This Is What You Get When You Settle For Cheap Filters

Do you really have to spend so much on filters in landscape photography? What could go wrong in going for cheap alternatives?

Many landscape photographers would agree that while ND filters can be quite expensive, they are the pieces of gear that you should never compromise on. Some top-quality ND filters can cost up to $200 individually and filter kits with holders can cost as much as thousands of dollars. That is why it is always tempting to look for cheaper alternatives especially when you are just trying out landscape photography. However, there is a sacred middle-ground between being practical and settling for cheap accessories, and choosing the latter definitely has a price.

In this video, I went and purchased the cheapest ND filter kit I could find which cost me about $6, and compared the output with the images that my trusted filter system would make. I definitely wasn’t expecting much out of this cheap alternative, but safe to say that I was quite surprised by the output. Let’s take a look at how sub-standard filters can affect the quality of your images, and identify both the reversible and irreversible effects that you would have to deal with.

Nicco Valenzuela's picture

Nicco Valenzuela is a photographer from Quezon City, Philippines. Nicco shoots skyscrapers and cityscapes professionally as an architectural photographer and Landscape and travel photographs as a hobby.

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Good video addressing something we've all dealt with at some time or another. I wish we could get rid of most ND filters just by setting our ISO to extremely low settings. Has any single major camera manufacturer allowed an ISO of 10 or 5 yet? I wonder if there is some technological limit that prevents this?

There very much is a physical limitation of digital sensors. The photosites on them can only collect so many photons until they have reached full capacity and the electrical signal is at its maximum, and therefore starts clipping highlights.

Some cameras do offer "expanded" or "extended" ISOs below what the sensor's native base ISO is, but it comes at the cost of reduced dynamic range due to highlights being clipped.