Indy Mogul: ULTIMATE BUYER’S GUIDE to ND Filters

“… Neutral Density Filters are a necessary tool for exposure control, but does their price tag really affect their quality? Today Griffin sits down with 23 ND filters that range in different price tiers from $5 all the way to $580 to see! Today we hard tested 23 ND filters for their color and image quality, flare resistance, and their usefulness in timelapse situations. We test a range of ND’s [sic] from a set of general purpose ND3 filters, to Variable Density Filters, to heavily graded ND10 filters for their use in time-lapse photography. While every type of ND filter has it’s own use, we mainly set out to see if the price tag really affected image quality, and whether variable ND’s were much worse than single glass ND’s. …”

Breakthrough Photography’s brass traction-framed ND and other filters are a boon for those of us with damaged hands and fingers and are safer to handle in the field than smooth or slightly knurled aluminium frames.

Commentary

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Paul Leeming’s stripped-down Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K aka BMPCC 4K rig with 8Sinn cage, Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 zoom lens, Metabones Speed Booster, Kenko aluminium step-up ring, Xume magnetic filter attachment system and Formatt Hitech Firecrest Ultra fixed neutral density filter.

Independent moviemaker and Panasonic Lumix brand ambassador Griffin Hammond’s documentary production insights and training have proven invaluable over the years since I invested in Lumix Micro Four Thirds cameras primarily for video.

The previous incarnation of the recently rejuvenated Indy Mogul YouTube channel not so much but that looks set to change now that it has been taken over by Ted Sim of the Aputure moviemaking equipment company and Griffin Hammond himself.

I don’t know anything about Mr Sim, Aputure and its products at the moment but Mr Hammond is a different story, having finally met him at the last SMPTE Sydney trade show after following his video work online for some time.

Clearly it is past time to look into Aputure’s products if I can find a local stockist for them.

Meanwhile, back to neutral density filters, both fixed and variable.

Variations in sharpness, colour casts and the dreaded X were considerations when I was searching for the best and most economical neutral density filters to buy when I got back into digital video and photography a few years ago.

I had used sets of square and rectangular high-end cinema filters for attachment to movie cameras via matte boxes years before, but no longer have the sorts of budget to afford such things nor the desire to cart them all about any more.

When I started looking into screw-on fixed and variable neutral density filters the most recommended brand at the time was Singh-Ray but the company’s VND cost a fortune and was out of reach.

Instead I settled on Genustech’s Eclipse Fader VND after reading a number of recommendations by independent documentary and music video cinematographers and opted for the 77mm version along with a set of aluminium step-up rings to common sizes.

The Genustech Fader acquitted itself well through a number of small projects but recently I began looking for replacements, whether fixed or variable NDs or both, that had the least possible colour cast and the maximum sharpness.

I am also considering making 82mm filters my standard for maximum versatility given some current and future lenses I may add to my kit have wider front elements than did my limited selection of starter lenses some years ago.

Australian cinematographer/director Paul Leeming recently showed me the stripped-down travel version of his Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K kit and how he attaches his 82mm Formatt Hitech Firecrest Ultra fixed ND filters via the Manfrotto Xume magnetic filter adapter system for fast easy and secure filter swapping.

Vignetting at the widest focal length is a consideration with the Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art zoom lens with Metabones Speed Booster attached though Mr Leeming assured me that, for the feature film he recently shot on the larger version of his BMPCC 4K rig, the vignetting was acceptable.

I continue to research the options but have now settled on the 82mm filter diameter and step-up rings made of brass rather than aluminium, which has a tendency to bind when screwing them on and off in the field.

I may well choose another brand of variable neutral density filter, bearing in mind factors like colour cast, sharpness, the x-effect at maximum density, the absence or presence of a self-locking device, and, now that cameras are appearing with higher base ISOs when shooting HLG footage in particular, a maximum density in the 10 or 11 stop range.

I may also add a set of 82mm fixed value neutral density filters for the other cameras I use and will most likely stick with Breakthrough Photography brand fixed NDs for that as I am rather fond of the company’s beautifully designed and made knurled brass-framed UV, CPL and ND filters.

Other screw-on circular fixed and variable neutral density filters and step-up rings

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  • Aurora-Aperture filtersB&H
  • Breakthrough Photography filtersB&H
  • Formatt Hitech Firecrest Ultra filtersB&H
  • Genustech filtersB&H
  • Heliopan step-up ringsB&H
  • Sensei Pro step-up ringsB&H
  • Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Lens for Canon EFB&H
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Cinematographer/Director Paul Leeming Shoots Fujifilm X-T3 and X-Pro2 Footage for Custom Leeming LUT Pro in Our Home Studio

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Australian cinematographer/director Paul Leeming with his Blackmagic Design Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, 8Sinn cage and Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 Art zoom lens attached with Metabones Speed Booster EF-to-MFT adapter.

Australian cinematographer cum director cum LUTmaker Paul Leeming took advantage of a break away from the Australian bushfires, torrential rains and floods to drop by our Sydney home studio and shoot some footage on our Fujifilm X-Pro2 and a loaner Fujifilm X-T3, courtesy of Fujifilm Australia.

Mr Leeming was on his annual Australian jaunt after completing photography for a feature film set in Osaka, to eventually return to his domicile in the Netherlands where he will get back to working on Leeming LUT Pro custom look-up tables for the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, Fujifilm X-T3, Fujifilm X-Pro2 and Panasonic cameras including the GH5 and GH5S, amongst others.

He shot the feature on two fundamentally different cameras, Panasonic’s Lumix DC-GH5S and the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K, and Leeming LUT Pro will play a crucial role in ensuring easy editing and colour grading of HLG and raw video footage.

According to Mr Leeming:

Leeming LUT Pro™ is the world’s first unified, corrective Look Up Table ( LUT ) system for supported cameras, designed to maximise dynamic range, fix skin tones, remove unwanted colour casts and provide an accurate Rec709 starting point for further creative colour grading.

Multi-camera shoots are now much easier, because you are starting with a common, colour-matched baseline, meaning much less time trying to match cameras in post before starting your creative grading.

Once all your cameras have been corrected, you can optionally use the specially matched Leeming LUT Pro Quickies™ for a one-touch creative grade designed to work seamlessly with the common baseline of Leeming LUT Pro™ corrected footage.

Save hours of frustration and give your footage the best possible quality right out the gate. It’s as easy as Shoot – Apply Leeming LUT Pro™ – Done!

Leeming LUT Pro custom LUTs coming for Fujifilm X-Pro2 and X-T3

Mr Leeming shot colour chart footage using the ProNeg Standard film simulation on the Fujifilm X-Pro2 camera, and in the Eterna, F-log and HLG picture profiles on the X-T3.

His preferred profile when shooting with Panasonic cameras is HLG and it is likely that Fujifilm’s HLG will prove to have the same benefits when shooting for high dynamic range aka HDR and standard dynamic range aka SDR output.

I recently shot some HLG footage on the X-T3 in available darkness and the results were impressive to say the least.

Always carry a grey card for white balancing video

Mr Leeming showed me this Struan Grey paint sample card made by Taubmans and told me it is the most accurate grey card for white balancing that he has found available for free.

I have been guilty of forgetting to carry a grey card when out with my camera each day due to the ones I have being a little too large for my daily carry camera bag, so it is good to know there are smaller and cheaper – free! – alternatives available at your local hardware store so long as it stocks Taubmans paint.

Paul Leeming Shooting Footage for Leeming LUT Pro for Fujifilm X-T3 and X-Pro2

Mr Leeming travelled light, carrying a stripped-down Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K rig in this Think Tank Photo backpack.
This stripped-down rig for the BMPCC 4K includes the 8Sinn full cage and once of Mr Leeming’s favourite lenses, the legendary Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM  Art lens for Canon EF-mount. He has preferred 8Sinn cages and accessories since buying one for his Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5. He also relies on Xume filter adapters and Formatt Hitech Firecrest Ultra fixed neutral density filters.
Shooting color checker footage at our home studio. The camera is mounted on a 3 Legged Thing tripod.
Mr Leeming relies on DSC Labs ChromaDuMonde CamAlign Chip charts for their high colour accuracy.
Photographing the Fujifilm X-T3’s monitor for use in writing the manual on the best settings for the camera and how to use Leeming LUT Pro.

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Clicking on the links below and purchasing through them or our affiliate accounts at B&H Photo Video, SmallRig or Think Tank Photo helps us continue our work for ‘Untitled’.

  • 3 Legged Thing tripods and accessoriesB&H
  • 8Sinn cages and accessoriesB&H
  • Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 4KB&H
  • DSC Labs chartsB&H
  • Formatt Hitech Firecrest Ultra filtersB&H
  • FUJIFILM X-Pro2 Mirrorless Digital CameraB&H
  • FUJIFILM X-T3 Mirrorless Digital CameraB&H
  • Fujifilm XF lensesB&H
  • Metabones EF to Micro Four Thirds AdaptersB&H
  • Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art Lens for Canon EFB&H
  • Think Tank Photo camera bagsB&H
  • Xume filter adaptersB&H

Breakthrough Photography Lives Up to Its Name with Breakthrough Magnetic Filter System for Circular, Square and Rectangular Filters

Breakthrough Photography, makers of my preferred UV, circular polarizer and fixed value neutral density filters due to their high optical quality, excellent materials, innovative design and top-quality manufacturing, has come up with yet another breakthrough innovation, a magnetic filter system consisting of Magnetic Adapter, Magnetic Wheel, Magnetic Adapter Rings, X100 Holder for square and rectangular filters, Magnetic Filters in a range of types, densities and flavours, all of which is complemented by the company’s brilliantly designed and made knurled brass step-up rings. 

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Breakthrough Photography Magnetic Adapter and Magnetic Dark CPL Filter

While other camera accessories makers already have products linking the word “magnetic” with the word “filter” on the market, Breakthrough Photography has attached the two in a way that nobody else has, creating a system potentially attractive to moviemakers and photographers especially if working on location in challenging conditions.

Xume, formerly an independent camera accessories company before selling itself to Manfrotto, was the first magnetic filter system I encountered through Australian director/director of photography Paul Leeming of Leeming LUT Pro who relies on them for his narrative feature and event documentary cinematography work while I came across magnetic H&Y Filters while researching for this article, but those companies’ systems work differently from Breakthrough’s.

Breakthrough Photography’s Magnetic Filter system appears much better suited to my own needs as a one-person, self-funded, documentary moviemaker working in challenging conditions on location and I already know the Breakthrough Photography brand and its products, and recommend them without hesitation.

Breakthrough Photography Magnetic Filter system

At the moment Breakthrough Photography is offering a range of magnetic filters and its Magnetic Adapter, with a Magnetic Wheel being released soon partially to tackle wide-angle lens filter vignetting that has been demonstrated by early users of the system.

I am looking forward to learning and seeing more about the Magnetic Filter system and am seriously considering investing in it for my own work, though I would very much like to see Breakthrough Photography expand its ND filter densities to fill the gaps in its current 3-stop, 6-stop, 10-stop and 15-stop range.

At the moment I am not entirely convinced of the ease, speed and safety with which the filters can be attached and especially removed, with naked and gloved hands.

Speed, ease, safety and radically extending customer reach

The safety issue is the one that convinced me to buy into Breakthrough Photography’s knurled brass-framed weather-sealed screw-in filters and I hope to see safety and ease demonstrated with the Magnetic Filter system soon in videos and in hands-on reviews by experienced on-location cinematographers and photographers using it with and without gloves.

Breakthrough Photography’s focus is, however, primarily on landscape photographers and it appears to be considered incidental that cinematographers also use their products, with no known hands-on review of Breakthrough Photography products by the latter in existence.

More is the pity, as many Breakthrough products would be invaluable to moviemakers, especially the Magnetic Filter system, but the infrared pollution cutting capabilities of the company’s ND filters have not been tested beyond 700 nanometers.

Effective IR-cutting is important to Blackmagic Design camera users and even more so to what is potentially their most popular camera to date, the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Cameras 4K.

I would venture to suggest that the potential moviemaking market at all levels is many times larger than that of landscape photographers wanting to blur moving water or darken skies, and the folks at Breakthrough Photography would be wise to thoroughly test their CPLs and NDs for infrared-cutting beyond 700 nm given sensors see differently from the human eye, send Magnetic Filter system kits out to cinematographers for testing and hands-on reviews, and focus their marketing on moviemakers as well.

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Breakthrough Photography’s brass traction frames are a boon for those of us with damaged hands and fingers and are safer to handle in the field than smooth or slightly knurled aluminium frames.

Clicking on these affiliate links and purchasing through them helps us continue our work for ‘Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success’.

  • Breakthrough PhotographyB&H
  • H&Y FiltersB&H
  • XumeB&H

Imaging Resource: Olympus 17mm f/1.2 Pro Lens Review: The best wide-angle prime for Micro Four Thirds

https://www.imaging-resource.com/news/2018/05/11/olympus-17mm-f-1.2-pro-lens-review-best-wide-angle-for-micro-four-thirds

“Having earned the top spot as our Best Wide Angle Prime of 2017 in our annual Lens of the Year awards, we’ve now finalized our lab testing of the Olympus 17mm f/1.2 Pro lens. This 35mm-eq. wide-angle prime lens is undoubtedly a professional-level optic that offers excellent performance. Image quality is spectacular, even at f/1.2, with very low distortion and low chromatic aberration….”

https://creativityinnovationsuccess.files.wordpress.com/2017/10/olympus_m-zuiko_digital_ed_17mm_f1-2_front_upright_clutch_1024px_60.jpg
Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro professional-quality Micro Four Thirds prime lens with manual clutch focus rings drawn back for accurate, repeatable manual focussing at a quarter turn to go from infinity to closest focusing distance, excellent for stills photography and video production on hybrid cameras and cinema cameras.
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The Olympus M.Zuiko Pro lens line-up as of late October 2017.

Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro

Commentary

With the coming release of Blackmagic Design’s Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K aka BMPCC 4K aka P4K later this year, along with the already-released Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 IBIS hybrid 4K stills/video camera and the Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5S high-end compact 4K video camera, attention is on affordable yet high-end professional-quality lenses capable of delivering excellent results whether manually-focussed or used with those cameras’ autofocus functionality if they have it.

After trying out prime and zoom optics from several ranges of Micro Four Thirds lenses, I have chosen to invest in Olympus’ M.Zuiko Pro range and will be adding more as availability and finances permit.

My documentary photography and moviemaking work demands gear that can withstand years of use and potentially challenging environments without succumbing, and the weather resistance, durability, quality and relative low weight and size put the M.Zuiko Pro lens range in the frame.

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The first five lenses from the Leica M 0.8 cinema lens set by Leica Camera sister company CW Sonderoptic, in the 21mm, 24mm, 28mm, 35mm and 50mm focal lengths, all with 77mm filter diameters, a perfect set for cinematographers or stills photographers. I am hoping that Olympus will expand its M.Zuiko Pro prime lens offerings to add a wider range of focal lengths like these in their M43 equivalents.So far Olympus has issued 35mm and 50mm equivalent focal lengths.

It is hardly surprising that the folks at Imaging Resource awarded their Best Wide Angle Prime of 2017 plaudit to the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro lens.

I have yet to have the pleasure of trying one out due to apparent local supply problems, but the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro is at the top of my M43 lens wish list along with its 45mm and 25mm stablemates as well as the 5-stop image-stablized Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm f/4 IS Pro zoom lens followed by the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm f/2.8 Pro wideangle zoom.

I will be adding Xume fast-on, fast-off filter holders, Breakthrough Photography brass knurled step-up rings and UV protection filters, and a full set of top-quality variable and fixed ND filters to my kit in the 82mm and 105mm sizes soon.

I hope that Olympus will continue to expand its M.Zuiko Pro offerings into the 10.5mm and 14mm prime lens sizes as part of the company’s stated commitment to its professional lens range.

Both focal lengths, in 35mm sensor terms equivalent to 21mm and 28mm, are crucial to my work in documentary photography and video, and are essential to any well-rounded collection of professional-quality prime lenses.

I would also like to see a 75mm equivalent lens added to the Olympus M.Zuiko Pro lens collection – 21mm, 28mm and 75mm is one of my favourite 35mm sensor focal length triplet for documentary stills and video, or in M43 sensor terms 10.5mm, 14mm and 37.5mm.

That aside, I am very pleased that Olympus has released the 17mm f/1.2 in its second tranche of M.Zuiko Pro primes as I have been badly missing this focal length in my M43 sensor format cameras.

I had considered Olympus’ other 17mm lens, the M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f/1.8, as well as Panasonic’s near-17mm, the Leica DG Summilux 15mm f/1.7 Aspheric, but my head was decisively turned towards the M.Zuiko Pro series by my very first M43 lens purchase, the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro, one of my favourite zoom lenses to this very day.

My head was further turned towards the M.Zuiko Pro lens collection by Cosyspeed’s Thomas Ludwig’s review of the M.Zuiko Pro 25mm f/1.2 and its beautiful skin-tone rendering.

“What makes a good lens? This is in many ways a question that can only be answered individually. To me it is not important that it is super sharp wide open or does not vignette etc. – to me the most important point is the esthetics, the look and feel it delivers. When I look at the images of a certain lens and it “feels” good, well, than it is a good lens. And you know what? The OLY 25/1.2 is a lens of this category. I’m simply amazed especially when looking at the portraits I made in Hamburg. Amazed not by my images but by the clean, natural and three dimensional look.

The OLY 25/1.2 has a certain magic and I would describe it’s special character in the way it closes the gap between a pronounced three dimensional look and a portrait friendly (lower) level of micro contrast. A high level of micro contrast gives 3D pop for example to LEICA and ZEISS lenses, but it can be a bit harsh when shooting portraits. I don’t know how the OLYMPUS engineers made it, but they found a way to give it a lot of 3D pop while micro contrast is on a natural level.”

I have tried out the Panasonic Leica Summilux 15mm f/1.7, equivalent in 35mm sensor terms to 30mm, but I found the focal length an uneasy in-between, too wide for the subjects I prefer photographing with a 35mm equivalent lens and too long for those much better suited to a 28mm focal length equivalent.

When I began researching the Micro Four Thirds format for moviemaking and photography several years ago, its detractors harped on about how few M43 lenses existed back then.

The critics were factually wrong then and the number of M43 prime and zoom lenses has grown considerably since, but gaps still remain in the major lens makers’ offerings, especially at M43 system co-founders Olympus and Panasonic.

Olympus has hit the right notes with its M.Zuiko Pro collection but it needs to keep growing its prime lenses and long focal-length subsets, in the former case taking a leaf out of the book Leica Camera wrote some years ago with its Leica M-System lenses for stills photography and its recent cinema lens spin-off, Leica sister company CW Sonderoptic’s five-strong Leica M 0.8 series.

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Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K (BMPCC 4K) with Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 Pro zoom lens with manual clutch focus, great for manual focussing. I like the longer image-stabilized Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm f/4.0 IS Pro zoom for available light daily walkabout needs for video and stills.

Clicking on these affiliate links and purchasing through them helps us continue our work for ‘Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success’.

  • Blackmagic Design Pocket Cinema Camera 4KB&H
  • Breakthrough Photography X4 UV and ND filtersB&H
  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO LensB&H
  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 8mm f/1.8 Fisheye PRO LensB&H
  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-40mm f/2.8 PRO LensB&H
  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12-100mm f/4 IS PRO LensB&H
  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 PRO LensB&H
  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 PRO LensB&H
  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150mm f/2.8 PRO LensB&H
  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 PRO LensB&H
  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 300mm f/4 IS PRO LensB&H
  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital MC-14 1.4x TeleconverterB&H
  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-GH4 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital CameraB&H
  • Panasonic Lumix DMC-GX8 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital CameraB&H
  • Panasonic Lumix DC-G9 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital Camera (Body Only)B&H
  • Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5 Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital CameraB&H
  • Panasonic Lumix DC-GH5S Mirrorless Micro Four Thirds Digital CameraB&H
  • XumeB&H

Mirrorless Comparison Compares Olympus M.Zuiko Pro 17mm and 45mm f/1.2 with Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm and 45mm f/1.8 Primes

Longtime popular mirrorless camera website MirrorLesson’s Mirrorless Comparison spinoff has published early but complete comparisons of the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro lens and its Olympus M.Zuiko 17mm f/1.8 predecessor, and the Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 Pro lens and its Olympus M.Zuiko 45mm f/1.8 predecessor. 

The M.Zuiko Pro f/1.2 prime lens triad: Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 Pro, Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 Pro and Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 Pro, all with their focussing rings drawn back to emphasise their manual clutch focus mechanisms.

These sorts of side-by-side tryouts are useful when assembling an optimal set of lenses for any camera system, and are something I would love to do myself with more of an in-the-field as-close-to-real-life-as-possible tryout, less of a techie pixel-peeping and specifications-comparing spiel.

Given my relative lack of access to the range of gear I would want to try out and write about, I am glad that others out there in the northern hemisphere do have access to items of interest, like MirrorLessons’ Wales-based Heather Broster and Mathieu Gasquet, and are great at more technical reviewing.

Olympus M.Zuiko Pro 17mm and 45mm f/1.2 primes and their f/1.8 counterparts

I learned to select camera systems first by the quality of their lenses, second by the functionality of their camera bodies and those principles remain in force despite the digital era’s constantly evolving hardware and software technologies.

Lens choice should be based on genre, camera shape and size, and other shooting stills, video or both.

In my case (mostly) available light documentary, small to medium size mirrorless rangefinder and rangefinder-style cameras when possible, and both video and stills, often in the same project.

I do appreciate the smaller Micro Four Thirds and APS-C lenses, especially the pancake and “Fujicron” lens designs, for allowing me to be discrete and unobtrusive when shooting in public but find manual clutch focus lenses invaluable when shooting video and for critical focus with fast apertures and longer focal lengths.

Most lenses in the Olympus M.Zuiko Pro collection feature filter diameters of 62mm or more, wide focussing rings suitable for follow-focus devices and lens bodies large enough to grip well.

Video brings other lens features into consideration, too, especially when shooting in the great outdoors under bright sunlight or with fast sensors of 400 ISO and over.

That is when you need to add neutral density filters to your kit as a top quality variable ND filter, or a set of fixed ND filters, or both, along with a set of aluminium or better yet brass step-up rings.

Most professionals standardize on 77mm or 82mm diameter filters then add step-up rings to their lenses allowing for fast and relatively easy lens and filter swapping.

Some add Xume System magnetic lens adapters and filter holders for greater safety and speed when swapping variable or fixed ND filters.

One thing to bear in mind when shooting video outdoors on sunny days is that variable NDs with maximum densities of 6 stops may be inadequate, so please consider variable NDs with higher density values such as the Aurora-Aperture or SLR Magic products in the list at the bottom of this page.

Alternatively, if choosing fixed NDs then space them well and ensure the highest density is 10 or more stops for shooting in bright sun with high ISO sensors, an even more important consideration with Panasonic rumoured soon to be announcing a new low-light version of the GH5 with higher base ISO sensor than the current GH5’s 200 ISO.

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Clicking on these affiliate links and purchasing through them helps us continue our work for ‘Untitled: Stories of Creativity, Innovation, Success’.

  • Aurora-Aperture PowerXND 2000 Variable Neutral Density 1.2 to 3.3 Filter (4 to 11 Stops)B&H
  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 17mm f/1.2 PRO LensB&H
  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 17mm f/1.8 LensB&H
  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 25mm f/1.2 PRO LensB&H
  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 25mm f/1.8 LensB&H
  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 45mm f/1.2 PRO LensB&H
  • Olympus M.Zuiko Digital 45mm f/1.8 LensB&H
  • Panasonic Leica DG Summilux 25mm f/1.4 ASPH. LensB&H
  • Sensei Pro Aluminium or Brass Step-Up RingsB&H
  • SLR Magic 82mm Self-Locking Variable Neutral Density 0.4 to 1.8 Filter (1.3 to 6 Stops)B&H
  • SLR Magic 86mm Solid Neutral Density 1.2 Image Enhancer Filter (4 Stop)B&H – add this to the SLR Magic variable ND above to convert its density range to 5.3-10 stops instead of 1.3-6 stops.
  • XUME Lens Adapter and Filter Holder Pro KitB&H

Formatt Hitech Releases Firecrest Ultra, the Ultimate Colour-Neutral IR-Cutting Neutral Density Filters for Stills and Video?

British-based filter maker Formatt Hitech has released what may be the ultimate collection of circular, square and rectangular neutral density filters for cinematographers and photographers, Firecrest Ultra ND Filters.

The Firecrest Ultra collection is, according to Formatt Hitech, “the pinnacle of photographic filter technology” due to their perfect flatness, colour neutrality, clarity, sharpness and extreme effectiveness at cutting infra-red light pollution. 

The Firecrest Ultra Patrick Di Fruscia Signature Edition Pro Essentials Kit, one of several current kits aimed at photographers. Will Formatt-Hitech be adding kits for cinematographers?

Infra-red pollution of video colour rendering has proven to be a persistent problem in recent years, with long established, popular brands and professional filter product collections failing to cut IR passing through their filters and hitting sensors to the detriment of accurate colour rendering.

According to Formatt Hitech, “we have had photographers do exposures of over 10 minutes with no IR pollution at all” so one hopes that cinematographers trying out the new Firecrest Ultra filters will experience the same benefits.

Firecrest Ultra Kits for Photographers

Format Hitech has released the Firecrest Ultra collection in a range of sizes as aluminium-mounted circular, square and rectangular ND and graduated filters as well as six sets of kits specified by five well respected landscape and travel photographers.

These photographers include Colby Brown, Elia Locardi, Joel TjintelaarKen Kaminesky and Patrick Di Fruscia.

As landscape and travel photography are not my thing, I asked cinematographer/director Paul Leeming of Leeming LUT One fame for his advice on the best Firecrest Ultra kits for cinematography.

Our Firecrest Ultra Filter Kit Recommendations

  • Base kit for 400 ISO cameras like the Panasonic Lumix GH5 – 82mm diameter circular filters in ND 0.6, 1.2, 1.8, 2.4 (2, 4, 6 and 8 f-stops reductions).
  • Extended Kit for 1600 ISO cameras like the Sony A7S II – 82mm diameter circular filters in ND 0.6, 1.2, 1.5, 1.8, 2.1, 2.4, 2.7 (2, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 and 9 f-stops reductions).
  • Complete Kit for Feature Film Cinematography – 4×5.65″ filters in every stop.

The Xume Filter Adapter System

Paul Leeming uses and recommends the Xume magnetic circular filter adapter system for easy, fast and safe on-location filter swapping. The Xume system was created by XumeAdapters.com, now defunct, then sold to Manfrotto.

Of all the brands of aluminium and brass step-up rings I have tried, those made by Breakthrough Photography have proven to be the best and are unique in their top quality machining and easy-handling traction frame.

You will need to purchase enough Xume adapters, holders and caps for all of your video production lenses and filters, more items than are contained in the Xume Pro Kits, to get the best out of the system.

Standardize on 82mm or 77mm filters, place step-up rings on all your lenses, then attach adapters to each step-up ring.

I recommend brass rather than aluminium step-up rings to avoid binding and use brass step-up rings made by Breakthrough Photography, Heliopan or Sensei especially if they are knurled for better traction.

The Variable ND and Other Alternatives

I have been aware of colour, sharpness and other problems with some of the most highly recommended ND filter sets for some time and have held off investing in a base kit for my Panasonic cameras until something better comes along.

Working in the documentary genres, the time required to carefully white balance off colour checkers or cards is not always there.

Breakthrough Photography’s brass traction frames are a boon for those of us with damaged hands and fingers and are safer to handle in the field than smooth or slightly knurled aluminium frames.

Screw-on, screw-off filter swapping in the field can be dangerous especially with the smooth-sided filters that were standard before Breakthrough Photography came out with its innovative traction frame.

I have some Breakthrough Photography ND filters and they have proven outstanding insofar as colour neutrality and sharpness go, but enquiries about their degree of protection against IR pollution remain unanswered.

There is this statement, however, on the Breakthrough Photography X4 ND product page:

… the X4 ND maintains a very well controlled and flat transmission all the way throughout the visible spectrum and into IR.

In contrast to our GH5 base kit recommendation, Breakthrough Photography’s X4 circular neutral density filters come in 3, 6, 10 and 15 stop reduction values or, under the ND.number naming convention, ND 0.9, 1.8 and 3.0 with the last value between ND 4.0 and ND 5.0.

I’ll stick with f-stop reduction values and forego the arcane ND1number, ND.number and NDnumber naming conventions so 3, 6, 10 and 15 stops it is.

Breakthrough Photography’s Dark CPL & X4 GND Kickstarter campaign earlier this year saw the addition of 100mm and 150mm X4 Square filters: “X4 ND Square is available in 1-stop through 10-stop densities, as well as 15-stop.”

A Stopgap Solution for Documentary Cinematographers?

My stopgap solution in the absence of a full set of fixed ND filters was to rely on the most heavily recommended variable ND filter of the time, the Genustech Eclipse ND Fader with its 2-8 stops reduction range.

Nowadays the most recommended variable NF filters appears to be the 1.3-6 stop reducing SLR Magic Self-Locking Variable Neutral Density filter.

SLR Magic recently announced its 1.2 IEND filter for stacking on fixed or variable ND filters to bump exposure reduction up to 10 stops along with added IR colour control, so purchasing this in combination with SLR Magic’s variable ND filter may be a wise investment for documentary moviemakers always on the move.

Links

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  • Breakthrough Photography X4 Solid Neutral Density FiltersB&H
  • Formatt Hitech Firecrest Colby Brown 100mm Signature Edition Premier Landscape Filter Kit with 100mm Firecrest Filter HolderB&H
  • Formatt Hitech Firecrest Elia Locardi 100mm Signature Edition Travel Kit with 100mm Firecrest Filter HolderB&H
  • Formatt Hitech Firecrest Joel Tjintjelaar 100mm Signature Edition Long Exposure Kit #1 with 100mm Firecrest Filter HolderB&H
  • Formatt Hitech Firecrest Joel Tjintjelaar 100mm Signature Edition Long Exposure Kit #2 with 100mm Firecrest Filter HolderB&H
  • Formatt Hitech Firecrest Ken Kaminesky 100mm Signature Edition Master Kit with 100mm Firecrest Filter HolderB&H
  • Formatt Hitech Firecrest Patrick Di Fruscia 100mm Signature Edition Pro Essentials Kit with 100mm Firecrest Filter HolderB&H
  • SLR Magic 82mm Self-Locking Variable Neutral Density 0.4 to 1.8 Filter (1.3 to 6 Stops)B&H – has 86mm front filter thread.
  • SLR Magic 86mm Image Enhancer ND Filter (4 STOP)B&H – works with variable and fixed ND filters that have 86mm front filter threads.
  • X-Rite ColorChecker Passport PhotoB&H
  • X-Rite ColorChecker Passport VideoB&H
  • XUME 82mm Lens Adapter and Filter Holder Pro KitB&H

3 Legged Thing: Why things cost what they cost… – with COMMENTARY

https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/why-things-cost-what-danny-lenihan

“In the last couple of weeks my little brand, 3 Legged Thing, launched a brand new Universal L Bracket – the QR11. For the most part, the response has been overwhelmingly positive.

Then, somebody sent me a link to a well known forum, where a conversation had started about the press release for the QR11. The comments were almost wholly negative with more than one contributor stating “You can buy this from **insert website name** for $7″ or “I got one from China for $5 and it works just fine”….”

Commentary:

The above excellent and informative article by Danny Lenihan of 3 Legged Thing is partially in reference to 3 Legged Thing’s QR11 Universal L-Bracket aka L-Plate.

I have been looking for an L-Plate for my still-current Panasonic Lumix GX8 camera for some time and thought I had finally found a good solution in Really Right Stuff’s BGX8 L-Plate, only to discover to my deep disappointment that it was discontinued six months ago.

Really Right Stuff’s now discontinued BGX8 L-Plate for the GX8

The GX8 is a brilliant camera for portraiture and even if the GX9 eventually appears with IBIS and Dual IS per the GH5, I will continue to use my GX8 for tripod-mounted portrait and landscape orientation environmental portraiture due to its lovely sensor.

Why throw away something that works well and keep feeding the camera GAS churn cycle when perfectly good cameras can keep performing for years to come?

My current GX8 “L-Plate” solution

An L-Plate would make shooting in both orientations much easier and surer, quickly swapping from vertical to horizontal and vice versa in a way that is simply not possible by flipping the tripod head from one to the other.

Relying on third party manufacturers to supply custom solutions to common problems that should, perhaps, be attended to by camera makers is prone to all sorts of problems.

A universal L-Plate is a good solution in theory so long as it is designed in such a way that access to all your cameras’ functions are not impeded.

It seems that 3 Legged Thing did not have access to Panasonic Lumix cameras so may not have designed their QR11 L-Plate to fit it, and has not rated it for usability with the GX8 or other Panasonic cameras, or Fujifilm’s X-Pro2 for that matter.

I have managed to obtain a half-baked solution to my problem with the GX8 by purchasing SmallRig’s Cage for Panasonic GX8 1844 but a camera cage is hardly the same thing as an L-Plate.

I can understand camera-users resorting to Chinese cut-price copyists – I have had to do that myself in the absence of decent local product supply or in the presence of situations like this one with Really Right Stuff, but one thing remains constant – every Chinese-made item I have bought so far has failed spectacularly, or has been poorly-made, or is mediocre a best, or is just a lousy copy of the real thing which I have not been able to obtain for whatever reason.

I am hoping upon hope that 3 Legged Thing’s QR11 can work well enough with the GX8 or better yet that they will update it to work with the GX8 without impeding its full functionality, but the fact remains that L-Plates (and cages) customized for each specific camera are the best solution by far.

I would have thought that the whole point of contemporary CNC machining is that products can be made at any time, without having to produce in big batches, and so making even just one more Really Right Stuff BGX8 on demand should not be an impossible or insanely costly task.

Or do I have the wrong end of the stick? Independent in-demand solutions providers like Hejnar Photo prove otherwise.

As the destruction of the incredible and unique Samsung NX1, NX500 and Galaxy NX cameras proves, well-established manufacturers can and do make lousy decisions all the time and small manufacturers like Really Right Stuff are no exception to this.

Or, for that matter, Manfrotto, with their unique but tragically killed-off Lino Manfrotto Collection and Fig Rig product lines as well as other equally unique products like the Xume filter attachment system that appears to have been blessed with some pretty lousy marketing and distribution.