Friday, 17 September 2010

ND filters...Love and hate

Followers of this blog will know I have advocated the use of variable ND filters, particularly when it comes to shooting moving images

A very useful thing to have, or so it would seem

Too good to be true?

In a word -Yes

Katherine Holley and I were using filters made by brand 'X' during the South African township project, predominantly on the Canon 'L' series 24-105mm lens

They certainly did the trick when it came to cutting light down, allowing us to use wide apertures in very bright condition, its just the footage always seemed a little 'soft' at best

Our confidence was dented to the extent that we stopped using them.

So blaming brand 'X' (and a manufacturing defect they had been suffering from) I tried brand 'Y'

Using brand 'Y'for moving images does seem to be a step forward, sharper images for sure but then Lucinda Marland and I stared to use them on a very exciting stills project (which I can't talk about at the moment)

When using the Canon 'L' series 85mm F1.2  or the EXCELLENT Phase One 110mm F2.8 Schneider lens wide open there was was a lack of sharpness that was simply unacceptable, both lenses can be very difficult to focus wide open but this was shot killing stuff

We removed the filter and bingo, tack sharp stunning image quality was back with us.

So we wanted to use an ND filter, what to do?

We tried a low tech old school solution

The 0.9 ND by LEE Filters (which allows exposure to be cut by 3 f stops), along with the fancy but very effective bellows hood

The only problem was getting hold of one, sold out everywhere.

An exhaustive search did turn one up

Boy was is worth it, even wide open sharpness was unaffected

We were back in the the land of 'Sharp' once more

For a fraction of the cost of a Vario ND filter (well not a fraction but cheaper when you consider just the filter alone)

Yes, some are better, some are worse but it is a scientific fact that when you put two polarisers together image quality will be affected

Will I use one again? Perhaps for moving image work, but for stills I doubt it

Old school has proved to be the way to go for me

Now, just to get more of those LEE filters


Anonymous said...

Hi Drew,

Great blog.
I havent posted here before but I do love reading.

I am very glad you posted this as I was considering a Singh-Ray 77mm Mor-Slo Neutral Density Filter but had no ideas that sharpness might be sacrificed.

Would you suggest then going the LEE filter route and if so could you pass on the information on how to put this kit together and perhaps a link for us possibly considering it?

Keep up the great work and look forward to the next post.

Unknown said...


Where to you finally find the hood? I have been looking online and can't find the damn thing anywhere.

Unknown said...

Hi Jeff

Thanks for the comment and the encouragement, I do appreciate it

I found navigating the LEE website a bit of a mission but if you dig around all the stuff you need is there

ND Tech specs here

And the hood

As for which filter to go for? Vario or fixed? I have not tried the Singh Ray but physics being physics.....I will continue to use my Lee

I see Joey L uses the same set up

The only problem you will run into is getting hold of one, supply is short and there are waiting lists etc, but it is worth it in my view



Unknown said...

Hey Ron

Another hunter in the 'Indiana Jones and the quest for LEE' is see!

Robert White came up trumps

Lucinda said very nice and helpful guy called Stu there helped her get set up

I see Band H have stock of some product too, if you are keen, duty, VAT and all that



Unknown said...

Guys! a discovery!

Dale Photographic have them

A Hood too Ron

The shipment has just arrived so be quick



Sean Bolton said...

Hi Drew

Yes I use the LEE ND filters.

I am currently trying to get hold of the BIG STOPPER 10 stop ND filter, it has been out of stock everywhere for ages. Ideal for film makers wanting to stop down a lot in very bright conditions.



Unknown said...

Hi Sean

Cool tip! Thanks

I had not considered it, but it now on the list

It would be THE thing for moving images



Unknown said...

I retweeted Calumet in the USA

They have stock!