Magic FAQ

Why do I need a Magic Filter for my DSLR?
In our opinion every underwater DSLR photographer should have the Magic. Simply,  the Magic filter works, it is cheap to buy and will take up next to no space or weight in your kit bag. Filters free us from the hassles of strobes including backscatter and save us from pushing them around underwater but most important filters allow us to add colour to the monochrome blue ocean in a completely new way. To take images that we have not been able to before. It is another technique that should be waiting in your kit bag until you need it. We have received many emails from photographers whose strobes/synch cord/housing circuitry died in the field or their bags have been lost and our filters allowed them to continue producing images (click here for a recent example).
For a more technical answer click here.

What are postage costs?
Our postage starts at 3.50 GBP for small orders and rises, incrementally, to a maximum of 8 for the largest orders. The rate is the same world wide. And we think this is a very competitive rate for delivery anywhere in the world. For the record Magic Filters has actually never made any overall profit on postage since we started selling filters!

I want to shoot video with my DSLR with your filter, but also flash on the same dive. Is this possible?
Our filters are ideally suited to shooting video with the latest high-definition video capable DSLRs because they are the only filters specifically designed for
underwater use that fit on popular wide angle SLR lenses, such as fisheyes. The Magic filter produces excellent results with DSLRs for video, see an example shot by Jim Decker of Backscatter here. You can also easily take available light still images on the same dive. Another advantage of the Magic filter for this type of use is that it is still possible to take flash images, as long as you reset the white balance with a photo taken with the flashes firing and the filter in place. The first image on this page shows you that good quality underwater images can be produced with the Magic filter on the lens and flashes firing, as long a the correct white balance is set. Note that with such images you will be effectively using white balance to counteract the effect of the filter and will be taking standard flash lit images and not the typical available light images that can be created with the Magic filter.

I have tried the Magic Filter and my shots don't look like yours?
Don't give up yet. Filter photography is different from other types of underwater photography and it can take a few dives to adapt to the nuances of this technique. The biggest mistake most people make on their first dives with filters is not to shoot with the light. If you shoot across or against the light your subject will not be fully illuminated - and the colours will become muted. Underwater photographers get very used to having light from their strobes pointing in whichever direction their camera is. Learn to watch and use the ambient light underwater and your filter shots will improve dramatically. Getting the most out of filters is really about getting the most out of ambient light. Learning to read the light will not only help your filter photography, but all of your wide angle photography underwater.
There is more info on shooting with the Magic Filter here.

How do you get such great blues?
Well the right diving conditions help, certainly. But the most important factor when shooting with a filter is to use a slightly downward camera angle. This ensures that the background illumination has a much longer light path than the foreground and is much cooler in hue and gives you a great blue. Magic Filters attenuate blue wavelengths more than warmer colours so they also help to darken blues. This is one of the big differences you will see between filtered and unfiltered white balance shots. Without a filter blue water will often come out washed out grey or even purple with too much Photoshop, with a filter it will be a rich blue.

How do I fit a filter on my Tokina 10-17mm?
The Tokina 10-17mm fisheye zoom is becoming an increasingly popular lens in underwater photography. Even Alex has one! It is not straight forward to mount a filter on this lens because unfortunately it does not have a rear filter mount. However it is easy to mount a Magic Filter on this lens, although the size of filter you require depends on whether your Tokina lens is designed for Nikon or Canon cameras. Click here for more, with photos.

Can I use a Magic filter outside my housing?
The Auto-Magic filter for external mounting (AMS) is intended for external use.
All other Magic filters are waterproof, but they are not intended for use externally. They could easily be scratched and small pieces of thin filter are difficult to handle underwater. So we do not recommend that you use our filters outside of your housing. Instead dedicate one dive to filter photography and the next dive to strobe photography. By focusing on one technique for a dive, and looking for suitable subjects, you should produce much better images. That said a few users do choose to use these filters outside their housings – finding that a filter will last several days and they regard the filters as inexpensive enough to be considered semi-disposable.

I have a Nikon or Canon SLR kit lens. Can I use the filter?
Yes! Many of you will have got these lenses with your DSLR and will want to put them to use underwater. Both the Canon 17-85mm and Nikon 18-70mm will work well with the filter. However neither are really excellent quality lenses for UW photography and therefore we do not supply 67mm diameter filters pre cut to fit these lenses. You will need to buy a M77 for these lenses. And then either mount it in a 77mm filter holder (that we can supply) and fit it to your lens with a step-up filter ring. Alternative you can easily cut the M77 down to 67mm and mount it on your lens behind a UV filter. You can download a stencil to help from the Magic Website. Our filters can be easily trimmed to size with a pair of scissors.
Alternatively you can use one of the solid 3mm thick
Auto-Magic for external mounting (AMS) filters, which come in a raneg of sizes. Although designed for compact cameras they also work very well on SLRs.

Can I use a Magic Filter with slide film?
No! The Magic Filter is designed to work with the adjustable white balance of a digital SLR and will not produce pleasing results on slide film. The Auto-Magic would probably work better on slide film, and particularly on print film. But all of our filters refined by field testing with digital cameras underwater and therefore are not intended for film.

Does the original Magic work in Green Water?
The original Magic Filter is designed for photography in brightly lit, tropical blue water. It also works well in clear blue temperate and polar waters and also in clear fresh water. We have now designed a specific GreenWater Magic filter for use in green temperate waters.

How much light loss is there with your filters?
In white light the original Magic loses just over a stop, the Auto-Magic about 1.5 stops and the Greenwater Magic about a stop.

How often should I white balance (WB)?
With the Auto-Magic filter there is no need to change the WB and you can leave it on AUTO. To extend its depth range and to give yourself more manual control more experienced users will probably start using Auto-Magic with manual WB. For the GreenWater Magic and the original Magic we recommend re-calibrating your camera's WB when you change depth by more than two metres (6ft). Once you have made a couple of dives with the Magic Filter you will find it takes you just a couple of seconds to calibrate the WB. And you may start doing it for every shot. It is more crucial to recalibrate the WB regularly at shallow depths than when you are deeper because the rate of change of the light spectrum is faster in the shallows.

Can I use AUTO WB?
The Auto-Magic is designed for Auto-WB, so yes! With the original Magic, the answer is no, not really. You definitely want to set the WB manually. The camera's electronics aren't programmed for UW shooting - so it is best to take control and set them yourself. That way you will see the results on your LCD while you dive and this will encourage you to really “work” photo opportunities that suit the filter and are producing great colours. This will also help you learn to spot good subjects for filter photography more quickly. If you shoot RAW there is no significant loss in image quality from shooting auto WB, but given how easy it is to set WB you might as well do it for the advantages mentioned above. Don’t forget to re-set your WB back to your normal mode when you have finished your filter dives and are back shooting strobes again!

How much post processing do you do to your images?
Very little, if you white balance on the subject then your images will come out of the camera looking like the ones you see on the Magic website. Of course you can post process images if you want, available light images usually benefit from a boost in contrast, particularly in the shadows. In the end it is up to you,
this image below is one of Peter's that he turned into a black and white (although he left the yellow in):

How can I fit a Magic Filter on the front of a DSLR lens?
For lenses that do not accept rear mounted filters we can supply magic filters as a 77mm disc that can be placed in front of the lens behind a dioptre or UV filter. If the front element of your lens is significantly domed we recommend that you buy a spare filter ring and mount the Magic in that. If the front element of your lens is less than 77mm then you can easily cut the 77mm filter down with a pair of scissors to fit.
See our fitting filters page for more details.
Alternatively you can use one of the solid 3mm thick Auto-Magic for external mounting (AMS) filters, which come in a raneg of sizes. Although designed for compact cameras they also work very well on SLRs.

How can I fit a Magic Filter to a compact?
Our external mounting Auto-Magic filter, which is available in a variety of sizes can be used externally on a number of digital compact housings.
For compacts we supply our filter as a one size fits all 50x50mm sheet. You then cut this filter so it fits your camera’s lens. With so many cameras being used underwater this is the only way to accommodate all the current and future models. Depending on your camera you may be able to get up to 4 filters out of this sheet or 12 out of a 3 sheet pack. There is a video on the Magic Website with more details to guide you through this process.
See our fitting filters page with photos and video for more detailed instructions.

What shutter speeds are best for filters?
It depends on the subject matter. Non moving subjects like wrecks you should use something above 1/30th or 1/60th if there is surge. For moving subjects use a faster shutter speed of 1/125th or higher. When I shoot flash I often hand hold exposures even as slow a 1/4 underwater. This is not possible with filters where there is no strobe to freeze the action. Shutter priority auto is a good shooting mode for filter photography as you can set the shutter speed and leave the camera to determine the aperture for the correct exposure. On newer cameras with excellent high ISO performance do not be afraid to bump the ISO up to 400 or higher.

Can I use flash with the Magic Filter?
The Magic Filter is designed for available light photography only and if you use flash the colour balance of your images will be incorrect. Theoretically it is possible to filter strobe light so that it is matched to the ambient light and therefore be able to use strobe, but we really do not recommend this approach because the strobe filtration would have to change each time you change depth, which is impractical. The main advantage of filters is to be free of the limitations of underwater strobes.
There is more info here on using flash with filters.

What depth range do you recommend for shooting the Magic?
This depends on the filter:
Original Magic: 0-15m officially, (although we have produced many nice images down to 18-20m or 0-60ft).
Auto-Magic: 3-10/12m (9-35ft) on Auto-WB, depending on your camera. This can be extended from 1m-18m with manual white balance (3-60tf).
Greenwater Magic: 5-25m (15-85ft) , this filter has the deepest working depth of our filters.

Can I use the Magic Filters with Video?
The Magic Filter works well with video cameras and several videographers use the Magic Filter very successfully. That said we do not currently make filters specifically for video cameras, as there are plenty of good video filters already available. The Auto-Magic filter is ideally suited to shooting video with digital cameras that only offer auto white balance in video modes.

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