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Gear Reviews

Breakthrough Photography X3 6 Stop ND Filter | Review

By Anthony Thurston on June 25th 2015

About a month ago, I shared the news that Breakthrough ND filters were now available on B&H and how I had a review unit in for testing. At the time, I had not had a chance to use it. Well, I finally went out and tested the 6 stop ND filter they sent me and here are my thoughts.

Breakthrough X3 ND Filters

04-performance-5-stars

Breakthrough claims to be the world’s most color neutral ND filter, and while I did not have another high-quality ND filter to compare it to directly, I did find that there was little to no color shift using this ND filter.

The setting for my review was the lovely and picturesque Abiqua Falls. The time of day was not the best to be shooting, but luckily I was able to find enough shade to work around the harsh mid-day sun. I was actually really happy with the images produced using this filter. They were sharp, colors looked good, no weird artifacts.

30 Seconds, F/16, ISO 200 on Sony A7 II with Zeiss 24-70mm

30 Seconds, F/16, ISO 200 on Sony A7 II with Zeiss 24-70mm

09-features-5-stars

As far as features go, there is not much to say other than this is a filter. I like that it has ridged edges to make it easier to remove than your average filter. That said, here is the list of its features:

  • 3.0 Solid Neutral Density Filter
  • 6 Stop
  • Darkens Entire Image
  • Allows Reduced Shutter Speed
  • Allows Wider Aperture
  • MRC Multi-Resistant Coating
  • Nano Coating
  • Schott Glass Construction

X3 ND Filters

13-design-4-stars

The Breakthrough X3 ND is probably one of the best looking filters that I have ever used. As I mentioned above, the ridged edge of the filter makes the filter much easier to remove than your average filter.  It looks good and feels great.

My only critique of the filter is I feel like it may be a little too thin. The ridges help and make it much easier to remove, but I would prefer something a little thicker, so my fingers have more to grab on to. I also wish the color was darker, so it matched my lenses more. That said, that is really nit-picky, and most of you will probably have little issue with this.

20150513-1134

19-quality-5-stars

There is absolutely nothing bad to say about the quality of this filter; it is really exceptional The Shott Glass is wonderful, and the brass metal construction gives a great, high quality feel to the unit. I have never used a higher quality or better built filter.

20150623-0475

22-value-3-stars

Now for the part you all care about the most. Let’s just get this out of the way; at $169 this is not the cheapest filter out there. But when compared to other high-end filters, this is on the lower end of things.

So, it really depends on where you are in your photography. If you want the absolute best money can buy, there may be better options out there, but this offers a great price to performance compared to other $200+ filters. While at the same time, it is much pricier than your average budget filter (though it blows them out of the water on performance).

Only you can really decide on the value for you, but for me, this filter offers a good middle ground between the highest end filters and the more budget oriented ones.

2.5 Seconds F8 ISO 200 - Sony A7 II Zeiss 24-70mm

2.5 Seconds F8 ISO 200 – Sony A7 II Zeiss 24-70mm

33-overall-score-4.5-stars

Based on my experience with other, more budget oriented filters, I can say without a doubt that this filter is worth the premium over those cheaper filters.

I was very happy with the performance, and the design of the filter makes this a great option for anyone looking for better results than their budget filter can give them. The Breakthrough Photography X3 6-Stop ND Filter gets a solid 4.5 out of 5 stars, and we highly recommend it.

If you would like to get your hands on X3 6-Stop ND Filter, you can find them over on B&H for just $169.

Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Gregory Davidson

    Have you taken a look at the magnetic feature of these?

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  2. Dustin Baugh

    Did you have to correct white balance, or did you set a custom white balance with a grey-card onsite?

    Most super dark ND filters I’ve used throw things off in one way or another. I’d like to see the difference between a non-filter shot and a filter shot with the same white balance settings to see what colors it gives.

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  3. Brandon Silvera

    Could you please do a review on their polarizers?

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  4. John Cavan

    I’d be curious to see if the quality is maintained when stacked. Are they stackable? They look it, but it can be hard to tell if there is threading on the other side for additional filters.

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  5. Jim Johnson

    I have been using the breakthrough X2. It is a great quality ND filter at about 2/3 the price. Essentially it’s their “bargain” filter with a slightly different build.

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  6. Tom Johnson

    What does 6 stop refer to?

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    • Anthony Thurston

      6 stops of light.

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    • Tom Johnson

      So the filter will darken 6 stops?

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    • David Johnston

      Yes, it just stops that much light from entering the lens. ND filters are great for taking long-exposure shots in the middle of the day. That’s their only purpose AFAIK.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      yes, that is correct

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    • Matthew Saville

      @DAVID,

      The other purpose of an ND of this general magnitude (4-6 stops) is to be able to shoot at f/1.2 or f/1.4 in bright sunlight, and still hit your favorite cinema shutter speed, (1/30 sec or 1/50 sec or whatever) …or at least stay within your ~1/200 flash sync speed.

      In noon sun, a 6-stop filter will only get you down to about 1/3 or 1/2 sec, so it’s actually more useful earlier or later in the day, when the “sunny sixteen” rule is knocked down by a few stops.

      To hit 1-30 sec in noon sun, I’d recommend a 10-13 stop ND filter actually, and a slight compromise in aperture if necessary. (f/16 or f/22, instead of your sharpest aperture such as f/8 or f/11)

      Good luck!

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  7. Paddy McDougall

    Nice review, just one question why do you have sticky tape over the sony sign on your A7?

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Two reasons actually. One, so I am not advertising what camera I have to the non-initiated, and second so that if I need some tape to hold something down I have some handy to grab.

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    • Graham Curran

      But not on the Canon lens cap. ;)

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  8. Jesper Ek

    And what about the variable filters out there? Are they any good?

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    • Anthony Thurston

      In general you will get much better results from the regular non-variable filters. That said, the added convenience of the variable in some situations makes them a decent option if you are not super picky about things like color shift and sharpness.

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    • Steve Madden

      I have a Variable one.
      It’s very inconsistent over the frame at wide angles(17mm on full frame).
      The darker you go the worse it gets!

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    • David Johnston

      Because of the polarization of the two elements in variable ND filters, they will always have poor image quality. They all produce inconsistent exposure across the frame that some people say looks like an ‘X’, and it gets worse as you go darker. I would avoid them.

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    • Raymond Craig

      You’re definitely going to get better results from non-variable as they said, but out of the ones I’ve used and tested I’ve had the best results so far with the Syrp variable ND. Seems to be sharper and less color shift than some of the other brands I’ve tried. I’m really interested in trying out this 3.0 from Breakthrough though.

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  9. Brandon Dewey

    Good review. How does it compare to the Lee Big Stopper?

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    • Anthony Thurston

      I have never used the Lee filters personally, so I can’t say. I will add it to my list of filters to compare it too though.

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