Neutral Density Filter Recommendations


New year and a new camera for me with a 77mm filter thread. Thus I need thoughts on how many and rating (ie how many stops) as a basic set up for neutral density filters. I will be using the filters mostly for smoothing out water movement. I already have a circular polarizing filter. TIA

Pat, I have 77mm threads or step rings for all my lenses. Started that way as 90 % of the Mamiya RB67 lenses are 77mm sized. After that I carried that over with step rings for my 4x5 setup. So basically all my usage is based upon 77mm size.
I use the Lee 100mm filter holder with the wide angle mount. My main usage has been primarily with the 2stop hard & soft as well as the 3stop hard & soft Singh Ray filters for many years now. I also use Hi-Tech reverse filters but do not find them as neutral in color cast as the Singh Ray units. Not a big issue as color correction or casts are removed in post processing.

Hi Pat,

I use formatt hitech firecrest filters mainly for slowing motion for seascapes and waterfalls. I’ve found them to be very neutral with my Sony camera sensor and do not have to remove any casts during processing.

I use a 4 stop ND filter for getting shutter speeds of around 1 second to about 1/8th of a second and I use a 10 stop ND for longer exposures of 30 seconds or more to capture moving clouds etc.

Hi Pat,

It took me a while, but I finally decided to standardize at 77mm Nikon and 82mm. I went through years of testing and using various ND suppliers. I have mothballed LEE, Marumi, HiTech, ProGrey, B+W, and Singh-Ray. I only use Breakthrough filters X4 series.

I have 3,6,10 stop 77mm rounds. I put my filters in stack caps and don’t use filter bags.

If required, I have sensi step-up rings. I have found that this step-up ring does not bind filter threads compared to other mfgs.

Breakthrough Filters tested for me with zero color cast. All the other filters had a color image cast and often quite challenging to remove. Also, the Breakthrough nano-coating technology does a great job repelling water, blowing off dust, and easier cleaning fingerprints. The filters are expensive. However, top pros like Moose Peterson, Rick Sammon, and Richard Bernabe all use and endorse Breakthrough. Their glass is excellent. Their filter holder, step-up rings, and service are very poor, I have returned multiple items because they are just poorly designed and cheaply mfg’d.

I have been delighted with this 'Kit" for a few years now.

I do try and keep my eye out for new technology, and I am thinking of giving the H&Y system a go. I am just concerned about having filters drop off.

For Flat GND, I use Breakthrough or Blackwater in a wine country filter holder system. I have 100mmX150mm 3,6,9 GND and 50mm x50mm black glass 10 & 15 stop. I use a filter bag for these filters. The attachment ring is 77mm or 82mm.

The filter field has exploded with many manufacturers now. And the older mfg are reintroducing new models.

I think at the moment the best filters are from:

HiTech firecrest

What you should consider when looking for in a filter:

  1. Hi-Quality Schott Glass or Corning Gorilla glass(iPhone)
  2. Nanotech technology
  3. Multicoating
  4. High Light transmission
  5. Color cast = neutral
  6. ease of cleaning
  7. Front thread
  8. Thin thickness
  9. Knurled edges
  10. Brass ring material
  11. Filter Diameter 77mm or 82mm (Nikon user)

Good Luck…hope this helps
EJF Wine Country Filter System

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Ed and Nathan…thanks for all of your advice. I assume you believe that buying a premium brand is more cost effective in the long run and that there is a meaningful difference in the brands that you mentioned?

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Paul…thanks for your input as well…!

I agree with what Ed said about Breakthrough Photography filters. And yes, the higher cost of premium filters is worth it in the long run.

OK…going with a six stop Breakthrough to start and add if needed.

I use a 10 stop Lee Big Stopper. I haven’t tried other brands but I’ve noticed it has a slightly cool color cast. It’s a fun filter to use.

I would also highly recommend Breakthrough Photography (disclosure: I’m on their pro team, but I truly love their gear) as others have said, no color cast, no loss of sharpness, just a phenomenally good product. I would start with a 3 and 6 stop, do an 82mm with a step up ring so you can stack them without vignetting, then you have 9 stops when you need it. They are coming out with a magnetic system very soon too…

David, I did get a set on an early release and I have been using the breakthrough magnetic ND filters the last few months. I have a 3, 6 and 10 stop. Convenient to use and a low profile but they can’t be stacked hence the 10 stop. They now have a cover/lens cap but I got a third party one back when I got the filters. 77mm.

Hi Dave,

I was wondering if you have used the Breakthru reverse Grad. It is graduated differently from other manufactures and I have been trying to find someone who has used it and can comment on it.


No, I don’t use grads myself so I don’t have any experience with them.

Hi Dave, thanks for reply

I apologize for the late entry, but here is my two cents. I started with a 77mm variable neutral density filter. Other than a slight color cast (which was removed in post-processing), it worked well for years. Last year I sold it, and its replacements were the Lee Little (6 stop) and Big (10 stop) Stopper. They were pricey, but the color cast is gone. They are delicate, however. I often fear that one drop in the field will break them. Nevertheless, they work flawlessly. The 10 stop works best in broad daylight, while the 6 stop works best at dawn or golden hours.

There are times, however, when the 6 stop is too much. That’s when I drop my D810 ISO to its lowest (32), close the lens aperture to its smallest (f/22), and maybe put an ND grad in front. This unusual combination very often yields just the look I’m after.