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10-31-2020, 09:44 AM   #1
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ND filters?

Hi. I searched but did not find suitable posts re: ND filters.

I know only the principle of ND filters (they reduce the light by some amount of stops and are either homogeneous or gradual). Some post on the interwebs mention Lee filters, but apparently they cost an arm and a leg and aren't so easy to find in the EU.

- Is there some recommendable, cheaper and easier to buy (in the EU) brand?
- The lenses I could potentially use an ND filter with have a filter size of 49 to 82 mm. So perhaps a most versatile approach would be a 100 mm filter and some step down adapters or something. How does one actually easily attach the filter to lenses of different size?
- I had assumed that shooting with an ND filter would be straight forward: you set the ISO and the aperture and the camera takes care of the rest. But then I read about some apps which help you calculate the proper exposure. Is it really that difficult that you can't use the camera's own Av settings?
- What else to consider buying a filter set?


Last edited by Raffwal; 10-31-2020 at 11:16 AM.
10-31-2020, 10:13 AM - 1 Like   #2
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Being in the US, I can't recommend on buying in the EU, but I would say to stick to better known name brands such as Hoya, B+W, or Tiffen (or check the reviews on the lesser known brands as there are some good filters in those as well).

Usually, an automatic metering system will take into account any ND filter fitted to the lens. The ND filter just reduces the amount of light coming from the subject which is the same as the metering system would see in other cases, so the approach of letting the camera determine the exposure works well.

Your rationale of using a larger filter and step down rings is also sound reasoning to reduce costs of buying different sized filters for different lenses. Sometimes, this can be a bit awkward with a big filter attached to a smaller lens, but otherwise, it will work fine.

The ND filters you need, depend greatly on what you're planning on shooting. Their main use is to get shutter speeds and apertures into desired ranges when lighting would dictate otherwise. For example, if you wanted a slow shutter speed and are stuck with an ISO of 200 or more, full-sun photos might not be possible. The lens can be stopped down, but at small apertures, it isn't as sharp so an ND filter is the answer. If you want motion blur and narrow depth of field, you need slow shutter speed and large apertures so the means for light reduction would call for an ND. For normal shooting, however, exposures using aperture/shutter speed/ISO control will usually suffice and no ND filter would be needed, and best not to use an ND filter unless your shooting calls for one.

Hope this helps.
10-31-2020, 10:23 AM - 1 Like   #3
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I can't say/recommend what's available in the EU. But color temperature is often another concern with some ND filters especially in the 10-stop range. Some are more neutral than others. There are plenty of reviews.

I also have lenses in the range from 49-82mm. Most are HOYA HMC filters. Over time I've collected enough of the different sizes so I don't need to use a stepper ring too often. My dislike of stepper rings is now the lens hood doesn't fit and sometimes the stepper ring was inadvertently left behind with some other gear.

Exposure-wise on a digital camera is easy. Snap a few shots before hand, look at the exposure and apply +/- EV compensation as needed like you might do even without a filter on.
10-31-2020, 10:29 AM - 1 Like   #4
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I use Cokin HD filters, they should be available in Europe. I've used Hoya filters as well and have no complaints about "color casting" where the ND filter adds a blue tone to the natural light. The best thing to do is try to look at the filter before you mount it, as well as after through the viewfinder to see if the image has streaks or blots of color from a poorly made filter. I often look for used filters since many photographers buy them and discard them at will depending on their preference.

The poster above gives a lot of good reasons to use ND filters of varying density to minimize harsh light, but also to allow for longer exposures and "tricks" such as making a crowded plaza seem empty with a 3 minute exposure, as long as no one stands in the scene too long. I forget the name of the artist, but one photographer used this to great effect, making ghostly crowd scenes in Moscow streets.

Generally, ND filters come in one fixed value (2, 4, or 8 stops are the most common), but there are variable ND filters that usually cost a bit more, but I have one that I value because it allows me to change the ND value at will.


ND filters can come in circular or rectangular shapes, and screw onto the lens or slide into a separate holder, but they work in the same way. I use both depending on the choice of lens. Buying filters to meet the diameter of my largest lens and the using step-up rings for smaller diameters is in inexpensive way to meet a wide range of lenses.

QuoteOriginally posted by Bob 256 Quote
The lens can be stopped down, but at small apertures, it isn't as sharp
Don't you mean too sharp or having too much depth of field? Depending on the lens used, at f2.8, you can isolate a subject from the background, at f22, isolation of an object in the foreground with an out-of-focus background is more difficult.

---------- Post added 10-31-20 at 13:31 ----------

QuoteOriginally posted by Raffwal Quote
Is it really that difficult that you can't use the camera's own Av settings?
No, just practice a bit, like I do. The Av setting will generally increase the exposure time, BUT remember that the default AV setting is to make a scene with balanced light across the entire scene, which sometimes makes it look overexposed, IMO. I generally use the AV to get a rough idea of settings, then use Manual settings to suit my desired result.

10-31-2020, 10:48 AM   #5
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I'm ashamed to say, I've never used ND filters; mainly because I guess I simply haven't understood how to use them, and when.
10-31-2020, 11:06 AM - 1 Like   #6
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For manually dialing in exposure compensation with strong nd filters you may want to note if the filter is off by a little bit, my 6 stop filter is resulting in times closer to 6.5-7 stops longer. Maybe it's stray light during metering, since i tend to cover the viewfinder after everything is ready, but I find that live view is much better at getting the exposure automatically without trial and error.
10-31-2020, 01:18 PM   #7
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I cannot from experience as just started using them, but Formatt Hitech seems to be a brand that is color neutral and inexpensive, but there is more.

Consider the Cokin P-series (rectangular and square) filter holder/adapter rings. it is a real cost saver, if it covers the lens FL's and diameter you have, as then you only need one of each type of filter.
10-31-2020, 01:24 PM - 3 Likes   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by Raffwal Quote
- I had assumed that shooting with an ND filter would be straight forward: you set the ISO and the aperture and the camera takes care of the rest. But then I read about some apps which help you calculate the proper exposure. Is it really that difficult that you can't use the camera's own Av settings?
If you use ND filters use Manual mode on the camera.

Establish first your exposure without the filter attached. Spot metering various parts of the scene may help in getting the optimum exposure here.

Then Focus, either manually or AF and turn off the AF switch.

Then attach your filter, adjust the exposure the number of stops required and take your shot.

With dense ND filters like for example a 10 stop, you will be working on a tripod and have plenty of time to set things up correctly. You will not be able to AF with a dense filter in front of the camera anyway.

10-31-2020, 02:19 PM - 1 Like   #9
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I live in the EU and use SRB Elite glass nd filters which have little to no colour cast in my experience. Like LEE they use a holder system and adapter rings for different filter thread diameters (maximum 82mm). When using the denser ones (x6, x10), make sure you cover the eyepiece to prevent stray light entering and spoiling your images - I just drape a lens cloth over it if it isn't windy. LEE filters are actually readily available in the EU, but yes, they're very expensive. (SRB stock them, as do Wex and others) I find most use for 3-stop and 6-stop filters, since I'm not usually reducing moving water to the appearance of milk.


Camera Accessories, Filters & Tripods | SRB Photographic

Last edited by StiffLegged; 10-31-2020 at 02:26 PM.
10-31-2020, 02:42 PM - 1 Like   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by Raffwal Quote
So perhaps a most versatile approach would be a 100 mm filter and some step down adapters or something. How does one actually easily attach the filter to lenses of different size?
I use ND filters by Haida. In my opinion they give you a good value for money.
I have them for a 52mm filter size and use them for 49mm filter size lenses with a step down ring also. Aditionally I have a screw on lens hood that fits on the ND filters to use with my 49mm lenses (not the perfect size for all focal lengths but for most occasions good enough).
It works fine for me but I don't think I would be comfortable using a 100mm filter sized ND filter on a 49mm sized lens, I would at least consider buying 3 ND filters (ND0.9, ND1.8, ND3.0) or 1 various ND filter for 2 different filter sizes in the long run (at the beginning you maybe just buy them for those lenses you plan to use the ND filters most with, to test if ND filters suit your style of photographing).
10-31-2020, 03:05 PM - 1 Like   #11
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I use Hoya ND filters that are screw on per the size of the lens diameter that is being used. I use a 9 stop filter for most landscape that I want to have a blurring effect for a water flow in, a 6 stop filter for some landscape in case it is overcast and there is not much light in the first place, and the 3 stop filter is available in case I want to use it to calm the available light down just a little. An example of using the 3 stop filter would be to get a shot of a subject such as a person posing, and enable the use of a lower f stop to blur the background some behind the subject.

I also have a Formatt Hitech 72 MM Blender Grad ND for my Pentax 16-85 that I use sometimes. It allows the upper part of my shot such as the sunlit area to be partly muted by the darker side of the ND and less lit foreground to be on the near clear side of the filter. Essentially, it helps even out the light across the image somewhat. The darker to lighter transition appears as blended on the filter, which means the filter is not just one half clear and one half dark, but that there is a blending from clear to dark across the filter surface.

Last edited by C_Jones; 10-31-2020 at 03:11 PM.
10-31-2020, 04:39 PM - 1 Like   #12
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For EU buyers, Rollei Premium and (as far as still available, given that they were discontinued) Extremium ND filters may well be worth checking out - excellent value in my book: ND-Rundfilter von Rollei

Except for the use of aluminium instead of brass for the rings (Premium line), optical quality-wise they're right up there with Schneider Kreuznach's B+W offerings IMHO.

Last edited by Madaboutpix; 11-01-2020 at 02:07 AM.
10-31-2020, 06:37 PM - 1 Like   #13
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I have some Hoys, A Tiffen, a Haida, all work fine. I totally agree with Peter above, use manual, also manual focus since you are on a tripod. I thought of step rings but as tuck pointed out above, they get in the way of lens hoods. And if you are trying to reduce light, why would you want stray light on your filter adding more light and flare.
10-31-2020, 09:13 PM - 1 Like   #14
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Bear in mind that time internal modes on modern cameras can simulate the use of nd filters to smooth water or take shots in crowded places without people showing in the final image.
10-31-2020, 09:30 PM - 1 Like   #15
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QuoteOriginally posted by robgski Quote
..............................Don't you mean too sharp or having too much depth of field? Depending on the lens used, at f2.8, you can isolate a subject from the background, at f22, isolation of an object in the foreground with an out-of-focus background is more difficult.................................
.
In this case, I was referring to the fact that the entire image can suffer if the aperture is too small (high f-stop number) due to diffraction. You may be able to use a small aperture if the lighting is bright and you want a slower shutter speed but it may not be wise in terms of image quality. That's where the ND filter comes into play - it allows you to still use a slower shutter speed but opens up the lens to the point where image quality is better (usually mid f-stop; around f4 to f8).

ISO will only go so low in most cameras and sometimes that's not low enough if you're after motion blurring with a slow shutter speed (e.g. a running stream or river).

Another use is in video where the shutter speed is often half the frame rate to make the video more natural looking. When shooting at 30 frames per second, that means a 1/60 second shutter speed which shoves the f-stop value upwards toward the range where diffraction can affect the image. Again, an ND filter will allow a lower value lens aperture, where image quality is best.

Another way of looking at an ND filter is that it lowers the effective ISO value of the camera, allowing optimum values of shutter speed and aperture. Think of a 4x/D= 0.6/2 stop (three ways of specifying the filter) ND filter dropping the ISO of a camera from 200 to 50.
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