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FORUMS Photography Talk by Genre General Photography Talk 
Thread started 12 Apr 2011 (Tuesday) 11:34
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How to choose ND filters?

 
whotaketh
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Apr 12, 2011 11:34 |  #1

A bit of background before I specify my question: the majority of my shots are in the streets of NYC, and I've been wanting to try long exposures for those ghostly blurs, but that limits me to night shots for obvious reasons. Now I'm led to believe that ND filters would help solve that problem, however I'm at a loss when it comes to choosing between graduated, solid, center, and whatever other variations there are out there. So the question is, what are each good for, and how do I determine which best suits my needs? Follow-up question to that is who makes the best ones in each type, from a value perspective.

Stacked questions I know, I'll be happy to clarify any points. Thanks in advance for any help.


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Grimes
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Apr 12, 2011 18:28 |  #2

It depends on what you want to do. Are you shooting cityscapes with a skyline, or with almost no sky?

For skyline shots I would use a graduated ND of the non-screw on type, with a soft edge

Almost no sky, then I would just buy a screw on type ND, three stop

A search will show you the differences between each type. Basically a Neutral Density filter is the same darkness throughout the filter, a Graduated Neutral Density goes from light to dark. A circular screw on type of GND will limit you in terms of composition - your horizon will always be in the center, where the transition from light to dark is.


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whotaketh
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Apr 12, 2011 18:52 |  #3

Grimes wrote in post #12209621 (external link)
It depends on what you want to do. Are you shooting cityscapes with a skyline, or with almost no sky?

For skyline shots I would use a graduated ND of the non-screw on type, with a soft edge

Almost no sky, then I would just buy a screw on type ND, three stop

A search will show you the differences between each type. Basically a Neutral Density filter is the same darkness throughout the filter, a Graduated Neutral Density goes from light to dark. A circular screw on type of GND will limit you in terms of composition - your horizon will always be in the center, where the transition from light to dark is.

Actually it's not for skies or anything like that. I'm attempting to do street level shots looking up the block, and setting a long exposure to get the wisps of people moving in and out of the frame. Even at ground level between buildings it's still too bright, so I was thinking that one of these would help.


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Grimes
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Apr 12, 2011 19:09 |  #4

whotaketh wrote in post #12209768 (external link)
Actually it's not for skies or anything like that. I'm attempting to do street level shots looking up the block, and setting a long exposure to get the wisps of people moving in and out of the frame. Even at ground level between buildings it's still too bright, so I was thinking that one of these would help.


In that case, a circular, screw on 3-stop ND would be good for you, I believe. I shot this with a 3-stop to get the blur of the cars:

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argyle
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Apr 12, 2011 19:59 |  #5

whotaketh wrote in post #12207074 (external link)
A bit of background before I specify my question: the majority of my shots are in the streets of NYC, and I've been wanting to try long exposures for those ghostly blurs, but that limits me to night shots for obvious reasons. Now I'm led to believe that ND filters would help solve that problem, however I'm at a loss when it comes to choosing between graduated, solid, center, and whatever other variations there are out there. So the question is, what are each good for, and how do I determine which best suits my needs? Follow-up question to that is who makes the best ones in each type, from a value perspective.

Stacked questions I know, I'll be happy to clarify any points. Thanks in advance for any help.

You'll need a solid ND filter, and probably more than one depending on your conditions. NYC can go from bright sunshine to full shade depending on what side of the street you'll be on...the canyons can really block out some of the light. In bright light, a stronger ND would be needed if you want to get faint blurs of people; in the full shade, you'll need a weaker ND filter. My guess would be both a three and a six, or at least a six if you decide to just go with a single filter (if the six is too dark for the shade, you could always bump up the ISO to counteract the effect).


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hollis_f
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Apr 13, 2011 05:30 |  #6

argyle wrote in post #12210130 (external link)
My guess would be both a three and a six

+1

If you stack the 3 and 6 then you can get 9-stops. That, with changing ISO and aperture, should give you a range of around 1/500 - 20s exposure.


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whotaketh
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Apr 13, 2011 12:12 |  #7

bene, molto grazie (I think that's grammatically correct)


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tonylong
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Apr 13, 2011 18:23 |  #8

From what you are describing, a straight/solid ND filter is what you are after, although that center one looks interesting if you can get the technique of working with it.

The one thing to watch out for is ND filters which create a color cast. Lookng for cheap filters is a great way to learn that the hard way:)!

If you are looking to make a serious investment of time and money into this, you might check out the Singh Ray Vari-ND filter -- you can adjust it to give up to 8 stops of light "loss". If you get one that will match the filter size of your larges lens and then get step-down adapters for your smaller lenses, it can be the one filter you will ever need unless you want to crank the light way down.

Here's the B&H listing:

http://www.bhphotovide​o.com …&InitialSearch=​yes&Q=&N=0 (external link)


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whotaketh
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Apr 13, 2011 20:44 |  #9

tonylong wrote in post #12216685 (external link)
From what you are describing, a straight/solid ND filter is what you are after, although that center one looks interesting if you can get the technique of working with it.

The one thing to watch out for is ND filters which create a color cast. Lookng for cheap filters is a great way to learn that the hard way:)!

If you are looking to make a serious investment of time and money into this, you might check out the Singh Ray Vari-ND filter -- you can adjust it to give up to 8 stops of light "loss". If you get one that will match the filter size of your larges lens and then get step-down adapters for your smaller lenses, it can be the one filter you will ever need unless you want to crank the light way down.

Here's the B&H listing:

http://www.bhphotovide​o.com …&InitialSearch=​yes&Q=&N=0 (external link)

that's a pretty hefty commitment there... I guess it'll have to wait until after I get a 70-200 2.8 since I don't think I can swing both in one go. I do like the versatility though, and I guess I'd have to pay for it :/

what's the difference between the thin mount and the non-thin mount?

thanks for the suggestion


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tonylong
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Apr 13, 2011 23:35 |  #10

whotaketh wrote in post #12217497 (external link)
that's a pretty hefty commitment there... I guess it'll have to wait until after I get a 70-200 2.8 since I don't think I can swing both in one go. I do like the versatility though, and I guess I'd have to pay for it :/

what's the difference between the thin mount and the non-thin mount?

thanks for the suggestion

I'll have to skip on explaining the thin mount/non-thin mount -- I just don't use a variety of filters that broad -- and I've forgotten stuff that I've read (hey, I turned 60 recently:)). I guess it has something to do with the lens type. It shouldn't be too hard to Google an explanation. Or wait until someone chimes in here who knows what they are talking about.


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argyle
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Apr 14, 2011 06:36 |  #11

whotaketh wrote in post #12217497 (external link)
that's a pretty hefty commitment there... I guess it'll have to wait until after I get a 70-200 2.8 since I don't think I can swing both in one go. I do like the versatility though, and I guess I'd have to pay for it :/

what's the difference between the thin mount and the non-thin mount?

thanks for the suggestion

Other than price? The thin mount Singh-Ray is 10.5 mm thick, while the non-slim is just over 14mm thick. The slim doesn't have front threads, while the non-slim does.

The slim filter is about twice the thickness of a standard polarizer...not something you'd probably want to use a step ring with due to the increased chances of vignetting, especially if you're shooting on a FF, as well as the difficulty in separating the two. I use the slim Vari-N-Duo (about the same 14mm thick), which incorporates an integral polarizer...this vignettes on a FF up to about 24mm or so.

TBH, I'd even suggest eschewing the use of step rings altogether, especially with a filter that has a rotating ring, be it a variable ND or a polarizer...they're just a PITA to deal with, and if you happen to keep UV filters on your lenses, that's something else to consider when using additional filters...remove or stack (and deal with the consequences).


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whotaketh
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Apr 14, 2011 10:35 |  #12

argyle wrote in post #12219523 (external link)
Other than price? The thin mount Singh-Ray is 10.5 mm thick, while the non-slim is just over 14mm thick. The slim doesn't have front threads, while the non-slim does.

The slim filter is about twice the thickness of a standard polarizer...not something you'd probably want to use a step ring with due to the increased chances of vignetting, especially if you're shooting on a FF, as well as the difficulty in separating the two. I use the slim Vari-N-Duo (about the same 14mm thick), which incorporates an integral polarizer...this vignettes on a FF up to about 24mm or so.

TBH, I'd even suggest eschewing the use of step rings altogether, especially with a filter that has a rotating ring, be it a variable ND or a polarizer...they're just a PITA to deal with, and if you happen to keep UV filters on your lenses, that's something else to consider when using additional filters...remove or stack (and deal with the consequences).

Hmm I see. I'm shooting a 60D, and LR seems to do a respectable job with adjusting the raws, so I guess aside from price, slim or otherwise makes no difference to me. I do keep a couple of UV filters on my shorter lenses (the 24 and 50 in my sig, and I will deftly sidestep the whole argument over whether or not they're necessary), and I suppose those would be the two I'd use the ND's with. I'll keep this in mind, thanks.


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amfoto1
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Apr 14, 2011 12:45 |  #13

You don't need a thin mount filter when using FF capable lenses like yours on a crop sensor camera. In fact, you can probably stack at least two standard filters without any concern. Ditch the silly UV/"protection" filters when doing that... Those serve no real purpose other than making you feel a little more at ease using your pricey lens.

If you want to experiment, there are some less expensive, uncoated variable ND filters available. Just be sure to use them with a lens hood, to help avoid flare issues. The downside to that is you'll not be able to just buy a filter for your largest diameter lens and step it down for use on the smaller diameter lenses. The lens hood will make that difficult.

I'd also suggest starting with a solid ND (or variable, which also provides ND across the entire image).

If you do shoot some situations with bright sky vs foreground, you could use a Graduated ND on top of the ND that's being used to reduce exposure. It's often better to use rectangular Grad ND, anyway, instead of round screw-in. The rectangular ones and their respective holders allow you to slide the filter up or down to position the horizon line where you want it. The screw-in type always position the horizon line across the center of your lens, which, altho they can be rotated a little if needed, essentially dictates how you'll frame your shots.

But, if you only need a stop or so of Grad ND correction, it's often easier to just make two exposures and combine them later in Photoshop.... Or double process a single image and combine them with layers

You don't want the center spot ND... those are actually for use with certain lenses or for special effects. Some very wide lenses are dimmer around the periphery, so a filter is used to even out exposure across the entire frame. You can also use these to induce some deliberate vignetting.


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argyle
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Apr 14, 2011 16:42 |  #14

whotaketh wrote in post #12220581 (external link)
Hmm I see. I'm shooting a 60D, and LR seems to do a respectable job with adjusting the raws, so I guess aside from price, slim or otherwise makes no difference to me. I do keep a couple of UV filters on my shorter lenses (the 24 and 50 in my sig, and I will deftly sidestep the whole argument over whether or not they're necessary), and I suppose those would be the two I'd use the ND's with. I'll keep this in mind, thanks.

Understand, but that wasn't the point of my post. My point was that with a step ring and additional filter, on a lens that already has a UV or protective filter on it, will make for quite a filter sandwich, not to mention potential problems as well. Your options would be to either first remove the protective filter, then attach the step ring and creative filter (preferred), or leave the protective filter on and then add the step ring and creative filter on top of that, which will make for quite a filter sandwich and the resultant vignetting, depending on the focal length. Not to mention the additional layer of glass from a filter (protective) that will not have any creative effect whatsoever on the composition. For those reasons, its always best to remove the protective filter first. And, since most cheapie step rings are typically poorly machined, there is the possibility of thread galling, which could result in a stuck filter problem. I, and many others, can probably attest to that.


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whotaketh
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Apr 14, 2011 19:01 |  #15

argyle wrote in post #12222968 (external link)
Understand, but that wasn't the point of my post.

Actually, I meant it as sarcasm since that debate has been beaten over worse than a dead horse.

I'd hate to not use the UV filters I've got left, only because I got suckered into buying them and it'd be a total waste if I didn't have them on, but I do see your point.


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How to choose ND filters?
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