View Full Version : Which ND Graduated ( grad ) filter to start with?

7-Jun-2009, 09:31

I'm going to purchase an ND Grad filter to go with a Lee Holder.

The application will be for landscapes (both distant and "intimate") with 4x5 Astia. The lenses to be used will be 135mm and 210mm.

I think I am going to purchase the HiTech filter since they seem to have a good reputation and are cheaper than the Lees.

For a first filter, should I get a soft or hard transition? What about the number of stops? 2?

I'd be interested in hearing your experiences and advice.


Eric James
7-Jun-2009, 09:50
I recommend starting with a Lee 2-stop soft GND filter - it is often the filter of choice and it can still be used (without ruining the image) when it is not the ideal filter. Are the HiTech filters compatible with the stock Lee holders? I believe that the Lee holder will have to be modified to accept the HiTech 1.5mm width filters.

Aender Brepsom
7-Jun-2009, 09:54
Although HiTech filters have a good reputation, I strongly recommend not to start with anything less than Lee, since you will probably end up buying Lee filters at some point in time anyway. Lee filters are not cheap, but worth every cent or penny.

If you shoot a lot of seascapes with straight horizons, a hard grad would be better, but as a first and general purpose grad, I'd recommend a 0.6 soft.

0.3 = 1 stop
0.6 = 2 stops
0.9 = 3 stops

7-Jun-2009, 10:13
I also recommend the 2 stop soft but I should mention that any filter w/o text written at the top can be flipped over and used as a hard edge grad depending on the focal length. You won't see the edge of the glass since it's so far out of focus. Use a black card against the filter on the transition line to find the edge and adjust it with the lens stopped down to shooting aperture. The singh ray's I have have text written in gold (very annoying) at the top so I typically don't flip them. I have done it with Tiffen's though.

Joanna Carter
7-Jun-2009, 11:02
Although I used to recomend Hitech filters, of late I have had several problems with their ND filters having a magenta cast, like Cokin tend to have. I too would recommend that you spend on the Lee filter, possibly the 0,6ND (2 stop) soft grad.

7-Jun-2009, 11:15
I have always found myself defaulting to the Lee filters as well, it's an investment, but if you are reasonably careful they hold up well.

Interestingly enough, the best US price I have found is at Calumet photo.


Don Hutton
7-Jun-2009, 11:31
I use Lee, Sinar and Hitechs 100mm filters just fine in the plain ordinary Lee holder - I believe the Sinar filters are 1mm, the Hitechs 1.5 and the Lee's are 2mm - so no issues there. I just took delivery of a Lee RF75mm kit - if you will never need a filter adapter bigger than 67mm, I'd highly recommend the RF75 kit - much smaller and more compact the 100mm filters. With the current US$ pound exchange rate, there's a decent discount still to be had by ordering from Robert White in the UK - I saved about $600 on my Lee RF75 kit ($1100 would have translated to $1700 if I'd ordered from one of the NY houses) by ordering from them and shipping to my door took 2 days....

Like other's here, I'd suggest start with a 0.6 (two stop) or 0.75 (two and a half stop) grad, but I almost always find the hard preferable to the soft - possibly because I have a preference for smaller compact lenses...

7-Jun-2009, 15:17
Thanks all for the replies.

7-Jun-2009, 16:14
I too would suggest starting with the Lee ND Grad .6 Soft for your first... you'll find it the most useful. The hard edge would only be a better choice if you are shooting primarily flat horizons with longish lenses.

I'm a heavy user of filters and use the Lee holders (best made IMMHO) and Lee, HiTech, and Singh-Ray filters. HiTechs are no problem with Lee holders... if one needs more tension on the filters due to variations of thickness, one can simply tighten the holder screws.

I do prefer HiTech hard edge gradiants over Lee hard edges... the HiTech graduation seems to be a little bit softer at the edge than the Lee filters. I've never had any complaints with HiTech filters either... unsure if any reported problems are a new thing... my HiTechs are 2-years old and absolutely no problem with color shifts or tinting.

For that matter, I heard a rumor (hearsay only!) that HiTechs and Lee are both coated at the same facility. Wonderin' myself if there's any truth to that..... ?


8-Jun-2009, 00:57
First of all I would highly recommend Lee filters over all other grads (having tried them all)..

Secondly, you may well be better off with a hard grad. I did some research into how much of the frame a grad covered and found that for large format and with longer lenses, a 2 stop hard grad transition is a lot bigger than the whole frame. i.e. You may end up with only 1.5 stops across the frame if using a soft grad with a 210mm lens.

If you are using a grad to hold back skies, I would recommend a hard grad.. For instance, with a 240mm lens, a hard grad transition takes up over 50% of the height of a frame - hardly what one would think of as hard normally.

With a 135, the hard transition is probably about 1/4 of the frame - good for most sky holding purposes..

More info here..


Stephen Lewis
8-Jun-2009, 01:47
When you buy the Lee filter holder, you build it yourself to suit your requirements. The width of the slots can be adjusted by fitting thinner or thicker shims. Consequently, most 100mm wide filters can be accommodated. This system also allows the filter holder to be revised as your requirements change.

As I've mentioned in other posts, graduated ND filters 'go-off' over a period of time, depending on the age and the manufaturers QC. Lee stamp the filters manufacturing date on their filters, and, having tried Cokin and Hi-Tech, I've found Lee GND's to be the most consistant and long lasting.