Confused about buying a set of ND grad filters

Started Feb 21, 2013 | Discussions
lukep Senior Member • Posts: 2,076
Confused about buying a set of ND grad filters

Lately I have gotten into landscapes more with my d600 and 16-35vr. I have screw on filters but now noticed I could get these larger 4/6 filters so I can position the horizon where I want

What brand and set should I get?  I think a 3 stop will do the trick but I am open to other filters as they are fun to play with.  I also like doing long exposures so I think I need a holder

Ihave seen cheaper priced Colkin sets.  Lee sets priced a bit higher.  Then stingray being the most expensive.

What do you all suggest for a whole set, I really don't want a filter that will soften the image.  I don't want color casts but at least that can be fixed

Thanks!

Nikon D600
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slimandy Forum Pro • Posts: 17,145
Re: Confused about buying a set of ND grad filters

I used Cokin in my film days. They are a good way to go if you're on a budget but they are not top quality. I use Lee now and they are much better but also much more expensive. I have WA adapters and mainly use them on my 17~35 and 70~200mm lenses for landscape. I bought the starter kit that included 3 ND soft grads and I'm happy to use them in tandem.

The Lee web site is worth a read even if you don't by Lee filters. It's very informative.

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Chas P Contributing Member • Posts: 814
Re: Confused about buying a set of ND grad filters

I was in the same boat until last week. I bought a kit of 3 Cokins and a holder. Their P series. So much fun I wish I'd done it years ago! Colour cast if you stack all three, and 'interesting' flare if the sun's in the frame but the best £50 I've ever spent.

Here's two stacked from a couple of evenings ago - they definitely degrade the image and could do with nano-coating or a lens hood!

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OP lukep Senior Member • Posts: 2,076
Re: Confused about buying a set of ND grad filters

ya i really dont want to loose quality, so i might look at the lee system.  I also think that there is not enough DR even on the D600 to get sunset type shots right without a ND grad.

any other suggestions?

Niklas Ramstedt
Niklas Ramstedt Regular Member • Posts: 281
Re: Confused about buying a set of ND grad filters

The Cokin P series holder shows up in the image on the 16-35mm. So stay clear of that one. It's designed for 24mm and upwards. I didn't do my homework last year and bought one. Silly me.

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Manny82 Contributing Member • Posts: 631
Re: Confused about buying a set of ND grad filters

Good thread.

Niklas what do you suggest then for a universal set that can be used from 16mm upwards?
Also anything suitable for a 82mm thread?

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Penny123 Regular Member • Posts: 368
Re: Confused about buying a set of ND grad filters

Sorry to ask  a question a little off topic but does using a ND grad filter give the effect of the rays of light shining through the trees like the photo posted?  I have seen many shots like this and find them absolutely stunning but have never managed to achieve anything like it.

Chas P Contributing Member • Posts: 814
Re: Confused about buying a set of ND grad filters

Sorry to ask  a question a little off topic but does using a ND grad filter give the effect of the rays of light shining through the trees like the photo posted?  I have seen many shots like this and find them absolutely stunning but have never managed to achieve anything like it.

More or less, yes. The graduated part refers to it being darker at the top of the frame. The smoke in the scene helps, and the small aperture is what makes the 'sun star' as diffraction bends the light between the blades.
Filter, smoke and a lens that makes nice stars. ( by using and odd number of blades, Nikon get more points on their stars than a symmetrical number would yield.

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kymarto Contributing Member • Posts: 640
Re: Confused about buying a set of ND grad filters
1

Why use grads? These are digital day...just stack and mask two different exposures.

No image degradation

Infinitely customizable horizon

Independent adjustment of the two exposures

No need to carry filters and holders

A lot quicker to take two exposures than to set up the grad

With slight PP effort this also works handheld.

The advantages are so great and the disadvantages so slight, that I really don't understand why anyone would waste money and time to fiddle with grads, other than for video or film,

Chas P Contributing Member • Posts: 814
Re: Confused about buying a set of ND grad filters

kymarto wrote:

Why use grads? These are digital day...just stack and mask two different exposures.

No image degradation

Infinitely customizable horizon

Independent adjustment of the two exposures

No need to carry filters and holders

A lot quicker to take two exposures than to set up the grad

With slight PP effort this also works handheld.

The advantages are so great and the disadvantages so slight, that I really don't understand why anyone would waste money and time to fiddle with grads, other than for video or film,

All fair points but I like to get one shot in camera, I don't like sitting in front of the computer. I don't like blending exposures if I can help it. I'm crap at it, and don't like how it looks. I've been using Lightroom, Photomatix and Photoshop and just don't like the messy colours, muddy whites and ghosting. To cover as much DR as my posted shot would require a 9 shot bracket to keep smooth transitions, and the sun would still be blown out - it's a good half hour before sunset. Lightroom's ND filters are fantastic and I use them in conjunction at the moment, but they can't do it all.

For me, these filters are a blessing. I admit that I'm a luddite though, and my processing lacks finesse.

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Niklas Ramstedt
Niklas Ramstedt Regular Member • Posts: 281
Re: Confused about buying a set of ND grad filters

Manny82 wrote:

Good thread.

Niklas what do you suggest then for a universal set that can be used from 16mm upwards?
Also anything suitable for a 82mm thread?

I can't actually say. I looked at Lee filters last year, but they were so damn expensive.

http://www.leefilters.com/

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OP lukep Senior Member • Posts: 2,076
i am trying to limit post proccesing time....

kymarto wrote:

Why use grads? These are digital day...just stack and mask two different exposures.

No image degradation

Infinitely customizable horizon

Independent adjustment of the two exposures

No need to carry filters and holders

A lot quicker to take two exposures than to set up the grad

With slight PP effort this also works handheld.

The advantages are so great and the disadvantages so slight, that I really don't understand why anyone would waste money and time to fiddle with grads, other than for video or film,

with me i dont like being in front of the computer either.  I can usually edit a shot in NX2 in under 5 minutes.  I dont even know how to use photoshop, im not old but i just never learned it.  Maybe i should  using a grad filter then pulling up shadows if needed is my plan.  So far without grads and just pulling up shadows with the d600 im still getting good results

on the last one i think i used a two stop nd grad

Terry Cacek New Member • Posts: 18
Re: Confused about buying a set of ND grad filters

Note that Cokin makes two P-size filter holders.  One has slots for up to three filters, is very thick, and often cuts off the corners of the frame.  The other has only one slot, is much thinner, and is much less likely to cut off the corners.  I use the one-slot holder, often with the 16-35mm lens.  At all focal lengths, the holder does not appear in the frame if the  filter is square with the world, e.i. if the  long axis of the filter is either horizontal or vertical.  Sometimes, I tip the filter a bit.  Then, at 20mm the holder casues slight darkening of the corners.  At 16mm, the corners are cut off.  This usually can be corrected in post.

I didn't like having corners cut off, so I bought a Cokin Z holder and a bunch of 4x6 filters.  The Z holder has three slots and cuts off the corners.  However, the slots are screwed together so you can remove two slots to create a much thinner holder.  You must then cut off four now overly long screws.  When reduced to one slot, there is no darkening or cutting of corners, even at 16mm.

One problem is solved and another is created.  The larger holder and filters take too much room in my bag so they sit on the shelf at home and are now for sale.  The slim Cokin P holder and three Singh-Ray filters go everywhere I go.

Terry

OP lukep Senior Member • Posts: 2,076
Re: Confused about buying a set of ND grad filters

Terry Cacek wrote:

Note that Cokin makes two P-size filter holders. One has slots for up to three filters, is very thick, and often cuts off the corners of the frame. The other has only one slot, is much thinner, and is much less likely to cut off the corners. I use the one-slot holder, often with the 16-35mm lens. At all focal lengths, the holder does not appear in the frame if the filter is square with the world, e.i. if the long axis of the filter is either horizontal or vertical. Sometimes, I tip the filter a bit. Then, at 20mm the holder casues slight darkening of the corners. At 16mm, the corners are cut off. This usually can be corrected in post.

I didn't like having corners cut off, so I bought a Cokin Z holder and a bunch of 4x6 filters. The Z holder has three slots and cuts off the corners. However, the slots are screwed together so you can remove two slots to create a much thinner holder. You must then cut off four now overly long screws. When reduced to one slot, there is no darkening or cutting of corners, even at 16mm.

One problem is solved and another is created. The larger holder and filters take too much room in my bag so they sit on the shelf at home and are now for sale. The slim Cokin P holder and three Singh-Ray filters go everywhere I go.

Terry

Thanks Terry. I have the same lens. So you can only shoot 20mm and up?

And what three filters do you use .  All nd grads.?   Just curious of the setup. Thanks!

marike6 Veteran Member • Posts: 5,088
Re: Confused about buying a set of ND grad filters

I use the Hitech 3-stop soft edge on a Cokin P holder and I'm extremely pleased with it.  Quality is great, no weird color casts like some have reported about a few of the Cokin filters, and price/performance is extremely high.  Lots of positive reviews, great way to get a high quality resin filter without spending Singh Ray and Lee kind of money.

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/111013-REG/Hitech_HT140885_85mm_Graduated_ND_0_9.html

Best of luck, Markus

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NDLunchbox Junior Member • Posts: 41
I had Formatt/HiTech filters

Not bad quality - I had the following set:

Wide Angle Adaptor
Option: 82mm
Quantity 1
Price £30.21
MK4 Aluminium Wide Angle
Option: 2 Slot
Quantity 1
Price £46.81
ND Grad Filter
Size: 100mm x 150mm
Density: 0.6
Grad: Soft
Quantity 1
Price £38.30
ND Grad Filter
Size: 100mm x 150mm
Density: 0.6
Grad: Hard
Quantity 1
Price £38.30
Delivery charge: £10.00
VAT (if applicable): £0.00
Total: £163.62

http://www.formatt.co.uk/stills-filters/products.aspx

Ended up being like $260 USD or so when you factor in foreign transaction fees.  Took a month+ to show up from the UK.  I ended up selling them on eBay at a loss.  For the amount of time I spent fiddling with the holder and filters it was clear it is just faster to snap a bracketed shot and do it all in Photoshop.  Once you get the hang of masking it takes very little time and is a lot more flexible.

I took the money I got for the set and bought the only filters that I haven't been able to replicate in PS - a set of ND and CPLs.  I've used them both 10x more often and they are much quicker and easier to deal with.

Clueless Wanderer
Clueless Wanderer Senior Member • Posts: 1,243
Re: i am trying to limit post proccesing time....

I have 'Hitech' filter's and they are awesome. The darkening is all the way through the plastic and Ive heard about a magenta colour cast issues with the cokin ones.
I use a Cokin Z holder and the soft grads on my nikon 24-70mm. This company makes filters for the movie industry and their pricing is pretty tame

http://www.formatt.co.uk/stills-filters/filters/graduated-n-d/stills-filters.aspx

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Clueless Wanderer
Clueless Wanderer Senior Member • Posts: 1,243
Re: Confused about buying a set of ND grad filters

Terry Cacek wrote:

Note that Cokin makes two P-size filter holders. One has slots for up to three filters, is very thick, and often cuts off the corners of the frame. The other has only one slot, is much thinner, and is much less likely to cut off the corners. I use the one-slot holder, often with the 16-35mm lens. At all focal lengths, the holder does not appear in the frame if the filter is square with the world, e.i. if the long axis of the filter is either horizontal or vertical. Sometimes, I tip the filter a bit. Then, at 20mm the holder casues slight darkening of the corners. At 16mm, the corners are cut off. This usually can be corrected in post.

I didn't like having corners cut off, so I bought a Cokin Z holder and a bunch of 4x6 filters. The Z holder has three slots and cuts off the corners. However, the slots are screwed together so you can remove two slots to create a much thinner holder. You must then cut off four now overly long screws. When reduced to one slot, there is no darkening or cutting of corners, even at 16mm.

One problem is solved and another is created. The larger holder and filters take too much room in my bag so they sit on the shelf at home and are now for sale. The slim Cokin P holder and three Singh-Ray filters go everywhere I go.

Terry

Er.. When you reduce the amount of slots to the front of the Cokin Z Pro, you put the spares on the back. This means no need to cut down screws.

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shawn in ak Regular Member • Posts: 206
Re: Confused about buying a set of ND grad filters

I don't much care for the compositng method in Photoshop myself. That said, the D600 and D800 have lots of dynamic range, and if you're shooting at ISO 100 you have a ton of shadow lifting ability. I mostly just use digital NDs in Lighroom now. I actually have a set  of soft GNDs from Lee and I don't use them much--way cold here in AK and fiiddling w/filters is brutal on the hands. I just picked up a Big Stopper though--that is fun to play with.

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