ND Filters for Beginner

Discussion in 'Photography Beginners' Forum' started by Spartan.Stang, Feb 19, 2018.

  1. Spartan.Stang

    Spartan.Stang TPF Noob!

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    Hey there! I am new to photography and the forum! I am looking to get into landscape photography and auto (cars) photography.

    I have a little more interest in landscape and will probably just shoot my own car when I can find a good location. I will possibly take the camera to a race or two here and there but most of my questions pertain to landscape.

    My first question I have come across is what to do about filters. I have looked at all different types and brands of filters and am having a hard time wrapping my head around it all.

    For starters I am shooting with a Nikon D3400 with the 18-55 kit lens. I live in the Northeast US and plan to take some day hikes around some National Parks, waterfalls, etc to get shooting. I am looking for a good beginner set of filters. My budget is pretty low right now, so I was wondering if there are any decent sets out there for a reasonable price? I understand I will have to sacrifice certain things because I cant afford a Lee or similar filter set. Any help would be appreciated!


     
  2. TCampbell

    TCampbell Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    A “neutral density” filter works by blocking some percentage of light... and you do this to change your shooting circumstances (the possible exposure choices you have will change).

    For landscapes you typically want a broad depth of field... which means stopping down to a high f-stop value. The types of neutral density filters used here tend to be somewhat special...

    There’s the very strong 10-stop neutral density filter meant to block so much light (you can’t meter, focus, or compose with it on the camera... you have to do all that with no filter, then insert the filter and adjust your exposure 10 stops long on the shutter speed) that they allow objects in motion to get a strong amount of blur. They are most commonly used to blur water, but there are lots of other uses.

    The other useful landscape filter isn’t just one filter... it’s a class of filters. They are called “gradient” neutral density filters. They are rectangular and they slide into a filter holder. The idea is that they are clear on one half... tinted on the other. You slide them in to block the bright part of the image (usually the sky) and this allows you to bring up the exposure on the landscape without over-exposing the sky.

    But I call them a “class” of filters because they come in 1, 2, 3 stop versions... with “soft” edges (gradual transition from clear to dark) or “hard” edges (fast transition form clear to dark), etc.

    I’m more likely to use a normal ND filter to take portraits outdoors with shallow depth of field.... the filter lets me open the aperture up a bit.



    A “circular polarizer” is extremely useful. They’re do block a bit of light (typically “about” 2 stops but it can vary a bit from filter to filter and even based on how you tune the filter). They are primarily meant to block reflections... but there are micro-reflections on more things than you might imagine. Consequently a side-effect is that foliage and skies tend to have more color and clouds stand out more, etc.

    SO... when you’re taking car photos and you don’t want so much glare from the windshield... you can use a circular polarizer and gently rotate to tune down the reflections and get a much better looking car. You usually do want some reflection (otherwise it starts to look unnatural), so the idea is to tune it down to something that isn’t obnoxious... but isn’t overdone.



    Most other filters can be handled via post processing software... but polarizers can’t be handled in post processing (you either get the data when you take the shot... or you don’t) and of course the neutral density filters that let you change your shooting circumstances (open up more possible exposure options ... to create deliberate motion blur, etc.) are another (although creating directional blur is possible in Photoshop)


    There are also “variable” neutral density filters. If you take two polarizers and rotate them against each other... they can go almost completely black. That what these filters do... you rotate to increase the darkness. But before you race out to the store thinking this is the one for you.... they tend to dark with a pattern banding (there’s a “sweet spot” for each polarizer) . This isn’t noticeable in long lenses... or even fairly normal focal length lenses. But in wide and ultra-wide lenses it shows up and you get an “X” shaped dark band (one band for each of the two polarizing lenses). If you were to plan to use them on wide lenses... I’d suggest avoiding them. But for normal through long focal length lenses... theyr’e great.
     
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  3. ceemac

    ceemac No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    A filter I'm starting to like is the 812 warming filter. (maybe because it's still winter here) It does warm up a scene slightly, especially with a polarizer.
     
  4. SCraig

    SCraig Been spending a lot of time on here!

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    Keep one thing in mind: There are SOME things you can do with a filter that you can't do with software, but not many. However if you take a shot with a filter on the lens there is usually no undoing it in post processing. Make sure the shot is what you want with the filter installed, especially if it's a color-changing filter. Even better, take a shot with and without the filter so you don't have a "Gee I wish I hadn't had a filter on for that shot" moment.

    That said, I do use a circular polarizer quite a bit and a neutral density from time to time. At a race track I never use a filter except for shots before or after the race starts.
     
  5. ac12

    ac12 No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    For color my 2 filters are:

    Polarizing filter
    • Primarily to kill the glare on water.
    • You have to be careful with a polarizer, as you can have uneven darkening of the sky, which is more visible with a wide lens.
    Neutral Density / ND
    • I recently got a 10-stop ND filter so that I can get my shutter speed slow enough to get the flowing effect of water.
      • I got hooked on this when visiting a museum and looked at some OLD photos (really SLOW film) and liked the streaky/cloudy effect of the water, due to the very long shutter speed.
      • BTW these LONG exposures of many seconds, require the use of a STEADY tripod and remote shutter release.
    • With the dslr, you are stuck at the min ISO of the camera, and cannot shoot with the shutter any slower. The ND filter lets you effectively get below that limit.
    • I will probably get another ND filter maybe around 5-7 stops, so that I have more options.
    • I was thinking of the variable ND filters, but I've shot and plan to shoot wide, and that banding that Tim mentioned would be a problem.
    Gradient ND
    • I don't have one, yet, but have had several instances where I could have used one to lower the exposure of the sky.
    Of the 3 types of filters above, I would consider only the polarizer a general filter. Even then I do not use mine very much. I've only used it for specific shots, not keeping it on all the time. Because of that, I've always found a polarizer to be a bit of a hassle to mount, use, then unmount and put away.

    The ND filters, especially the high f-stop filters, are more specialized in their use. IOW, don't buy one if you don't have a NEED for it.
     
  6. petrochemist

    petrochemist TPF junkie!

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    Selecting the right white balance should have the same effect.
    It would be nice if a warming filter could affect the actual temperature, rather than just the look, but they've not managed that yet :)
     
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  7. weepete

    weepete TPF Supporters Supporting Member

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    Good cheap filters: Marumi Super or Marumi Super DHG for a polariser. I use Kood ND and GNDs though I have a couple of Lee filters too. Kood International are a UK brand, better and cheaper than Cokin but as fas as I can tell the best prices are from 3rd party sellers in the UK so may need to look into international shipping to get them in the US. In fact a quick google search shows Crooked Imaging are selling them from Amazon.co.uk and they ship internationally from there. I've bought stuff from them before and they seem to be a reliable vendor.

    I'd reccommend buying 100mm filters if you do go down the road of GNDs, and make sure you don't go too cheap or you can have issues with colour casts and sharpness. Cokin and Formatt Hitech are others that get used a lot.
     
  8. Low_Sky

    Low_Sky No longer a newbie, moving up!

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    Just to throw out a data point since weepete brought up filter size;
    I use the Lee 75mm system with my Sony APS-C mirrorless camera. I get vignetting with my 12mm Samyang f/2 lens. It’s easily corrected in LR with a radial filter, but I think the 75mm filter would be unusable much wider than that.


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