We put six fab fil­ters to the test

Cap­ture long ex­po­sures with­out the has­sle of con­ven­tional fil­ter sys­tems

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Neu­tral den­sity fil­ters are es­sen­tial for land­scape pho­tog­ra­phers as they en­able longer ex­po­sure times, smooth­ing out flow­ing wa­ter and clouds. In ur­ban set­tings, mov­ing peo­ple and ve­hi­cles can be blurred or even made to dis­ap­pear. The fil­ters also ap­peal to por­trait pho­tog­ra­phers, as they en­able them to set wide aper­tures (and so blur our back­grounds) even in very bright con­di­tions.

ND fil­ters gen­er­ally come as part of a fil­ter kit. For ease of use, a great al­ter­na­tive is a vari­able ND fil­ter – th­ese are ba­si­cally two po­laris­ers fixed to­gether to form one screw-on fil­ter. As they’re ro­tated, the el­e­ments re­strict the amount of light that is able to pass through them, and there­fore ex­tend the ex­po­sure time. De­spite the ND ti­tle, many are sim­ply known as faders, as they do pro­duce slight colour casts (so aren’t strictly ‘neu­tral’), and if they’re ro­tated too far, al­most all will re­veal a dark­ened X, which will ap­pear on your im­age. Here we see how six screw-on vari­able ND fil­ters per­form.

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