Singh-Ray filters anyone?

Discussion in 'Digital Photography' started by Kamera RAWr, Oct 14, 2007.

  1. Kamera RAWr macrumors 65816

    Kamera RAWr

    Joined:
    May 15, 2007
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    I'm where I need to be
    #1
    So, I've been looking at the Singh-Ray filters lately. Mainly their variable neutral density filter and also their graduated neutral density filters. They cost a pretty penny, but seem to be able to produce some great results, especially in the right hands. Does anyone here have any experience with them at all? Are they worth the price?

    Thanks :)
     
  2. Westside guy macrumors 601

    Westside guy

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2003
    Location:
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    #2
    I have several Singh-Ray filters, including the Vari-ND you mention (I've also got the warming circular polarizer and a couple of the grad NDs). The Vari-ND is quite nice because it lets you compose your shot through the viewfinder, then easily ramp up the "darkness" of the filter. Optically it seems extremely good.

    Here's a test photo I took with it. The photo has flaws, but that's the photographer's fault not the filter's. :D Exposure was 0.5 seconds, Vari-ND set to 6 stops. The lens was my Nikkor 18-200 (nowadays I'd use my Tokina 12-24).

    [​IMG]

    There are a few things you should be aware of though.

    As I understand it, the Vari-ND is basically two polarizers plus some sort of intermediate filter. This means that you can't use it in combination with a polarizer. Usually that doesn't matter; but if you're taking a shot with it under a bright sun that might limit your options. So what I've found is the Vari-ND doesn't completely replace the need for at least one or two other ND filters (I've got B+W +2 and +6 NDs in my filter pack as well).

    The second issue is this. Because of how the Vari-ND works, it's apparently not blocking the near infrared. So, if your camera's sensor (like my D70's) is sensitive to that wavelength of light, you can get some weird effects at the highest setting. Singh-Ray says you can use the Vari-ND for approximately 2 to 8 stops, but with my D70 I can't go further than 7 stops. Still, that's not much of a limitation. Anyway, here's a throwaway I took to demonstrate - note the foliage color changes, and the reddish blotches. Exposure was 4 seconds, Vari-ND set to 8 stops:

    [​IMG]

    That image also demonstrates a third issue - the vignetting problem you can have at very wide angles. If I were buying this filter again, I'd get the slim version - it doesn't have front threads, but I know now that I'm unlikely to need them for this particular filter. Both images above were shot at 20mm; the top one was (obviously) cropped. On my 18-200mm lens, the non-thin version of the Vari-ND will physically vignette until somewhere around 28-30mm.

    Now I am insecure enough that I have to point out I can occasionally shoot better photos than the above. :D My personal favorite of this fountain wasn't taken with the Vari-ND at all - it was shot using the afore-mentioned B+W 6 stop filter on my Tokina 12-24 lens. But I did have to take the filter off, compose the shot, then put the filter back on (which was annoying, especially when I bumped the camera...).

    [​IMG]
     
  3. seany916 macrumors 6502

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    Jun 26, 2006
    Location:
    Southern California
    #3
    They are expensive, but worth the money. Don't bother if your glass isn't good though.

    If you've got nice glass, putting a crappy filter on it is like wearing cheap sunglasses when you've got 20/20 or better.
     
  4. Westside guy macrumors 601

    Westside guy

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    #4
    I disagree. Even with a less-than-pro lens, putting a great filter on it doesn't degrade the image further. Putting a cheap filter on it adds yet another layer of imperfection.
     
  5. ChrisA macrumors G4

    Joined:
    Jan 5, 2006
    Location:
    Redondo Beach, California
    #5
    Teffen makes some that are less expensive. I have two of them
    that are sized to fit in a Coken holder. THey are sqare and large
    enough to cover a lens that uses 77mm filters.

    Anyone who shots landscapes using digital would do well to buy
    some. I bought them with I was shooting Velvia on 6x7 format.
    Velva has a short range like digital.

    You can get the same effect by taking multiple exposures and compining
    them in Photoshop using a gradient mask. But it is SO much easier
    to just get it right in the camera.
     
  6. Kamera RAWr thread starter macrumors 65816

    Kamera RAWr

    Joined:
    May 15, 2007
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    I'm where I need to be
    #6
    Well, my glass is pretty damn good, IMO.

    Thank you Westside guy for sharing those sample images. I also thought about the vignetting problem. I didn't see a pic of the slim variable ND filter, but the regular one looked a bit thick. Althought I'm not sure about the problem infrared with my D80. I suppose I'll find out though ;)
     
  7. Westside guy macrumors 601

    Westside guy

    Joined:
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    #7
    I think the "slim" version is only slim by comparison with the regular version. :D Looking at my regular Vari-ND, I'd estimate it's about 2.5 times the depth of a normal filter (a UV filter for example). The slim one loses the front threads, so I'd guess it's probably still around 2x the depth of a normal filter.
     
  8. Lovesong macrumors 65816

    Lovesong

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    Stuck beween a rock and a hard place
    #8
    Ah, those pictures, Westside guy... I used to have nightmares about analytical chemistry class in that building to the left... nice shot of the fountain, though.

    To answer Kamera RAWr's question- yes, the Singh Ray filters are very nice. I have the 2 stop soft ND grad on a cockin P holder. I tried the original Cockin filters, and they were autrocious. It felt like I was wasting the potential of my 24-70L with those.

    The Singh Rays were recommended to me by a friend who does some freelance work. He said that the quality of the Singh Rays are up there with Schneider's B&W filters (and my friend is German, nonetheless). I'm planning on picking up the 3 stop hard filter when I get some cash.
     
  9. Westside guy macrumors 601

    Westside guy

    Joined:
    Oct 15, 2003
    Location:
    The soggy side of the Pacific NW
    #9
    Sorry if my photo triggered some PTSD for you. :D

    That's one nice thing about working at the U, rather than being a student - I can enjoy the campus a lot more now (and it is a very nice campus). Dealing with faculty can still be stressful; but at least when I go home, I usually can leave all that behind for the evening.
     

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