ND filters...Love and hate

Followers of this blog will know I have advocated the use of variable ND filters, particularly when it comes to shooting moving images

A very useful thing to have, or so it would seem

Too good to be true?

In a word -Yes

Katherine Holley and I were using filters made by brand 'X' during the South African township project, predominantly on the Canon 'L' series 24-105mm lens

They certainly did the trick when it came to cutting light down, allowing us to use wide apertures in very bright condition, its just the footage always seemed a little 'soft' at best

Our confidence was dented to the extent that we stopped using them.

So blaming brand 'X' (and a manufacturing defect they had been suffering from) I tried brand 'Y'

Using brand 'Y'for moving images does seem to be a step forward, sharper images for sure but then Lucinda Marland and I stared to use them on a very exciting stills project (which I can't talk about at the moment)

When using the Canon 'L' series 85mm F1.2  or the EXCELLENT Phase One 110mm F2.8 Schneider lens wide open there was was a lack of sharpness that was simply unacceptable, both lenses can be very difficult to focus wide open but this was shot killing stuff

We removed the filter and bingo, tack sharp stunning image quality was back with us.

So we wanted to use an ND filter, what to do?

We tried a low tech old school solution

The 0.9 ND by LEE Filters (which allows exposure to be cut by 3 f stops), along with the fancy but very effective bellows hood

The only problem was getting hold of one, sold out everywhere.

An exhaustive search did turn one up

Boy was is worth it, even wide open sharpness was unaffected

We were back in the the land of 'Sharp' once more

For a fraction of the cost of a Vario ND filter (well not a fraction but cheaper when you consider just the filter alone)

Yes, some are better, some are worse but it is a scientific fact that when you put two polarisers together image quality will be affected

Will I use one again? Perhaps for moving image work, but for stills I doubt it

Old school has proved to be the way to go for me

Now, just to get more of those LEE filters