ND Grads - Hard or Soft?

JohnParminter 12 1.3k 14 England
17 Oct 2011 3:27PM

Quote:Adam, thanks for your input. I think I might look at the gradation of the HiTech softs to see how this compares to Lee hards. I think this might be the way to go based on all the advice above:

HiTech 2-stop soft
HiTech 3-stop soft
HiTech 3-stop hard

Phil, meant to to ask, do you use a full- or cropped-frame camera?


I'd tend to agree with Mark and Adam about the Hitech soft grads. I have set of Hitech and Lee soft grads, the Hitech ones have a more pronounced and 'harder' graduation than my Lee ones so could be close to a Lee hard grad, considering the price and availability, these maybe the ones to go for. I don't notice any significant colour casts with the Hitech grads.

To be honest though, whichever type you bought you would likely be able to adapt their use for almost any circumstance you come across, the hards maybe a little less flexible perhaps. I only have soft grads but I can take successful sunset shots on a beach with flat horizon, I just use them slightly differently and adapt their use so for me soft ones meet my all my requirements.


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LenShepherd 11 3.9k United Kingdom
17 Oct 2011 5:16PM

Quote:A lot of it depends on the diameter of your lens as well, because of the percentage of cover over the front element.

Angle of view comes into it too.
A hard grad transition covers a much smaller slice of the picture area (making the effect harder) on a Nikon 20mm f2.8 62 mm filter diagonal FX angle of view 94 degrees; than on the the 85mm f1.8 62mm filter diagonal angle of view 28.5 degrees.
sut68 15 2.0k 76 England
17 Oct 2011 6:50PM
Sorry Fraser, I should have clarified that I was talking about Lee when I made my suggestion.

I had heard that the HiTech were a little harsher on the grad, but as I've never used them I can't comment on how much stronger they are. So looking at those in the know they would suggest the soft variety.
Nick_w Plus
12 4.3k 99 England
17 Oct 2011 6:59PM
The aperture also has an effect on the transition when using hard grads. The smaller the aperture ( ie the larger the number) the more noticeable the transition.
bigjohna 10 22 Scotland
21 Oct 2011 12:12PM

I have just posted a new topic regarding purchasing a set of grads, I did not see this discussion. I ahve a Pentax K200D and not really sure about the sensor size? I am looking for a set of grads but never realised there was a choice of soft or hard. I very much doubt I can afford a set of Lee's by the sound of it and have only just discoverd that Cokin no longer exist. What would you reccomend to start me off. Living in the Highlands I tend to take a lot of shots with mountains and quite a few of coastal shots.
fraser 15 631 14 Scotland
21 Oct 2011 12:28PM
Just to let you know, and if it helps Bigjohna, I've opted for the Hitech soft grads. Apart from the fact that the full set ordered (holder, adapter ring, grad set and 10-stop ND) is over 100 less expensive than the equivalent Lee set it's also a much shorter waiting time. I will have to wait a few weeks for my order but Lee deliveries are, apparently, taking up to 20 weeks!

Thanks for all your help and advice.

Bigjohna, since you live in th4e highlands and are likely to take mountainous landscapes I'd probably go for the soft grads. Hard grads will provide too steep a transition into the higher parts of the image.
bigjohna 10 22 Scotland
21 Oct 2011 12:36PM
Hi Fraser

Thanks for the advice. I have had a look at Hitech on Amazon and I am slightly bamboozled by the choices availble?

fraser 15 631 14 Scotland
21 Oct 2011 12:38PM
I've ordered mine from Bristol Cameras, who seemed to have about the best prices and were helpful on the 'phone. Why don't you give them a call?
BillyGoatGruff 12 191 199 England
21 Oct 2011 12:58PM
Hi Fraser

I can certainly echo and confirm Paul's recommendation of hard grads.
I have the Lee soft grad set for my APS-C sized D300 and have found them very useful, but, tbh, quite tricky to position because of the softness of the transition which is very large on this sized sensor.
I was stood alongside Paul at a Cornwall location recently and he lent me his 0.6 hard grad for a comparison.
The difference was astounding!
So that's direct in-the-field experience, proving that the hard set is much, much more useful on a cropped sensor camera. The was also a very strong confirmation of the advice of Den Bromage, who basically said "get the hard grad set" - wish I had listened to him, now!

I'm still using the soft set, but feel very strongly that I should have bought the hard set at the outset - hindsight's a wonderful thing!
I am currently about to order the hard set - the 20 week waiting time should be enough for me to actually save up enough to actually afford them!

I ditched my Cokin set a long time ago - quality of workmanship is nowhere near Lee, and there was quite a strong colour cast with them which made them next to useless, imo.
Hitech-wise I have two solid nd's (3-stop and 4-stop), both of which are useful but they also both give a magenta cast. This isn't too big a deal on reasonably short exposures - say up to a second or two, but as the exposures get much longer the colour cast is very pronounced and takes a bit of removal (when desired) in post processing.
It's for this reason I plumped for the Lee system: very expensive, but ultimately worth it, imo.


bigjohna 10 22 Scotland
21 Oct 2011 1:05PM
I dont suppose there is an image gallery you know of where I could take a look at some images showing the effects of using Graduated filters?

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