ND filters, AKA neutral density filters, are vital pieces of equipment that every filmmaker and videographer need in their kit.
Their purpose is to “filter” or regulate the amount of light that enters the camera’s lenses, with stops that allow you to dictate exactly how much light you want to pass through.
In this guide, I’ll be listing some of the best ND filters for video that you can purchase today, including their pros and cons. I’ve also added a buyer’s guide to lead the way to your new filter. Stick around!
Top 3 ND Filters That Every Videographer Needs
As follows are three of the best ND filters I’ve had the pleasure to come across based on performance, quality, and build.
1. B+W XS-Pro Digital Vario ND – Best Overall
The B+W XS-Pro is not cheap, but for good reason. Unlike the rest of the lenses on this list, XS-Pro is made with a Multi-Resistant Coating (MRC) nanotechnology.
Standard uncoated filters can reflect about 4% of light, but due to this filter’s MRC tech, it only reflects 0.5%. This system reduces reflections and ghosting, giving you perfect clarity through every stop of the filter. On top of that, the XS-Pro has a water repellent coating that’ll allow you to comfortably shoot in rain and spray conditions.
Due to its Kaesemann polarizing foils, these filters polarize light before it reaches the camera sensor. This results in lower shutter speeds and 99.5% transmittance, or up to 1.5 stops of light loss. In turn, it provides proper optical clarity and accurate, neutral color reproduction.
- Up to 5 stops
- Extremely well-built
- Little to no color casting
- MRC-Nano coating makes it easy to clean
- Markings are difficult to read
- The rotating ring is a little too stiff, making it difficult to turn
2. Tiffen Variable Neutral Density Filter – Best Value
The Tiffen VND balances price, quality, and functionality in one solid package.
It has 9 different variables to choose from, from 52mm to 82mm, and provides up to 8 (ND 2.4) stops of light control. The profile of the ring is about 9mm, making it easy to control and adjust the stops.
Furthermore, the actual filter rim has a wider outer optic that expands past the parameter of the lens. This feature greatly helps shoot wide-angle videos and avoid an unintentional vignette.
When it comes to performance, you can easily rely on sharp detail and accurate color it provides, even at the highest stop.
Similar to other Tiffen filters, the Tiffen VND is made with high-quality optical glass with Tiffen’s ColorCore technology and a black aluminum filter ring. To further prove its solid quality, Tiffer offers a massive 10-year manufacturer’s warranty.
- Easy to adjust – even with thick gloves
- Wide exposure range
- Fairly accurate steps on the scale
- Well constructed and durable
- Cross pattern at the maximum settings
3. Hoya Variable Density Screw-in Filter – Best Budget Pick
The Hoya Variable Density Screw-in Filter is another mid-range ND filter that’s well crafted from high-quality materials. This doesn’t come as a surprise as the Hoya Corp is one of the world’s leading suppliers for optical products, and their Screw-in Filter is a testament to that.
This ND filter is made from lightweight aluminum to prevent vignetting and metallic ACCU-ND that enables precise levels of light reduction. It provides an exposure reduction of about 1.5 to 9 stops, which is the highest on this list.
Another great advantage is that you won’t find any color distortions or chromatic aberrations when using this filter. At the minimum setting, the filter enables you to lengthen the exposure by one stop and influence color with a slight coolness.
- Respectable performance for the money
- Filter doesn’t affect color detail nor balance
- Doesn’t cause the autofocusing issues like other filters of the same price range
- Stop 1 and 2 may create a cross-like object in the center of the picture
Factors to Consider Before Buying an ND Filter
In order to get the best ND filter that suits your needs, go through some of the following factors first:
ND Filters come in three basic types: solid, variable, and graduated NDs.
Solid NDs typically have a consistent destiny level, meaning you won’t have to worry about any potential negative impacts of a variable or graduated NDs, such as vignetting, cross x pattern, etc. If you’re going to shoot mostly at night and indoors, or in a controlled setting like a studio, Solid NDs are a good choice.
Variable NDs, on the other hand, are made by combining two pieces of glass together with a ring. This is what you rotate to switch between different filter stops.
For video making, horizontally graduated NDs are usually what filmmakers use. These NDs have a ton more features such as a defined transition line, central transition (from clear to dark), and a blender. They’re the most expensive type of filter.
Number of Stops
The number of stops refers to the lenses’ various degrees of opaqueness. For example, a 1 stop ND filter stops the light by 50%, while a 10-stop filter stops it by 10 halves in a row.
If you’re shooting in a controlled environment, like a studio or inside a brightly lit room, 1 or 2 stops should be sufficient.
However, if you’re shooting outside on a bright sunny day, you should use a 6-stop filter at least. For timelapse videos or if you require shooting at slower shutter speeds in bright sunlight, 10-stop NDs are recommended. The higher the stops, the more expensive the filter is.
There are two types of ND filter attachments, screw-in filters and slot-in filters. Screw-in filters, as the name suggests, are filters that are screwed directly onto the lens. Slot-in filters slot into a camera mount or a filter holder.
The filter size is usually measured in mm. Screw-in filters must fit the size of your camera’s original lens screw thread.
So, if your camera has a 77mm lens, you need to purchase a 77mm ND filter. If you have more than one camera with multiple sizes, you’ll need to purchase separate ND filters for each one.
On the other hand, a slot in filters allows you to stack multiple-sized filters directly into a mounting system. Once you’ve set it up, you can simply drop the filters in, and you’re good to go.
My personal pick for the best ND filter for videos is hands down the B+W XS-Pro. This filter is made by professionals for professionals.
The video quality you’ll get while using this filter is impressive, plus it has an extremely solid build. Certainly one of the best, if not the best, ND variable filter out there!