Ookey, let’s get it started!
First of all let us begin with some background. I am a Bulgarian photographer specialized mainly in architecture and product photography. And while I love shooting interiors and so forth, I just adore being early in the mornin’ waiting for the sun, listening to music and shooting some shots of the morning over my city. In essence – I shoot mostly cityscapes.
I was recently searching for a nd soft grad filter and quite on the lucky side I have found this ND soft grad filter by Ray Filters. In turn out that they are an European manufacturer of filters, so this gave me some starting beliefs about delivery and quality.. From here I will share with you my major points around which I have tested the filter and what are the results.
The filter that I have tested is ND Soft Graduated 0,9 Filter by Ray Filters.
Ray Filters ND8 Soft Graduated Filter
Term one – Image sharpness
This was my main concern – whether will retain sharpness or not. For the first test I glued some food label on flat white surface and shoot it with and without the filter at the best aperture in terms of sharpness. Settings – F8, 1sec, remote release with mirror lock up.
After carefully looking at the test results, I couldn’t find any image deterioration. The image with filter looks as sharp as without. One thing to mention though – the image with the filter is darker due to the nd graduation, so it may appear less or more sharp than the original.
See cropped image by yourself.
Term two – Filter colorization
As to be expected this nd grad filter has some kind of tinting. Again I used the same picture while colour balancing it through with the white surface box. After putting around five counter points with the photoshop’s colour sampler I found that there is slight green tint.
For me this is not a major issue as it is quite easy repairable in lightroom, camera raw or whatever software. If you are a geek here are some numbers for tinting – Red: 120 ; Green: 125; Blue: 120.
Most of the colour samples showed green tint with max of 5 green values. See the image from the Image sharpness section above.
*** Update of the review: As I understood the new filters that are going to be released won’t have this green tint, and will be completely neutral. So if you are in your way to be, ask whether the filter is from the new, improved ones!
Term three – Filter flare
I do not know whether is multicoated or not, but I found that it does not change the overall shooting situation. I have used it for maybe 5-6 mornings and only once got more pronounced red flare which I already got at this time without the filter. I must say that flare depends on too many factors as lens, sun position, lens position, filters and so forth, so I could not say that in this specific situation the filter didn’t manage it.
As a whole I find it just fine using it infront of the sun or with some obstacles infront.
Term four – Filter scratchness
Ray filters says that the filter is to sustain scratches and some impacts. Well.. I cannot start scratching it in order to understand if it stays strong or not. But for those 5-6 shooting days I didn’t scratch it and I clean it a lot because of the not so clean city environments..
Term five – Filter package and overall comfort of usage
I receive it well packed in a cushouned package. Inside the box the filter is both-side glued with protective plastic which is quite important in my opinion. Also I forgot to mention that the filter is made by resin, and not glass if this is an important factor for you.
As you can expect, the filter is big, so you should find a good place inside your photography bag and to be secure, of course. Maybe it will be even more impressive if it comes with a filter cleaning cloth, but it maybe will in its official release.
Term six – Filter price
This nd soft graduated filter is not cheap, but also it isn’t on the most expensive side. I would say that for the quality you receive the price is good. Delivery is fast, too, so the waiting factor is not a concern.
I would recommend it, but I should say that it strongly depends on the person who is buyng and if he knows what exactly he is searching for.
In example if you are just starting and have little funds but want to just explore, you can buy some cheap nd soft grad filter for 10 dollars/7euros and it can serve you well, yet you cannot expect some impressive results.
Have a look below at some test photographs of Plovdiv city in Bulgaria. I made them to be before and after so to see the exact effect of the nd soft graduated filter by three stops (nd8 or nd0.9).
If you have some question, please do ask, I would be happy to help you!