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Wednesday, February 20, 2013



What are the best graduated neutral density filters on the market? We take six of the top graduated ND filters on the market and put them to the test to find out.

As good as modern DSLRs are, point even a Nikon D4 or a Canon EOS 5D Mark III at a high-contrast landscape and you’ll often have to choose between having a washed-out sky or an underexposed foreground in your shot.

A quick and very effective solution is to use a graduated neutral density filter, or ‘ND grad’.

Clear at one end and grey at the other, the darker section of a graduated neutral density filter can be positioned to cover a bright sky, restricting light transfer by several stops so the foreground can expose correctly.

Various densities are available to suit different contrast levels, with many manufacturers offering filter systems consisting of several density grades with hard or soft transitions.

Hard grads are great if your scene has a straight horizon, but when the landscape is less uniform, the subtle transition of a soft grad will be more forgiving.

Finally, size matters. The bigger the graduated neutral density filter, the more lens diameters it’ll cover and the greater the flexibility you’ll have in positioning the transition area to suit your photo composition.

Lee Filters Neutral Density Hard Grad Set

Price: £180, $240 (+£55 holder; £20-40 per adaptor)

Lee Filters have gained a reputation for producing high-quality filters, so we tested their 100x150mm graduated neutral density filter set with a hard gradient transition.

It has three filters of 0.3, 0.6 and 0.9 densities, so at the darkest point you can reduce light transfer by one, two or three stops.

In testing, the filters produced almost no colour casting, though they restricted slightly less light than other filters of equivalent densities in the group.

The large 100x150mm size of each filter gives you plenty of room to adjust your compositions.

However this kit is a serious investment, especially when you add in the cost of the filter holder and a lens adaptor ring.

Pros… Exceptional quality with no colour casting; versatile size
Cons… Expensive, especially with holder and adaptor rings
We say… Terrific quality, but there are cheaper options

Score: 3/5

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