I am planning to get my first wide angle lens. Nikon 16-35 F/4 is the one which is on top of my list now and when reading the reviews about this lens in b&h web site, I noticed this question and answer.

Q : Can I use a Graduated ND filter with this lens( Lee Filter system)?

A : It's not recommended to use a ND filter at a focal length less than 35mm. This will cause a black x or a line in the center of the frame. Not sure what the technical word for this is.

This confuses me. I was planning to get some ND filters so that i can take some long exposures on bright environments.

Is this a true statement ? If yes, What are the focal lengths which people usually use NDFilters with (to photograph landscapes)

  • @dpollitt Seems to me this question isn't a dupe. This question isn't asking about variable ND filters (even though the quoted "advice" in the question confuses the results from variable ND filters with grad ND filters).
    – scottbb
    May 24, 2017 at 3:18

4 Answers 4


The advice you read is an example of the phrase, "A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing."

There are filters known as Variable ND filters that are basically two polarizer filters stacked on top of each other. As the axis of polarization is altered between the two polarizer filters the total amount of light allowed through will vary. If an ND filter is based on filtering polarized light then you do run the risk of those infamous black Xs.

I'm not sure I've ever seen a graduated ND filter, though, that uses a polarizing filter to reduce the amount of light allowed to pass through. Assuming you can fit such a non-polarized filter to your lens without causing vignetting or physical contact between the filter and the middle of the front lens element (which can be rather bulbous on some wide angle lenses) you should be fine.


Graduated ND filters are usable with wide angle lenses. They should be big enough to cover the complete field of vision.

There are certain wide angle lenses that have a protruding front element that make it difficult to use regular filters (Nikon 14-24 2.8).

Polarizer filters are not recommended for wide angle lenses, because the bigger field of view may introduce undesirable effects in the sky (uneven color/intensity). Is it wise to use polarizing filters with wide-angle lenses?

Variable ND filters are in essence two polarizer filters "sandwiched", so they may suffer the same undesirable artifacts in the sky, and also each of the polarizers may interfere (usually as a dark line or dark cross in the centre of the image) Why are my results with a variable neutral density filter poor?


The issue is that with some ND filters and all polarizing filters, the light dropoff is not even as the angle of the light passing through the filter changes. This obviously is more pronounced as the lens angle is wider. So you get an uneven banding throughout the image.

The secondary issue is that a really wide angle lens cannot use a filter without vignette due to the filter edge thickness. The only way around this is rear element filters in some lenses, but normally just because the front element is huge.

  • If you get dropoff even without any filter, just adjust the correction you make in post anyway.
    – JDługosz
    Jun 1, 2016 at 9:12
  • The problem is that it isn't just dropoff. It is light fading out and coming back, making different luminosity bands within the image.
    – Joe
    Jun 1, 2016 at 11:24

ND/GND are often used on lenses in that range. Obviously, you need large enough filters and proper adapters (Lee creates some bits and pieces specifically intended for WA lenses that do not cause vignetting).

Are you asking about ordinary or graduated ND filterS? There are exceptions, but GND filters can be replaced in most circumstances with gradient filters in raw developers. GND filters made more sense when landscape photographers used reversal films like Velvia with much smaller dynamic range than current digital cameras.

  • 2
    GND filters still make a lot of sense if the scene exceeds the total dynamic range of the camera, which it often still does in digital landscape photography.
    – Michael C
    Jun 1, 2016 at 3:09
  • @MichaelClark - I am sure they still make sense for some photographers. All depends on individual style and I would recommend everyone to explore the options and get an idea about the pros and cons.
    – MirekE
    Jun 1, 2016 at 5:02

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