ND Not Neutral

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Today’s Question: After reading a few comparative reviews on 10-stop neutral density (ND) filters, I purchased a Tiffen 77mm WW IR ND 3.0 as maybe the pick of the litter. Being new to 10-stop ND filters I tried it out taking two shots of the same white picket fence, one at 1/1000 of a second and one with the filter at 1 second. While, the histograms happily looked similar, the ND filter seems to have generated quite a large green cast.Any input would be appreciated.

Tim’s Quick Answer: There is certainly a degree of variability in terms of how neutral a neutral density filter really is, and this is especially true when it comes to very strong (such as ten-stop) ND filters. That said, I have had very good results with the top filters from Singh-Ray and B+W.

More Detail: As the strength (density) of a neutral density filter increases, it also becomes increasingly difficult to achieve a neutral result. Thus, for stronger ND filters I consider it especially important to spend the extra money for a top-quality filter. In my experience Singh-Ray filters generally produce the best results, but B+W filters also provide excellent results (generally at a slightly lower price point).

For relatively weak ND filters, it is not as challenging to achieve a neutral result, and so I think it is reasonable to opt for a less expensive alternative if that is your preference.

In any event, when using any ND filter there is some risk of color shift, and so I consider it critically important to take advantage of your camera’s RAW capture mode so you will have maximum flexibility in optimizing the color after the capture.

In most cases I find that the color shift caused by a neutral density filter is relatively linear and consistent, so correction during RAW processing is not generally problematic. My primary ten-stop ND filter is from B+W, and I find that this filter results in a slight to moderate warming of the photo that can easily be corrected with the Temperature and Tint controls during RAW processing.