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Advice wanted on choosing a neutral density filter please

Bianca22 5 19
21 May 2013 3:23PM

I am looking to buy a neutral density filter which will allow me to take photographs of waterfalls during fairly bright conditions, water and sand during sunlight, and also to blur the background in pictures when a wide aperture is allowing in too much light.

I have the Cokin H250A ND Grad kit. Can I buy a neutral density filter that will fit the Cokin holder belonging to this kit? If so, can anyone advise me on what to look for. I would preferably like something of reasonable quality - not a real cheapy that the coating will come of - but also not ridiculously expensive either. Also, if buying only one, what is the most useful 'f-stop reduction' to go for which would cover most situations.

I have several different lenses and would prefer the square type if possible so I don't have to buy individual filters for each size of lens.

Any advice would be really appreciated. Thanks.


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JackAllTog Plus
9 5.0k 58 United Kingdom
22 May 2013 12:58PM
Hi Bianca,

As you want to lose a lot of light so that you can keep a wide aperture for shallow DOF you will need a strong filter - also you will not want stray light coming in round the sides.
I'm not aware of a cokin filter that will be dark enough, or will stop light getting round the sider either.

The typical solution to this is the big / 10 stopper filter - i think from Lee filters.

But as its very expensive i personally went for this 9 stop filter from lightcraftworkshop.

As it screw into the lens its stops light coming in round the sides. also its theaded on the front side so you can add the cokin on front if you wish.

Note you may need stepup/down rings to fit your Lens.
And if you have a very wide lens you may get some vignetting if you stack to many filters.

If you want to look up more search for "big stopper filters"

Good Luck.
mikehit 8 8.0k 13 United Kingdom
22 May 2013 1:21PM
Yes, you can buy square ND filters that go into your holder and you just need to make sure they are same size as the ones in your ND Grad set. I have a set of HiTech filters though sometimes the thickness of the plates mean that some manufacturer's plates do not fit into other manufacturer's holders. I bought mine from TeamworkPhoto and they were very helpful on the phone. I believe Cokin do 2, 4 and 8-stop NF filters so would go for that.

I am not sure a single 10-stop is the best option because its strength limits its applications. If you have a polariser already, that is a 2-stop light reduction and adding a 4-stop ND filter (square or screw-in) will mean you can get 2, 4 or 6 stop reduction. Or buy 3 2-stop square filters and stack them.
Bianca22 5 19
22 May 2013 1:53PM
Just to say thanks to both of you for your helpful comments and advice. Its given me a place to start looking and doing some research to see what might suit me and my budget best. Hope its alright to get back to you with any further questions I may have once I've done some reading about what's available? Much appreciated. Cheers.

Bianca22 5 19
22 May 2013 5:15PM
Hi Stuart and Mikehit,

I have been checking out the Cokin H270A Full ND filter kit which comprises a 2,4 and 8 neutral density filter plus the holder.

Can you maybe check my maths for me here about f-stop reduction - just to be sure. I have a circular polarizer for each of my lenses. If I attached the polarizer first to ensure no stray light was entering from the sides - as Stuart mentioned - and it also reduced the exposure by 2 stops, if I then attached the Cokin holder and added the x 2 ND filter, that would equal a 3 f-stop reduction in total. Would that be correct? Then if I required it, I could then add the x 4 filter to give me a 5 f-stop total reduction? And lastly the x 8 filter if added would equal a 8 f-stop reduction in total? Is that right?

I looked at the Lee 'Big Stopper' and don't fancy shelling out 100 on it! Would a 8 stop reduction be sufficient for most situations? Also this way it would give me the ability to vary things more according to the lighting at the time.

I was reading a couple of reviews and it mentioned when stacking these filters together it produced a pinky cast on their images. Has anyone found the same problem when using them, and if so, is it easily corrected afterwards in Photoshop or with your cameras software? The filter kit I feel is reasonably priced considering I would have 3 filters to choose from and I'd also have a spare filter holder since its the same P series as the grad kit I've got. Thanks again to both of you for your replies earlier to my original post.

JackAllTog Plus
9 5.0k 58 United Kingdom
23 May 2013 1:14PM
Hi Bianca,

I'm not so sure about the math at all - but this cokin site says (to me) the 2 is a one stop filter and the 4 is a 2 stop and the 8 is a 3 stop. which is i think what you said.

So i guess the polarizer plus all of them would be 2+1+2+3 - an 8 stop filter.

There may well be a colour cast and yes photoshop/lightroom etc will be remove this, or even white balance in camera perhaps.

But you will have a lot of extra glass/plastic in front of your lens that may affect the quality of the image.
Its worth trying with to see if yo ulike the effects - but if you intend to do it often then maybe you will look for a dedicated filter one day.

Good luck.
Sooty_1 7 1.5k 221 United Kingdom
23 May 2013 6:07PM
I concur with the above.

Different manufacturers have different nomenclature for the same thing, but Cokin have 2, 4 and 8 corresponding to 1-stop, 2-stop and 3-stop NDs. Lee use 0.3, 0.6 and 0.9 for the same thing.

I would suggest 1- or 2- stops can usually be accounted for using camera settings, but 3-stops and beyond need more, so I'd get a 3-stop or even a 4-stop one first. You can often buy sets cheaper than individually, but a 2- and 3-stop pair would give pretty good flexibility. You don't want too many at once as the optical quality isn't that great (unless you get expensive ones) and will degrade the image.

I wouldn't worry too much about light leaking round the filter, unless the light is in the wrong place, but you can shield it with your hands anyway (or wear a big brimmed hat!). If you are concerned, you can get a foam gasket that fits between the filter and the face of the holder, to seal it. Dirt/grease on the filter will account for more image degradation in most circumstances.

Polarisers can be used to reduce light by a couple of stops, but only if fully polarised and at the right angle to the light. However, the polariser is the only filter you can't replicate in processing, and thus needs to be used at the taking stage anyway. I would advocate using one most of the time anyway.

For a bit of fun, you can get welders' glass (for a couple of pounds), which will give you a colour cast, but you can edit that out later. It comes in different strengths, even up to 14- or 15-stops. I'd stay away from the variable ones, as they are ok for lower strengths, but give uneven patterns when you get to the higher levels.


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