light source.
- I won’t call this filter a “miracle”, but definitely an excellent filter that works magic.
- Expect plenty of Photoshop editing.
I guess what is bad, is my photography skills and not fully understanding how the filter works. So the next round, I will be testing things out a little differently.
- Switch to 24-70mm, which has the same 77mm diameter, but f/2.8 and a much larger hood to block out stray lights.
- A composition with landscape.
- 1 x long exposure landscape shot without the astro filter (light painting might be fun).
- 1 x long exposure astro shot.
- Photoshop stack.
So yep, until I get another chance to test this filter out. I shall leave this here and say, I am starting to love this filter, and evil ideas of how to use it are popping into my head.
- Solid build, good optics
- “Magic” filter, removes some city lights
- Very expensive filter
- Internal reflection, keep clear of strong light sources
- “Night-time only” filter