A simple way to give the photographs you shoot (or the video footage you film) a bit more depth is to use a neutral-density filter. We’re going to take some time in this article to present what we think is the best ND filter, as well as give tips and advice on using ND filters.
A neutral-density filter, also known as an ND filter, is a filter that can be fitted on your camera to modify or reduce the intensity of all the wavelengths of light.
These filters are especially useful for shooting under bright light conditions and they can help prevent your footage from looking overexposed.
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What Exactly Is An ND Filter
An ND filter is usually colorless or grey and reduces the amount of light entering the camera lenses without changing the hues of the colors.
There are different ND filters available in the market and they are usually classified according to how much light they block. An ND filter with high grading filters out more light and allows you to use wider apertures and get slower shutter speeds.
Videographers and photographers usually use ND filters in one of two scenarios. If you want to get a shallower depth of field or slower shutter speed.
If you’re shooting outdoors in broad daylight, having a shallower depth of field will allow you to better isolate a subject. To do so, you need to set a high shutter speed. But depending on your camera, you might not be able to get the shutter speed you need.
An ND filter is a quick fix for that, as it allows you to use bigger apertures regardless of the shutter speed.
ND Filter Uses – Examples
If you want to capture the motion of water, if you’re shooting a waterfall, for example, you need to slow your shutter speeds. However, if you’re outside in daylight, the amount of natural light available will play havoc on your attempts to slow your shutter speed.
Using an ND filter allows you to block some of that light – without affecting color – and get the slower shutter speed that you need to get the best shot.
For many photographers and videographers, ND filters are an essential part of their kit. If you’ll be shooting a lot of outdoor events, or a lot of footage outdoors during the day in general, an ND filter is a good investment to make. Here are a few of the best ND filters that are available on the market.
Best ND Filter
Let’s jump straight into looking at some of the best ND filters on the market right now.
1. Lee Filters ProGlass IRND
Design and Build Quality
Lee Filters, renowned in the photography world for their top-tier filter solutions, upholds their reputation with the ProGlass IRND series.
Crafted with precision, these neutral density filters cater primarily to professionals who require consistent and high-quality results.
Made from 2mm thick optically flat glass, these filters are meticulously designed to offer photographers and videographers optimal clarity without any risk of distortion.
The black edges ensure that any potential light leaks are kept at bay, and the filters slot seamlessly into Lee’s proprietary holder system.
Each filter is housed in a protective tin, signifying thoughtfulness in ensuring its longevity and protection during transit or storage.
Optical Performance and Infrared Control
The ProGlass IRND’s primary aim is to ensure color accuracy and neutrality across the entire spectrum.
Traditional ND filters sometimes fall prey to color shifts, but the ProGlass IRND remains true to its promise of neutrality.
This series of filters is specifically optimized to obstruct both infrared and ultraviolet light, which can lead to undesirable color shifts in the captured image.
The Infrared Neutral Density technology embedded within these filters aids in eliminating possible polluting wavelengths.
This ensures that the colors remain true to life, regardless of the density of the filter being used.
Whether you’re working with a 0.6 (2 stops) or a 4.5 (15 stops), the color fidelity remains intact, a testament to the meticulous engineering at play.
Usability and Versatility
In the realm of professional photography and videography, adjusting to changing light conditions is a consistent challenge.
The ProGlass IRND filters rise to this challenge effectively.
The range available offers significant versatility, allowing creatives to harness longer exposures or wider apertures, even in bright conditions.
They’re equally competent in video, enabling cinematographers to maintain their desired shutter angles in varying lighting scenarios.
The scratch-resistant nature of these filters is a boon for those who frequently find themselves in challenging environments.
Furthermore, Lee Filters has incorporated a foam gasket on the ProGlass IRND filters, which assists in preventing light leaks in long exposure shots, an essential addition for landscape photographers.
To encapsulate, the Lee Filters ProGlass IRND series is a quintessential tool for professionals who refuse to compromise on image quality.
By ensuring color neutrality, offering a broad range of densities, and paying attention to the minutiae like foam gaskets and black-edged glass, Lee Filters underscores their commitment to meeting the demands of professional photographers and videographers.
While they come at a premium, the investment in the ProGlass IRND is justified for those in pursuit of optical perfection.
2. B+W XS-Pro Digital ND Vario MRC Nano
Design and Build Quality
B+W, a subsidiary of Schneider Kreuznach, is a name often associated with precision and high-quality optics. The XS-Pro Digital ND Vario MRC Nano is no exception and lives up to B+W’s storied reputation.
Featuring a slim profile, this variable ND filter is particularly beneficial for wide-angle lenses, ensuring vignetting is minimized. Made with high-quality Schott glass, the filter promises optimal clarity and sharpness.
The Multi-Resistant Coating (MRC) is a key highlight, rendering the filter resistant to water, dirt, and scratches. Its Nano structure ensures that the filter is easier to clean, a feature professionals and enthusiasts alike will appreciate.
The knurled edge makes adjusting the filter smooth, providing a tactile experience that feels both precise and luxurious.
Optical Performance and Flexibility
The XS-Pro Digital ND Vario MRC Nano offers a variable density range from one to five stops.
This range provides photographers with a significant amount of flexibility, allowing for adjustments on-the-fly without the need to swap out filters.
Whether you’re aiming for a silky-smooth water effect in broad daylight or seeking to open your aperture for a shallow depth of field in video, this filter can accommodate.
The MRC ensures that reflections are minimized, ensuring that the image retains maximum contrast and clarity.
There’s also a negligible color shift, a trait that’s often desired but not always delivered in variable ND filters. B+W’s meticulous engineering ensures that colors captured are true to life, with no noticeable tint or cast.
Practicality in Field Use
In real-world scenarios, the XS-Pro Digital ND Vario MRC Nano proves to be a valuable ally. The variable nature of the filter means less fumbling in the field.
Instead of carrying a set of fixed ND filters and swapping them based on the situation, photographers can simply rotate the filter to achieve the desired density.
This not only saves time but also reduces the risk of dust or debris getting onto the sensor during filter changes.
The water and dirt-resistant properties of the MRC Nano coating further cement its practicality, ensuring that the filter remains clear and clean even in challenging environments.
In conclusion, the B+W XS-Pro Digital ND Vario MRC Nano is a top-tier variable ND filter that caters to both professionals and serious enthusiasts.
Combining a robust build with superior optical performance and real-world practicality, it stands out as one of the best options in the market for those seeking flexibility without compromising on image quality.
It’s an investment that promises to elevate the quality and versatility of one’s photographic toolkit.
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BEST ND FILTER
What Are ND Filters?
ND filters are used in photography to reduce the amount of light coming into the camera. ND stands for “neutral density.”
It’s important to use these filters when you’re trying to capture photos with slow shutter speed, such as waterfalls or sunsets because there is not enough light for your picture and it would turn out to look overexposed.
It’s also useful if you want to create motion blur effects in portraits or other low-light situations.
This will give you a smooth transition between images that creates a more artistic feel without having an annoying streak across your photo.
3. Hoya PROND
Design and Build Quality
Hoya, a well-respected name in the world of photographic filters, brings forward its expertise with the PROND line.
These neutral density (ND) filters are known for their precise neutral color rendition and top-tier construction.
Made from high-quality optical glass, the PROND filters ensure clarity and sharpness, which is a testament to Hoya’s commitment to professional-grade accessories.
The filter’s metal frame, aside from adding durability, is slim enough to reduce the chances of vignetting, even when used with wide-angle lenses.
The filter threads are finely machined, ensuring that they fit smoothly onto the lens without the risk of cross-threading.
Optical Performance and Spectrum Control
The PROND series by Hoya spans a wide range of densities, from two stops all the way to a staggering 16.5 stops, offering photographers a wide palette of creative options.
Whether it’s about dragging the shutter for ethereal long exposures or controlling depth of field in challenging lighting situations, there’s a PROND filter that fits the bill.
One of the standout features of the Hoya PROND filters is their Accu-ND technology.
This ensures a truly neutral rendition across the spectrum.
Unlike some ND filters that can introduce a color cast (often a cooler blue or a warm brown), the PROND remains faithful to the scene’s original colors.
This level of color accuracy can significantly reduce post-processing time and ensure that results are consistent across various shooting conditions.
Practicality and Everyday Use
In the field, the Hoya PROND doesn’t disappoint. Its slim profile means that it can comfortably stay on the lens without adding much bulk.
The added benefit of its neutrality means photographers can trust the results they see without second-guessing or frequently checking for color shifts.
For those who use polarizers in conjunction with ND filters, the PROND’s slimness is a significant advantage, minimizing the chances of vignetting.
Cleaning and maintenance are straightforward, thanks to the filter’s high-quality coatings, which resist smudging and fingerprints.
The clarity of the glass, combined with these coatings, ensures that image sharpness and contrast remain optimal, a critical consideration especially for those who demand the utmost in image quality.
In wrapping up, the Hoya PROND series stands out as a compelling choice for photographers seeking the best in neutral density filtration.
Merging Hoya’s craftsmanship with advanced optical technology, these filters promise not only to enhance creative possibilities but to do so while ensuring that image quality remains uncompromised.
Whether you’re a landscape photographer looking to tame the waters or a portraitist seeking to control ambient light, the Hoya PROND has you covered with precision and reliability.
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4. Tiffen Variable ND Filter
Design and Robustness
The Tiffen Variable ND Filter stands out in the saturated world of photographic accessories, characterized by its meticulous design and sturdy build.
Composed of high-quality optical glass, the filter boasts sharpness and clarity that professionals and enthusiasts alike can appreciate.
Tiffen’s renowned reputation for producing robust photographic equipment is evident in the filter’s construction, with its durable ring that can withstand the rigors of daily use.
The knurled design on the filter’s edge is not just for aesthetics; it offers photographers a better grip, which is especially beneficial when adjusting the filter’s density in the midst of a shoot.
The filter threads fit seamlessly onto a lens, and the smoothness with which the ND levels can be adjusted is a testament to Tiffen’s precision engineering.
Performance and Versatility
What makes the Tiffen Variable ND Filter particularly enticing is its range of neutral density stops.
By simply rotating the filter, photographers can seamlessly transition between 2 to 8 stops of light reduction.
This level of versatility means that whether you’re looking to achieve silky water effects in landscapes or desire a wider aperture in bright daylight for portraiture, this filter has got you covered.
Unlike some variable NDs that can introduce unwanted color shifts as you increase the density, Tiffen has gone to great lengths to ensure color fidelity.
Images captured with this filter on display minimal to no color cast, ensuring that the hues in your shots remain true to life.
The filter also limits the dreaded ‘X’ pattern seen in some other variable ND filters at their highest density settings, thanks to Tiffen’s expertly calibrated glass.
Practical Applications and User Experience
In real-world usage, the Tiffen Variable ND Filter shines in its simplicity and efficacy.
The ease of adjusting exposure without fumbling with multiple filters or constantly diving into camera settings cannot be understated.
For videographers, this filter is a godsend, allowing for the maintenance of a consistent shutter speed regardless of changing lighting conditions.
The filter’s coatings deserve a mention as well, efficiently reducing reflections and flare, which is particularly beneficial when shooting in challenging light.
Maintenance is straightforward, with the filter’s surface resisting smudges and being easy to clean.
To sum it up, the Tiffen Variable ND Filter is an essential tool for any serious photographer or videographer.
Its combination of robust design, optical clarity, and unparalleled versatility makes it a standout product in the realm of neutral density filters.
Those looking for a reliable and high-quality variable ND filter would do well to consider what Tiffen has on offer.
The company’s longstanding reputation for quality and precision is fully realized in this product, ensuring that creative visions are captured with accuracy and consistency.
BEST ND FILTER
Advantages of Using ND Filters
• ND filters block the majority of UV light and reduces glare to give you a brighter and sharper image.
• ND filters allow you to control your shutter speed for creative effects like motion blur or freezing water splashes.
• They are indispensable when photographing at broad daylit hours, with moving subjects in graduated light, or in scenes with an excessive depth of field.
5. Gobe ND Filter
Eco-Friendly Approach and Construction
The Gobe ND Filter presents itself as not just another photographic tool, but as a symbol of eco-friendly and sustainable product design.
Gobe’s commitment to the environment is evident from the get-go, with their packaging made from recycled materials.
The filter itself is crafted with premium Japanese optical glass, ensuring maximum sharpness and clarity in the images it helps produce.
Its frame, built from aerospace-grade magnalium, not only gives it a lightweight characteristic but also ensures resilience against the challenges of outdoor photography.
Furthermore, the durability is accentuated with its 16-layer multi-resistant coating which aids in protecting the lens and reducing lens flare and ghosting.
Optical Quality and Functionality
In the arena of ND filters, optical quality is
The color neutrality of this filter is one of its standout features.
When using the Gobe ND, photographers can expect minimal color cast, ensuring that the images produced retain their natural hues and tones.
The variety in ND stops offered by Gobe, ranging from ND2 to ND1000, caters to a myriad of shooting scenarios, be it to achieve that ethereal water flow in broad daylight or to manage exposure during video shoots.
Another commendable aspect is the consistency of the density across the filter, ensuring even light reduction and preventing vignetting, a common issue with some other ND filters on the market.
User Experience and Value Proposition
Handling the Gobe ND Filter in the field is a pleasure.
The filter threads onto the lens smoothly and securely, reducing the fear of cross-threading.
The added anti-scratch, water repellent, and anti-oil features are not just buzzwords; they translate to real-world benefits, making the cleaning and maintenance of the filter a breeze.
But beyond the product, Gobe’s initiative of planting five trees with every purchase adds an emotional quotient to the buying process.
Knowing that the purchase contributes to global reforestation efforts makes the Gobe ND Filter not just an acquisition for better photographs, but for a better planet.
It’s this unique combination of stellar product quality and a heartwarming cause that makes Gobe’s offering a compelling choice for photographers worldwide.
In conclusion, the Gobe ND Filter seamlessly merges top-tier optical performance with a laudable environmental commitment.
For photographers who not only seek the best tools for their craft but also wish to make a positive impact on the world, Gobe’s ND filter emerges as an impeccable choice.
It represents a synergy of quality, functionality, and a conscious effort towards a sustainable future.
ND Filters – What You Need To Know
ND filters are graded according to stops. In photography and videography, a stop is either the halving or doubling of the amount of light that comes through.
With ND filters, you are reducing the amount of light, so if you have a 1 stop ND filter you are stopping the light by half and increasing the seconds of exposure.
Depending on the manufacturer, your ND filter will either have an “ND factor” or an “optical density”. For example, if you want a 1 stop ND filter, you need to get an ND filter with an ND factor of 2 or an Optical Density of 0.3.
Check out the table below to see the commonly available ND factors and Optical Densities and their equivalent ND filter stops
|ND Factor (seconds of exposure)||Optical Density||ND Filter Stops|
ND Filters – Types of Attachment
ND filters are also classified according to how they are “attached” to a camera. There are two basic types:
- screw-on, and
Screw-on ND Filters
A screw-on ND filter is the more common type of filter and is usually considered the easier type to use.
You literally screw them on directly to your camera’s lens and stay there till you screw them off.
Slot-in ND Filters
Slot filters, on the other hand, are mounted on a bracket that places them in front off, but slightly away from the camera lens.
Screw-on vs. Slot-in Filters
The benefit of screw-on filters is that they’re relatively simple. Made of glass and metal. They are also relatively hard to scratch and very durable.
Screw-on filters are also a little less expensive than slot-in filters because the brackets that slot-in filters use tend to add to the price.
Slot-in filters are usually made of acrylic and plastic. This means they’re more prone to getting scratched than screw-on filters.
However, slot-in filters are a little more versatile and can be used with multiple cameras. A slot-in filter bracket can be attached to many different cameras and used with different lens sizes and types.
Screw-on filters can only be used with a specific size of the lens, so if you have lots of different lenses, you are going to have to buy a screw-on filter for each.
With a slot on, you just need to attach and adjust the bracket and one unit will work with all your cameras.
Best ND Filter – Conclusion
ND Filters come in all shapes and sizes and we hope we’ve explained that adequately in this article.
When choosing an ND filter there are, of course, a number of things to keep in mind:
- The camera that you have and that you want to fix the ND filter to.
- The amount of ND filter stops you want to adjust the light by.
- Your budget for buying an ND filter.
All of those are important, along with other more general buying tips that you’d consider when you’re purchasing anything.
We hope this guide to the best ND filter has been helpful to you. Did we miss out your favorite ND filter? Let us know in the comments below.
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