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To be able to make videos, I purchased inexpensive ($25) Bower FN72 and FN58 filters. While I haven't expected anything great from inexpensive filters, the result was below my expectations, so I purchased a more expensive ($135) 77mm Hoya Variable Neutral Density ND3-ND400 filter.
I'm disappointed by the more expensive one as well (see the comparison below).
What I need is:
- A sharp image,
- Smaller color shift,
- Reduced cross effect,
- Less ghosts.
Is it worth spending $300 on a filter, or the results will be similar?
Here is what I get with Bower and Hoya filters:
1. Sharpness and color shifting
This is a cropped part of a photo shot with the sharpest lens I have (AF-S NIKKOR 50mm f/1.8G). Hoya performs well, but it could be better; Bower is terrible. Both Hoya and Bower shift colors toward yellow (white balance is set to a constant value across shots).
Open the images in a new tab to see a slightly larger version; all images contain EXIF.
Fig 1. With no filter, the image is sharp
Fig 2. Hoya filter slightly affects the sharpness of the image
Fig 3. Bower filter adds severe blur
2. Cross effect
This is a comparison of cross effect at 18mm. Both Hoya and Bower perform really bad at maximum and maximum-adjacent density.
No larger versions available; all images contain EXIF.
Fig 4. Original image
Fig 5. Cross effect when using Hoya filter
Fig 6. Cross effect when using Bower filter
Fig 7. Without filters, the Nikkor 50mm f/1.8G produces a ghost
Fig 8. Hoya filter creates an additional ghost
Fig 9. Bower filter creates not one, but two ghosts
For Bower, notice two ghosts in the bottom left corner, as well as a ghost near the light source itself.
Hoya Bower ━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━━ Sharpness Slight blur Severe blur Color shift Important shift to yellow Important shift to yellow Cross effect Severe Severe Ghosts Clearly visible ghost Severe ghosting Vignetting Unknown¹ Not noticeable Uneven darkening Noticeable in some cases Noticeable in some cases
While the five times more expensive Hoya gives sharper images and less ghosting, the images are still blurry and ghosting still present. Moreover, the more expensive filter has no benefit in terms of colors shift and cross effect.
¹ Since I only have 77mm filter and my lenses are Ø58mm and Ø72mm, it is impossible to determine the level of vignetting.