Have you ever wondered why your photographs don’t look special? Or, why do people who use smartphones to post images on social media have very similar results to images captured with a camera like a Leica CL or Leica Monochrome? The answer is easier to explain if we look at the evolution of phone technology namely computational photography.

The simple answer to this question is that phone cameras have come a long way in image quality the yesteryears of Leica M8 are long gone. Leica M8 which boasted images at a reputable 10 megapixels has now become obsolete in the pixel race even at the smartphone level. This is why looking into the future we can predict that smartphones will have better and better image quality due to improvements in computational photography software that can detect noise incorrect for distortions when capturing images.


This is also why if you want to differentiate your photographs from the ones that are captured with a smartphone. To achieve it, you’ll have to put the strengths of your camera the good to use. The problem with digital cameras today is not related to their image quality but rather that the images captured with smartphones or with digital cameras are viewed on social media platforms. 

Another handicap that digital cameras have in separating their images from the “herd” is that all images are viewed on computer screens where the resolution is limited to the resolution of the screen. Nowhere do we see large printed images where we can look and enjoy the subtleties and nuances of a photograph. This is why your camera has afforded you with high megapixels and great image quality, social media, and digital device has handicapped your photography to limitations that favor smartphones. If you look at social media such as Instagram and Facebook through this window, it becomes very clear why down-sampling and format that favors square plays well with smartphone images. Just look at the way a smartphone is designed, it is rectangular vertically or at best images are viewed in square format.  

If you want to have your images stand out in a sea of “noise” you will need to play into the strengths of your photography equipment. Remember this is going to be the future of how images are going to be viewed for generations to come and you will need to find a way to make your photographs capture the attention of the viewer who is looking at your 24 or 47MP image on a 2-inch screen. 

So, what do I mean playing into the strengths of your camera or photography equipment and how can you use these tools to your advantage where you will look at images on a computer screen and marvel at how you ever captured that photograph. Ultimately, the question is how to create an image that looks different than what a smartphone can capture with all the might of computational photography software running in the background. For this, you must first look at what a good camera can do that a smartphone cannot do.

For starters, we can look at the fact that smartphones are incapable of doing long exposures in the way that a good camera can capture simply by using filters. Through the use of filter, we can attain images that are truly stunning that stand out especially when those images involve motion such as water movement. This is because when we use filter we can vary the exposure of the image that is being captured by slowing the shutter speed to levels that would not be possible in the current settings of your camera.


You have seen images captured with long exposure where the water from a waterfall looks like glistening ice suspended in space and you may have seen water smooth like glass on the surface of a lake or an ocean. These images are captured using ND filters that work in conjunction with the settings in the camera to create an image that can only be achieved with the combination of your camera‘s settings and the use of filters

My journey into long exposures has been a long process. Early on, I realized that the photographs that I captured were not the best they could be because I was limited with the settings that were assigned to my camera. This meant my photographs looked very much like images captured with a smartphone. To illustrate this point, take, for example, smartphones that have wide-angle lenses as part of their lens design which of applications like landscape photography mimick the look of expensive, high-quality lenses used by professional photographers, – another handicap for the camera users. This is why landscape or architecture images captured with expensive cameras look like they could have been captured with a smartphone.

So You want to make a different photograph? For this, you want to change the way you photograph scenes and landscapes or anything you normally photograph. One of the best tools to achieve better results is to use a good set of ND filters that deliver performance that is not going to affect the image quality.


A good ND filter incorporates high-quality glass that has high light transmission. Secondly, you will need a good sturdy tripod to mount your camera on because the camera needs to be still for the ND filters to work their magic with your camera

If you have done any kind of research you will find that their traditional manufacturers of these filters charge very high prices for their filters. In the past, I have used a variety of filters from different brands, most notably B&W, Zeiss, Hoya. So, how do you decide which brand to pick?

The key here is to look at what each ND filters can do in light transmission and the accuracy of color rendition. You definitely don’t want an ND filter to affect the rendering of your images with a color cast. Cheaper filters are notorious for their poor light transmission and color cast. 


This is where I have done my research knowing that good filters make the most impact in ensuring the image quality is up to my standards. Of course, I do own a variety of lenses from my journey as a photographer so I want to have ND filters that work on these lenses regardless of front filter size but I am always on the outlook for new products that could help my photography by ensuring that it reaches new levels through innovation.

My extensive research into filters has led me to find a company that has broken new ground, literally, in providing quality that is beyond and above all that is in the market today in a revolutionary way. What I’m talking about is the highest light transmission for ND filters, period. 

The company that I have discovered is called Breakthrough and rightfully they have chosen their name to represent their vision. In short, they have managed to create a system filters where mounting and use of these filters on a camera has become incredibly easy. All you need to do is attach the filter through a holder that is provided with your kit.


The obvious thing about any genre of photography is that there is a learning curve. In the case of long exposure photography understanding how ND filters affect your shutter speed and the functioning of your camera becomes crucial. The good news is that it is extremely easy that anyone who spends an afternoon experiment can grasp the basics and start creating breathtaking photographs. 

 Long exposure photography is a more advanced use of your camera but well worth the afternoon you would need to spend learning the basic use of ND filters. For your images to look exceptional you’ll have to take the time to compose them, slowing down your photography and that means you will need to spend time making sure that you have positioned your camera at the right angle, that you have securely locked your camera onto a tripod and installed the right filter for the exposure.

Once you have done all this you’ll find your images look stunningly beautiful, unique which will most likely get you more likes and comments when you share them on your social media or your Facebook. For my part, I mostly keep my work private and work with collectors who are keen on purchasing my photographs through several galleries around the world or directly from me. 


Once you have committed to capturing better photographs you’ll find that you are spending more and more time analyzing scenes, analyzing light, and seeing how each element plays a part in your photography. Over the years what I’ve learned is that when you arrive at a location you have to kind of look at what the composition has that would make it unique, that means knowing what to include and what the excludes which ultimately determines what lens and filter you should use to capture the scene. It may mean that you are going to use a wide-angle lens like my trusted Leica Tri-Elmar-M 16-18-21mm f/4 ASPH. Lens or Leica Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16-35mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH. Lens which is one of my favorite lenses for my Leica SL2 camera for landscape or urban architecture photography.
















For other circumstances where you may be using a range finder camera like the Leica M10-R camera, you can find many wide-angle lenses reviews on our Leica Review website. In particular, I have done a review of Leica Tri-Elmar-M 16-18-21mm f/4 ASPH. lens which is one of the lenses that I used for my Leica M rangefinder cameras. Whichever lines of lenses you use for your wide-angle will depend on the scene and having a zoom lens that is going to give you a variety of different focal lengths is going to be a key in ensuring that you have included what you want in that frame and excluded all the things that are distractions to that image that you are trying to create.

This is why I find wide-angle zoom lenses to be a good alternative to prime lenses because generally, we are using f8 or F8, or f11 to capture the scene and don’t require fast apertures for low-light. If you decide to go with a zoom lens it will afford you the possibility of using these apertures without having to having to carry around lenses in a backpack for each scene and having to change lenses in accordance to the see before you.


When I arrive at a place that I am planning to photograph I look for the composition to fit into the frame without distractions. I’m having a zoom on my Leica SL2 camera with the Breakthrough filter holder quickly attached as soon as I mount my camera on my tripod

Next, I spend a bit of time studying the light, composition to decide what kind of a photograph I want to create. The key here to capturing a successful photograph is to read what the light condition is, the direction of the light, and decide on the correct ND filter to achieve the right exposure. Breakthrough filters set that I have already included 3 options for manipulating exposure to my desired level. For anyone either starting out in long exposure photography or seasoned professional the tools are pretty similar so the responsibility of capturing a good photograph solely rests upon the skill and the patience of the photographer.

Generally, the way I approach photography is I already know which lens would work best for the scene but having to look through the viewfinder to see the actual composition gives me that assurance that I have framed my photograph properly.

I always place my camera on a tripod to ensure that I can do long exposures even though my Leica SL2 camera has IBIS (stabilization). This is crucial because having a focal length that is suitable for the scene does not ensure that you can capture the right composition because using the camera in its native settings often does not permit the right exposure to create that composition which sets your photographs apart from the “herd”. For the most part, whether you use a camera or a smartphone if you view it on a computer screen or a tablet the differences are going to be negligible because digital screens favor low resolution and lack of detail in photographs.   



If you spend some time searching through Youtube content, you will find that long exposure photography has become a popular genre of photography for landscape and urban photography. Those who aspire to bring something more to the table in the photographic sense understand the value that long exposure captures that brings into the emotional content of a photograph. This is why you will find that these well-composed photographs have unique emotional content even in circumstances where people may be moving in the frame creating motion blur. Ultimately, these captures create a unique perspective of viewing what that moment in time is while incorporating your artistic interpretation.
















Breakthrough filters have been incredible in my testing. Once I had done my research on the technical information on these filters, I called the company and requested a copy of their filters and their X100 holder. 

Breakthrough X100 holder is a filter holder that allows me to put any filter from Breakthrough filters line-up of filters in front of any of my lenses. This means that with one filter kit I can use all my lenses regardless of their front element size – ingenious. For most of the photography applications, I have chosen to use my 35 mm lens that has allowed me to capture images in challenging circumstances.

The location I’ve chosen to capture these photographs is White Rock located in the province of British Columbia in Canada. For those who are not familiar with the weather in the Pacific Northwest, it rains about 180 days out of the year with little opportunity to enjoy bout sun. This means for most winter months rain is persistent with no let up at any time. Sunshine is a blessing and a privilege that only people who have been deprived of sunshine can truly appreciate. ironically the license plates on cars say “Beautiful British Columbia”.

British Columbia’s coastline features Canada’s longest pier. Capturing photographs in this location on a sunny day can be very challenging as there are many many people on this pier enjoying the sun. As you can see in these photographs Leica SL2 provides me with the option to capture the scene in color or black and white. 

For artistic reasons, I prefer monochrome photographs. The reason I have chosen these photographs is to illustrate what a set of filters and a good lens can do in creating breathtakingly beautiful photographs. Regardless of whether you like to photograph landscapes, architecture, or on city streets, ND filters open a world of options for savvy photographers who want to take a path less traveled to achieve better photographs. 



What I have seen through the use of these filters is that they practically take no time to install and use when photographing a particular scene. Secondly, Breakthrough’s filters are made from the highest quality optics resulting in the highest image quality. This is especially important to get the most out of my Leica SL2‘s high megapixel resolution that affords my photographs to have more dimensionality and 3D pop that rivals my Leica S medium format camera‘s images.

This is why using these Breakthrough filters along the side of my Leica SL lenses has allowed me to maximize the image quality of my photographs which ultimately results in a distinct difference between images captured with smartphones and cheaper cameras.

Discovering new possibilities in photography is an exciting experience, in a single moment, you can see a world of new possibilities. Your photographs begin to transform from ordinary to beautiful, breathtaking, and through the eye of a photographer, the world you see can take a new meaning by the artistic decision of deciding to whether that is freezing motion or capturing subtleties of movement or present a  new perspective on everyday people to add an emotional element to my photography. 

I hope that by reading and watching the video in this review you will be inspired on how you can apply these principles, learn, and discover new ways to improve your photography. The applications for using these Breakthrough ND filters with your camera are just a start with a multitude of options still waiting to be explored through the use of polarizer filters and graduated filters and much more.


When you visit Breakthrough‘s website you will find that there are many options for a variety of photography. If you are starting, I recommend you purchase Breakthrough‘s basic ND filter kit that includes 3, 6, and 10 stop ND filters along with the X100 holder attaches to the front of your lens. You can stack more than one filter on to X100 holder which you will discover while experimenting with different exposure for your photography. My advice to you is to have fun, enjoy the experience of creating a photograph rather than taking snapshots. 

When you are diving into long exposure photography it may be a little bit daunting because using filters is relatively new in the photography realm.   However, photography is only one aspect where filters are used for capturing images. The main use of ND filters is in the world of cinema where the cinematographer installs what is called a “mat box” in front of a film camera where different ND filters can utilize to create a certain mood for filming application. The reason I am mentioning this is that in photography ND filters can be used for a similar effect. So, experiment with your ND filters.

While these are more complex applications that require a firm understanding of cinematography and the way film cameras work, the use of ND filters in photography remains a simple task. For those who are looking to improve their photography Breakthrough ND filters have made everything very simple. When you visit their website you will find that there is a wealth of knowledge on how to use ND filters.  There is even a free e-book that serves as a starter guide. Just for the record, I receive no sponsorship or income from anything you purchase on Breakthrough’s website. So, my recommendation is solely based on my personal experiences with Breakthrough‘s excellent products.



When getting outdoors to photograph it is important to travel light, which means using what is necessary and discarding all the extra accessories and gear that you won’t be using for your photography. There is plenty of Youtube content out there for organizing camera bags and which camera bag to choose. My personal choice for a camera bag is a Peak Design bag that is made to travel light.

Most professional photographers who do landscape or Urban architecture photography, usually include telephoto and wide-angle lenses in their bags. I recommend when you are starting to use only one zoom wide-angle lens. My personal choice is Leica Super-Vario-Elmar-SL 16-35mm f/3.5-4.5 ASPH.. If you are on a budget, Panasonic’s S PRO 16-35mm will perform exceptionally well for its price.  You will need Breakthrough’s basic ND kit with 3, 6 & 9 stop ND filters and a sturdy tripod. My choice of the lightest and best tripod, Peak Design Travel Tripod, I suggest that you buy the carbon fiber version because it is lighter and better at absorbing vibrations.

In our video, I demonstrate how to attach Breakthrough’s X100 holder. It is simply screwing to the front of your lens and inserting an ND filter. Voila. 

The next bit is where your creativity comes into play – you need to envision what you want to capture. the keyword here is the envisioning of seeing or the photograph before actually taking the photograph that takes a bit of practice knowing what kind of it image would look good as your final result is crucial in deciding which filters to use for that photograph.

Of course, it takes time and practice to learn how to use these filters to their best advantage however from the get-go you will find that having these Breakthrough ND filters inspires you to experiment almost daily. On the weekends you begin to explore different locations with your tripod to photograph your favorite scenes. 

Yes, long exposure photography or the use of filters will mean that you need to carry your tripod and your ND filters with you but the rewards are well worth the effort. Generally, I pack lunch and my Peak Design bag hardly weighs anything. 

The best part about using these Breakthrough ND filters is that they come in these protected pouches where in the past I had to find special sleeves or ways to store them. With these pouches, I can protect my ND filters from scratches or markings.  

As I mentioned earlier these filters are very well made from the highest quality optics so I treat these lenses the way I treat all my lenses with utmost care. Once I am done using a filter it goes right back into its pouch. Remember, you do not leave your fingerprints on these high-quality filters. Your filters should always be kept clean. My recommendation is to carry a lens cleaning cloth to wipe these ND filters before use or after use if you have touched their surfaces. You can hold these Breakthrough ND filters from the sides so they are not smeared by the oils from your hand.


The other important factor to consider is that the Breakthrough X100 filter holder can accept other forms of filters such as graduated ND filters or polarizing filters. These filters have specific uses but they do provide unique advantages to photographers who want to remove unwanted reflections and refractions or expose certain parts of their scene differently than other parts. 

For this article, I will not expound on different application of filters but only mention that for photographs captured at sunsets or dawn use of graduated ND filters play a very important role. So, there is a world to discover through the use of filters in photography. 

It is important to make a distinction between ND and polarizing filters to understand their use in photography. For most professional landscape photographers, polarizing filters are an indispensable part of their gear. Polarizing filters cut glare and increase contrast while ND filters simply cut the amount of light. The two filters can be used together to attain a particular objective in photography.

Filters in all sorts of forms and styles serve us photographers in the creation of amazing photographs. Some photographers, especially novices discount the use of these filters as important tools because they fear that it is too much work to use them or their use is foreign to them. Most find it too much hassle to use these incredibly useful tools but they are depriving themselves of the opportunity to capture breathtakingly beautiful photographs especially if their images are one of landscape or Urban architecture. 


Perhaps the most common application of the use of filters in my photography is when I am trying to capture time-lapses where the movement of clouds or our water is essential in the scene. For these kinds of applications, I usually use 3 or 6 stop ND and the filters help me to create a certain effect in the composition to convey a sense of movement or motion in the photograph. The final result incorporates what any great photographer aspires to achieve – an emotional content that throws the eyes of the viewer to a particular part of the photograph.


The discussion about what lenses and what filter is what polarizers to use in different circumstances than an extensive and in-depth topic which is beyond the scope of this article but for simplicity say I could simply say that Breakthrough ND filters cover all my needs as a photographer. 

Once you start using filters, you’ll find that the use of filters gives you a distinct advantage in your photography that you simply would not want to a way dispense with the sheer convenience of having a lighter bag.

It is important to remember that photography is like any other hobby or profession, it requires certain types of equipment to attain the desired result. While most of us want to be as light as possible and only take a camera and a lens combination for certain types of photography, there are plenty of photography genres that requires specific use of certain equipment to attain the results that are considered to be outstanding or extraordinary.

This is why when you purchase your camera and lens it is important to also purchase your UV filter and even Polarizing filter to protect the front element of your lens. More importantly, your next purchase may be more sensible if it is for an ND filter kit rather than a new lens because an ND filter can do a lot more than a new lens can do for your photography.

Yes, you need to have a good camera, a good camera bag, a sturdy tripod to carry your equipment but you also need to have other tools to bring your photography to the next level. Do your research and understand why you need these tools and learn how you would use them in your photography. To all my Workshop attendees, I recommend that they only buy the right equipment – instead of buying many lenses – buy one but remember to buy a really good tripod and filters. 

My experience has shown me that using inferior equipment in the end only hurts your photography and limits your creativity. When you choose the right equipment, not necessarily the most expensive then you can achieve better results especially when it comes to accessories such as filters and tripods. I can tell you that they are as important as your camera and your lens when you’re capturing photographs.


If you have come this far you have probably understood that I’m a big proponent of purchasing the right equipment in the right order for your photography. For filters, my research has led me to the conclusion that the Breakthrough ND filters are exceptional in their quality because they have taken the time to research what is out there in the market and develop a product that is better than the competition and offer it at a much better price. This is why without hesitation I have gone ahead and ordered more filters to replace my current lineup of filters and filter holders. 

I hope through these photographs that I provided and explanations that I have given that you see the value in exploring new frontiers in your photography. My advice to you is to embark on a journey, discover new possibilities for your photography. 

After many years, once you look back you’ll see how far you have come and you’ll be proud of your photographs. The best part of this journey is that you will recall fond memories through each of your photographs. 

As I mentioned earlier, I have no association with Breakthrough but they are a great company that I would like to support so for your purchases you can always use these links that I have provided. I highly encourage you to purchase them directly from Breakthrough filters because they have shown that they have incredible customer service and provide exceptional products for a very good price that’s far more reasonable than their competitors.


Photography is a journey for all of us the journey into self-exploration understanding and expression of our visions and if these two such as filters give us these options then we are blessed with realizing our dreams. I thank you for joining me on this journey and exploration in creating better images and I congratulate you for being a part of this journey as you see new possibilities for your photography. I look forward to seeing you in our next review and thank you for all your support.

If you have enjoyed this article and would like to share it with others it is greatly appreciated and we appreciate all your support in your donations in helping to keep this channel Independent.



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