Replay: Modern cameras are sharp, very sharp. Maybe it's time to take another look at the Black Pro Mist filter.
I’m chasing a “look” and to be perfectly honest, I’m not quite there yet, but I’m getting closer and closer by the day. Like many of you, we are striving to move away from “digital sharpness” and into a pseudo-film-like emulation that feels organic and familiar. The easiest way to achieve this is with proper lensing, amazing lighting, high dynamic range, bigger sensors, greater colour depth, raw workflows (sometimes) and a strong hand in the grade. I’m sure a lot of you reading this can relate, as I’m not made of money and the gear that I have, while ever-expanding, has to make do with a bit of skill and tact. Though this is nothing new, the Black Pro Mist filtration system is a great budget-friendly way to take off some of the digital edge your clinical lenses/sensors exhibit for a fair price.
Contrary to popular belief, I’m not particularly fond of the Micro Four-Thirds system’s look or especially its lens collection, usually opting for my vintage Nikkor kit paired with a Metabones 64XL to achieve a closer to full-frame equivalency. I use these tools because they offer the biggest bang for your buck and give me the most features in a run & gun style format. So, when reluctantly using my Lumix 12 – 35MM F2.8 MK1 on a gimbal for its weight, size, and optical stabilisation, I’m knowingly sacrificing a point of my “look” out of operational convenience. In enters the Black Pro Mist 1/4th strength filter.
Soft, blooming highlights with gentle roll-offs are usually a portion of traits we associate with the “film look”. We can only take so much contrast and digital “sharpness” off a lot of these smaller cameras and that widely has to do with picture profiles and your lens selection. So, when your back is against the wall and you’re sacrificing a portion of your look to general practices or workflows, adding a bit of filtration on top of your otherwise clinical lenses can help in taking off that “digital edge”.
Video shot with a GH5 & GH5S w/ Lumix 12 – 35MM F2.8 MK1 & Black Pro Mist 1/4th
Recently, I purchased the Black Pro Mist 1/4th filter and used it on a shoot for a local fire department. The main action shots were conducted with the GH5 & GH5S with the Lumix 12 – 35MM F2.8 MK1 on a Ronin-M. This had to be a lightweight configuration as the firefighters time was extremely limited, having to be on call at a moment’s notice. The results speak for themselves with a nice soft glow around highlights, softening up that image to a more appealing, film look. Sprinkle in a bit of film grain and the GHAlex workflow, and we have a less than perfect film emulation. Is it creating exactly the image I’m looking for? Absolutely not. I really want to move into a larger sensor from something like RED or an Ursa G2 for that high dynamic range content, but for such a razor-sharp lens and such a tiny sensor, the filter does help take away the digital and add something back into the mix.
With & Without Black Pro Mist 1/4th example. Note the halation/blooming
Before I went on this shoot, I tried a number of scenarios to see the filter’s effects on various lenses and it was neat to see a comparison between unfiltered and filtered. In this shot, you’ll see the Black Pro Mist 1/4th applied to my Nikkor 85MM pointing directly at a light source. You’ll note the halation and blooming effect immediately, which gives a very soft, ethereal glow. I should advise this particular strength might not be suitable for all applications and the 1/8th strength filter might be better suited for general practices with a subtler output. These filters are primarily used in Hollywood for female talent to add some softness to their faces, but they can most certainly be applied to a whole range of scenarios.
A beautiful sample of work that inspired me to look at these filters.
In conclusion, I really found the Pro Mist filter to be a breath of fresh air in a budget-friendly solution, to what normally would be a sacrifice to my look in turn for using native modern lenses. Really what pushed me over the edge to buy this filter was this particular sample with the same exact camera (GH5S & Black Pro Mist 1/4th) and some heavy-handed grading. What do you think? Have you had the opportunity to use these filters in your own works? What else are you doing to take off that digital edge in camera? Let us know in the comments below!