The ND filter is your friend!

Discussion in 'Canon EOS' started by christian_irgens, Jan 23, 2021.

  1. For most of my DSLR years I had no lenses faster than a 30 mm and a 50 mm f/1.4. Also some f/1.8, a 28 mm, a 50 mm, and an 85 mm. And two f/2.0, 35 mm and 100 mm. Then during the last half decade or so I acquired every FF Sigma f/1.4 Art except the 28 mm. Nothing seriously exotic; no slow focusing, mediocre optical quality EF f/1.2 for me. (I am ready for the flaming!)

    Once I acquired the M5, and later an M6 II, there were all sorts of interesting third party lenses available. To complement the excellent EF-M 32 mm f/1.4, the Sigma 16 mm and 56 mm f/1.4 were no brainers. But there are even wilder animals out there, in my case a Mitakon 35 mm f/0.95 and a Kamlan 50 mm f/1.1 Mk. II. I am not saying that these lenses are optical stars, but they give you the opportunity to work with quite shallow DOF for an APS-C sensor.

    Now here is the nub. ISO 100, f/1.0 (more or less) and you want to under expose the background by three stops while putting three stops worth of plus flash exposure on the main subject during full sunshine. And your max shutter speed is 1/4000 second. Good Old Sunny Sixteen says you need to reduce the ambient by 2 2/3 stops. Enter the Neutral Density filter ND 3 which reduces the ambient by three stops. While this solves your problem, your flash groans in protest that it is hard enough to do High Speed Sync without having to overcome the three stops ND filter.

    The first image was shot with the EF 35/2 IS, Auto ISO, and Program mode, no flash. The second image was with the Mitakon 35/0.95, ISO 100 and Manual mode, lens wide open and 1/4000 second. The flash was a Godox V1 on Manual, 1/1 power, HSS, about 18" from the Silver Star. The objective was to under expose the ambient by three stops, which was probably a bit much. I should have stuck with two stops.



    If I had settled for two stops under, I could have used half the flash power, moved the flash 40 % further away, or introduced a small diffuser. I could also have used an ND 2 filter. But overall, an ND filter (or a few, to fit various lenses) can occasionally come in very handy when you need some special effect.
    William Michael likes this.
  2. Although it's not a common problem, lenses with fixed apertures like mirror lenses need ND filters when the film is too fast and the light is really bright/

    Older cameras with only slow shutter speeds and only a couple of 'stops' often need ND filters with modern films.

    But, hey, there are also graduated filters, and not just neutral in color. There were some British photographers who used to hang out here once in a while for whom it seemed that a graduated dark filter of one color or another (neutral for sure, but also tobacco and blue commonly) was used in every picture.

    I. personally, also am a big fan of polarizing filters -- they do darken skies too, but not evenly, but they really cut out unwanted reflected light if used carefully. I especially like the "ColorFlow" multi-color polarizers like the ones Spiratone used to sell. (old post at Spiratone and Spiratone Colorflow™ Polarizing Filters )
    Last edited: Jan 24, 2021
  3. JD: Read your post about Spiratone. I certainly would go there occasionally, parking was terrible, but they had interesting stuff. Camera Barn was also mentioned; that's where I bought my first (cheap) umbrellas and light stands. In those days (1978-79 ?) I was still pursuing an honorable career. Walked away from Wall Street April 30, 1979. Been happy, but (occasionally) poor.

    I am also a polarizer fan, and I used it shamelessly during my last West Indian trip. Some photos ended up looking a bit like a tourism promotional flier.


    mickeysimpson likes this.
  4. The first shot of the beach certainly bears no relation to the way a human actually sees the beach. For these shots a full on polarizer gives a completely misleading impression. Of course there is no accounting for taste, but personally I very rarely use them for landscapes as I find post processing is a more controllable way to enhance a blue sky and without the hassle of filter. About all I use them for is very occasionally as a neutral density filter for moving water scenes.
  5. What would be the fun in that?

    Surrealism rules!
    or at least cutting glare does.;)
  6. Well there is no useful discussion about taste, of course, but the beach photo I would not consider a photo that has artistic pretensions (unless a red backpack on a beach is saying something) so the polarizer treatment does nothing to improve its appeal. It's also underexposed. There may be times when it is good to show the sky and distance as clearly less bright than the foreground, but not sure this is way to do it as it just looks fake rather than interesting.
  7. The word here is shamelessly, and that is exactly the word. If you don't get that, you shouldn't use the filter(s).

    In Yucatan, years ago, a painter who was at the same site was puzzled about why I was using a polarizer to 'pep' up the shots. Wasn't the whole point of a camera instead of a brush to get the scene "as it really was"? I myself was puzzled about why he didn't want to let us photographers in on the fun.
    Last edited: Mar 19, 2021
    ajkocu likes this.
  8. The ND filter is a tool I have used on occasion, during a solar eclipse used two. When I had the 6D that was limited to 1/4000 sec shutter speed I did some experiments with a lens opened up and used manual flash in bright sun. It worked though it changed color slightly, and took a bit more work in Lightroom but it is usable. I may be more apt to use one on a bright sand or snow scene. I am using cameras that can shoot a 1/8000th sec and ISO 50, and I don't have a need to shoot wide open often and I do have high-speed sync flash. Perhaps if after covid and I do portrait stuff outdoors I may try on on my 85mm f/1.4 Art wide open if the camera and high-speed sync can't handle the scene. I will have to see if the need arises.

    I more often will choose a circular polarized filter to remove reflections from glass windows and water. Also slightly darken skies and bring out cloud detail. Cameras still don't have the dynamic range of the human eye. These tools allow me a little more flexibility in how I capture my images. It's a choice in my bag of tricks.
    Last edited: Mar 20, 2021
    andycollins4716 likes this.

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