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Neutral Density Filters

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by roundball, Feb 19, 2015.

  1. roundball

    roundball TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Oct 8, 2013
    USA
    Always looking for more things to learn and try, and noticing the occasional post about ND filters, or photos that seem to have been take using them, I have a couple questions about them. I've Googled / read a few articles and saw a few comments where people bought one then found they didn't get one strong enough.

    So my first question is if I was going to buy only one...primarily to ensure I can influence the flow or view of water, should I go ahead and get one rated at around 5 stops?
    Like the old saying: "have it and not need it vs. need it and not have it"
     
  2. xXx1

    xXx1 TalkEmount All-Pro

    Jan 15, 2013
    I would look at Cokin system. I purchased 4 ND filters and 4 color correction filters from China (I needed the blue one for my negative scanner system ...) and these were quite cheap and will fit most of my lenses. I have the filter holder and adpter rings already. These will fit lenses with 49mm-82mm filter thread.

    Most useful filters are neutral density and graduated gray. I woudn't use even genuine Cokin polarizing filters and special effect filters are fun but won't probably see much use.
     
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  3. roundball

    roundball TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Oct 8, 2013
    USA
    Another option is Hoya's multi-coated screw-in 3-filter set...ND2, ND4, and ND8.
    A lot of combinations & coverage from those 3 strengths.
    Could get 72mm size for the lenses I would normally consider using them with, and then in the future, just get a step down ring to 58 or 52 if I ever wanted to.
     
  4. Bimjo

    Bimjo Super Moderator

    Oct 28, 2011
    Washington State
    Jim
    How strong a ND you need for moving water depends on the brightness of the scene. It a forest setting 3 stops is likely to be plenty. Around here where native trees do not exist and the sunlight is direct and harsh a ND 400 (9 stops) is very useful. In fact Marumi just brought out a ND 100000 (16.5 stops) that is reasonably priced and would allow some interesting possibilities.

    For a first ND I'd go with a 3 stop. You can always get another one and stack them if needed. Or stack a ND and a polarizer.

    ***EDIT TO ADD*** There is a iPhone app (may be something similar for Android, but I didn't check) called ND Timer that you can use to determine what your exposure time will be with different ND filters. Set your shutter speed with no filter, set the filter factor of your ND filter and it will tell you how long an exposure you need to make for a properly exposed shot.

    The expectation is you're working manual (in bulb in some cases). The app even let's you stack filters if you want.

    For example- if the scene meters at 1/1000 sec with a bare lens and you put a ND 400 (9 stop) filter on it the new exposure time would be ½ second. Add a CP (filter factor 1.5-2 stops, call it 2) and the new exposure time is 2 seconds.

    You can do the math yourself, but this is easy peasy. Add a clock app with a timer function and you're in like Flynn.
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2015
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  5. WestOkid

    WestOkid TalkEmount All-Pro

    Jan 25, 2014
    New Jersey, USA
    Gary
    I use ND filters all the time and I agree with Jim.

    The scene (light and subject) and what you are trying to accomplish will always dictate the impact or lack of impact with an ND. The ND simply reduces stops of light. Usually the idea is to use a slower shutter to achieve some creative goal. This can be to use a desired aperture for DOF control, to approximate motion in a still image, or to even slow things so much that parts of the image disappear or have transparency.

    I believe roundball asked about affecting water flow in an image. Well, any shutter speed below about 1/400 can impact the motion of flowing water. The water will get blurrier as you lower the shutter speed in the exposure. However, as I said, the creative gaol is the key. Using the same shutter speed on a waterfall will not have the same impact as a river, a beach wave, or a water droplet. For this reason, there is a lot of trial and error and developing a feel when using NDs.

    To give you an example. One day I was near the Delaware river after a big rain. The water was really choppy and I didn't like it. I tried different ND, aperture and shutter speed combos. I settled in on a 10 stop nd and ISO 100 to get a shutter speed of around 1 minute. I liked the wave pattern this shutter speed yielded, but I had to leave abruptly. I went back the next day and set everything up the same, except I compensated for the lighting difference using the aperture so I could use the same shutter speed. When I looked at the results the water had no wave pattern, it was completely flat. Why? the water wasn't flowing as quickly as the previous day. The 1 minute shutter was too long on this day. It was back to the drawing board. (note: I have a better feel now, so that's not as likely to happen these days. ;)

    So what I am trying to say is that there is no one ND strength that is best, because it will always depend on the variables of your exposure, the subject and your creative objective. This is why I recommend an "inexpensive" variable ND to begin with. There is no need to buy expensive before you know what you want. The variable ND will allow you to really see the impact the ND has without constantly changing in the field. This helped me a lot. Once you have a feel for what generally works for you, you'll be able to make an educated decision on what you will need to maximize your goals. (I don't want you taking a plunge into this like Lightroom only to find it's not your cup of tea)

    Good luck.
     
    Last edited: Feb 20, 2015
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  6. roundball

    roundball TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Oct 8, 2013
    USA
    Appreciate all that info gentlemen, thanks
     
  7. Bimjo

    Bimjo Super Moderator

    Oct 28, 2011
    Washington State
    Jim
    One comment- most variable ND filters cause issues with wide angle lenses, even my $300+ Singh-Ray. Works a trick above 28mm (APS-C), anything wider causes a big dark X across the frame from corner to corner.

    Other than that I agree with Gary- a inexpensive variable ND is probably a good place to start until you figure out what you want. :)
     
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  8. roundball

    roundball TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Oct 8, 2013
    USA
    Well, no way I'm interested enough to pay $300+ for a filter, LOL.
    Hoya's 72mm Variable ND filter is $117...their 72mm ND filter set of 2/4/6 is $120.
     
  9. Bimjo

    Bimjo Super Moderator

    Oct 28, 2011
    Washington State
    Jim
    It was the only one available at the time. Wouldn't do it now for sure. ;)

    A quick search on B&H shows 4 variable ND filters (77mm) under $55. Granted, you probably get what you pay for, but I believe they would be worthwhile as a learning tool, both to determine how a ND filter can affect the shot and to determine what you want to get for the long term.
     
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  10. lowincash

    lowincash TalkEmount Regular

    131
    Dec 21, 2011
    Los Angeles
    Kin
    I bought a variable ND filter to use on my 24mm wide angle and I get that big dark X lol I'll have go with the square slide in ones.
     
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  11. roundball

    roundball TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Oct 8, 2013
    USA
    If I get anything it'll probably be that Hoya set of theee 72mm filters
     
  12. NickCyprus

    NickCyprus Super Moderator

    Oct 11, 2012
    Cyprus
    Nick
    What density variable ND is it? Usually these variable NDs suffer from the "X pattern" issue when used at their max setting...
     
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  13. lowincash

    lowincash TalkEmount Regular

    131
    Dec 21, 2011
    Los Angeles
    Kin
  14. NickCyprus

    NickCyprus Super Moderator

    Oct 11, 2012
    Cyprus
    Nick
  15. izTheViz

    izTheViz TalkEmount Top Veteran

    537
    May 10, 2013
    Paris
    Yannis Marigo
    Well, personally I don't use variable NDs.
    I currently use a Hoya ND400, a Hoya ND64 and also have a graduated 0.9 one from Lee (Seven 5 system) for a better control of sunsets usually. Also have a polarizer for an additional 2 stops.
    I can stack them all and I am happy with that so far.
     
  16. fractal

    fractal TalkEmount All-Pro

    Jun 17, 2014
    Southeastern PA
    Chris



    Here's a quick video on long exposure shot using ND filter.
     
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  17. roundball

    roundball TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Oct 8, 2013
    USA
    Thanks, I'll check it out
     
  18. roundball

    roundball TalkEmount Hall of Famer

    Oct 8, 2013
    USA
    Just watched it, good stuff, jotted down some notes...thanks again !
     
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