ND filter advice and a disappointing trip to the camera shop (again)

Nov 11, 2011
Milwaukee, WI USA
Luke
I stopped by the camera shop this morning (such a quaint concept in these modern times, I know, but I like bricks and mortar stores) so I could pick up a ND filter. I'm heading to a baseball game this afternoon and we're expecting a sunny day and want to be able to shoot wide open. The nice man behind the counter (who has worked there forever) handed me a variable ND filter where you basically spin 2 attached filters around (on of them is polarized) to get anything from no blockage of light to up to 6 (or maybe 10, I didn't ask) stops of light blocked. It was a ProMaster brand (which to me means some cheapo garbage made in China...however I'll admit it's possible I'm wrong). I bought one of these types of variable ND filters before. It was a Polaroid brand. It also was a piece of garbage, but for the $30 I paid for it, I was expecting amazing results....just the ability to block a bunch of light when I needed it.

Now the one he is showing me looks EXACTLY the same and it is $99. I said I'd prefer just a regular old ND filter....maybe a 3 stop.....if they carried a high quality set of 3, I would also consider that as well. "Nope, this is it. This is all you need. It's super high quality glass." I turned and left with no ND filter and now I'll probably need to leave the RX1 home today :(

So now I'm online looking for what that store should have carried and have a massive array of options. My impulse is to get the most light stopping power I need in a quality brand. Are there any holes in that logic? Even if I don't need 6 stops of light stopping power for a specific shot, the high ISO performance may make up for it. But I would think most of the time if actually need the ND filter to cut back on light (and I'm just talking enabling the use of f2 without blowing the photo....not any "trick" shots where I want to do long exposures), that having a couple too many stops wouldn't be the end of the world. Or do you think I'd be better off getting a set of 3 filters and stacking them when I need to?

I need to get my stuff together for the game. I'll enjoy your advice later. Go Brewers!
 

Tdp

All-Pro
Feb 15, 2019
I would get 1 really nice ND filter, say 4 or 8 - for your single filter times, then get a bunch of large diameter, cheaper NDs and step up rings for the longer exposures. For the cheaper ones, get all the same manufacturer so the color is the same.

I have a vari ND I made from 2 polarizers that I picked up out of a bargain bin for 3 dollars each. Just flip the glass on the outer PL filter and you are good to go.
 

Ranger Rick

Regular
Mar 12, 2012
Tempe, AZ
Rick
I'd researched this for a while, and came across a website where the photographer did an in-depth several part video test of a bunch of the variable ND filters (sorry, I don't remember who, but maybe a search will pull it up), and the ultimate choice was a Tiffen. Singh-Ray was in there but didn't do too well, something I've surprisingly seen elsewhere, esp for the price. I think the Tiffen is about 8x at the high end, but all of this measuring seems to be squishy. It wasn't outrageously priced (compared to the competition that is, I think 77mm was on sale @ B&H for $125). I'm happy. Maybe there's better, but who knows for sure. I'd never used Tiffen before, as I didn't think of it as a serious contender (but Ken Rockwell endorses Tiffen :).

I got the 77mm as I wanted to buy one for several lenses/systems, tho a PITA to use stepup rings. I would consider, as you say, go the 3 filter/stacking route as a serious alternative.

Most of those cheap ones seem to have major color issues, and I seldom saw a good word for them.

Hope that helps!
 

Ray Sachs

Legend
Sep 21, 2010
Not too far from Philly
you should be able to figure it out...
The two cameras with built in ND filters that I've had/used (I guess three if you count the X100 and X100s twice) had 3 stop ND filters and that's always been MORE than enough to allow me to shoot wide open in bright sun. Whether at f1.4 on the LX7 or f2 on the X100. This is just to allow you to shoot wide open in bright light, not for long exposures to make waterfalls look like spun silk or something. So, that's what, an 8 or 9??? I guess different manufacturers have different labeling conventions, but that's all I'd ever want...

-Ray
 

Stan

Regular
Apr 19, 2013
California
Stan
I have a 3, 6, and 10 stop ND filters and polarizers for each of my systems. For m43 I have 46 and 52mm sizes and stepup rings. (For FF DSLR, I run 77mm.) I learned to get good ones or save.

B+W ND filters all the way!
 

Djarum

All-Pro
Jul 10, 2010
Huntsville, AL
Jason
I have a hoya hmc 3 and 2 stop filter. I have stacked them without issue in my pen but will vignette stacked at the 14mm end. Lots of waterfall pictures I've done. No issues with color cast. Keep in mind though, the more glass the more chance of ghosting and reflections.
 

ean10775

All-Pro
Feb 13, 2013
Cleveland, Ohio
Eric
If you need a little more and don't mind the polarizing effect, a polarizer on top of your ND will get you an extra 1 to 2 stops. My Heliopan Jet Pol is about 1.5 stops.
 

Gubrz

O.* Gonzo's & Bentley's Dad
Jun 5, 2012
Austin, TX
Eliot
i got the zeiss one, but just cause it was at the sony store and i wanted it RIGHT NOW! lol
it cost a fortune, but it does say T* on it, and i pretend that means MAGIC! ;)

ive got a tiffen multi coated and the panasonic 46mm filters also
everything being 0.9
ive never had issue with them
at least half my rx1 shots are with the filter on, havent seen a downside
and prolly 90% of my pl25/1.4 em5 shots are with the el cheapo panasonic nd, and no issues ive noticed either

so i think youll be good!

now go take some photos
hey it was my bday saturday, did u have any cake for me Supa Luke?!
 
Nov 11, 2011
Milwaukee, WI USA
Luke
hey it was my bday saturday, did u have any cake for me Supa Luke?!
You should have told me ahead of time. No cake. But I lifted my temporary ban on deserts to enjoy a Brownie at a Brewers tailgate party. It was unbelievable. Happy Birthday....and photos of said tailgate coming later today (now with more ground Unicorn horn lens magic)
 

Gubrz

O.* Gonzo's & Bentley's Dad
Jun 5, 2012
Austin, TX
Eliot
You should have told me ahead of time. No cake. But I lifted my temporary ban on deserts to enjoy a Brownie at a Brewers tailgate party. It was unbelievable. Happy Birthday....and photos of said tailgate coming later today (now with more ground Unicorn horn lens magic)
Yesssssssssss! Unicorn powaaaaaah!
[video=youtube;QljsdAuCG7g]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QljsdAuCG7g[/video]

But now I want a Brownie. Darn you! Shakes fist!!!
 

Lawrence A.

Hall of Famer
Nov 8, 2012
New Mexico
Larry
I've mostly banned dessert too, but I get to have one a week: Yesterday was a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a scoop of blood orange sorbet, and fresh stawberry slices. It was worth the weight --- oops, I mean wait.
 

Gubrz

O.* Gonzo's & Bentley's Dad
Jun 5, 2012
Austin, TX
Eliot
I've mostly banned dessert too, but I get to have one a week: Yesterday was a scoop of vanilla ice cream, a scoop of blood orange sorbet, and fresh stawberry slices. It was worth the weight --- oops, I mean wait.
Lolz!
Today is day one of my 34 yo diet! Lol! I gave myself Sunday because it was still my bday weekend. Lol
 

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