Finding the Best ND Filters for Photography and Video

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Neutral density filters (or ND filters) are an invaluable tool for creating special effects in a wide range of style of photography, from landscape to portraits and for cinematic video, but they come in a wide range of types and brands, from solid to variable neutral density filters, and so it can be difficult to know which one you might want.

In this article, I want to help you understand what is a neutral density filter, and provide suggestions for the overall best ND filters, including the best variable ND filter, following extensive research and testing.

I encourage you to read the ND filters explained section below, to discover the best lens filter brand, and also take a look at the ND filter chart, so you can see exactly what situations each filter is suitable for.

The types of ND filters that we will be looking at are below, with a full explanation of each, and reviews for the best filters for your camera at the bottom of this article.

  • Solid ND Filters:
    • Circular ND Filters
    • Square ND Filters
  • Variable ND Filters
  • Graduated ND Filters


The Best ND Filter

The Best ND Filter Kit

As the best ND filter kit, you get three filters including one solid ND filter and two graduated filters that do not show any light leaks when fitted to the attached holder, and offer remarkable quality for the relatively low price.
Cost is reduced by making the filters from resin rather than glass, meaning they might scratch more easily but are not going to shatter if you drop them. Resin also has the advantage of being easier to dye, meaning that the grad filters transitions are silky smooth and one of the best neutral density filters available.
I would highly recommend this ND filter set for those new to filter photography, who want an easy introduction in one package at a low price, without needing to worry about getting more adapters.

The Best Variable ND Filter

Best Variable Neutral Density Filter

  • Image quality as good as shooting without a filter
  • Clear markings and hard stops so you can see how the filter is set
  • No vignetting down to 16 mm focal lengths
  • No cross-polarization
  • Available as: 2 – 5 stop or 6 – 9 stop
The PolarPro is widely considered the best variable ND filter thanks to its superior build quality and the attention to detail that PolarPro have taken.
You won’t see any cross-polarization or X lines with this variable filter, which is not a given for other models, and the hard stops and easily readable markings mean that you are always aware of precisely how much light reduction you are getting.
With two models available, both with about 4 stops of f-stop reduction possible, in the PolarPro you get by far the best variable ND filter for video.

The Best Graduated ND Filter

Best Graduated Neutral Density Filter

With three graduated filters in this kit, the Cokin Creative Plus is one of the top choices for amateur photographers looking into using grad filters for their landscape photography who want versatility and the ideal learning opportunity.
These filters have very little color cast and are pretty inexpensive, although note that you will have to buy an appropriate adapter ring sized to your lens in addition to this kit, but that will not add much to the total cost.
If money is no object, then the ultimate best graduated ND filter is found in the Lee filter system.

The Best ND 10 Stop Filter

The Best ND 10 Stop Filter

  • Ideal starter set for those new to filter photography for long exposures
  • Glass construction at a budget price
  • Includes 8 lens adapters – 49 – 82 mm lens thread compatibility
  • Excellent value for money
This kit from K&F comes with a 10 stop ND lens filter manufactured from glass, which is particularly unusual for such a budget filter, and even better, the image quality when in use is very good, with no apparent loss of sharpness, as you often see at the cheaper end of the market.
This filter enables you to shoot super long exposures, meaning blurred clouds and silky smooth water effects are possible, and the 8 included lens adapters mean that pretty much every lens is covered by this kit. For the price, you won’t find a 10 stop filter offering better quality than this.
But if you are not on a strict budget, then you will find that the Lee Big Stopper offers the ultimate in quality for an ND 10 stop filter, albeit at a much higher price.

The Best Solid Circular ND Filter

The Ultimate Circular ND Filter

  • Super-sharp with no discernible color cast
  • Ultra-thin profile
  • Very high build quality
  • Lens thread sizes from 46mm to 95mm
  • Available in 3 stop, 6 stop, 10 stop or 15 stop models
This circular ND filter by Breakthrough Photography is one of the best I have seen, with no apparent color cast or loss of sharpness when using it – in fact it is like not using a filter at all, apart from the f-stop reduction.
You can use this for long exposure photography, blurring water and clouds and removing people. The 16-layer optical coating prevents ghosting and lens flare, even when pointing at the sun, and with a 25-year guarantee, there is overall really nothing to not recommend this Breakthrough filter.

What Does a Neutral Density Filter Do?

Before we get into what does a neutral density filter do, we need to know what is an ND filter?

It is simply a piece of glass that covers the end of the camera lens to reduce the light that reaches the sensor. Ideally, there should be no shift in tone or hue of the color – the only thing that should be affected is intensity, or luminosity of the light. Some brands of ND filter are not good at attenuating all wavelengths of light equally though, meaning that they do exhibit an unfortunate color shift. Read the full reviews below for more on this.

Therefore, using neutral density filters means that you can extend shutter speed; prevent the sky in a bright image from being overexposed; or allow you to use a wider aperture in a bright environment, as well as many more types of special effects.


ND Filters Explained – What are the Types of ND Filters?

There are so many types of neutral density filters that it can be difficult to know which you want for your style of photography or videography, but you can use this ND filter guide to help you understand ND filter photography.

Types of ND Filters:

  • Solid ND Filters – These reduce the light by a set amount of light (measured in f-stops) equally across the entire filter. It’s possible to find these from a single stop filter up to a 10 stop neutral density filter and beyond, which are the best ND filters for waterfalls and smoothing water. They can be divided into:
    • Circular ND Filters
    • Square ND Filters
  • Variable ND Filters – These are only found as circular filters.
  • Graduated ND Filters – Primarily only found as square filters.

Circular ND Filters

These screw onto the front of your lens, into the filter thread. They do not require any additional equipment to use, but you will likely need different sized filters for each lens that you own, increasing total cost, as the size of filter threads (eg. 52mm ND filter, 58mm ND filter, 49mm ND filter) varies depending on lens type (although companies like Breakthrough photography make excellent step up adapters). They are also harder to switch as they must be manually unscrewed and screwed in each time, but the same size of circular ND filters can be stacked on top of each other.

Square ND Filters

These fit into a holder that is attached to the front of the lens. This setup is more expensive due to the holder, and because these filters tend to be of a more premium design, but the advantage is that filters are easily changeable by sliding in and out of the holder and stacking can be accomplished with much more precision.

Variable ND Filters

Variable, or adjustable ND filters are found only as the circular type, and consist of two circular polarizing filters stacked on top of each other. (A single polarizing filter on its own is a type of solid ND filter, although it reduces light by blocking certain polarizations, rather than by simply having a dark coating).

The inner filter is fixed, while the outer filter can be rotated. As the filter is rotated and the polarization planes diverge, the light being blocked increases by several stops. Most variable neutral density filters work over a 4 – 5 stop range (although many quote a range higher than is usable in practice).

As the amount of light blocked can be easily changed without covering the frame, a variable filter makes the best ND filter for video recordings.

Graduated ND Filters

They have a darker end of the filter that transitions to transparency at the other end, and are mainly found as the square (or rectangular) type that fits into holders, as this shape means that they can be slid up or down to adjust where the transition occurs in the frame.

These tend to be the best ND filters for landscape photography and the best ND filters for sunsets, as they can be positioned so that the darker part of the filter covers the sky, reducing its light intensity to the same level as the ground, meaning that a perfectly exposed image can be captured in one shot.

A graduated ND filter
A darker top half prevents the sky from losing detail, but the transparent bottom half does not darken the ground.
From Wikimedia Commons

You can subdivide graduated neutral density filters into two main types:

  • Hard Edge – Used when there is a distinct transition between bright and dark areas, such as a level horizon. The filter will change from dark to light in a very abrupt transition.
  • Soft Edge – The transition from dark to light is much fuzzier and smoother, which is useful for scenes where the transition is much less defined.

But you can also get many other types of graduated filters, including softer transitions and reverse edges.


Key Requirements of the Best Neutral Density Filters

ND filters can be an excellent investment that pays off many times over in the photos and videos that you make with them, but they can also be a very poor choice if you jump into buying something without doing the necessary research. Luckily, I’ve conducted the necessary research and testing for you, but you will still need to think about what you actually need and want.

To find the best neutral density filters for you, you will need to answer the questions below, and then consult the relevant sections of this article.

  • What is your style of photography / videography?
  • Do you have a quality lens?
  • What is the build quality of the filter?
  • How many usable stops do you need?

Ultimately, you get what you pay for in ND filters, meaning that if you intend to work professionally, it’s better to get something towards the top of your budget, whereas cheaper filters suit those coming from a more hobbyist perspective.


What is Your Style of Photography / Videography?

The photos and videos that you intend to take will determine the type of ND filter that is best for you. If you intend to stick to photography, then solid ND filters and graduated filters are ideal, whereas variable ND filters are better suited for videos.

Typical use cases for neutral density filters are:

  • If you want to shoot long exposure photos of waterfalls, clouds and the like, then solid ND filters should be your go-to choice, particularly the ND 10 stop filters.
  • If you want a set of filters for landscape photography for sunsets and to balance the exposure across the scene, then graduated ND filters are the best choice.
  • If you want to shoot photos at wide apertures (Eg. f/2.8 or wider) in bright lighting, then solid ND filters or variable ND filters will work.
  • If you want to create videos of street scenes and similar, then variable ND filters are often the best choice.
  • If you want to make videos of the natural world, at night, indoors, or where the camera is fixed on a tripod, then solid ND filters tend to offer better performance than variable filters.

Do You Have a Quality Lens?

When you attach a filter to your lens, it effectively becomes part of your lens. Therefore, if you have invested in high quality lenses, it doesn’t make sense to use cheap filters, as these will have a real negative effect on your images. If you are already using a more budget lens, then a cheap ND filter will likely not make too much difference.

Bear in mind that if you are using circular filters, then you have to match the lens thread size to the size of the filter. You will most commonly see 77mm neutral density filters, as most wide angle lenses have this thread size. If you get the size that matches your largest lens, then you can always use step up rings to attach smaller lenses onto the larger filters, meaning that lens thread size becomes less of an issue.


What is the Build Quality of the ND Filter?

Of all the type of ND filter that are available, the variable ND filters tend to be both some of the most expensive, but, the cheapest variable ND filters also give the lowest quality photographs.

The highest quality variable filters have multiple layers of coatings and are often made from aluminum rather than plastic, to try to avoid some of the problems listed below.

If you are on a strict budget, it’s worth considering solid ND filters, as these tend to offer the highest quality to lowest price of any types of neutral density filters.

Also, the threaded, circular ND filters come out cheaper than the square / rectangular or graduated types for the same level of quality.

A great way to save money with filters is to buy the largest circular filters available, then use high-quality step up rings like this one from Breakthrough photography to fit it to all of your lenses. Although there are some cheaper step up rings available, it always pays to go for higher quality models as these avoid light leaks between the ring and filter and will not damage your lens thread.


Common Issues with ND Filters

When using ND filters, you should be aware of the most common issues that they can cause. The prevalence of these issues decreases with increasing build quality (and generally increasing price).


White Balance Shift / Color Cast

Unless you go for the most expensive model of ND filter, you tend to get a color shift in your images. This is not a problem as long as the color shift is even across the frame. There’s an example below of how a simple white balance change in Lightroom can fix this.

Vieste Before the Lightroom Develop SystemVieste After the Lightroom Develop System

Potential Problems with Variable Neutral Density Filters

In the photo below, you can see that the effects of the variable ND filter are not consistent across the frame. This is likely because of cross polarization caused by using a wide angles lens. As the polarization of light changes with respect to its position relative to the sun, and because a wide angle lens covers such a wide area, the light will be polarized in different planes across the frame causing patches of light and dark.

But this could also be caused be the polarization planes being tilted with respect to one another, or even light leaking in-between the two glass elements in the filter.

Variable ND filters are also susceptible to an X pattern across your images when pushed too far, but the more premium models have hard stops to prevent this from occurring.

Nonetheless, when shooting with variable ND filters in bright light, you often see that the picture quality suffers when compared with using a solid filter at a similar darkness, so I would always recommend going for a solid filter over a variable one if possible.


How to Use ND Filters

There are a number of creative ways for how to use ND filters that can help you to make photos that otherwise would not be possible, including:

  • Blurring clouds through a long exposure in daylight
  • Using a long exposure to remove tourists and people from a scene
  • Making water silky smooth, from the sea to waterfalls
  • Properly exposing a sunset and the surrounding landscape in one frame

Follow these simple steps for how to use ND filters for landscape photography:

  1. Attach your filter holder, if using.
  2. Set your camera to live-view mode – the viewfinder doesn’t compensate adequately for the filter, so is harder to use.
  3. Adjust your camera settings to correct values for the scene without the filter, as this makes it easier to then re-adjust for the filter. If using a tripod, you can compose your photo here.
  4. Add the filter, either screwing it into the lens thread, or sliding it into the holder, adjusting the position of the graduated filter, if using.
  5. Re-adjust your camera settings to compensate for the filter. You are likely to only want to change either the aperture or shutter speed, while keeping everything else the same.
    • If you are wanting to shoot long exposures, but the shutter speed is still not long enough and you have reduced the ISO to its lowest level and have increased the aperture to its smallest opening, then consider stacking ND filters. Circular filters can be screwed in on top of each other, and square filters can be put into the additional slots on your holder.
  6. You can use the histogram overlay or exposure peaking settings to confirm that you are getting a balanced exposure, but bear in mind that strong filters like the 10 stop ND filter often overwhelm the camera’s ability to accurately measure exposure settings, so this may have to be done manually, using a trial and error basis. You can look at the ND filter chart below for more.

When you start using neutral density filters, you will quickly find that you need a variety of models to accommodate every photographic situation, from a 10 stop neutral density filter for waterfalls, down to a 1 stop ND filter for portraits outdoors.

Therefore, I would advise buying the best ND filter kit that you can afford, rather than looking at individual filters, as you get much better value for money in an entire kit.

Generally, the best ND filter brand as determined by popular opinion is the Lee ND filter kit, although whether this will work for you depends on your own use case. Otherwise, the Cokin ND filters and Singh Ray ND filters are also considered top brands. See the full reviews to explore this in greater depth.


The ND Filter Chart

You can use the ND filter chart below to get a feel for what density of filter you will need for your style of photography or videography. Find an appropriate neutral density filter on the left, then use the ND filter calculator to see the shutter speed you will need based on the shutter speed without using a filter. This assumes that the aperture and ISO remains the same.

The ND filter chart. Find an appropriate neutral density filter on the left, then use the ND filter calculator to see the shutter speed you will need based on the shutter speed without using a filter. This assumes that the aperture and ISO remains the same.

ND Filter: Best Filters Reviews

Square ND Filter Reviews

Cokin Expert Creative Kit

The Best Cokin ND Filter Kit

Available in: Medium (52 – 62mm lens thread)Large (67 – 82mm lens thread)
  • Pros:
  • Best value all-in-one Cokin ND filter kit
  • Includes a holder and 4 adapter rings
  • Three filters – 2-stop solid ND filter, 2-stop hard grad & 3-stop hard grad
  • System can be extended with additional Cokin kits
  • Cons:
  • Resin construction rather than glass
  • Small color cast when compared to Lee filters
Cokin are well known since the 1980s for producing budget ND filters that still offer excellent image quality when compared to the more premium brands, and their Expert Creative Kit is no exception.
With filters manufactured from resin rather than glass, Cokin are able to offer their kits at a much reduced price, when compared to Lee filters for example. Resin does not offer quite the same level of image quality as glass, and is less resistant to scratches, but is much more durable for general use – these won’t shatter if you drop them.
The kit comes in medium or large, depending on the filter thread sizes of your lenses and includes everything you need to get off the ground running, with a solid ND filter for long exposures, and two hard grads for balancing exposures and for sunsets.
The build quality is remarkably high for these filters, making them a pleasure to use, with no light leaks around the filters and everything fitting as it should. They do give a slight cool color cast, but nothing that can’t be fixed in Lightroom or Photoshop. Overall, these are the best ND filters you will find if value for money is your primary concern.

Lee Filters Big Stopper & Little Stopper

Best 10 Stop ND Filter

  • Pros:
  • Top notch build quality
  • No appreciable negative image quality effects
  • Does exactly what it says
  • Cons:
  • Expensive both individually and as a system
The Lee ND filter system is widely considered to be the pinnacle of neutral density filters and with good reason, as this is by far the best 10 stop ND filter and best 6 stop ND filter, with no appreciable color cast or effect on image sharpness.
Lee filters are still hand-made out of glass, rather than the plastic found in cheaper models, and therefore offer excellent build quality, but at a relatively high price. If you are more of a hobbyist photographer, then the Lee system might be overkill, but for pro-level uses, you won’t find better, hence why this filter kit is used by pretty much all pro photographers.
As this kit includes a holder, you can add compatible filters to it, as you see fit. Good choices would be the Lee Graduated filter kit, reviewed below.
And if you want to use the filters with extreme wide-angle lenses, then Lee have you covered with the 150mm holder (although you cannot use the 100mm filters with this).

K&F Square Filter Kit ND1000

Best Value 10 Stop Filter

  • Pros:
  • Excellent value for money filter kit
  • Includes 8 lens adapters – 49 – 82 mm lens thread compatibility
  • Glass construction at a budget price
  • Ideal starter set for those new to filter photography
  • Cons:
  • The filter to lens join isn’t as flush as competitor models – this can let light in
  • Slight cool color cast
K&F are a relatively small filter manufacturer that really concentrate on the more budget end of the market, but also supply much higher quality filters than the price would suggest.
The 10 stop ND filter included in this kit is glass, rather than resin, which is particularly unusual at this price point, and means that you get excellent image quality with no perceivable loss of sharpness, and only a very minor blue color cast that can easily be corrected later.
Although there is only one filter in this kit, it contains a holder and 8 ring adapters to enable you to fit it to pretty much any lenses that you own. As the holder takes standard sized 100mm wide filters, you can easily supplement the kit with filters from other manufacturers if you wish.
The only real negative is that the filter holder is not as secure as some competitor models, meaning that if you don’t get the filter in just right, you may see some light leakage around the edges. This can usually be corrected with a little pushing and prodding, if necessary, and I wouldn’t really consider this a big negative, given the very low price point of this system, which is otherwise excellent.

Cokin Creative Kit

Includes 3 Stop ND Filter

Available in: Medium (min. 24mm focal length)Large (min. 22mm focal length)X-Large (min. 18mm focal length)
  • Pros:
  • Includes 3 filters – 1 stop, 2 stop and 3 stop ND filters
  • Very good quality to price ratio
  • Available in a variety of sizes to accommodate different lenses
  • Cons:
  • Plastic resin construction
  • Does not include holder or ring adapters
  • F-stop reduction slightly less than advertised
As a set of solid ND filters, these ones from Cokin do the job of allowing you to shoot a variety of long exposure photos even in bright conditions. With 1, 2 and 3 stop filters, you can easily get the exact f-stop reduction you are looking for, although as the filters are about one third of a stop under their advertised values, you may have to stack them.
With a resin construction these are very good value for money, although don’t offer the same image quality as glass filters, but you may not even notice this unless shooting in particularly bright light.
These can be used with an appropriately sized Cokin holder and adapter ring (or that of another brand) which do not come with this set, so if you are interested in this, then make sure that you also get an appropriate holder and filter ring.

Square ND Filter Comparison Table

ND Filter

Filters Included:

Solid - 2 stop
Hard Edge Grad - 2 stop & 3 stop

6 stop & 10 stop

10 stop

1 stop, 2 stop & 3 stop

Holder Included?

Yes

Yes

Yes

Adapter Rings:

Included: Medium Kit - 52mm, 55mm, 58mm, 62mm

Large Kit - 67mm, 72mm, 77mm, 82mm

Included - 49mm, 52mm, 58mm, 62mm, 67mm, 72mm, 77mm, 82mm

Check Price


Circular ND Filter Reviews

Breakthrough Photography Fixed ND Filter

The Best Circular ND Filter

  • Pros:
  • Super-sharp with no discernible color cast
  • Ultra-thin profile
  • Available in a large number of sizes
  • Can get in 3 stop, 6 stop, 10 stop or 15 stop models
  • Cons:
  • Expensive
Breakthrough Photography have made a truly amazing model of circular ND filter here, that is available in multiple lens thread sizes from 46 – 95 mm (plus square 100 and 150 mm versions) and versions from 3-stop to 15-stop. As with other circular filters, I would recommend buying the version that fits your largest lens, then using step up rings to fit it to your smaller lenses, particularly with very expensive filters like this one.
Cost is really the only negative to this Breakthrough ND filter, as there is no color cast or loss of sharpness, and the 16 layer optical coating really works well to remove any ghosting or lens flare that you might see when otherwise shooting into the sun.
To top it off, these filters come with a 25-year guarantee, and personal service from the company that you do not get with the big multinationals. Overall, I can’t recommend Breakthrough Photography enough if you are looking for the absolute best circular ND filter.

Hoya Filter Kit

Best Budget ND Filter

  • Pros:
  • Very low price
  • Includes a polarizer and UV filter in the kit
  • Available from 49 mm to 77 mm
  • Surprisingly high quality
  • Cons:
  • Slight color accuracy issues in testing, but unlikely to matter in real-world use
  • You would be better off with a square filter system if you have lots of lenses
Hoya ND filters have been the class-leaders in the budget ND filter world for some time, and they maintain their position with kits such as this. For the lowest price of any filter kit in this article, you get a UV filter, circular polarizer and 3 stop ND8 filter. With circular filters, you don’t need any additional holders or adapter rings, which helps to keep the price low and the quality relatively high.
In fact, the quality of these filters is much better than you expect, with no color cast issues in practice, although color accuracy has been shown to be lacking in lab tests.
If you like the Hoya line, you can also buy the Hoya filters individually if you are only interested in the ND filters, but in this case I would really recommend the Pro ND models, which are a little more expensive but offer higher build quality than these budget versions.

Tiffen Neutral Density Filter Kit

Tiffen ND Filter Review

  • Pros:
  • Includes 2 stop, 3 stop and 4 stop circular filters
  • Budget model best suited for those starting out with filters
  • Cons:
  • No multi-coating, so will show significantly more lens flare when pointed at the sun
  • Slight green color cast
This Tiffen neutral density filter kit is outstanding value for money for what you get, with 2, 3 and 4 stop filters meaning you are well setup for any long exposure photography or videography in bright light. The quality obviously isn’t as high as competitor models like the filters from Breakthrough Photography, as there is no multi-coating to reduce lens flare and ghosting when pointed at the sun, and there is a slight color cast.
But if you are still in a learning phase of photography, and don’t want to spend a lot of money on professional filters that will be overkill for you, the Tiffen filters make a great entry point to help figure out your own style and let you easily see what kinds of filters work best for you.

Circular ND Filter Comparison Table

Circular ND Filter

F-Stop Reduction:

3 stop, 6 stop, 10 stop or 15 stop

3 stop (plus UV filter & polarizer)

1 stop, 2 stop & 3 stop

Thread Sizes:

46mm, 49mm, 52mm, 55mm, 58mm, 60mm, 62mm, 67mm, 72mm, 77mm, 82mm, 86mm, 95mm

49mm, 52mm, 55mm, 58mm, 62mm, 67mm, 72mm, 77mm

Check Price


Variable ND Filter Reviews

PolarPro Variable ND Filter – Peter McKinnon Edition

Best 77mm Variable ND Filter

Available as: 2 – 5 stop6 – 9 stop
  • Pros:
  • Image quality as good as shooting without a filter
  • No vignetting down to 16 mm focal lengths
  • Clear markings and hard stops so you can see level the filter is set at
  • No cross-polarization
  • Best Variable ND Filter 77mm
  • Cons:
  • Expensive
This PolarPro variable ND filter is an outstanding example of a variable ND filter, with no effects on image quality, sharpness or color. Unlike with some cheaper models of variable filter, there is no cross-polarization issues, where you get patches of light and dark, no matter whether the filter is pointing at the sun or not.
This filter comes in two flavors – 2 to 5 stops, which is the best Variable ND filter for video as it is really designed for the run and gun approach, and 6 to 9 stops, which is more expensive, but better suited for really bright conditions.
You get hard stops with the PolarPro, meaning that you can’t push the filter beyond its recommended limits, and the markings on the outside mean that you are always aware of how much f-stop reduction you are applying. Other than price, there is nothing to not recommend the PolarPro for videographers, although photographers might find better value for money in a square ND filter set.

Tiffen Variable ND Filter

Tiffen 77mm Variable Neutral Density Filter

  • Pros:
  • Good value for money
  • Available for 52 mm – 82 mm lens threads
  • Cons:
  • Filter position markings are not numbered
  • Some users report cross-polarization
The Tiffen variable ND filters actually offer some of the best value for money for variable filters, and are significantly cheaper than the PolarPro model reviewed above. They are significantly wider than the lens they are attached to, which helps prevent vignetting and also means they are easy to grab hold of and change the f-stop reduction.
Build quality does seem to vary, as some people get filters with scuffs and scratches, while others get pristine models. Also, there is a good chance that you will see some cross-polarization at the most extreme ends of the filter. This is exacerbated by there not being any hard stops on this filter, so it is easy to push this over the edge where you will see a dramatic drop-off in image quality.
Still, if you are starting out with variable ND filters, and / or are making non-professional videos, then the Tiffen will generally serve you well.

Gobe (Urth) Variable ND Filter

Best Budget Variable ND Filter

  • Pros:
  • One of the cheapest variable ND filters that still offers good performance
  • Available in 37 mm to 86 mm
  • No appreciable color cast, and little negative effect on image quality
  • Cons:
  • Markings on the ring are not clear
  • No hard stops
  • Threads can get ‘sticky’ when trying to take the filter off
Gobe variable ND filters (now called Urth) offer good performance at one of the lowest prices for variable filters. They are designed to offer from 1 stop to 8.66 stops of light reduction, but you will see less than this in practice due to cross-polarization. As there are no hard stops, you will see X lines in your images if you accidentally push the filter past its recommended settings, which can ruin any video footage, but is less of a problem for photography.
The Gobe has high build quality, feeling solid in the hand and comes with premium packaging that makes it feel as though care has been taken with its design. Overall, I would consider this the best budget variable ND filter over the K&F model reviewed below, as this feels like it has been manufactured to a higher quality level, and so this is an excellent variable ND filter for those who are more price conscious.

K&F Concept Variable ND Filter

Variable Neutral Density Filter Review

  • Pros:
  • Very low price
  • Highly rated by amateur photographers
  • Excellent entry point to variable filters
  • Cons:
  • Only about 4 usable stops of light reduction
  • Relatively strong color cast and some softness
As a cheaper alternative to the B W variable ND filter, the K&F is a great starting point if you are not sure whether variable ND filters are for you or not. It’s performance is of course not up to the same level as the PolarPro or other premium models, but at about 1/10th of the price, you would not expect this.
In fact, the optical ability is not at all bad, although you are only getting about 4 usable stops from the filter, and do not have a hard stop at the min and max ends. There is also some ghosting and lens flare present when shooting into the sun, but this should be expected at this price.

Variable ND Filter Comparison Table

Variable ND Filter

F-Stop Reduction:

2 - 5 Stops;
6 - 9 Stops

2 - 8 Stops

1 - 8.66 Stops

1 - 8.66 Stops

Thread Sizes:

67mm, 77mm, 82mm

52mm, 58mm, 62mm, 67mm, 72mm, 77mm, 82mm

37mm, 40.5mm, 43mm, 46mm, 52mm, 55mm, 58mm, 62mm, 67mm, 72mm, 77mm, 86mm

37mm, 40.5mm, 43mm, 46mm, 49mm, 52mm, 55mm, 58mm, 62mm, 67mm, 72mm, 77mm

Check Price


Graduated ND Filter Reviews

Cokin Gradual ND Creative Kit Plus

Best Graduated ND Filter

Available in: Medium (min. 24mm focal length)Large (min. 22mm focal length)X-Large (min. 18mm focal length)
  • Pros:
  • Includes 3 filters – 1 stop hard grad, 2 stop hard grad and 3 stop soft grad
  • Excellent value for money
  • Available in multiple sizes to suit different lenses
  • Good entry into graduated filters if you have not used them before
  • Cons:
  • Resin, not glass
  • Scratches easily
The Cokin Creative Kit Plus is one of the cheapest graduated filter kits around, including 3 filters (2 hard edge grads and 1 soft edge), giving it wide-ranging versatility for shooting landscapes. Bear in mind that you will need to buy an appropriate adapter ring sized to your lens in addition to this kit, but that will not increase the total cost by much, meaning this remains fantastic value for money.
As the filters are resin, they do scratch more easily than if they were glass, but are less susceptible to shattering. They are also not as easy to stack in the holder as more premium filters, but these are minor problems when you consider the low price.
Ideally, this filter set would suit any amateur photographers who want to get into landscape photography, but aren’t sure what filters they will require. This gives you the opportunity to try out several models without breaking the bank.

Lee Filters 100mm Graduated Neutral Density Soft Edge Set

Best Graduated ND Filter for Landscapes

  • Pros:
  • Outstanding image quality with no appreciable color cast or loss of sharpness
  • Includes 3 filters – 1 stop, 2 stop and 3 stop soft edged grads
  • The best set of graduated filters you will find
  • Cons:
  • Resin, not glass
  • Relatively expensive
Despite being made from resin rather than glass, the image quality of these Lee filters is outstanding – you are unlikely to find better quality graduated filters than these. The reasoning for using resin is that as it is easier to dye, the transition can be made more smooth and refined, and you get less internal reflectivity.
There is no appreciable color cast when in use, and sharpness is perfect throughout the frame – its like there is no filter on the lens. The only negative I can find is that they are quite expensive, and require a holder and ring adapter to be bought separately, increasing the cost still further. But if you are serious about landscape photography, you can’t do better than these Lee filters.

Haida NanoPro Soft Edge Graduated ND Filter

Graduated Neutral Density Filter Kit

  • Pros:
  • Fantastic image quality, but at a price
  • NanoPro multi-coating on the glass reduces reflections and beads water off the glass
  • Compatible with Lee holders and others
  • Cons:
  • Not available as a kit – you must buy each part separately
  • The entire system is expensive
Giving you the ability to produce beautiful images, the Haida NanoPro graduated ND filters add pro-level equipment to your photography gear. You can’t buy this as a kit, but it is possible to buy the holder and adapter ring separately, but none of these items are cheap. Really, the NanoPro line is aimed at those who already have a variety of filters and their own holders. These particularly complement the Lee system very well, offering a similar level of image quality, at a similar price.
The advantage of Haida over Lee is that they tend to offer their filters in sizes and thicknesses that are compatible with a wide range of other systems, meaning that you can buy filters compatible with Cokin, Lee and others.
Thanks to the multi-coating, you won’t see any ghosting or reflections when pointed at the sun, and also fingerprints and scratches just don’t seem to effect the filter. Although it might be expensive, if you are in photography for the long haul, then premium filters like this will always pay out in the long run, as they will inevitably be a large part of your photography kit for years to come.

Graduated ND Filter Comparison Table

Graduated ND Filter

Filters Included:

Hard Edge - 1 stop & 2 stop;

Soft Edge - 3 stop

Soft Edge - 1 stop, 2 stop & 3 stop

Wide Range

Holder Included?

Yes

No - available separately

No - available separately

Adapter Rings:

None included - buy separately

No - available separately

No - available separately

Check Price


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Follow Tim Daniels:

Hi, I'm Tim Daniels, photographer and photo trainer, founder of Lapse of the Shutter and creator of the totally free Lightroom Develop System. I've travelled to (probably) 30 countries over the last few years, taking photos and licensing them around the world, and creating lots of free photography learning resources. Read More ...

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