There are so many neutral density filter brands out there that it can be difficult to know which one to choose. The choice becomes even more difficult when you start to look at super strong ones claiming 10 stops of light stopping power. You hear all the time about softness issues, vignetting and colour casts. But which one is the best?
That’s what photographer Christopher Frost wanted to find out. So, he contacted a bunch of 10 stop filter manufacturers to do a straight up side-by-side comparison between them all to see how they stand up.
The list of 16 filters is fairly extensive, covering many of the common brands we often see recommended and all budgets from the super cheap to the very expensive. The one I use is in this comparison, too, the B+W 110 F-Pro. But here’s the full list, and at what point in the video he talks about each…
- 02:54 – Pig Iron Pro ND1000
- 03:51 – Neewer Slim ND1000
- 04:25 – K&F Concept 18-Layer ND1000
- 05:13 – Gobe ND1000 MRC 16-Layer
- 06:04 – ZOMEi HD Ultra Slim Pro ND1000
- 06:41 – Tiffen aXent ND3.0
- 07:56 – B+W 110 F-Pro ND 3.0 MRC
- 08:45 – Marumi DHG Super ND1000
- 09:41 – Irix Edge ND1000
- 10:36 – NiSi 67mm PRO Nano IRND 3.0
- 11:11 – Hoya ProND ND1000
- 12:14 – Formatt Hitech Firecrest SuperSlim ND 3.0
- 13:15 – B+W XS-Pro 810 ND 3.0 MRC Nano
- 13:54 – Breakthrough X4 MRC16 10-Stop ND
- 15:09 – Polar Pro Cinema Series Quartzline ND1000
- 16:32 – Polaroid HD ND2-2000 Variable ND Filter
- 17:42 – Conclusions
Christopher uses 67mm filters for his comparison on the Samyang 35mm f/1.4 FE on the Sony A7RII which has a 67mm filter thread. My B+W 110 F-Pro is a 77mm diameter and I use step-up rings on smaller diameter lenses. Using larger filters with step-up rings helps with potential vignetting issues on smaller diameter lenses.
Vignetting is just one of the qualities Christopher compares in these tests. He also looks at the potential colour cast, contrast, flaring and sharpness issues. One thing he also checks, which few similar comparisons seem to do, is to see exactly how close they are to that 10 stop goal. I’ve tried a few supposedly 10 stop ND filters over the years, and I’ve regularly seen them be anywhere up to two stops over or under that claim.
Christopher concludes with what most of us would expect. That you typically get what you pay for. Of course, this will depend on your priorities and needs, and you will hit the point of diminishing returns at some point. But he says that if you had to twist his arm and pick an absolute favourite, it would be the Breakthrough X4.
Are your ND filters on this list? What do you use?