Something Old... Something New

Cokin A holder with Linear Polarizer, Hood and
ND8 Grad filter
One of my readers wrote to me a few weeks back and asked me what I thought about using a Cokin A filter on the Olympus Pen E-P3. My response was, I have not done so, but I still own some of that stuff from 25 years ago and should crack it out to try it.

It was one of those, duh and aha moments. It's the perfect size for this system and well worth giving it a go. Because of the small compact size, it actually doesn't affect the compact footprint of the E-P3 by much.

Of course Cokin systems do have it's drawbacks and because it's made of optical grade plastics, it's prone to scratches and marring.

Despite this, the joy of using a Cokin system lies in the fact that it's an easy system to change out filters quickly and also to stack them. The other benefit to users of micro four thirds lenses is the fact that I don't need to buy a two sets of filters for the 37 and 46 mm, just get the appropriate insert ring for the Cokin A holder or in my case get the correct step up ring (in my case I got a 37 to 52mm and 46 to 52mm ring adapter as my Cokin was originally fitted for all my Nikon film gear).

One of the other great things about the Cokin system on the Pen is the fact that I can use a linear polarizer again. Linear polarizers slowly fell out of favour when the phase detect auto focus system came into play just over 30 years ago. Because of modern AF systems, a new method of polarizing the light into the camera had to be devised as the AF systems were not capable of focusing properly through a linear polarizer. Circular polarizers were specifically designed to work with modern AF system without issues, and slowly took over as the filter of choice. But because certain compromises are made in the manufacturing of circular polarizers, the effect that they filtered was not as strong as a traditional linear polarizer.

Horizontal Dream
Olympus 12mm F/2 @ F/8.0
What's different on the E-P3 to traditional dSLRs is the fact that the camera doesn't use phase detect AF, but rather it uses contrast detection. Because of this, linear polarizers can be used again without issues.

Even today I was out and about with both my Canon EOS 5D Mark II with a 24 F/1.4L USM II lens and still appreciated what was coming out of the little Olympus.

Double Vision
Olympus 12mm F/2 @ F/7.1
Alas it's not all roses. Cokin got into financial troubles last year and has been on the ropes for some time. Kenko bought them out earlier this year and has made a commitment to continuing the brand. Currently it's very hard to find anyone that sells Cokin filters, let alone the smaller A series. It is also very difficult to track anything down through eBay which doesn't bode well for both Cokin or the A series. But if you used to shoot film in the past on the compact 135 format SLR, there's a small chance you might still have a Cokin A series holder and filters tucked away in some dusty old attic. Crack them out and give them a go, you might be surprised by the results and pleased that you can use something that you haven't used in a number of years.


  1. Oddly enough, I just got on ebay and found the A holder, adapter and a couple of filters... going to try them on my Panasonic GF-2 with the Olympus 40-150. I have a feeling it's going to be fun....

  2. Glad it worked out for you. I also use the A filter system on my Sony mirrorless cameras with good success.


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