There's not really a "filter" board, and often times, heavy stoppage ND filters are more commonly spoken about in the nature/landscape crowd anyways, so figured this was the place.
I was about to buy some Breakthrough Photography filters, after having sold all my previous square plate filter system (Lee), because of the color cast, sharpness, etc, they were just very compelling filters but unfortunately hideously expensive. I was still going to get them. But then, I stopped, and reminded myself that color-cast can be corrected in post, and that I'd rather have the extra cash for other toys. So I started looking into the swarm of 10 stop filters out there. I've done the whole Big Lee Stopper thing, and tried others. I wanted something simple, inexpensive, and good quality (usually these things do not go hand in hand, right?). B+W and others make sense and are commonly referred to as good quality. So I started just looking around at who makes what. I ended up looking at quite a few comparisons out there of color cast, sharpness retention, and the multi-coating handling of sunlight, etc. Ultimately I found Haida, which I normally just passed on by when shopping. But seeing as Haida is the same glass as B+W, I figured it's worth exploring further. So I shopped up some filters and they're all over ebay of course, but I found what I wanted on Amazon to my surprise.
Here's the filter: Haida Slim PRO II MC 10 stop 77mm ND filter. I bought mine for about $59. I see the price fluctuate all over the place. It's cheaper on eBay. I mainly got it on Amazon because it had Prime shipping available and that means I can return it. So, with that, I took a shot at it. If you're interested in this filter, simply shop around, you can get it cheaper than $70 for sure.
I went to the West coast of Florida today, Cedar Key, to test out the filter. I made sure to use the same process for each photo so that I could compare it later to see the differences.
1. Compose image and focus where I want.
2. Meter exposure in Manual (using F16 and ISO 100 as my base; changing shutter only for exposure) via Evaluative.
3. I manually expose an image right away.
4. I screw on the Haida filter and adjust the shutter to allow in +10 stops of light.
5. I manually expose an image again at the new shutter speed for long exposure.
That's it. Nothing fancy. Most of these were easy too, since they were metering anywhere from 1/125s to 1/80s, so it was close to 1/100s (for sunny 16), allowing me to quickly move to 10 seconds right away, and adjust 1/3rd stop up/down to keep it close to 10 stops each time.
I did not change the white balance, they are all shot at Day Light white balance and left unchanged.
I did not alter the tint or anything. I didn't correct for the color cast.
The only processing I did was basic stuff like cleaning up dust spots, horizon correction, shadow lifting, highlight calming, cropping, etc.
I did the same processing on both images where applicable so that any changes applied to both images the same.
Image Samples, Before -> After:
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/Ds8A8H img_a691 by Martin Wise, on FlickrIMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/D4dLjB img_a698 by Martin Wise, on Flickr
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/DQbPpC img_a699 by Martin Wise, on FlickrIMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/DQbHAo img_a702 by Martin Wise, on Flickr
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/DyuG5A img_a703 by Martin Wise, on FlickrIMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/Ds81be img_a704 by Martin Wise, on Flickr
IMAGE LINK: https://flic.kr/p/DSmNEP img_a705 by Martin Wise, on Flickr
After reviewing the photos again, I noticed a few things.
A) Vignetting was random, but that was my error I'm sure (ie, didn't screw the filter down all the way). I had a few photos at 17mm (full frame) that didn't show vignette very much, yet had others that were not as ultrawide (20mm, full frame) that showed huge vingette. So I'm guessing it was that I didn't screw the filter down all the way a few times. Since I was able to get near no-vignette at 17mm on full frame, I'll call it good for that, the bridge to horizon photo above for example is 17mm and has zero cropping. It has some minor vignetting, but it's not bad. Tighter angle focal lengths have no vignetting other than what I caused in error on my own.
B) I'm not seeing a major color cast. If anything, there is a blue tint (or magenta, I have no idea, I'm fairly color blind, so you tell me?), instead of a red tint or other warm color. I'm happy with that. Whatever the tint is, it doesn't seem to be that strong, so it's quite easy to correct for someone that wants it exact. I didn't even correct for it because I didn't see enough of a difference for me. That said, my content was fine with the color anyways. I will test it in a warmer context to see if it makes a bigger impact (next will be under canopy at a spring fed river/creek, etc).
C) Sharpness seems decent, I didn't notice any major issues when I 100% peeped. All filters cause a small amount of loss, but I wasn't able to notice anything big or serious.
D) Build quality is ok. It's definitely not the most robust built filter. It doesn't feel as weighty and heavy, so I'm not sure what the filter's ring is made of (ie, not brass?). It doesn't feel as good as a more expensive filter (Hoya, Marumi, B+W, etc) in terms of it being a heavy, sold, metal feeling filter. It feels light weight. But hey, I paid $59 so I didn't expect it to be titanium right? The glass is what's important and that seems to be holding up quite well to scrutiny.
E) Seems like a good filter for the $59 I paid. I may have to pick up a 6 stop now, for shorter duration and/or high stacks. It has less color cast than my Big Lee Stopper did. And it doesn't seem to have any serious image quality hits that I've found so far. Quite the budget filter, if anyone is looking for something pretty good for pretty cheap.