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Thread: ND Filters

  1. #1

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    ND Filters

    I know this will probably raise a fire storm of opinions, but here goes any way. I'm interested in ND filters. There are a vast array of manufactures and a wider array of prices. I know that good glass is just that good glass. Is there really that much difference between them? Of those who have them are the less expensive ones fairly equal to others? B&W; Hoya; Tifin?

  2. #2
    dubaiphil's Avatar
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    Re: ND Filters

    Hoya are good - I have a few. The stronger the ND filter, the more likely that they will exhibit colour casting. Even the B+W exhibit this with the 10 stop ND, whereas the Lee Big Stopper is far better, with a very slight and easily correctable cast.

  3. #3

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    Re: ND Filters

    Al: I have over time purchased ND filters, I orginally purchased screw in ones, now I use 4 X 6 slide in filters that require a holder mounted to the front of the lens. I have not have problems with the Tiffen .3 to 1.2 (1-4), B+W 10 stop a slight warm cast, Lee .3 to 1.2 both hard and soft grads and the Lee big stopper (slight blue cast) and a Singh-Ray reverse 3 stop GND, their big one is variable 2 up to 8 stops I do not have that. I believe that the 3 brands you mention are fairly equal in the .3 to 1.2 (1-4) stop range past that there may be some differences, it is not only the glass that causes a price difference, it maybe the mounting ring itself, B&W is made of Brass, Tiffen AL, I beleive that brass is better than AL which is softer so the metal of the lens cuts into the metal of the ring and causes it to bind making it hard to remove.
    I use a supplier from the US for most of my filters, they care all the brands you mentioned and are very good, their site is a little busy (well very busy) that is hard to follow, but give them a call very very helpfull. It is all they do is sell fiters also good info on site if you do not mind searching.

    http://www.2filter.com/

    Cheers:

    Allan

  4. #4

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    Re: ND Filters

    Thank you Allan and phil for you input. That makes my decision much easier. Phil I have heard that Hoya ND's were amoung the top five rated and they seem resonable in price. My objective is sunset long exposure where a .3 (I think) should be enough and a 9 or 10 stop for daytime B&W long exposure. Am I in the right ball park with those two? Also would I be off the mark for using a .3 ND for daytime sea shore shots to help bring the stronger colors of the sky an water over a polierizing filter which I have? Allan I have used a ring and slide system with my OLD film cameras and Kokin filters, but it was a chore lugging all of it around. I travel light on business trips and want to travel light with my gear. I don't want to look like a tourist. I try as best I can to blend in in some of the countries I travel to. Any recommendations are always appreciated.

  5. #5

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    Re: ND Filters

    Al: a .3 is only 1 stop which I feel is useless, if you want to shoot sunset, sunrise than a split 2 stop gradulated ND would work, however I think that a 3 stop would work the best. A .3 (1stop) combined with a CP filter (2 stops) would give you 3 stops total, and if you want a longer exposure than you can use a larger f/stop or lower ISO. Know of a number of landscapers that use one mounting ring, 1 holder with 1 slot plus CP filter ring holder, 1 slot to hold ten stop or a 2or3 stop 4 x 6 Hard ND filter (that allows you to adjust to where the horizion is) and also be able to use with the CP filter.

    Cheers:

    Allan

  6. #6
    William W's Avatar
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    Re: ND Filters

    Quote Originally Posted by 8ball View Post
    . . . Hoya ND's were amoung the top five rated and they seem resonable in price. My objective is sunset long exposure where a .3 (I think) should be enough and a 9 or 10 stop for daytime B&W long exposure. Am I in the right ball park with those two?

    I don’t think Hoya make a 10 Stop ND Filter. (i.e. “ND x1024” or “ND x1000”)

    They do make an “ND x400”: which is close enough to 8⅔Stops, though Hoya, I believe promote it as 9 Stops.


    ***


    For ND’s - I have a couple of Hoya 3 Stop (ND x8) and one Hoya 8⅔ Stop (ND x400) and that does me fine for what I do.

    From what you wrote, an ND x8 and an ND x400, MIGHT suit your purposes too. But there is more . . .

    I also have a couple of C-PL (Circular Polarizing Filters).

    I don’t now use the old filter kits (slide in to matt boxes, e.g. Cokin and Lee) which I have from Film Days – so I like you want to - travel very light in the filters I now carry: but the slide in systems are very good, it just depends what your priorities are about.

    For Sunsets specifically you should consider a Split or ND filter – (half of it filter half not) – but in this case the Slide in Mounting type (Cokin Lee etc ) are better than screw in, because they allow the centre bit to align with the horizon.

    There are also Graduated ND Filters, which don’t have an hard transition but a gradual transition between the ND effect and the clear glass.

    However I do now use just the ND x8 for Sunsets - and sometimes no filter at all: HDRI technique is useful (High Dynamic Range Imaging - taking multipe images and merging in PP)


    ***


    If you are keen to get into using ND’s for a lot of your work, then consider a Variable ND Filter – and look up Colin Southern’s posts about that topic. – (Singh-Ray are excellent)


    ***

    With screw mount filters, you also need to consider the lenses you will be using. A Step-Up ring might be a consideration of a purchase for you.

    For example I have an 82mm Hoya x400 (to fit onto my EF16 to 35/2.8MkII):

    ND Filters



    I also have a 77mm to 82mm Step Up ring so I can utilize the ND x400 on other of my lenses, with a 77mm ɸ filter thread:


    ND Filters


    ***


    Quote Originally Posted by 8ball View Post
    Also would I be off the mark for using a .3 ND for daytime sea shore shots to help bring the stronger colors of the sky an water over a polierizing filter which I have?
    Yes you are off the mark. An ND will (is supposed to) attenuate the spectrum of light evenly, and without regard to any other factor.

    A C-PL (Circular Polarizing Filter) will bring out the richer blues in the sky and the water, when the Filter is correctly used.

    The reason is the CPL cuts the “glare” just like good sunglasses do, such that the “shiny reflections” are nuked and thus you “see” the nice rich blue water and the nice blue sky.

    However, (without going into the science), CPL’s can have a limited useful range when used with the wider lenses – much wider than about 24mm on 135 format cameras (aka “full Frame” Cameras) or wider than about 15mm on APS-C Format Cameras – IF there is a large area of sky (or water) in the shot, it is likely you will get “patchy” results of a deep rich blue in most of the sky (or water) and a less rich patch. Skilfully these filters can be used with wide lenses, if care is taken to align the elements of the scene within the limitations of the Filter's effect on those elements.



    WW
    Last edited by William W; 20th March 2013 at 01:49 AM.

  7. #7
    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: ND Filters

    Al - what these filters will do for you is increase your exposure; a 0.3 cuts down light by one stop, 0.6 by two stops, 0.9 by 3 stops, etc. This means if you are planning a 1/250th exposture without a ND, the 0.3 would drop you to 1/125th; at the same f-stop. I don't necessarily think this is going to give you a significantly longer exposure.

    From a seashore shot standpoint, you will have a longer exposure; a ND will not affect the colours at all, and depending on the direction you are shooting versus the position of the sun, the polarizer will go from no effect (other than the loss of around 2 stops of light) down to a fairly significant deepening of the sky colour when you shot at right angle to the sun.

    If you are looking at sunset shots, you are probably looking at a graduated neutral density filter where the sky darkens and by the time you hit the horizon the filter is clear; this way you will have a better across the board image as the sky has not blown out and you have enough latitude to have shadow detail in the rest of the scene.

    When it comes to filter quality, it is definitely more than just the glass, especially if you are looking at shots into the sun, where glare will be an issue. Better ND filters have anti-reflective coatings, some have an anti-dirt / water coating, some are physically quite thin to reduce / eliminate the likelihood of vignetting. The cheaper ones are mounted in aluminum and the better ones have brass mounts. If you are looking at grad ND filters, pretty well all of them are resin; although I believe Tiffen does a glass sandwich design. As with anything else, you do get what you pay for, but I suspect that you won't want to pay for features that you don't need.

    When it comes to filter brands, I have owned Hoya filters, but they are sort of middle of the road quality wise. I tend to either go cheaper or higher end. I do own a number of ND (2 and 3 stop by Lee - these are the type that go into a holder), a 5-stop Tiffen and a 10-Stop B+W. When it comes to grad filters I have a set of 1, 2 and 3 stop Lee filters that are soft edge; the type you use in a holder) and a couple of Heliopan 2-stop GND). I find that the round screw in GNDs are handy to carry around, but force you to make so fairly serious compromises when it comes to composition. You are stuck putting the "horizon" on the centre of the filter, regardless if this is compositionally optimal; it's either that or crop in post-production and throw away some pixels.

  8. #8

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    Re: ND Filters

    The finest ND filter in the world is - IMO - the Singh-Ray Vari-ND ... as the name suggests, you can vary the attenuation between 2 and 8 stops as much as you like. Very high-quality piece of kit (I own 2 of them).

  9. #9
    William W's Avatar
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    Re: ND Filters

    You asked – “is there really much difference between them.”

    The answer is: YES and as per the law of diminishing returns.
    To get the “Best” you will likely pay a lot more proportionally, than the “next best”.

    I think, if one reads (just as an example), my response and Manfred’s response and compares and contrasts our comments – in summary:
    Manfred would generally not be happy with my modest Hoya collection of three ND filters and I would tear my hair out playing with all his filters . . . BUT our NEEDS are different.

    The fact that I “know” that Manfred’s Lee ND Filter (and Colin’s Singh Ray) ND filter is “better quality than” my Hoya set of three, is understood . . . but I use an ND filter every pancake day, and when I do the resultant image (usually a 5x7 or 11 x14 portrait – with the sunset behind as a backdrop) the difference in the quality of the filters does not warrant my (a) initial expense or (b) my fiddling.

    However if I were a patient chap and more interested in all the nuances of Landscape Photography other than to make smooth milky water from rough seas every now and again - then I would look at a filter kit to die for . . . I would borrow Colin's Kit, bribing him with bottles of South Australian Red.

    I think it’s good to understand that comments (usually) pertain to and reflect our own usages and our own needs.

    WW

  10. #10

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    Re: ND Filters

    Holy mackerel that's a lot of information to consider from everybody, but I totally appreciate everyone for their input. Bill I agree with the law of deminising returns which is directly proportionate to the law of deminishing funds, you get what you pay for until you reach the point in the equation called "Is it really worth it". A Singh Ray 67mm variable ND filter is $500.00. I'll just have to see what works best for me and and my wallet. Thank you all for your input. There is a lot to consider. I guess the saying is correct, "The first 10,000 photos are your worst".

  11. #11
    Administrator Manfred M's Avatar
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    Re: ND Filters

    Al - I think both Colin and Bill offer some excellent points, and that has to do with "needs", perceived and otherwise when we are out photographing.

    If you look at an entry-level DSLR and the pro-level one offered by the same company, you will find an order of magnitude difference in the cost (and that's not even including the cost of professional lenses). Does the pro camera result in 10 times better images; by itself, of course not. What it does, in the hands of an "expert user" is to increase the likihood of better images, especially in marginal shooting situations.

    It is much the same story with filters; in "normal" shooting conditions, a cheap, low end filter will be just fine; but if you shooting in marginal conditions (and sunset shots are marginal conditions, in my book), you will find yourself frustrated by the performance of your equipment. Essentially, this is the situation I found myself in and why I ended up spending the money for some higher end equipment. Simply said, I was missing shots due to equipment limitations.

    When I start of in a new photographic direction, I will often try to do so with a minimal investment, to see if I like it or not, and will often continue working with the "cheap stuff" until I get good enough to be frustrated by the limitations of the gear, and will upgrade at that point.

  12. #12

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    Re: ND Filters

    Quote Originally Posted by 8ball View Post
    Holy mackerel that's a lot of information to consider from everybody, but I totally appreciate everyone for their input. Bill I agree with the law of deminising returns which is directly proportionate to the law of deminishing funds, you get what you pay for until you reach the point in the equation called "Is it really worth it". A Singh Ray 67mm variable ND filter is $500.00. I'll just have to see what works best for me and and my wallet. Thank you all for your input. There is a lot to consider. I guess the saying is correct, "The first 10,000 photos are your worst".
    It isn't cheap - but - it lets you do things considerably easier. With it fitted you can choose the shutterspeed you need for motion control - the aperture you need for DoF control - and then just twist the ring to attenuate the light to where you need it to be for a desired exposure. With conventional NDs you'll need a whole bunch to cover the same range (usually more than you think because if you stack them you'll get at best vignetting and at worst outright obstruction) - and when light levels are changing fast (eg around sunset) you then have to fluff around changing them between shots (upsetting your manual focus point in the process) (it'll often be too dark for AF to still be working for the shots I do anyway). You can even change the attenuation DURING the exposure, like I had to with the first shot here (to stop the landing lights getting too bright as the aircraft got closer) (be sure to click on to view full size).

    ND Filters

    Here's another that would have been VERY difficult to get with just normal NDs ...

    ND Filters

  13. #13

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    Re: ND Filters

    Colin you are correct and the ease of which you mentioned does have it's benefits. As a budding shutter bug this is probably one area that I will have to ease into. I will have to think a little bit and weigh all of the options. I know it is better to spend the good money now once than spend middle money twice. Since I work for the Government this sequestration will be hitting me right in the wallet. I so do admire your LE photos. The one you did titled " 40 minutes in heaven" was the inspiration that got me interested in long exposure. So...this is all your fault...LOL. Seriously they are styles of photography to emulate and any helpful guidance will be most appreciated. LEFE (Long exposure for ever).

  14. #14

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    Re: ND Filters

    Colin one more question if I might. Do you notice much cross hatching I believe they call it with the Singh Ray Vari filter?

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    Re: ND Filters

    Quote Originally Posted by 8ball View Post
    Colin one more question if I might. Do you notice much cross hatching I believe they call it with the Singh Ray Vari filter?
    Al - If you mean the effect as referred to in the art world as meaning the drawing of closely spaced lines, then 'No' is the answer (Yep, I have one too). Absolutely none at all. That is part of what you pay for with the Singh Ray.

    Given my amateur status and income, the Singh Ray represented an eye-watering expense. But I was fortunate in being able to purchase it and, as Colin suggested, it is an amazing tool.

    I think that for so much of what we do as amateurs, the other products mentioned are very adequate. For example, my GNDs are Cokin. I wish I'd known more about quality when I bought them (or not bought them as the case would have been). But I did and I've got them and I could not justify disposing of them and buying, as I would prefer, Lee or more Singh Ray.

    So we go with the best we can afford and get on with enjoying our photography.

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    Re: ND Filters

    There is a very nice review on-line here http://photo.tutsplus.com/articles/h...nsity-filters/ that includes photos showing the Xing from variable ND filters. The Singh Ray is one of the two that he reviews. The basic situation is that the variable filters are made from two polarizers, so you get the polarizing darkening from each, which combine to give you a big 'X.' You can see the vignetting in the review's photos, and decide for yourself whether that is something that would bother you. FWIW

  17. #17

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    Re: ND Filters

    Donald: what is your Cokin filter holder, if it is the Z then I believe that it will accept the Lee 4x4, and the 4x6 filters as they are 2mm thick.

    Cheers:

    Allan

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    Re: ND Filters

    Quote Originally Posted by tclune View Post
    There is a very nice review on-line here http://photo.tutsplus.com/articles/h...nsity-filters/ that includes photos showing the Xing from variable ND filters. The Singh Ray is one of the two that he reviews. The basic situation is that the variable filters are made from two polarizers, so you get the polarizing darkening from each, which combine to give you a big 'X.' You can see the vignetting in the review's photos, and decide for yourself whether that is something that would bother you. FWIW
    Tom very interesting review which makes me not quite so un happy with my lightcraft filter so i think ill stick with it and have another go at using it rather than selling it on and splashing out on a singh ray

  19. #19
    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: ND Filters

    Quote Originally Posted by Polar01 View Post
    Donald: what is your Cokin filter holder, if it is the Z then I believe that it will accept the Lee 4x4, and the 4x6 filters as they are 2mm thick.

    Cheers:

    Allan
    I've actually got the 'P' and the 'Z' system. When I bought the 'P' I never imagined that I'd be buying new lenses and thought that I would forever just be a 'kit lens' man. I didn't think I'd need all that 'fancy stuff'. It just shows that we should always maybe think bigger than we think we might need.

    If someone had told me three years ago that I'd be so heavily involved in a photographic forum and be reasonably competent and making images of a reasonably high standard, I would have laughed at them. I was just a wee guy with a camera and a lens and no idea that I'd be where I am now in photographic terms.

    So, the moral of the tale is maybe - Set your goals high and think about what equipment you might need for when you get there.

  20. #20

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    Re: ND Filters

    Donald; my terminology maybe off. What I meant was while reading some reviews on vari ND filters, there was a point where the polerization of the two glasses caused a pattern of dark spots. Some one called it cross hatching. Obviously not a technical term or a correct term either.

    Like I said to Colin in the above reply to him, I'm sure it is worth it as is a But like you said, the price will bring tears to one's eyes. This is one of those purchases where as the saying goes here in the States "You either go big or stay home". Since I'm JUST starting out I'll take things a bit at a time.

    One purchase I made which was maybe a mistake was, I bought a Nikor 35mm 1.8 and maybe I should have bought a 50MM 1.8g instead. My thinking which may have been incorrect was that a 35mm on an FX camera would look like a 50mm on DX camera given the FX crop. But that is another topic.

    Thank you Donald and all for you input. I' ll just have to save some more. Like I said from the beginning this probably would raise a fire storm of comments, but an enlightening one at that.
    Last edited by 8ball; 20th March 2013 at 08:59 PM.

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