Shooting eye-catching images for really long exposures is challenging even at the camera lens’s smallest aperture. You need to limit the amount of light that enters the lens using a neutral density (ND) filter. An ND filter fits before the camera’s lens (or in a filter slot) and helps to reduce the amount of light getting into the camera. Some people like to compare a neutral density filter to sunglasses for cameras. But besides reducing the amount of light making getting into the camera, an ND filter also changes the color of the light captured by the lens.
If you want to capture great photos of waters and skies, have a neutral density filter on standby all the time.
Factors to consider when looking for the best neutral density filter
- Round ND filters: These are the best filters for resisting light leaks. They only fit one thread diameter, though you can use stepping rings to adapt larger filters to smaller ones.
- Square ND filters: The main advantage of square filters is that you can use multiple lenses with them. This filter type opens up possibilities to stack filters like a graduated ND filter or polarizer. However, you will need an adapter ring and a holder to use these filters.
- Image quality: While an ND filter is mostly neutral, it should correct color casts easily.
- Which filter should you use?
ND filters come in a variety of density options. Different numbering scales define each option.
- The 10-Stop ND filter: These filters have a profound effect on the images created. They are popular, especially among people who are just starting with long exposure photography. However, darker filters are available, namely the 6-stop ND and 3-stop ND filters
- The 6-Stop ND filter: This filter allows you to increase the exposure time by 6 stops, which translate to 64 times (2x2x2x2x2x2) – a low shutter speed.
- The 3-Stop ND filter: When compared to the filters above, the 3-stop ND filter has a smaller impact on images. You cannot use it for prolonged shutter speeds, and it is not great for photography during brighter hours.
Best Neutral Density Filters in 2021
- 10. ICE 82mm Slim ND Filter Set
- 9. Gobe 72mm ND2-400 Variable ND Lens Filter (2Peak)
- 8. Neewer 52 mm Neutral Density Filter
- 7. PolarPro 82mm Variable ND Filter (2 to 5 Stop)
- 6. Tiffen 77mm Digital Neutral Density Filter Kit
- 5. LENSKINS 72mm ND 1000 Filter
- 4. K&F Concept 82mm Circular Polarizer Filter
- 3. ESDDI 77mm ND 1000 Filter
- 2. K&F Concept 82mm ND8 to ND128 Variable Neutral Density Filter
- 1. Breakthrough Photography Fixed ND Filter, Ultra-Slim
10. ICE 82mm Slim ND Filter Set
This high-quality ND filter is made of glass (not resin like many cheap ND filters). It is double-threaded so that you can screw lens caps or other filters on to it. The construction quality of this filter will amaze you as it is surprisingly good. When it comes to performance, ICE 82mm slim neutral density filter beats even more expensive filters. Notably, the filter produces results with no observable color cast.
This ND filter is a genuinely remarkable bargain. Many users commend their quality. Also, they like how easily its screw-thread attaches to other filters or lenses. It’s no wonder that the filter appears in many top ND filters reviews. Check out a summary of its pros and cons below:
- High-quality dark optical glass
- Favorable price
- It is an excellent choice for daytime, long exposure photography
- Sturdy construction
- Easy to use
- It cannot achieve prolonged shutter speeds
9. Gobe 72mm ND2-400 Variable ND Lens Filter (2Peak)
How are you planning to capture the beauty of time and movement?
This Gobe variable neutral density filter is an incredibly versatile piece. You can rotate it from ND2 to ND400. The filter reduces the light getting in from 1 to 8.66 f-stops while maintaining color balance. This variable ND filter is perfect for landscape photography as well as videography.
Since the filter is variable, it can control unpredictable light. You can comfortably use slow shutter speeds and motion blur techniques for long exposure camera work. Be sure of mind-blowing photos with this premium Japanese GOBE 2 PEAK optical glass. It performs exemplarily in reducing lens flare, removing ghosting, and protecting the lens against dirt, grime, and scratches.
- Enormous creative possibilities
- Great low-light versatility
- Premium Nano-coating for excellent antireflection and protection capabilities
- High-quality optical glass
- Smooth rotation for fast and accurate adjustments
- This filter is not suitable for wide-angle lenses
- The filter would be better if it gets darker
8. Neewer 52 mm Neutral Density Filter
This Neewer set is everything a professional photographer can ask. First, you get an award-winning HD optical glass filter. This filter has several cutting-edge attributes. It reduces the amount of light, making its way to the camera’s lens without impacting the color. It also allows you to adjust exposure time, camera aperture, and sensor sensitivity, thus enabling you to achieve sharper photos. Secondly, you get a filter pouch for convenient storage of your filters. The bag also protects the filter from dust and scratches.
- Filters are made of top-quality HD optical glass
- An impressive level of transmittance
- Aluminum frame holds filter tightly to avoid loosening or falling
- Great price for the entire set with storage bag included
- The filter is compatible with 52mm lenses only
7. PolarPro 82mm Variable ND Filter (2 to 5 Stop)
Here is another variable ND filter that gives you total control over your content. It has some powerful features, including a preset 2-5 stop rotation range that eliminates all chances of cross-polarization. The pure fused Quartz glass offers superior optical clarity compared to any glass available on the market today. Also, this PolarPro 82mm variable ND filter features zero vignetting down to a focal length of 16mm.
- Smooth and silent rotation
- Easy to make exposure adjustments
- Vignetting is under proper control
- It maintains details very well
- Great price for the value
- Quality of construction is lower than other filters
- Gets scratched easily
6. Tiffen 77mm Digital Neutral Density Filter Kit
Are you new to ND filters and are searching for a low-priced option with which you can experiment?
Tiffen has got you covered with this 77mm digital ND filter. It offers you the primary benefits of motion blurring. Further, it eliminates washed-out images and allows you excellent flexibility overexposure. You also get to control the depth of field to suit your preferences.
This ND filter stands out among the many options of filters for first-time users. It is also quite appealing for the casual photographer who intends to test out different options without spending too much on the experimentation.
- The filter fits the bill of a newbie
- You can stack two of these filters for smoother landscapes
- Great for wide-aperture portraits
- It is among the simplest to use
- Works with a wide selection of lenses
- Image quality is fair but not great
- The filter is prone to green tint
5. LENSKINS 72mm ND 1000 Filter
You have now come to the top five best neutral density filters. This Lenskins filter is a 10 stop ND filter with an ultra-high quality aviation-grade aluminum frame. Besides, it has a 16-layer multiple resistant coat, and it provides 10 f-stop light reductions while maintaining color balance. The coating helps to reduce lens flare and ghosting significantly. It also makes the filter’s surface highly durable, anti-scratch, and resistant to water and dust. You can use this filter virtually anywhere outdoors regardless of the weather conditions.
You can use this ND filter with all 72mm camera lenses. Check the lens barrel or underneath the lens cap to see the thread size of your camera’s lens.
- A perfect option for professional photographers
- The filter is equally effective in black & white and colored photography
- The filter is weather-proof, oil proof, and scratch-resistant
- Ultra-slim frame made of aviation-grade aluminum
- Very captivating golden highlight in the design
- Aluminum threads easily get stuck or cross-thread
- The filter loses some image quality
4. K&F Concept 82mm Circular Polarizer Filter
A polarizer could be the best option for your type of photography. Polarizers enhance color and contrast. They correct the problem associated with reflected light showing up as whitish glare in an image.
The K&F concept polarizer filter removes glare from water and windows (all non-metallic surfaces). Users also love the way it dramatically enhances the appearance of the blue skies. Besides, the filter improves color saturation significantly, especially outdoors.
This filter is a digital multi-coated; it has layers of MRC (Multi Resistance Coating) that help to repel grease, dust, and water besides preventing ghosting. Another vital feature of these filters is that they have a black-rimmed glass that reduces the reflection of light off the edge.
- Ultra-thin frame prevents vignetting
- High durability thanks to the extra robust magnalium frame
- Features jamming prevention
- Incredible color enhancement; the filter restores real colors
- Compatibility with all 83mm lenses
- The filter is easily scratched
- Once screwed, the filter holds on too tightly that it gets hard to remove
3. ESDDI 77mm ND 1000 Filter
There are several reasons why you want to use this ND filter. First, it has 1- stop exposure reduction. This feature allows you to capture images with a slower shutter or broader aperture than typically required. Secondly, you can record the movement of objects such as clouds, waterfalls, seas, cars, etc. thirdly, the filter allows you to separate objects from their background. The fourth reason makes most people prefer it to other ND filters. You can pair it with other filters to achieve the best images. Finally, a multi-coating process has been used to eliminate reflections and flare, reduce ghosting, as well as increase light transmission.
- Filter features German SCHOTT optical glass
- High-quality optical design
- Lightweight but sturdy aluminum frame
- Multi-layer coat enhances image colors and balances exposure controls
- It is the best option for bright light conditions
- Not the best for professional-level, full-time long exposures
- Not dense enough for eclipse photography
2. K&F Concept 82mm ND8 to ND128 Variable Neutral Density Filter
K&F Concept makes sure that you will never see “X” on your images. This 82mm variable ND filter uses top-rank technology to limit the light intake and retain the color balance of your pictures. The filter is made of professional-grade optical glass instead of optical resin to give you the best shots and videos.
Check out the filter’s nano-coating. This waterproof, anti-reflective, scratch-resistant coating protects your valued lens. A professionally-designed ultra-thin rim prevents vignetting, while the extra-tough frame ensures the durability of the filter. Besides, the aluminum frame prevents jamming.
- You can comfortably use slow shutter speeds to record image/movement blur in images
- The filter is compatible with all 82mm lenses
- The filter makes it easier to achieve blurred motion or shallower depth of field
- Cutting edge technology eliminates “X” on your images
- Nano coating for superior performance and durability
- The filter cannot accommodate a standard zoom
- It is not strong enough for long exposures
1. Breakthrough Photography Fixed ND Filter, Ultra-Slim
Here’s the world’s sharpest ND filter. You won’t take long to note that this fixed ND filter is a result of cutting-edge craftsmanship. Its quality is convincing, and its effects are like nothing other ND filters achieve.
This Breakthrough Photography ND filter maintains a well-controlled transmission throughout the visible spectrum and delivers the most color neutral results. It features MRC16 optical coating, which implies that 16 layers of MRC make up the coating aiming to reduce lens flare and ghosting. Besides, the coating features new nanotech technology that increases the filter’s capability to repel elements such as water and dirt.
- The filter features ultra-clear SCHOTT Superwhite crown glass
- It is the sharpest and most color neutral ND in the world
- Helps to achieve unparalleled color neutrality
- State-of-the-art (MRC) reduces reflections and increases the filter’s surface durability
- The filter eliminates low light transmission and green flaring
- It is weather-sealed
- The ND filter is slightly challenging to screw on as threads to not grab well
You have admired images with mind-blowing color contrast and balance for far too long. There is merely nothing to stop you from taking good photos when you have a neutral density filter. ND filters are a must-have for most passionate photographers. Hopefully, the above reviews have given you an insight into the type of ND filter that will up your photography game in 2021.