Breakthrough X2 vs X4 ND filters? Real world experience?

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With a desire to try some long exposure photography I'm looking at purchasing a 10-stop and possibly 6-stop ND filter. Seems like it's Breakthrough or bust (they seem to have done an excellent job of cornering the ND filter internet reviews). But yikes! they cost a pretty penny. A 72mm X4 runs $170. Which is of course the filter that gets all the reviews. Fortunately they also sell an X2 version for $110 but I get the impression that the X2 is probably more or less like other manufactures products where the X4 sets them apart (maybe?).

Looking for any real world experience with X2 filters? Love it, hate it? Color cast? Vignetting? Binding to the lens? Thanks so much.
 

archaeopteryx

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I don't have experience with the X2 but am going to take the lack of other replies as indication no one else does either. Whilst I can't answer your question directly, I do have some familiarity with NDs and suspect you're wise to question Breakthrough's marketing. The competitors mentioned on their X2 page aren't particularly skillful ND implementers and I see the X4 page and gallery are still attempting to sell X4s on the basis the previous X3s are better than some the same competitors. Breakthrough's known to have marketed exuberantly and priced aggressively in other areas.

It's logical to look to the companies Breakthrough don't guarantee the X2s against as the implication is those filters either perform better than Breakthrough's or are close enough copy variation might cause Breakthrough to lose money. Given Breakthrough's apparent strategy, it wouldn't surprise me if X2 price point competitors like Hoya and NiSi offer somewhat better filters for the money. Within mu-43, Haida NDs have something of a following and my limited personal experience with ND64s is they can beat NDs costing twice as much. Performance one optical density isn't necessarily a good predictor of another but this seems to hold at ND1000 as well.
Aurora Aperture also appears to be a promising choice and their lines extend to sub-Haida pricing. However, I've no personal experience (beyond a pleasant email exchange with their president) and reviews are few.

Depending on the need it might also be possible to reduce cost by purchasing a size smaller than 72mm as that's towards the large end for m43.
 
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I only have experience with Breakthrough's UV Filter, but I'm sold on it. I've tried various brands (B+W and Murami) for both UV and CPL, and the Breakthrough UV is hands down a better product. I constantly get mud, water and dog slobber on my lenses, only the Breakthough filters clean up so that I can carry on shooting. I'm currently waiting for them to get stock on the 77mm CPL for use on the Pany 100-400.

Are those prices direct from BTP? I think that's the cheapest way to get them.
 

Mack

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I have a few of the Breakthrough X4's in 3, 6 and 10 stop. I bought them for the lenses on the drone to get slower video shutter speeds, and the filter size is same as Olympus and the DJI OEM lens filter 37mm size. Later, I bought the 77mm ones for the Nikon glass as well and I use the step-up rings for the better Olympus Pro lenses of 58-67-72mm up to the 77mm BT X4 ones.

Well made, thin brass mount with scalloped edge to help grip to remove/install. Their thinness helps prevent vignetting against the thicker aluminum ones which also seem to stick at times on removal verses the brass BT ones. Laser etched info on them. Sharp and color neutral compared to my B+W and Lee which have a red and blue tint respectively.
 

archaeopteryx

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I constantly get mud, water and dog slobber on my lenses
Hi, I don't see Murami as a filter manufacturer so think you probably meant Marumi. Is the difference in cleaning attributable to differences in between B+W, Marumi, and Breakthrough's nanocoatings or did the B+W and Marumi filters used for comparison lack nanocoating? If the latter, Aurora, B+W, Haida, NiSi, and probably some others I'm not thinking of offhand offer nanocoated NDs. (Marumi---and Hoya---don't currently make nano NDs, though they do offer nano protectors, UVs, and polarizers.)
Their thinness helps prevent vignetting against the thicker aluminum ones which also seem to stick at times on removal verses the brass BT ones.
To be more specific, a thin filter helps avoid vignetting from mechanical obstruction. I'm only aware of one native mount lens where this is much of an issue. Whether a fixed ND exhibits optical vignetting and or color shifts depends on the angle of view over which its designers were able to maintain reasonably constant transmission. No manufacturer I'm aware of mentions this and it's atypical for ND filters to be tested or reviewed with ultrawides. The amount of vignetting (or shift) depends upon how the ND is constructed and ranges from basically zero to reports of three stops. Given some of their lower cost competitors manage it, I'd expect Breakthrough to maintain near zero to a 15mm equivalent focal length but haven't come across confirming measurements.

Breakthrough doesn't appear to specify stack heights for their filters but, from their image comparing the X2 to a Hoya (probably chosen to make the X2 look thinner as Hoya makes some of the thickest filters I know of) I'm guessing it's a bit over 3 mm. Good chance that's thicker than Aurora and it's almost certainly thicker than Haida. I have B+W and Marumi filters around 3mm and, whilst those aren't NDs, their NDs may be similar.

Besides Breakthrough, B+W and Heliopan and a few others use brass rings for their NDs. I haven't, however, been able to locate evidence supporting claims for brass over aluminium. Whilst brass's 10-20 MJ/m² stacking fault energy makes binding from galling less likely than the ~135-180 MJ/m² thresholds of aluminium, bearing surfaces in lens and filter threads are (almost always) anodized. Effects of anodization on threads do not appear to be well studied but the lack of issues in practice suggests it's effective in preventing trapped particles from initiating galling in aluminium-aluminium thread contacts (Muzyk 2018, Shkatulyak 2013, Shih 2014, Shih 2016 have some background). The galvanic potentials of aluminium (~-0.9V) and brass (0.4V) suggest opportunity for bimetallic corrosion when combining the two but this doesn't appear to be a problem either, consistent with anodization providing an oxide barrier but probably more due to lack of a circuit. Perhaps there's another mechanism, maybe the marketing for brass is just disconnected from reality.
 
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Giiba

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Perhaps there's another mechanism, maybe the marketing for brass is just disconnected from reality.
I'd bet it's a holdover from older times when brass was preferable to aluminum, because early aluminum probably was prone to galling and weak. I suspect there is a reason almost all filters are aluminum these days and we never hear about galling; you've probably hit on why.

Same as people prefer metal bodied lenses even though plastics are a better choice; how many lenses aren't plastic internally these days?
 
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Giiba

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I have an x1 uv filter by Breakthrough (it was cheap :confused:). It's well built in that there's nothing loose and the frame is solid, however the antireflective coating is unimpressive. It's better than a cheap Tiffen filter, but there is still a very distinct reflection when looking at the surface unlike my B+W, Haida, or Kenko filters (which have almost none, the B+W being the best).

I only took delivery a couple weeks ago and thought about just returning it after looking at it. But as I bought it for use as rain protection I figure the less-than-perfect coatings won't matter much in a rainy forest.
 

Mack

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I never checked into the Breakthrough UV filters as I lost a lot of photos due to some filter on a Nikon lens where the sunlight got around the lens hood petals and illuminated it with all sorts of weird flare along with lower contrast that I didn't see until on the compter screen. So I rarely use filters, unless I need a ND to drop the shutter speed for whatever reason.

Here's some info on the X2, X2 an X3 UV filters if interested. Now I see they only offer a X2 and X4 in UV (i.e. 8 layers and 16 layer coating).

Breakthrough Photography X1, X2 and X3 UV filters review – The Gadgeteer
 
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Hi, I don't see Murami as a filter manufacturer so think you probably meant Marumi. Is the difference in cleaning attributable to differences in between B+W, Marumi, and Breakthrough's nanocoatings or did the B+W and Marumi filters used for comparison lack nanocoating? If the latter, Aurora, B+W, Haida, NiSi, and probably some others I'm not thinking of offhand offer nanocoated NDs. (Marumi---and Hoya---don't currently make nano NDs, though they do offer nano protectors, UVs, and polarizers.)

I dug through the crates a bit, and both the B+W UV & CPL and Marumi CPL I'm using are advertised as having nano-coatings. The Marumi DHG Super doesn't specifically call it a nano, but it's supposed to be water and oil resistant.
 
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I just returned an X2 UV filter. First time out I had green flare blobs in numerous photos and the filter ring itself was quite thick. Getting a B+W xs-pro 010 which never gave me trouble on another lense. Wouldn't recommend the X2.
 

archaeopteryx

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both the B+W UV & CPL and Marumi CPL I'm using are advertised as having nano-coatings
Interesting. I have Marumi DHG, Super DHG, and Exus along with B+W XS-Pro (which is MRC nano), Hoya HD (which, like Super DHG, is indicated resistant but not nano), and Haida NanoPro MC. I'm not sure I've paid enough attention to have noticed cleaning differences among them, particularly as I don't usually get much stuff on filters even though I've usually protection filters fitted (I work in some areas with abrasive dust, so a fine scratch or maybe two is eventually inevitable and I'd rather it be on a filter than the resale value of a lens).
I'd bet it's a holdover from older times when brass was preferable to aluminum, because early aluminum probably was prone to galling and weak.
I had that thought as well, but I'm sure of its support. Photographic history pages aren't keen on filters but from some digging it looks like the current threaded system was in common use by the early 1950s and the transition to most lenses lens having black filter threads was circa 1960. Since I've yet to find any historical discussion on the use of anodization in photography it's hard to tell when un-dyed use of anodization might have started. But dyed anodization appears common by ~1960. Commercial use of anodization is about a century old and, while I'm not finding a great online reference for development of aluminum alloys, it appears most of them derived from aircraft development from circa 1900 through World War II (7075 is from 1943, 6061 from 1935).

As such, the properties of filter threads may not have changed much in 60 years. A corollary implication is there may not have ever been much need to use brass in photographic screw in filters.
 

Mack

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As to cleaning the coated or MRC filters, I've had some fog up with a hazy look the first time I cleaned them with lens cleaners. Didn't seem to matter what cleaner either. After that, they seem to clean better once I get the initial haze cleaned off. It happened on my Nikon 300mm PF front lens element and thought I ruined it until it finally came clean. Must be some coating that is affected being new.

As to the stuck filters, our camera store's manager used to take the lens with the stuck filter, and a pair of pliers out of his desk, and go into the shipping area and hold the lens over a trashcan and break the glass. Then he'd quickly twist the metal ring to collapse it. Blew it clean via the darkroom's compressor and took it back to the front. Never seen it affect the front lens glass the way he did it, and he did hundreds of the things. Scary to watch the first few times. They'd end up buying another filter or something as part of the removal deal.
 

Ranger Rick

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For stuck filters, I find this almost always works: get one of those thin rubber pads/grips sold to help loosen jar lids. Place on flat surface, put filter side of lens on it, press down and twist. Unless you have badly overtightened the filter, it will loosen and you can then unscrew.
 

ToxicTabasco

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With a desire to try some long exposure photography I'm looking at purchasing a 10-stop and possibly 6-stop ND filter. Seems like it's Breakthrough or bust (they seem to have done an excellent job of cornering the ND filter internet reviews). But yikes! they cost a pretty penny. A 72mm X4 runs $170. Which is of course the filter that gets all the reviews. Fortunately they also sell an X2 version for $110 but I get the impression that the X2 is probably more or less like other manufactures products where the X4 sets them apart (maybe?).

Looking for any real world experience with X2 filters? Love it, hate it? Color cast? Vignetting? Binding to the lens? Thanks so much.


I agree with the above, 2x will not make a difference in daylight. Also, a cheap CPL will be about 1.8 stops of ND, and provides other optical solutions. I use a 4 stop for video in daylight, and sometimes a CPL to tame the shutter speeds.

IME with 9 stop ND there is color cast, and even 9 stops gets about 4 seconds exposure in bright daylight. I've even stacked a IR conversion filter to get more time while keeping apertures optimal at f/8.

Nevertheless, ND filters come with compromises, and the larger they go, and darker they get the price also goes up. Although most of the adverse effects can be corrected, lens flare can be a huge problem.

To avoid vignette, I use some of my old DSLR 77mm fliters on the 58mm and 67mm step rings. Which reminds me, I need to get back into long exposures in the daytime. Thanks for the reminder.
 

Petrochemist

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I dug through the crates a bit, and both the B+W UV & CPL and Marumi CPL I'm using are advertised as having nano-coatings. The Marumi DHG Super doesn't specifically call it a nano, but it's supposed to be water and oil resistant.
Well glass is VERY water & oil resistant, so that really doesn't mean much.
 
D

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Well, I'm not sure about Breakthrough's products...never used them first hand.

I do, however have first hand experience with the Promaster line which I got from Midwest Photo Exchange here locally in Columbus, OH.
Under $100 for the 77mm version 10x ND filter.

It has worked superbly and has the special coatings on it for scratch resistance and such. I got the 77mm so I can use it on my larger front element Nikon lenses as well as step up rings to use on m43 camera lenses.

https://mpex.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=promaster+nd+filter
 
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Well glass is VERY water & oil resistant, so that really doesn't mean much.

It matters to me, the filter is there to protect my lens from dog nose prints, licks and even the odd swipe from a paw. And if one brand of filter is easier to clean in the field so I can continue on shooting, that's what I'm going to use. My personal experience is that the BTP filters are easier to clean than the other filters I have used. I bought a different brand of filter (also Gobe and Hoya) every time I got a new lens over the last year looking for differences.
 

Petrochemist

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It matters to me, the filter is there to protect my lens from dog nose prints, licks and even the odd swipe from a paw. And if one brand of filter is easier to clean in the field so I can continue on shooting, that's what I'm going to use. My personal experience is that the BTP filters are easier to clean than the other filters I have used. I bought a different brand of filter (also Gobe and Hoya) every time I got a new lens over the last year looking for differences.
I wasn't saying the nano coating doesn't matter, I was pointing out being glass automatically makes it water & oil resistant.
It says nothing of how easy they are to clean from the surface, but neither will damage the surface at all. Indeed glass is highly resistant to nearly all acids as well, but that doesn't mean you can put them on your lenses.
 
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