LONG EXPOSURE FILTERS
We test five to find the best that money can buy
DIGITAL MRC F-PRO
B&W stocks a wide range of Neutral Density filters, which can accentuate the amount of light that hits the sensor by one, two, three, six or ю f-stops. Whereas the B&W ND.3 (101) filter cuts out one stop of tight, the B&W ND 3.0 010) is its most extreme ND fitter and is capable of slowing shutter speeds down by 10 stops — equivalent to turning a 1/60sec shutter speed to a 15-socond exposure. Results were almost identical to those produced by the Tiffen ND 3.0 and though there didn’t appear to be a cast when reviewing images on the LCD screen, we did find ourselves tweaking the temperature slider in Camera Raw to produce a cooler and more neutral White Balance. The only disadvantage of it being the screw-in type is that it has to be removed each time you recompose a shot — something that can be tedious if you’re planning to shoot lots of images at the same location.
PRO STOP 10IR
The Pro Stop 10 IR is square in shape with chamfered corners and is designed to be used with a filter holder system much like the Lee Filters Big Stopper. This has an advantage in that it saves having to unscrew the filter each time you want to recompose an image, but does incur some additional cost for a filter holder and suitably sized adapter ring for which you’ll want to budget an extra £30-£50 depending on the size you choose. Available in resin and glass finishes, the latter has a maximum density of 2.4 which blocks out eight stops of light, whereas the resin filter cuts out 10 stops. To prevent any leakage of light around the edge of the filter, a foam gasket is used between the filter and the filter holder, with the option to choose a different size of gasket if you plan to use it with the Lee Filters holder system.
£83 (77MM) well as a variable density filter that uses two polarising layers to give photographers control of how much light the/d like to pass through the filter to the sensor Hoya makes the HMC NDx400, which reduces light values by nine stops as opposed to 10 stops. Compared to the other filters in this test, this filter allows one extra stop of light to pass through and is available as a screw in type that secures via the filter thread at the front of the lens. To make it compatible with a wide audience, the HMC NDx400 is available in nine thread sizes from 49mm to 82mm, with the smallest size costing £34. To keep it safe and secure on your travels, the filter comes packaged in a strong plastic case with a foam insert, and there’s a caution note not to use any chemical cleanser to clean the surface, which could result in damage to the coated glass. Of the five filters on test, the Hoya NDx400 produced the most neutral results straight out of the camera and required very little post processing work to the White Balance — great news for those who’d prefer to shoot JPEGs rather than Raws.
The Lee Filters Bin Stopper is a 10-stop ND filter that measures 100x100mm. Just like HiTech’s Pro Stop 10 IR filter, it attaches to a lens with an adapter ring and filter holder. Unfortunately, these aren’t supplied, meaning you’ll need to budget an extra £80 which hikes the price up significantly As 10-stop filters go. It’s the easiest of the five to work with. In cold and wet conditions we found it much easier to slide a filter into place than attempt to screw one on. A foam gasket ensures a light-tight seal between the back of the filter and the filter holder, and the metal tin case it comes in offers excellent foam protection from damage. The exposure and quick user guide shows Lee Filters’s attention to detail and though the filter produces a cool colour cast, this can be corrected by setting the temperature slider between 8500 and 9000 inside Camera Raw. It is an expensive ND filter, but if you want to work as fast as possible in the outdoors then this is the filter to choose.
Tiffen produces a huge range of filters for stills photographers and the thriving film industry. The ND 3.0 is the company’s most extreme neutral density filter and is capable of blocking out 10 stops of light. Being the screw-in type, it’s available in filter thread sizes from 52mm to 82mm. Prices for the smallest size start at a very reasonable £29 and when you compare the price of a 77mm (£75) filter with its rivals, it works out as one of the cheapest options in this test, in the hand it doesn’t have the same premium, weighty feel as the B&W filter and the edge has a matt finish as opposed to a smoother gloss. The filter is also slightly let down by its packaging. Though the plastic case should protect it from knocks, it rattles around inside, isn’t the easiest to open when you’re wearing gloves and only has a thin layer of foam to cushion it. The good news is that it produces superb results which are on a par with those produced by the B&W filter. We noticed that colour was a fraction warmer in our test images compared to the Hoya ND filter, but for the price it produces excellent results.