Neutral Density Filters Compared: Is It OK to Go Cheap?

Many of us have heard that variable neutral density filters give a softer image, or that more expensive filters have less color cast, but few of us have actually tested these "facts" for ourselves. Here are the results of a range of 23 neutral density filters compared.

In this video, filmmaker Griffin Hammond for Indy Mogul tests a large variety of neutral density (ND) filters in three different areas: color and clarity, flaring, and time-lapse. In the first two tests, he uses both standard and variable ND filters and compares them side by side to a control image with no filter. In the final test for time-lapse, 10-stop filters are compared. It's an eyeopening video that finally puts an image to many of the myths floating around in regards to these filters.

The overall winner of Hammond's testing are the three-stop Hoya NDX8 filters which give the most bang for the buck. As shown in the video, more expensive filters will certainly give you higher quality, but it will likely go unnoticed unless doing direct side-by-side comparisons. Watch the full video above to see what filters had the overall best image quality regardless of price, as well as other options on the budget side.

What are your personal favorite ND filters? Let us know in the comments below.

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Rob Mitchell's picture

I bought an LCW variable ND for time-lapse stuff, Utter waste of money, banding galore.

Michael Holst's picture

I made one once just for fun using two CPLs stacked on top of each other. Interesting effect but made a huge color mess to fix in post.

Video not linked?

Ryan Mense's picture

Try again, please

Great, thanks!

Robby MacGillivray's picture

Informative and well produced :)

imagei _'s picture

Tests like this are good but only tell part of the story. You won't know how easily a filter coating gets damaged and how likely it is to get stuck on your lens.

After wasting money on cheaper filters I now use only B+W. Optical quality is certainly important but they are also well made and the threads don't seize (sometimes get a bit stuck but get unjammed easily within seconds, unlike a not so cheap Hoya filter I had that took me literally hours to remove). They are also durable. I have B+W filters that outlasted other brands despite being treated equally, well, badly :-)

Robert Teague's picture

Yep, I've only used B+W polarizing filters for years. They are still my go to when I get a new lens or need to replace one.

Robert Teague's picture

I bought the K&F Concept Variable ND, but haven't tried using it yet. It was cheap enough that I thought I would experiment with it some. Has anyone tried this filter?

I have the Tiffen variable ND for video which so far seems great ! Also have a Gobe ND1000 Which doesn't seem to affect image quality at all.

SHIBU GEORGE's picture

My favorite is Singhray Morslo filters and settled on these filters after trying Lee, Nisi, raymasters and breakthrough. I still like breakthrough filters, but Morslo is better. I never tried a variable ND, for the last 4+ years I've been using only the 100 mm filters only, all my my evaluation is based on 100mm filters from the above mentioned brands. That's mycents.