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Buying *only one* ND filter - 2 stops or 3?

Discussion in 'Other Cool Gear, Camera Bags, Camera Straps' started by BostonRott, Jul 25, 2007.

  1. I am planning to purchase some new filters. I'm planning to get a Singh-ray GND (3 stop hard) for sunsets/sunrises and would like to also buy a standard ND filter (for waterfalls). I'm planning to use the ND on my 77mm lenses (12-24mm and 28-70mm), and am considering the Hoya Pro-1 ND's (3mm thick, fine for use on ultra-wide lenses).

    In some of my recent reading, one author feels that while film can typically handle a 3 stop dynamic range (in a photo), digital can handle 5 stops. Because of this, he recommends not bothering with 2 stop ND/GNDs, and going right for the 3 stop variety. Agree/disagree?

    I tend to shoot in RAW, so have some latitude in my exposures. For this reason, I was thinking of the 3 stop ND.

    However, I also wondered about stacking the ND (screwed into the lens) with my Cokin P holder and Singh-ray B-G CP. In that case would the 2 stop make more sense?

    My question is, if you were to purchase only one ND filter, would you choose 2 stops or 3? The use will be occasional, and since I would like to have a GND also, I don't want to spring for both the 2 and 3stop NDs.

    Thanks!!! :smile:
  2. If you are not using a circular polarizer when shooting waterfalls but you will be using a ND filter and you only want to buy one then I would say it should be a 3 stop. I really recommend that you use a CPL too, I use a hoya Pro 1 ultra thin CPL and a ultra thin 2 stop ND filter stacked. The CPL will reduce or eliminate unwanted glare that you almost always get when shooting waterfalls and will slow down the shutter another 1 1/2 to 2 stops.
  3. Thank you!! I haven't yet started on my waterfalls journey, but hope to this Fall. I do have a CP, and guess it would then make sense to stack the CP and a 2 stop ND. :smile:
  4. JeffKohn


    Apr 21, 2005
    Houston, TX
    This logic makes no sense to me whatsoever. Setting aside whether his DR figures for film and digital are correct or not, if you use use a 2-stop filter with digital, that would give you 7-stop range versus 5-stop for slide film with the same filter. If anything, the greater DR of digital over slide film would mean you're less likely to need a 3-stop filter, not more.

    But total contrast/DR really only comes into play for the GND's. If we're talking regular ND's, the goal is to slow the shutter speed, not increase DR. I guess if you're used to shooting Velvia 50 and now you have an ISO-100 DSLR, then you might need an extra stop of ND to get the shutter speed you want, especially since we tend not to stop down the aperture on our DSLR's quite as much. But even so I think a 2-stop ND would be better, and then if you really need more filtration you could stack a polarizer for another 1-2 stops.

    Although I think it's a bit on the pricey side, I've heard really good things about that Sing-ray Vari-ND (I think that's what it's called). It lets you adjust the amount of ND you need by rotating the front element.
  5. Forgive the total newbie question but are the CPs being referred to for use in conjunction with a GND the screw in CP or a Cokin P or 4x4 sized filter that would be inserted into the holder? If the latter, can the screw in type CPs be used with GNDs mounted in a holder? This would be 1 less filter to buy. TIA.

    Gretchen: you had to know I'd show up with my own questions here.:wink:
  6. Gretchen

    This isn't a waterfall but moving water. I used a CP and 1 stop ND filter here. I don't always turn the CP to eliminate all of the glare, it depends on the effect that I want.

    Subscribe to see EXIF info for this image (if available)
  7. If you are looking for a filter to give you a slower shutter speed and only one filter, I suggest the 3 stop ND. If you want more speed, you can always open up the lens more to use a higher sutter speed.
  8. genehsu


    Apr 15, 2007
    If you already have one CP, how about a second one? Assuming I have the physics right, it becomes an almost clear filter to an infinite stop ND filter, depending on the alignment with the first CP.
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