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It seems that Sigh-Ray offers a 15-stop 77mm ND filter for $480 USD. I understand quality glass is expensive but that seems extreme. Is there anyone else out there who offers a 12 or darker stop 77mm filter at a more reasonable price. Stacking filters is not an option because I shoot mostly at the widest angle possible and when I stack filters vignetting is extremely pronounced the top ring is visible in the photo. I am also not looking at any Lee-like rig with square filters because they are cumbersome, expensive and take up a lot of space. A simple, low profile screw-on 77mm filter would be my preffered option.

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    Pretty much nowhere if you insist on no stacking and no square filters. – Michael C Feb 2 '15 at 4:25
  • what @MichaelClark said. Ten stop Vari ND is about as far as you're going to find at "reasonable" prices, and there are few manufacturers that make NDs beyond that at all, much less inexpensively. – chuqui Feb 2 '15 at 7:15
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    When you consider that a 15 stop ND reduces the incoming light by a factor of thirty-two thousand, seven hundred and sixty eight, I don't think it's extreme to ask $480 if you don't want colour casts or any other issues. – Matt Grum Feb 2 '15 at 11:52
  • @MattGrum - That's a fair assumption. Please make this an answer and I will mark it as answered. – Jakub Sisak GeoGraphics Feb 2 '15 at 15:35
  • Could you stack say 85mm filters with a stepdown ring to avoid the vignetting? I haven't tried it, as I don't do a lot of long exposure work. – BillN Feb 3 '15 at 23:59
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It's easy to lost perspective when referring to stops due to the fact that it is a logarithmic scale. When talking about ND filters each stop represents a halving of the intensity of incoming light. Like grains of rice on a chessboard it starts to add up very quickly.

A 15 stop ND filter reduces incoming light intensity by a factor of 32,768. That's enough to turn what would be a hand-holdable 1/50s exposure into well over ten minutes. This makes it a pretty specialist piece of equipment.

Given the specialist nature of a 15 stop filter (which is therefore manufactured in small quantities, unable to benefit from economies of scale), along with difficulties in actually producing such a dense filter that doesn't result in a strong colour cast it is unsurprising to find one with a $450 pricetag.

If you really need to be able to do ten minute exposures in broad daylight, then a more economical solution would be to pick up a 10-stop ND filter shoot 30 exposures of 20 second each with an intervalometer, and then stack them in software. As a bonus you'll also get a boost in dynamic range!

  • Thanks Matt! Like the suggestion of using intervalometer and stacked shorter exposures in daylight. I will definitely try that. – Jakub Sisak GeoGraphics Feb 2 '15 at 17:08
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If you want a real budget solution you could try welding glass, one example here, to give you an idea of what to search for: http://www.amazon.co.uk/Langley-Welding-Helmet-Filter-shades/dp/B00GAWFK02/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1422830159&sr=8-1&keywords=welding+glass

This example even has two reviews - both of which are by people saying they're experimenting for photography, coincidentally. At £1.50 (around $2) it's probably worth a go.

I know you mentioned that you're not looking at a filter holder for square filters, but for the price it is well worth consideration

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    welding glass will almost guaranteed have some kind of color cast, especially with deeper densities. correctable almost all of the time, but it's going to be there. – chuqui Feb 2 '15 at 7:13
  • @chuqui one of the reviews mentioned that. Quite a strong green cast apparently. It may be fixable in post, but there is only so much you can do. I haven't tried it yet myself, but it would be interesting to see the results and whether they are fixable with a Lightroom preset or something – laurencemadill Feb 2 '15 at 10:06
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    A gel stacked with the glass could help with the green cast, if it's beyond the latitude to correct. It's been a while since I've seen a magenta filter (used on variable-contrast print paper). You could also use bracketing, and keep the green channel from one and the other channels from the brighter exposure. – JDługosz Feb 2 '15 at 11:29
  • I didn't ention this in my question but i've considered it in the past. Welding glass requires too much post processing to remove colour cast and usually a farily large and custom made rig. I will perhaps make one and try this at some point in the future with the Samyang 14mm ultra wide purely as an experiment but I was hoping for a simple solution for my primary 16-35mm lens. – Jakub Sisak GeoGraphics Feb 2 '15 at 15:38
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    @jdlugosz - excellent idea! Even for stacking gel on the rear with regular glass on the front. Unfortunately, I sold my Canon 17-40mm f4 which did have a slot for gel to replace it with the new Canon 16-35 f4 which doesn't have that slot on the rear. – Jakub Sisak GeoGraphics Feb 2 '15 at 15:41
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Formatt hitech do a 16 stop ND filter, in 77mm. I have one and there's no discernable colour cast. It was about 150 euro and I love it.

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