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I already own a Lee Little Stopper for the 100mm System and I am extremely happy about Lee's quality. I am planning to buy one or two graduated filters (0.6 and 0.9), but I am not sure whether to opt for the new medium grad or the hard grad.

I usually shoot landscapes between 24mm and 32mm, therefore at that focal length the medium grad should not result too "soft". As I shoot mainly forests, mountains, and less often seascapes, I think I would use a medium grad more often as the hard grad might be more noticeable in the photo.

Can anyone give me any advice (if possible coming from direct experience) about which of the two to take?

Lee offers also a grad filter set (0.3, 0.6, 0.9) that costs 1.5× the price of a single filter, therefore it might be also a good option in order to get all the filters, even if I probably would use the 0.3 only when stacked with one of the another two.

  • It's all a personal preference based on how you want a specific scene to look in your final image. There's no "right" or "wrong" answer. – Michael C Jun 2 '17 at 7:40
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I use the Lee filters, both soft and hard (bought them before they had a medium and very hard transition filters).

  • At 24mm or wider on full frame, I use soft transition. I could easily see using a medium transition no wider than 24mm if I were shooting something with a hard line, such as the ocean, without too many islands / rocks / features breaking up the hard line.

  • At around 50mm or longer on full frame, I use my hard transition filters. I would probably use a medium for focal lengths around 50mm, reserving my hard transition for longer lens (say, 70mm and above).

My general recommendation is when in doubt, lean towards soft transition filters rather than hard. Even with medium-to-long focal lengths (say, 70-150mm), if your scene has lots of intersecting edges at odd angles (such as shooting a mountain valley), a medium transition is more forgiving and less obvious than a hard transition.

Regarding optical density, I find that I use my 2-stop grad NDs more often than my 1- or 3-stop grad ND filters — roughly twice as much as the other two combined.

So if I were to start over and buy a limited number of ND grads today, if I were looking to buy only two filters, and I shot like you (24mm–32mm, both full frame and crop sensor bodies), I'd get a 0.6 soft and a 0.6 medium filter.

See also:

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What size is your sensor?

For APS-C and smaller sensors a hard grad is more appropriate. The medium might be too soft.

On a full frame you have the luxury of choice; medium grad is usually a better fit for "fuzzy" subjects such as trees and mountains and hard grad for clearly separated horizons, such as seascapes and some architecture.

But there is no clear right and wrong choice (apart from the sensor size).

  • I have a D5100 and D610, but I would use the filters mainly with the full frame camera. At the moment I was also considering to buy the medium grad (also considering my photo subjects), I wanted to have confirmation that they are not "too" soft. Thanks – Francesco Jun 2 '17 at 12:53

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