Fantastic ND Filters at Any Price Range | Transcription
Let’s talk about neutral density filters. Here’s what you’re going to notice. If you watched Lighting 101, we actually had several different recommendations on high end filters. We talked about Lee, we talked about Singh-Ray, we talked about all sort of high end options, and we said that you need to invest in the optical quality and so forth if you’re serious about your NDs. To that extent, I do honestly believe in that. You need to invest in good quality NDs if you’re serious about neutral density filters, but in between filming Lighting 101 and Lighting 201, we had actually gotten a hold of another set of filters from Tiffen. Here was the crazy part. We took the Lees. We took the Singh-Rays. We took the Tiffens out, and we did side-by-side comparisons. We’ve used B+W in the past. We’ve used lots of different great filters in the past, and in the side-by-side comparisons, this was the funny part is that the Tiffens were actually on par in terms of quality if not better at every single price point. Many of the other makers, like for example Singh-Ray, they didn’t even make lower end filters that were at $50. They only made really expensive ones at $200 and $300 and $400 and so forth.
We got in touch with Tiffen, and we thought, “This is kind of crazy because your filters are less expensive, and they also seem to be on par if not better.” They said basically to us that Tiffen is the Hollywood DP filter of choice, DP like director of photography. Most directors and directors of photography are using Tiffen filters, and they say that they’ve even won Oscars on their filter technology which is pretty incredible because I don’t know of other filter makers that have done so. We said, “Okay. Let’s get serious about this.” We’ve got different filters at every single price point, we test them all out, guys, and they were absolutely amazing. All right?
When it came to overall quality, and we’re talking about we compared everything up to $400 to the digital HTs, the digital HTs still exceeded the quality on every single one of them, and guess what? These guys started at $130 bucks and went to $150 buck range. They’re about half the price, and they were exceeding everything in performance. When it came to the low end, the introductory $50 range, these were again on par. Actually these were better than any other $50 filter, and what we found was that they were on par with $100/$150 filters from other companies. In the water white range, these are the ones that most Hollywood directors are using. Most Hollywood directors are using the water white series. They’re absolutely fantastic. They’re on par with $250 to $300 filters.
We basically said, “Look. We’re going to go and revise everything. We’re going to go back to Lighting 101. We’re going to introduce this tutorial,” because we need to show you all that we have switched everything over to Tiffen because at every single price point they’re offering a product that’s either superior or on par with what else is out there, and they have more price points than any other maker. That’s not to say that the other filter companies aren’t doing great stuff. We still love Sing Ray. We love B+W. We Love Lee. They’re all making great filters, but we found that as far as what we want to recommend, what we want to us ourselves for the price point, for the quality, Tiffen is by far the best value that we’ve seen.
Let’s jump into this. If you are looking for an entry level ND filter, you’re not sure that you want to be doing a lot of this kind of stuff, and remember that we’re using NDs to cut down the amount of light in a scene so that you can get to your sync speed. There are certain issues that you run into when you’re using high speed sync on a full feature flash. You run into issues of reduction in power, and that reduction can be anywhere between 4 to 7 stops of light. Using an ND filter to cut down light is going to … again, this is a Lighting 101 topic. I don’t want to get too much into this, but using an ND filter will allow you to slow down a shutter speed. You do get light loss from the ND filter, but you operate without using high speed sync on the flash which means that you’re going to get more flash power in general out of the flashes.
Okay. On the ND side, there’s a couple things that you’re going to be paying for. Number 1, anytime you are going … the less ND that you’re buying, the less expensive. Okay? Meaning a 3 stop is going to be less expensive than a 5 stop which is going to be less expensive than a 7 stop and less expensive than a 10 stop. Next is basically the color or the optical quality. That’s going to be the two factors that influence the price point, and the size of the filter you’re getting.
On the starter side, the Tiffen standard 77mm starts at 50 bucks. It’s absolutely fantastic. It’s a 4 stop. Great price point. Has a fantastic quality to it. It will have a little bit of a green tint to it just because this is the least expensive, but still it’s very much a usable, professional image that you’re going to get out of this filter which isn’t something that we saw around the other $50 price point filters. We weren’t getting usable images or what we would call professional images out of those filters.
The first professional starter and kind of ultra high performance with … Sorry. This should be professional starter, professional with infrared reduction, is the water white series. We have a water white 100 x 100 right here. You can buy these fit to a specific thread size and use adapter rings if you need to, or you can buy them at the 100 mm by 100 mm variant. This is 4 x 4 inches, and you can use a matte box. This is the water white intended to be used in a matte box. A 1.2 to 1.5 depending on the filter thread size is going to be anywhere between $100 to $140. With infrared technology, it’s going to be between $110 and $180 basically. The differences between these is over option number 1, you’re getting optical glass here. You’re getting perfectly clear quality. You’re getting beautiful water white glass which doesn’t have nearly as much … basically it reproduces colors almost identically to what you’re seeing in a scene. It’s just a great balance in overall price versus performance. These two are the ones that Hollywood DPs are using the most is the water white series.
The difference between this one is that it includes IR. That means infrared reduction. Now on a 5 stop ND filter, an infrared reduction doesn’t make a huge difference. Basically what that is is whenever you’re extending the shutter speed out and you’re drawing in a lot of daylight, you start getting infrared influence basically over the image quality. The image actually starts to turn more red. IR is basically going to be infrared reduction where it’s reducing and keeping the colors more pure. If you’re doing a lot of extended shutter speed type stuff which usually ends up being more required on the 10 stop side then infrared reduction is a great thing, or if you just want to have it on your 5 stop, you can.
Next, we have the digital HT. These were comparable. These are basically around the $130 to $150 range, again, depending on the size of the filter that you’re going for and so forth. You’ll note them by the silver ring as opposed to the black rings on the other ones. The digital HTs are by far the nicest neutral density filter that we’ve used so far. In terms of color reproduction, in terms of detail and sharpness, they’re just fantastic. They’re superior to everything that we’ve used and they also come in at basically half the price which is incredible. They also feature double-coated titanium multi-coat, and basically what that does is it makes the lenses last longer … sorry, the filters. They’re going to be more scratch resistant. They’re going to hold up better over time essentially. The con is that they do have a little bit of a higher price point, but for the money, anything in this middle range is a fantastic investment.
Now I do have one additional one. I’m going to bust out this little box. Where did I put that box? I think I put it like right here. Yeah, there it is. On the ultra long exposure side … this will get into more, well, really later on in say a Photography 201 type course where we’re doing ultra long exposures. We have the XLE series. Now the XLE series, these are designed for essentially super long exposures that are 10 stop range. This is their Oscar winning infrared reduction technology. They have really great, super long exposure ND filters, but for the most part when you’re using flash and you’re doing portraiture and all that kind of stuff, 10 stops is a little bit too much. That’s their long exposure. I put LE basically up here, and those range from $50 to $250 or $225 depending on which version you get. They have three different levels of performance in those.
I just wanted to present them as if you do a lot of long exposure photography, not say the type of stuff we’re doing in Lighting 201 or Lighting 101, but if you’re just doing nature and that kind of stuff, this is a great option to look into. I just wanted to present that to you guys because they’re fantastic. For the entire lighting series, the filter that I’d really recommend you guys stick to is anything in this middle range: either the water white, the water white IR or the Tiffen digital HT. These are all going to give you very, very professional results, amazing image detail and color quality and so forth. Also, if you’re starting out and you’re not sure, then look towards the budget option at $50. It’s a great one as well, but those three are going to be impeccable in terms of image quality.