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ND filters for small M4/3 lenses - 46mm filter threads: Cost vs Quality?

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by Paul C, May 21, 2019.

  1. Paul C

    Paul C Mu-43 Regular

    88
    Oct 29, 2017
    The reason to get an M4/3 camera is to travel light - and the core of any travel kit should be lenses to cover the 28-200mm full frame equivalent angles of view and a fast F1.4-1.8 prime for low light, depth of field and bokeh control.

    Today with M4/3 systems you can do this inexpensively, compared with full frame systems, and at a total weight of 362 grams.

    #1 @ 135 grammes: 35-100mm Panasonic H-FS35100E, F4-5.6
    • Truely amazing specs --- 46mm fliter thread, only 50mm long and with 12 lens elements inside it, 7-bladed aperture, a featherweight 135 grammes, OIS.
    #2 @ 100 grammes: Panasonic 14-42 mm/F 3.5-5.6 II G VARIO ASPH OIS H-FS1442A
    • Couple that timy 70-200mm equivalent zoom with the very high image-quality and tiny 100 gram weight of the 14-42mm "Panasonic 14-42 mm/F 3.5-5.6 II G VARIO ASPH OIS H-FS1442A" and you have the perfect travel kit - with the benefit of the same compact 46mm filter thread.
    #3 @ 127 grams Panasonic H-H025E-K 25 mm/F1.7 ASPH Lens
    • 52mm long, 127 grams in weight - and inside this Panasonic fit 9 elements arranged in 7 groups, including 2 aspherical elements and 1 ultra-high-refractive-index lens element.
    • It features a special Nano Surface Coating to minimise ghosting and flare, and an iris diaphragm with seven rounded aperture blades
    • Once again it has a 46mm filter thread.
    The strength of this combination is not just the weight of the kit - but that they all have 46mm filter threads. Now with digital we don't need the sack of filters that I used to carry for film cameras, but there are 3 that I never travel without:
    1. a polariser - not for those dark blue skies, but to put the colour back into green foliage and to wet stones around streams and waterfalls. Try as hard as I can, there is no photoshop "fix" to match this filter - and the bonus is you get to see the impact in the viewfinder.
    2. a +4 close up lens. All these three lenses focus close, to 50cm or less, so I have no real need for +1 or +2 strength, and +10 always distorts too much, so +4 is the "sweet spot". I have a heavyweight true 1:1 macro, and I have tried extension tubes - but for travel, a "filter" lens seems a good compromise. With the 35-100 it makes a great lens for flowers and insects - you keep OIS, AF and TTL fill-in flash control.
    3. a 10-stop ND1000 filter - for those smooth water or streaking cloud images - or to make people "disappear" from busy scenes. Stacking multiple images just doesn't smooth water like an ND filter - whatever Tony & Chelsea Northrup tell you on their videos! Furthermore, the game here is to see the result as you take the picture, not to "discover it" a week later after 10 minutes work on Photoshop. I don't shoot video - so I haven't needed a variable ND filter - but I acknowledge, that for viodeographers, these filters are near mandatory.
    Now head-to-head studies seem to show that a Hoya brand multicoated spec' model is near enough as good as anything else that you can buy for most filters, but when it gets to reviews for ND filters, everyone seems to have different opinions and the range of prices is amazing; from £7/£10 to more than a hundred (and beyond!). Unlike lens tests - there is no standard review system; each reviewer seems to use a new comparison metric.

    Furthermore, 46mm thread filters appear to be "niche products" - on websites, the choice of brands is less and the price seems to jump compared with the "normal range" of 52-58mm thread.

    Yes - I could use step up filter rings, and yes - I could carry square filters and holders - but remember, my aim is to travel small and light. Furthermore, with extra glass in front of the lens I want my lens hood to fit back on the lens to cut reflections from stray light; step up rings and square resin filters won't do this.

    So - here's my appeal to the M43 forum - what 46mm ND1000/10-stop filter offers the best balance of cost and image quality?
    • What have been your "best buys" - and "why"?
    • Which ND filter got tested - and went straight into the bin - and which get space in your kit bag?
    • Which inexpensive brands turned out great?
    • what fixes did you need in camera settings or photo-processing to get the best out of them?
    +++++++++++++++

    Here is my review to start the process - "Pig Iron Pro-series ND1000 filter" 46mm thread.

    I could find only 1 review for this brand and model - so, since the price was very low, decided to "have a go" and boy was I surprised! I show my photographs on-screen, and 99% of the time print 7x5" or 10x8" - for that purpose it is certainly "good enough" to find space in my kit bag. I have taken the step-up rings and older hi-spec/Hi-cost ND filters out of my travel camera bag and put them back in my "big-bag" of lenses that come out when the aim is photography first, rather than travel first.

    Pro's

    • Thin: protrudes only 3mm from the lens front - so no vignetting
    • Lumix lens hoods fit over it on the 25mm F1.7 prime, 35-100mm F4-5.6 and 14-42mm MkII kit zooms
    • Multi-coated
    • Inexpensive: this has to be the cheapest ND filter I have ever found at <$10/£8 on English Language auction sites (mine cost £4.49 GBP / $5.70, postage included in May 2019 via UK eBay!)
    • IQ: Putting the computer screen to 100% view, or using 10x8 print size, I can't see any clear deterioration in image quality. I am sure that by zooming to single pixel levels, someone will find otherwise. Personally, I print at 300 PPI so this is "good enough" for me. Remember that with M4/3 once you go above F11 you risk diffraction hitting your resolution anyway, so blame the lens optics before the filter. Furthermore, you are probably shooting at base ISO sensitivity, maximising the contrast capability of the sensor. Also - I always put the lens hood back on to keep out stray light causing reflections - even on dark nights !
    • Colour Shift: on automatic white balance, this filter gives an obvious blue cast. But this is an in-camera JPEG problem. If I switch to a fixed "cloudy day" white balance, then the cast is minimal and hard to see except with side by side pictures.
    • Comes in a rigid protective semi-transparent polypropylene box to protect it in your kit bag (less likely to crack than more rigid clear acrylic ones)
    Cons
    • I'm struggling to find any for my level of use - hence this posting.
    • If you are hesitating to try out long exposure photography because it looks as if you need to pay $100/£100 to buy the basic kit - can I ask you to think again?
    Screen Shot 2019-05-21 at 10.36.48.png
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    Can I appeal to the usual friendly crowd here to share their experience of ND filters?
    Especially - the small diameter 46mm thread ones to fit the "amateur spec" M4/3 lenses

    • What have been your "best buys" - and "why"?
    • What is your perspective - Is 100% image quality your job - I guess professional landscape photographers looking for 20x30" prints have a different perspective to amateurs for whom "good enough" is the metric
    • Which ND filter got tested - and went straight into the bin - and which get space in your kit bag?
    • Which inexpensive brands turned out great?
    • what fixes did you need in camera settings or photo-processing to get the best out of them?

    best wishes - Paul
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2019
    • Like Like x 1
  2. WT21

    WT21 Super Moderator Subscribing Member

    Feb 19, 2010
    Boston
    I bought upper grade filters in 46mm and also I think 58. 46 covers many of my lenses with step ups to get the smaller ones to 46 or 58. I bought the magnetic filter adapters so I can easily snap the filter on/off from my lenses rather than buying duplicate filters for each lens. I have ND, CP and a warning filter for each size. I don’t use UV filters.
     
  3. Wisertime

    Wisertime Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Aug 6, 2013
    Philly
    Steve
    Haida (10 stop) and Hitech (only had square ones) have been good for me and reasonable cost for ND filters. Haida often comes recommended. In the $20s-30s on ebay.
     
    • Like Like x 1
  4. PakkyT

    PakkyT Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Jun 20, 2015
    New England
    I'll add that with square filters like the Hitech, you sometimes do not even need the expensive and bulky holders. Often times you can simply hold the filter up in front of the lens during the exposure if you are only using one and do not need to stack a few.

    A poor man's variable ND filter is a pair of Polarizers, one circular and one linear. The downside is you need to stack a pair of these and the cheaper ones likely are not low profile, so you can get vignetting on your wider angle shots. But for basic Hoya/Tiffin/Bower/etc type polarizers, you can pick up a pair for about $20 each.

    And finally no experience with this company and have not read much about them, but Gobe seems to make some interesting filter kits for a good price (if the filter are indeed decent quality). Their 10 stop ND filter in 46mm size is $27. They also have 2, 3, & 6 stop filters. Or for $72 you can buy their "46mm "ND Stopper" Filter Kit" which includes the 3, 6, & 10 stop filters. Looks like you get end caps for the stack and a kind of cool looking cardboard storage tube (instead of a box).
    Source: 46mm "ND Stopper" Filter Kit ▲▲
     
  5. I have purchased a couple of filter sets from Gobe, polarizer, ND's and coloured for my Leica Typ109, 43mm mount and they seem really good quality for a reasonable price. I would certainly buy from them again.
     
  6. junkyardsparkle

    junkyardsparkle haunted scrap heap Subscribing Member

    Nov 17, 2016
    Like, The Valley
    You can do this with a larger-than-46mm threaded filter, too. I started getting 49mm filters at some point, both because there's a better selection in that size (although this may be changing, I suppose) and because a few old adapted OM Zuiko lenses I own use that size.

    I've gotten a different brand (or model - Hoya has been marketing some lines for enhanced IR performance lately) for each ND filter, out of curiosity about the differences, but direct comparisons are somewhat thwarted by the fact that they're different values. I will say this, though: the inexpensive Haida 10-stopper is as neutral as anything else I own, including a 2-stop B+W, which I appreciate, particularly with wider lenses, where weird chromatic vignetting might otherwise be an issue. I'm a little confused by the fact that it's anti-reflective on the front rather than the back side, but hey... :rolleyes: 
     
  7. PakkyT

    PakkyT Mu-43 Hall of Famer Subscribing Member

    Jun 20, 2015
    New England
    True. You don't need the step down ring, just hold it in front. But since he has standardized on 46mm he might as well buy the 46mm version. I was just commenting on the square filter not requiring a holder just in case he ran across a cheap one he could try it without buying into a whole square filter system. Since Hitech obsoleted the 67mm size of their square filters I think they are still blowing out existing stock of that size for relatively cheap (compared to their larger 85mm & 100mm sizes) although I think they mostly only have grads left in that size, not straight NDs.
     
  8. kinlau

    kinlau Mu-43 Top Veteran

    948
    Feb 29, 2012
    I have a 46mm filter set from Gobe via Amazon , it’s a ND8, ND64 and ND1000.

    It’s the 16 layer version.
     
  9. John M Flores

    John M Flores Super Moderator

    Jan 7, 2011
    NJ
    I've got three sets depending upon my space requirements.

    20190521_164457.jpg
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    Cokin P with step up rings for multiple sizes
    67mm for zooms
    49mm for primes

    The 49mm filters work work with small step-up rings with my Oly 12, Panny 14, Panny 20, Oly 44, and Panny 12-32 and 35-100 collapsing zooms. They also work with my Pentax primes too, and the slighty larger size helps minimize vignetting when stacked and using wider focal lengths. Having a whole bunch of lenses using 49mm lens caps simplifies things also.

    I've had luck with B+W F-Pro and am also starting to use Firecrest. Cokin square filters are cheap but have strong color cast. I try to bring a grey card with me and use custom WB. I also make sure to shoot a frame with the card in the shot too for backup.

    46 to 49 step up is not a big deal. Still very compact.
     
  10. snaimpally

    snaimpally Mu-43 All-Pro Subscribing Member

    Dec 31, 2012
    I think Amazon has introduced their own brand of filters - inexpensive but high quality.
     
  11. Jeffcs

    Jeffcs Mu-43 All-Pro

    Jan 20, 2017
    Toms River NJ
    I get the B&W filters others I have used have a color cast from just a hint of magenta to an awful yellowish /green cast. I prefer making my images better and not fixing mistakes in post
     
  12. archaeopteryx

    archaeopteryx Gambian sidling bush Subscribing Member

    914
    Feb 25, 2017
    That's an interestingly niche question. As you may have noticed from the many less specific variants of this thread, as well some of the posts above, the mu-43 consensus runs to Haida. However, some caution may be advised as their Slim II MC NDs seem not as neutral as the NanoPro MCs and the minimum size for the NanoPros is 49mm. I'd also suggest some caution around the suggestions of holding filters as an ND1000 is dark enough it's not that difficult for light leaks to become an issue.

    Most of the ND alternatives I'd normally suggest aren't available in the combination of 46mm and ND1000.
    Frontside AR likely contributes more towards neutrality, particularly in a low cost 3.0 optical density. Details in this thread.
     
    Last edited: May 21, 2019
    • Informative Informative x 2
  13. junkyardsparkle

    junkyardsparkle haunted scrap heap Subscribing Member

    Nov 17, 2016
    Like, The Valley
    Not to mention that the times involved with an ND1000 give you ample opportunity for causing camera movement. ;)  The only real use I've had for holding-vs-threading is while shooting video of hyperactive young relatives in mixed outdoor lighting conditions... in which case I'll often not use the threads even when they are the right size.
     
  14. archaeopteryx

    archaeopteryx Gambian sidling bush Subscribing Member

    914
    Feb 25, 2017
    Also the potential for scratches.

    I've held filters and used bits of tape on occasion, occasionally use polarized sunglasses as polarizing filters, and sometimes use IR filters as NDs, all of which I'd describe as ad hoc solutions.
     
  15. Paul C

    Paul C Mu-43 Regular

    88
    Oct 29, 2017
    ....and is the Gobe good? Like you i was impressed that Gobe support 46mm filters. As another commentator wrote - "its a bit of niche" - but its obviously a M4/3 niche!

    There are plenty of reviews of a wide range of ND filters - but most of those makes never seem to show up with the 46mm filter size.

    I do get the idea of square filters and step-up rings - but using 10 stop filters in daylight to smooth water and streak the clouds really risks reflections. Sure a "Lee Big-Stopper" can be fitted with lens hood extras - but that gets to be a bigger size than my tiny travel camera kit! The 46mm filter on the lightweight M4/3 lenses means the lens hoods go back on to prevent this!

    My Amazon UK search showed only the following 46mm size ND1000/ND3.0 filters are available:
    • GREEN.L - 14 reviews found - reporting "surprisingly good"
    • Gobe - lots of reviews of larger diameter filters, higher price
    • Haida - lots of reviews of larger diameter filters, higher price
    • Hoya Pro ND1000 - lots of reviews of larger diameter filters, higher price
    • Pig Iron Pro - no reviews found - hence mine here
    • SMARDY - no reviews (but lots of reviews of their 46mm "fader" version for video
    i'll vouch for the Pig Iron Pro (especially for its price and very thin frame for a 46mm filter) - but what of any others?

    In the UK, the GREEN.L and Pig Iro Pro brands all seem to be quarter to half the price of the others.....with the cheapest as my surprise hit finding.

    And yes - I've spent the usual years and $$$£££€€€ chasing the perfect blend of large filters, stepping rings and hoods to take in my heavy "main" kit bag - you know, the one that so often gets left behind at home!!

    Thanks for all the kind replies so far !
     
    Last edited: May 23, 2019
  16. junkyardsparkle

    junkyardsparkle haunted scrap heap Subscribing Member

    Nov 17, 2016
    Like, The Valley
    I generally pack one hood, a 49mm threaded "pop-out" rubber type that works for my 12mm, but can be extended for more protection on longer FLs. No, it's probably not as optimally suited as a "petal" hood designed for each specific lens, but it's good enough for my purposes, and has the bonus feature of being great for shooting out of train and plane windows or through glass at museums, aquariums, etc... I keep a 46-49 step-up ring on it, and can place a 46mm or 49mm filter into the stack at the appropriate point. Versatile. :D 
     
  17. Mike Wingate

    Mike Wingate Mu-43 Hall of Famer

    Feb 21, 2017
    Altrincham
    Mike Wingate
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