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Thread: Neutral Density filter advice?

  1. #1

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    Question Neutral Density filter advice?

    Now that I've acquired a few "vintage" portrait lenses, and with the hopefully impending delivery of a Lomograflok Instax back, I've been thinking some ND filters might be useful.

    The lenses are all f/4.5:
    7 1/2" Ilex Paragon Anastigmat - 1/200 max shutter speed
    9 1/2" Heliar - 1/100 max shutter speed
    12" Wollensak Velostigmat Series II - a whopping 1/50 max shutter speed

    I'm using these on a Toyo 45g

    Haven't gotten outside with these lenses yet but I'm thinking with the limited shutter speed it will be difficult to get to the wider apertures in daylight even with ISO 100 film (I currently use FP-4+ or Portra 160). And then of course there's the ISO 800 rating of Instax.

    I have a Lee Foundation style holder from Filter Dude for 4x4 filters which works on my more modern lenses, but these older lenses don't seem to have the standard filter threads to attach the adapter ring to. I guess just holding a 4x4 filter in front of the lens wouldn't be horrible (should I tape the edges for a little more protection?). Or maybe the Toyo compendium lens shade would be able to hold them? Any other ideas?

    Any suggestions or experiences regarding density factor? I'd obviously try to avoid direct midday sunlight for aesthetic reasons, so more like open shade and golden hour. A set of .3, .6 and .9 seems like it would give a good amount of flexibility, but might get a bit expensive.

    Which brings me to brands / lines. The price range seems pretty wide, but $180 give or take seems to be about average for 4x4" filters. Should I really be looking at about $500 for a good set of ND filters? Should I look at less expensive or one or two filters? Stick with Lee, Tiffen, Hitech? Glass vs resin? Recommendations are appreciated.

  2. #2

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    Re: Neutral Density filter advice?

    I would get 1/2 stop ND filters, 0.45 and 0.75 to your list.
    These are available in Lee 100 filter system.

  3. #3
    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: Neutral Density filter advice?

    Another option would be a Speed Graphic, at least for the 7 1/2 and 9 1/2 (if not focused super close). If it were me I'd do that, and then find a couple mid-tier screw-in NDs for the 12" and adapt it to the others. There's a variety of lesser-known brand filters on eBay, for all price ranges. One option is Haida - I have some of their GND filters and like them.
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  4. #4

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    Re: Neutral Density filter advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by Corran View Post
    Another option would be a Speed Graphic, at least for the 7 1/2 and 9 1/2 (if not focused super close). If it were me I'd do that, and then find a couple mid-tier screw-in NDs for the 12" and adapt it to the others. There's a variety of lesser-known brand filters on eBay, for all price ranges. One option is Haida - I have some of their GND filters and like them.
    Sorry, how does a Speed Graphic help? Especially if it can't take the 12"? I wasn't really looking at getting another camera, and I'm not familiar with Speed Graphics.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but none of these lenses seem to have standard threads (that's what Google seems to suggest). The Wolly is a smidge bigger than my 77mm adapter, but not big enough for the 82mm adapter. The Heliar I measure about 72.5mm, just a little too big for a standard 72mm filter I think. The Paragon doesn't appear to even have threads. So I think screw-ons are out. I see references to "series" filters pop up, but I haven't been able to really figure those out or if/how they would work for me.

    I wasn't sure if the lesser-known brands were any good or if this was a "you get what you pay for" type of area. I'll take a look at Haida.

  5. #5

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    Re: Neutral Density filter advice?

    If you use a cinema camera (in my case a Blackmagic), neutral density filters are a fundamental piece of kit. They can get very expensive very fast. The best suggestion that I can make is to think carefully about what you actually need, with a view to the future as well as the present.

    In your place, I would carry around a light meter for a few days and make readings in the kinds of light that I expect to photograph in, having regard to probable ISOs and shutter speeds.

    I have no experience with using filters with large format lenses that have no threads or obsolete threads, but there are discussions about doing it on this forum and probably elsewhere. If the threads were at one time common, perhaps there's an adapter. Maybe check with S.K. Grimes?

    Re the brands that you mention...

    These days, when it comes to solid ND filters Lee only offers its ProGlass IRND line, and only for the Lee100 and SW150 systems. Panavision, which owns Lee, sells these same filters in larger sizes for use with cinema camera matte boxes. I have a Lee100 holder and a number of these ND filters in the Lee100 size. They are superb filters, but they are expensive.

    Also, they incorporate IR protection. An IRND filter, or alternatively an IR Cut filter plus a solid ND filter, is used with some digital cameras, especially cinema cameras. I don't think that that is something that you need to concern yourself with, or pay for, unless you are planning to shoot digital. With digital, the rationale is that you don't want to use an ND filter to cut the amount of visible light hitting the sensor while letting all the IR through. This can result in distortion of colours. Hence the addition of an IR Cut.

    On other brands of ND filter, including Tiffen and HiTech, I would suggest that you do a search on the Blackmagic Design forum, cinematography sub-forum. There are many discussions about ND filters, and about the merits of the brands currently on the market, both in screw-on and 4x4 format. Personally, in addition to Lee I use B+W XS-Pro and Heliopan screw-on filters. However, the XS-Pro line is arguably more money than you should be paying (it is B+W's most expensive line) if you aren't using wide angle lenses or stacking ND filters, and vignetting isn't a possible issue. I have standardised my screw-on filters to 82mm, and I use step-up rings as necessary.

    Cheers
    Last edited by r.e.; 19-Jul-2021 at 22:48.

  6. #6

    Re: Neutral Density filter advice?

    I have set of four 4x4 Tiffen NDs (.3 - 1.2) which are absolutely indispensable for 16mm cine, but I have never needed them with still photography and 100 ISO film, even with faster lenses than you are purchasing. For example, last weekend I took a few north light portraits at f2.9 at 1/50 (with 2/3 of stop bellows extension). So follow the advice above and play with a meter before sinking lots of money onto something which may not be necessary.

  7. #7
    Corran's Avatar
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    Re: Neutral Density filter advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by gnd2 View Post
    Sorry, how does a Speed Graphic help? Especially if it can't take the 12"? I wasn't really looking at getting another camera, and I'm not familiar with Speed Graphics.
    It has a focal plane shutter that can do 1/1000 shutter speed. I have shot slow film at f/2.5 in daylight using my Speed at 1/1000 or so. Should be about right for shade with Instax. I've also seen folks adapt just the shutter box onto the front of lenses.
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  8. #8

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    Re: Neutral Density filter advice?

    Quote Originally Posted by Corran View Post
    It has a focal plane shutter that can do 1/1000 shutter speed. I have shot slow film at f/2.5 in daylight using my Speed at 1/1000 or so. Should be about right for shade with Instax. I've also seen folks adapt just the shutter box onto the front of lenses.
    I had no idea! I could have gotten one of these and then just gotten barrel lenses instead of hunting down shuttered versions!


    Those Blackmagic guys sure take their ND seriously! They seem to be very adamant about IR for their digital cinema cameras. I'm thinking it's not an issue for film. Not sure if I'd use them with my DSLR, but don't DSLRs have built in IR cut filters? I thought people were removing them for astrophography...

    And the suggestion to go out with a meter... sounds obvious but I hadn't thought of it until you guys mentioned it I was eying a couple spots when I was out with the dog, I'll bring the meter next time.

  9. #9

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    Re: Neutral Density filter advice?

    You can get a Lee Gelsnap (basically a filter holder that rubber bands onto the lens) or there is a thing called a Voss barndoor filter holder that clamps onto a lens with two pieces of spring steel and accepts a 3" gel, but it may not be big enough for some of your lenses.

    You could probably get by with just one ND filter, and you could get a cheap resin filter at first. With huge lenses wide open, any imperfections in the filter are going to be way out of focus.

    Series filters use a push on adapter and a threadless filter held in by a retaining ring. You would need the largest sizes, series 8 or 9.

  10. #10

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    Re: Neutral Density filter advice?

    At this point in time I find the best solution is to 3D print an adapter that will fit standard 100x100mm filters for every lens.

    In the old times, I found that blu tack does a good job of temporarily holding a filter in place, and leaves no residue, but itís cumbersome and if the filter falls it may get scratched if it survives the fall.

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