Breakthrough Vs. NiSi: Best Neutral Density Filters In the World?

In the last few years, it seems a number of new filter manufacturers have popped up, significantly improving the competitiveness in this particular market. Neutral density filters have been known for being quite expensive and this one of the key reasons why many photographers still avoid using them. In recent years, however, companies like NiSi Filters and Breakthrough Photography have been delivering some incredible products with much more palatable prices to help photographers get the look they desire. In a previous comparison done by Fstoppers, Patrick Hall demonstrated how good the filters from Breakthrough are, and in fact, they won that particular comparison. Breakthrough claims their filters are the sharpest and most color neutral in the world, so I wanted to see how they perform against NiSi.

In my latest video, I perform a number of comparisons between the main filters that most photographers use. These include polarizing filters from both companies, 6 stop, and 10 stop ND filters. The neutral colors from Breakthrough are very apparent and quite impressive, especially when compared to the NiSi filters. Although they do have a slight shift in colors it's not anywhere near as noticeable as NiSi. Having said that, the NiSi filters may be sharper based on my testing, which does question the claim from Breakthrough. All raw files are available to download and view using the link in the video description.  

Check out the video for the full comparison.

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Usman Dawood's picture

Haven’t tried them yet but definitely some I want to.

All my Cokin filters have a major magenta colour cast, it's so bad I stop using them for good (also well documented disadvantages). Would would be interested is to test a new Lee Filter Pro Glass ND filter vs Breakthrough and who is going to be the most neutral :)

Rex Jones's picture

Dude, I've been waiting for you to put this one together!! Glad it's finally here! ;)

Usman Dawood's picture

Thank you Rex, I really appreciate that.

barry cash's picture

Still lacking a sutible 150-180 mm holder w roatating polariser and a convenient holder for filter storage either strapped to tripod or your belt.

I’m very interested in this topic but I honestly feel I can’t trust the writer based on his previous articles.

Usman Dawood's picture

I’m sorry you feel that way, which articles and why please?

Jon Wolding's picture

Something else to consider...

I've noticed that SOME filters appear softer on SOME lenses.

Specific example:
Using an otherwise great Tiffen CPL on a Canon 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L IS led to a noticeably soft image (at any focal length). I put the exact same filter onto a Canon 70-200mm f/2.8L IS (mk 1 and mk 2) and there was zero blur effect.

A few other instances (though not as noticeable) have made me start checking critical focus in Live View with 10X magnification. Mostly on shots where detail and sharpness is important.

Usman Dawood's picture

That’s a very interesting point. I’m aware the Zeiss lens I used would have exaggerated the results but didn’t think different lenses would act differently.

Maybe this is something I need to test.

Thank you so much for pointing that out.

Thank you very much for this detailed comparison.

I use the NiSi system and it is awesome. I do a lot of Landscape photography and every time I have to recompose the shot I am so glad that NiSi has this drive wheel for the polarizer on the holder so I don't have to take the other filters out of the filter holder.

Usman Dawood's picture

I agree the fact that you can rotate the cpl in the holder is really useful. Then again having a standard type cpl can be very useful too.

Robert Nurse's picture

This has spooky timing. I own the Lee system with their graduated ND filters that use optical resin that get scratched easily. So, I was looking for alternatives made of coated glass and I came upon NiSi!

Usman Dawood's picture

Ignore the 600mm pointed at your house lol.


Robert Nurse's picture

Do you know if either brand will fit the Lee holder? I'd imagine they would. But, ...

I'm enjoying this filter comparison series. Hoping your need for completion will lead you to adding Formatt HiTech and Wine Country filters to the "series", along with an overall conclusion. Regardless, thanks for your work on this.

Usman Dawood's picture

I’d love to try them but currently not sure if I can get hold of them. Ill give it a shot though. Thank you very much for the comment.

Donald Chalfy's picture

Usman, great article. How do these filters compare with Singh-Ray and B&W in your opinion? I use Lee and Hitech-Formatt for my ND and ND grads, and B&W and Singh-Ray for my CPLS.

Usman Dawood's picture

I've heard some great things about Singh-Ray so I'd love to try them. Lee have updated their filters now so their new batch could be interesting. I don't know enough about Hitech to say anything just yet but they are on my radar.

Thank you for the comment, much appreciated.

William Howell's picture

What about Lee Filters, are they the best? And what about Haida, I’ve seen those advertised lately?

Usman Dawood's picture

I didn't know of Haida but could be something I need to look into. Lee filters look good to me but I haven't tested them yet. Breakthrough are claiming their filters are miles ahead of Lee so I'll have to try and get hold of some.

Price wise Lee are a bit more expensive too.

How is this video done? I like colors and sharpness of this video. Can you give me some info about gear, lighting setup and specs

Usman Dawood's picture

I switched back to shooting with a Canon 5D Mark IV instead of the Sony A7RII. Still getting used to it and haven't figured out the best way to colour grade but working on it.

I'm very surprised for not mentioning Singh-ray Mor-Slo NDs when comparing world's best ND filters, I've used all 3 (Mor-Slo, Nisi, and breakthrough) and I think the review won't be complete without Mor-Slo filters if you are comparing the best ND filters, that's my two cents

Usman Dawood's picture

Baby steps SHIBU, baby steps :P.