Neutral Density Graduated Filter

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by VirtualRain, Nov 26, 2010.

  1. VirtualRain macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2008
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #1
    Hi, I'm thinking of getting a ND graduated filter to improve my landscape/travel photos.

    I have the Canon 17-55 f2.8 with a 77mm thread. I also have the 10-22mm which also has a 77mm thread.

    The choices on Adorama are overwhelming. What are a couple of recommendations that will at least work well with my 17-55? (If it will work with the 10-22 that's a bonus but not essential).

    Should I get something threaded, or drop-in? ND.6?

    Here's an example...
    http://www.adorama.com/TF77CGND6X.html

    Thanks!
     
  2. TheReef, Nov 26, 2010
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2010

    TheReef macrumors 68000

    TheReef

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    Sep 30, 2007
    Location:
    NSW, Australia.
    #2
    The holder/drop in variety are better because you can change the gradient on the filter to match the landscape horizon, you can stack them more easily too.

    The Cokin P series holder should work with your 17-55mm, but will vignette on your 10-22mm at about 14mm (this depends on the lens though) if you get the 3 slot variety.
    On my Pentax 12-24mm it vignettes until 14mm.

    There are also the X and Z-pro sized holders, they take larger filters which are more expensive, definitely look at those if you want to use your AWA without issues.
    If you decide to compromise, you can saw off slots on the P sized holder that you don't need to get a little wider.

    You don't have to buy Cokin filters though, you just need to make sure the filter you're buying fits.
    I've found Cokin filters do the job well enough for the price, from my experiences they're not entirely neutral though, they tend to have a purple cast.
    If you shoot RAW it can be easily fixed.

    I'd personally go for ND 0.9, and next time I'll probably get a more pronounced edge (as opposed to fading across the whole filter), but there's no right answer :)
     
  3. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    Location:
    Northern/Central VA
    #3
    Cokin sell a cheap 1-slot holder that's "wide angle." No need to hack the more expensive one up.


    Be aware it may take some time to find the filter ring adapters, as Cokin seem to be behind in shipping- it took me almost two months to come up with a 77mm ring for the Z-pro- so look for the adapter ring first. Lee and Hitec also make 100mm holders.

    Paul
     
  4. Phrasikleia macrumors 601

    Phrasikleia

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    #4
    I'm using a standard Cokin Z-Pro holder with my 17-55 on the 7D and with the 17-40 on the 5D2 (the equivalent of your 10-22). The latter combination vignettes a bit under about 20mm with the holder reversed to be closer to the lens. I wouldn't go any smaller than Z-Pro if I were you.
     
  5. VirtualRain, Nov 27, 2010
    Last edited: Nov 27, 2010

    VirtualRain thread starter macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #5
    Ok thanks for the advice...

    The slim P-series holder is advertised to work without vignetting to 20mm on FF... Does that imply it might work to about 14mm on my 10-22?

    The cost difference for a P vs Z is significant... OTOH, a Benjamin is nothing in this hobby! :)

    P = $13 (holder) + $15 (ring) + $25 (filter) = $53
    Z = $60 (holder) + $30 (ring) + $60 (filter) = $160

    BTW, TheReef, out of the Cokin line... are you suggesting a 121?

     
  6. TheReef macrumors 68000

    TheReef

    Joined:
    Sep 30, 2007
    Location:
    NSW, Australia.
    #6
    Hi VirtualRain,

    There's a nice graphic here, that'll let you compare:
    http://www.cokin.fr/ico3-p1-6.html

    The 121 will be more dramatic compared to something like the 121S.

    Note the difference between the 121S and 121F, you can see a harder line on the 121S.

    I have the 121F which has a gradient spanning the whole filter, it's great for balancing out landscapes but for more difficult lighting conditions (eg sunsets) it's effect isn't enough (imo) - you still get a darkened sky, but I prefer having no ND below the horizon.
    I'm looking to get another, it'll probably be the 121S.
     
  7. ManhattanPrjct macrumors 6502

    Joined:
    Oct 6, 2008
    #7
    I'm on the Lee system, and I find it very ironic that my most prized/rare photographic possessions are the adapter rings (and actually the filters too). They are terrible when it comes to this thing called "inventory" and only marginally better at "distribution." My 77mm SWA adapter ring could fetch a pretty penny on eBay.

    That said, Lee is expensive but their filters are all hand-made and should last a very long time. I remember when I first started buying filters that the "smart" choice is to buy a .6 soft and a .9 hard edged. I am not totally sure what the methodology is behind that, but I can tell you that .3s are somewhat useless since you can manipulate a RAW file by 1EV relatively easily in post. In my experience, longer lenses kind of need hard-edged grads, because as the FL increases, the softer transition becomes less effective. Unfortunately, trial and error is the best way to judge what precise filters you will use, but if you get a system where you can stack 2 or 3 filters together, you can always find creative uses for them.

    Even since exposure blending is now used so heavily in PS, I think the soft-edges are still very practical. Reverse grads even more so (for sunsets)...
     
  8. VirtualRain thread starter macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    Aug 1, 2008
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #8
    Thanks. I think I want a 121S then.

    BTW, looking that those sample photos, you'd think they could update some of them... they look like they were all shot in the '70s! :eek: :p
     
  9. TheReef macrumors 68000

    TheReef

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    Sep 30, 2007
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    NSW, Australia.
    #9
    No worries :)
    Yes, I noticed that, it makes it pretty hard to see the extent of the effect sometimes!
     
  10. VirtualRain thread starter macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #10
    You nailed it... there appears to be a world-wide shortage! :confused:
     
  11. compuwar macrumors 601

    compuwar

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    Northern/Central VA
    #11
    "Just in time" manufacturing or simply the global economy and some conservative production seems to have these limited supply items out of stock in many places no matter which manufacturer you choose. You can certainly overpay if you choose the system prior to the adapter rings, or you can spend months hunting and comparing- it's a possor situation and I seriously wish the adapters were a standard sized part across manufacturers for a given size holder. 77mm seems to be the most difficult size to find too.

    Paul
     
  12. baypharm macrumors 65816

    baypharm

    Joined:
    Nov 15, 2007
    #12
    Threaded. ND 6 is but one flavor. They come in various strengths. You will really enjoy using it and get some great images with it. I use one in conjuction with a polarizer for some fantastic shots.
     
  13. waj macrumors newbie

    Joined:
    Aug 9, 2008
    #13
    I would be interested in hearing opinions of how using graduated filters at the taking stage compares with using the graduated filter option in the ACR part of CS5, I am new to this so any guidance would be appreciated.
     
  14. VirtualRain, Dec 14, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2010

    VirtualRain thread starter macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

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    #14
    EDIT: Just ignore this, nothing to see here... move along to Policar's post! :)

    The typical role of the ND Grad is to reduce the brightness of the sky so you can get a more even exposure and thereby more texture/saturation/contrast in the sky. Without it, you would probably end up with a picture where the sky is completely white or blown out. There's nothing in post that can recover a sky that is completely blown out.
     
  15. Policar, Dec 14, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 14, 2010

    Policar macrumors 6502a

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    Nov 21, 2004
    #15
    In theory, you should get similar results if you have a very flat scene and can expose the foreground correctly without blowing out the sky. But with a high-contrast scene, the graduated filter lets you capture a wide tonal range in one shot (without extensive dodging and burning). If you try that with ACR you'll inevitably lose detail in the sky or have to boost dark shadows and get noise and poor color saturation. However: using a tripod, taking bracketed exposures, and blending with a gradient mask in photoshop should produce VERY similar results to using a grad filter, and with increased flexibility (you can mask out an uneven foreground in addition to having a smooth gradient). If you're already using a tripod and don't mind using photoshop, bracketing might be a better solution than nd grads, but grads will trump ACR for high-contrast scenes.

    A lot of people just hand hold grad filters. In which case "cokin p" is as big as almost anyone needs. Cokin filters aren't truly neutral, fwiw, but they aren't terrible. Other brands are just better.

    It's very important to note that the correct position of the grad line varies with f-stop. This is one of many reasons the screw-on filters are kind of stupid (the primary one being that compositions split down the middle are rarely compelling). If you're shooting wide open (say, f1.4) and the grad line (generally, the horizon) is 1/4 down the frame, you want the grad filter about 1/4 down the lens. If you're shooting at f8, you're only using the very center of the lens so you'll want to slide the grad filter almost 1/2 way down. USE THE DEPTH OF FIELD PREVIEW FUNCTION and/or live view when you use grads!

    For handholding landscape shots, I can't think of a better solution than grad filters, but digital makes them a lot less necessary than they were with slide film. For video, they're awesome, though, since you can't bracket video.
     
  16. Ruahrc macrumors 65816

    Joined:
    Jun 9, 2009
    #16
    Actually IMHO the opposite is true. If you are handholding the filters, the bigger the better. Even with my Z-size filters, you need to be careful about handholding on wide angle comps lest you get your fingers or filter edge in the frame. I find it a lot easier to handhold the bigger filters because there is more room for you to grab and position as opposed to the P size.

    I'm not sure I agree with this. The f-stop should have no bearing on the position of the grad transition in your frame. The composition dictates that. I can see maybe where stopping down gives greater DOF, and thus the apparent sharpness of the transition may change, but you should never have to move it in respose to stopping down. However in all but the most extreme cases, the DOF of the image is still much further out than the front element of your lens. Actually I am not sure there are any lenses with a minimum focusing distance close enough to actually focus on its own front element.

    A similar aspect that is an issue, however, is the focal length. For longer focal lengths, you are only looking out the more central portions of the lens. The effect of this is that transitions get softened when shooting at longer focal lengths. Mount a hard-edge filter on a wide angle and you see a distinct line, whereas the same filter on a 200mm telephoto results in a much smoother transition. Therefore if you intend on shooting longer focal lengths a lot, opt for hard-edged filters first.

    The advantage that grad filters still hold over digital blending, however, is that there is no temporal lag between your shots- so there are no issues with ghosting or such. This may not be a big issue in some comps (i.e. mountains) but if you have things that are moving around like waves, clouds, or trees/leaves swaying in the wind, blending multiple exposures can be tricky due to subject movement.

    Ruahrc
     
  17. Policar macrumors 6502a

    Joined:
    Nov 21, 2004
    #17
    Gah, you're right; I got it backwards. The line appears lower at deeper f-stops. It's just a matter of depth of field (I think), but it makes a huge difference in practice. Hold a card directly over a lens and use the depth of field preview button; the position of the gradation changes dramatically:

    http://singhray.blogspot.com/2006/10/from-archive-graduated-neutral-density.html

    "On a typical wide angle lens, a setting for a 50-50 split at f16 darkens less than 10% of the frame at f2.8."

    Either way, positioning the filter stopped down is essential, especially with a hard-edged filter. I do agree handholding only works with a big filter or steady hands, though. I have neither so I use the filter holder.
     
  18. Artful Dodger macrumors 68020

    Artful Dodger

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    #18
    VirtualRain
    Glad to see this thread and I'm staying posted to see what you decide on or end up buying for your system. I was looking at them also and at the start date of this thread everyone had 67mm kits and holders for my 16-85mm but as Xmas nears that hasn't been so… I'd love to see some of your photos once you start playing around with some filters so please keep this thread alive :D

    Best wishes…
     
  19. VirtualRain, Dec 16, 2010
    Last edited: Dec 16, 2010

    VirtualRain thread starter macrumors 603

    VirtualRain

    Joined:
    Aug 1, 2008
    Location:
    Vancouver, BC
    #19
    Thanks... I just got my order the other day.

    I ended up buying these three things from Henry's which is a major photo etailer here in Canada... They were the only ones I could find that had all three items in stock. They also price matched B&H on everything so I got a decent deal (about $120 for all after tax).

    Cokin P477 P-Series 77mm adapter
    Cokin BPW400A P-Series slim wide angle holder
    Cokin H250A P-Series ND Filter Kit (121L,M,S)

    Photos will come during the Christmas break when I can get out in the daylight! :)

    EDIT, I also ordered this Cokin P306 wallet from Hong Kong via eBay... which if it turns out to be legit, would have been a good vendor to order everything from (or at least everything but the gels)!
     
  20. TonyK macrumors 6502a

    TonyK

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    May 24, 2009
    #20
    Just another post about Cokin and the P series. :)
     

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