The best filters for winter season

Dec 9, 2021

Every year the winter season bights up our cities with dreamy illuminations, real artworks to be enjoyed... and captured. To get the most out of it, let us recommend you two must-have types of filters: star filters and soft filters.

Shot with star filter

Star filters: enhance light with a cross effect

Star filters can shape a point light source into a cross, thus enhancing the sparkling of light, for a way more impressive effect on the final image. This main feature makes cross filters always a recommended filter when it comes to night city scape photography or snap-shots of seasonal city lights and illuminations.

The difference is remarkable. As shown in the two images below, when using star filters light gets that dreamy sparkling shape, and its brilliance is so much enhanced that the final image looks even brighter.

Without star filter With star filter

Different types of star filters

Star filters come also in different types for different cross effects:

  • 4-pointed star cross
  • 6-pointed star cross
  • 8-pointed star cross

Creating a 4-pointed star cross effect HOYA PRO1D STAR 4X filter is the most popular, for a classic effect. Performing a cross effect reminiscent of snow crystals, 6-pointed HOYA STAR 6X filter is perfect for capturing the atmosphere of holidays illuminations. With 8-pointed stars, HOYA STAR 8X filter creates the most brilliant effect on light sources.

With HOYA 4X filterWith HOYA STAR 6X filterWith HOYA STAR 8X filter


A very creative type of cross filter with a more unique cross effect is the HOYA SPARKLE series, which is available in 4-pointed and 6-pointed versions. In contrast to conventional star filters, the SPARKLE filters create only moderately sized beams, preventing that the star effect totally takes over the image. Further, the SPARKLE filters can also create a soft effect in the photo if there are no strong light sources, making the atmosphere warm and cozy.

With HOYA SPARKLE 4X filter With HOYA SPARKLE 6X filter

HOYA star filters line-up

How to Use Star Filters: Hot Tips!

Here a few main points on how to use and master star filters that will come in hand of both beginners and more expert photographers.

Point 1: Point light source

Star filters are effective only on point light sources. Linear light sources, like neon lamps, etc., or flat light sources, like from device screens etc., are not suitable light sources when using star filters.

Point 2: Check light output

The resulting cross effect of Star filters may vary depending on the intensity of the light source you are shooting at, or the distance from it. Make sure that the light output meets the desired effect by checking it through the camera's viewfinder or monitor.

Moreover, star (HOYA PRO1D STAR 4) filters equipped with a rotating frame allow to change the cross angle by simply rotating the filter frame from straight (+) to slightly tilted (x). In this case, too, check the desired angle through the camera's viewfinder or monitor before shooting.

Point 3: Focal length and aperture

The most suitable setting when shooting with star filters would be at 50mm or longer focal length and at almost maximum aperture. With wide angle lenses, or with a too closed aperture, light rays may appear fragmented on the final image.

Star filter effect vs camera digital star filter effect

A large part of today's digital cameras comes with a convenient filter function (digital filter) installed. However, as for the final effect, there is no comparison whatsoever.

Digital star effect Star effect with filter

Soft filters: softening light for a magical atmosphere

With soft filter

Together with star filters, the second must have filters when it comes to shooting in this time of the year are soft filters. Soft filters, like HOYA SOFTENER, can effectively diffuse light so to create a hint of softness and enhanced glimmering on point light sources, like illumination lights, etc. Such a feature can create an impressive effect on the final image even with feeble light sources.

Without soft filter With soft filter

Soft filters come in different types but the most popular are those performing a more visible blurred effect (like HOYA SOFTENER No0.5 and HOYA SOFTENER No1 filters) and those performing a foggy effect (like HOYA FOG No0.5 and HOYA FOG No1 filters). These soft filters can be also used without limitations related to the focal length or aperture used. Also, the longer the focal length, the more visible the softening blurred effect will appear on the final image. For tele lenses - type A (weak effect), for wide angle lens - type B (strong effect) are recommended.

Comparison of softening effect of different soft filters

Without soft filterWith HOYA SOFTENER No0.5 filterWith HOYA SOFTENER No1 filterWith HOYA FOG No0.5 filterWith HOYA FOG No1 filter

Fog filters are the soft filters that can create a suffused and misty atmosphere, with a unique blurred effect particularly on strong light sources.

Without FOG filter With FOG filter

Screw-on type star filters and soft filters, including softner and fog filters, can be also combined and used together for a double effect, thus creating even more fairytale-like atmosphere and capture the essence of this holidays scenario.

Combination of star filter and soft filter

HOYA soft filters line-up