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Old May 23rd, 2011, 12:05 AM
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Grad ND filter on camera vs. digital

I've been learning to use a grad nd filter, but seems kind of a hassle dealing with a filter holder compared with putting the effect on in lightroom 3 for example.

Can anyone comment on how these methods compare and pros and cons of each?
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Old May 23rd, 2011, 12:19 AM
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Re: Grad ND filter on camera vs. digital

Depending on how much ND you have will greatly affect the shutter speed used to capture things like moving water..especially trying to shoot a stream at 2 pm. If you really want that soft silky look of the water you will need to slow your shutter to 1-2 seconds and may not be able to get there without the filter. That silky look is not something that can be put in with LR3. You might be able to photoshop it if you are good, but nothing will ever beat getting it straight out of the camera.

Overall with any image the more editing you add, the more potential for noise, artifacts and other undesirable affects from post processing.
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Old May 23rd, 2011, 12:26 AM
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Re: Grad ND filter on camera vs. digital

Ok so the potential for artifacts, noise or undesirable effects sounds like a con. Thanks.

I have a variable ND screw on filter that I use to blur water and such, my question is really specific to the Grad ND filters used to even out exposures between dark and bright parts of a frame. From what little experimenting I've done I can't see much difference between the square filter and LR3 grad, except seems like I can be more precise in LR3.
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Old May 23rd, 2011, 09:33 AM
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Re: Grad ND filter on camera vs. digital

In a scene where the tonal range is somewhat smaller, you'll likely get better results using digital filters. In a scene that has a wide tonal range, you either have to take multiple shots or use a graduated nd filter to keep from blowing all of your highlights while still retaining enough detail in the darker areas. If you take a single shot under such conditions, you'll have to expose for your highlights to prevent blowing out all detail and, as a result, your shadows will be so dark that pulling detail from them will give you a lot of issues.

If you have the time, multiple shots and blending or HDR methods will provide superior results over filtering, but can only get one shot of the scene (i.e. moving objects) then using a filter makes more sense.
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Old May 23rd, 2011, 02:17 PM
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Re: Grad ND filter on camera vs. digital

Quote:
Originally Posted by RangerTim View Post
I have a variable ND screw on filter that I use to blur water and such, my question is really specific to the Grad ND filters used to even out exposures between dark and bright parts of a frame. From what little experimenting I've done I can't see much difference between the square filter and LR3 grad, except seems like I can be more precise in LR3.
Quote:
Originally Posted by ohenry View Post
In a scene where the tonal range is somewhat smaller, you'll likely get better results using digital filters. In a scene that has a wide tonal range, you either have to take multiple shots or use a graduated nd filter to keep from blowing all of your highlights while still retaining enough detail in the darker areas. If you take a single shot under such conditions, you'll have to expose for your highlights to prevent blowing out all detail and, as a result, your shadows will be so dark that pulling detail from them will give you a lot of issues.

If you have the time, multiple shots and blending or HDR methods will provide superior results over filtering, but can only get one shot of the scene (i.e. moving objects) then using a filter makes more sense.
I agree with what Carl stated here in his first paragraph,,
I use GND's ALL the time when I do my landscapes, I dont use the holder, I hand hold my GND in front of the lens, I find that with the holder on my 10-22mm I catch part of the holder in my shots so I dont use it, as far as the "LR3" I assume that thats a screw on type grad filter ? Personally it wouldnt work for me, I use a Polarizer and need access to the polarizer, also if I stack another filter on top I certainly would have serious vignetting issues therefore thats out of the question,, a GND for me is a MUST have, if I shoot a sunrise I HAVE to have that there to prevent a total blow out and/or an underexposed foreground, if somethings is blown out a digital GND certainly is not going to help, GND's come in different sizes and if you dont like the holder try hand holding, getting your exposure as good as possible IN camera is a huge benefit
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Old May 23rd, 2011, 04:13 PM
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Re: Grad ND filter on camera vs. digital

I also hand hold my GND filters. I use the 4x6 size filters.
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Old May 23rd, 2011, 04:22 PM
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Re: Grad ND filter on camera vs. digital

after thinking about it, I assume "LR3" is Lightroom 3 ??
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Old May 23rd, 2011, 05:18 PM
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Re: Grad ND filter on camera vs. digital

I agree with Carl's, aka ohenry, take on the issue. Your camera can only handle 5-6 stops of contrast without either/or blocking up shadows or blowing out highlights, ie loss of detail. If you expose correctly for the non-GND portion of the scene AND the remainder is 1-2 stops brighter then digitally recovering the highlights is feasible in a single shot. However, once you have blown highlights or blocked up shadows, there is no recovery of what's not there, ie detail. If you're going to attempt the scene with a single image (vs HDR or blending of images) then a GND is recommended. They can be problematic re placement on irregularly shaped interfaces between darker and brighter parts of scenes, ie trees, buildings, mountain tops jutting up into a bright sky.

I use P sized (ie 85mm wide) GNDs on lenses up to 77mm filter threads (ie 10-22, 17-85, 70-200, 100-400) both with a Cokin slim holder and handheld (moreso the latter). I use P size vs 100mm widths as they're cheaper (considerably) and not as bulky. GNDs are either glass (Tiffen) or "optical grade" resin, ie CR39. I can't imagine attempting to take long, thin pieces of glass into the field.....I use resin GNDs. They do scratch and eventually need replacement....another reason to go with smaller, cheaper ones....if they work for you!

The deciding factor(s) for me re whether to use a holder is the duration of the shot, ie shutter speed. If its fairly quick OR if I want to "feather" in the transition, I'll handhold. If its a multi seconds shot, ie sunrise/set, and/or placement needs to be very precise I'll use a holder. I recommend using a holder at least initially as you get accustomed to placement of the transition line, ie using a stopped down aperture.
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Old May 23rd, 2011, 07:32 PM
sobolik sobolik is offline
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Re: Grad ND filter on camera vs. digital

I reject the entire concept of replacing ND filters with software. The entire purpose of ND filters is to reduce the light entering the camera.
Software cannot after the fact reduce the amount of light that entered the camera to begin with.
#1 the cotton like look of water will not be produced
#2 and most importantly no amount of software will be able to restore details that were blown to oblivion by bright light or darkness that never revealed the details.
#3 Bokah will be a pain in the butt using software vs ND from the get go.
#4 Blur will be a pain in the butt using software vs ND
http://www.cs.mtu.edu/~shene/DigiCam...filter-ND.html

Of course some claim to do it with software ( http://gimpguru.org/Tutorials/NDFilter/ ) but in reality these scenarios did not really need ND filters to begin with. I can do the same thing by just lightening shadows in Photoshop elements - hardly a replacement/interchange for ND filters

I think the original premise/statement needs more explanation because the two are not simply options that are interchangeable.

note: "seems kind of a hassle dealing with a filter holder compare"
I handhold. I have hand held everything I had including installing the polarizer when shooting into the sun. I have a holder but rarely use it.
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Old May 23rd, 2011, 07:51 PM
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Re: Grad ND filter on camera vs. digital

Thanks for all the good comments. I will keep practicing with my Grad ND filter and use digital for minor touch ups. I've tried handholding and seems to work good for shorter exposures, but my hand gets kind of shakey on the longer ones : ) I'll have to try a slim holder with my 10 - 22mm lens too. --Tim
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