I recently got a 2 stop graduated ND filter to use with my Nikon D5000. I understand that you can use the DoF preview button to help you position the filter correctly. However, the D5000 has no DoF preview button.

Is there any other way to position the filter relatively accurately, other than trial and error?

  • 4
    Does 'live view' on the LCD not help?
    – Shizam
    Mar 4 '11 at 16:14
  • 1
    @Shizam — I think live view still shows the aperture wide open until the picture is actually taken, doesn't it?
    – mattdm
    Mar 4 '11 at 16:58
  • See singhray.blogspot.com/2006/10/… for a suggestion on how to use DOF-preview in positioning the graduated filter.
    – mattdm
    Mar 4 '11 at 16:59
  • 1
    The OPs question is because he doesn't have a DoF preview on his camera... Mar 4 '11 at 17:21
  • Yeah I was posting that in case it wasn't clear why someone would want DOF preview for this purpose.
    – mattdm
    Mar 4 '11 at 21:52

Your D5000 is a digital camera with a built-in image replay facility, right? You don't really need depth-of-field preview -- you have a much more effective depth-of-field postview at your disposal.

It's not like you have to waste film or wait for processing turn-around to see what you're doing -- you get immediate feedback, and you can simply delete any images that didn't quite work out. No matter how you look at it, it's a better solution than waiting several seconds for your eyes to adjust to the reduced brightness, then trying to convince yourself that you can see millimeter detail in a small, dim, far-away image on the focusing screen.

  • Just to clarify, it's not the DoF I care about per se, it's the position of the grad. Obviously I can position it with trial and error, but if I'm trying to capture a changing scene like a sunset I'd rather be able to get it approximately correct quickly. Mar 4 '11 at 22:26
  • You can get it approximately correct without stopping down at all -- and to get it closer than that, taking an image is faster than a DoF preview would be (it really does take several seconds for your eyes to adjust enough to the reduced light to make it worthwhile). And it should only take one image to get it right. Live view might do the trick, but I'm not familiar enough with the D5000 to say one way or another.
    – user2719
    Mar 5 '11 at 5:10

If your D5000's live view works anything like the live view on my D3100, then the aperture will stop down to whatever it's set to when you switch it to live view mode. While you're in video mode, changing the aperture won't alter it though. Switch out, change the aperture, and switch back in to live view. Look down the barrel of the lens and you should see the difference in your aperture.

At that point, live view acts like a DoF preview (change your aperture, press LV button, observe, press LV button to restore, andd repeat as needed) and previous advice should apply.


I'm curious why you think you need to have an "appropriate" DOF when positioning an ND Grad filter? I use ND grad filters all the time, and I've never needed to see the correct DOF to position them correctly. ND Grad filters are primarily contrast-balancing filters, and are designed to reduce the contrast differential in scenes with higher dynamic range than you can take with a single shot. Unless you are using a grad filter with a VERY hard edge, positioning is a rough process, not a precise one.

I wouldn't worry about using the DOF preview button to position your filter. Either with the viewfinder, or with Live View (I personally use live view, as it is a far more effective tool than the viewfinder, IMO), set your exposure (aperture, ISO, and shutter speed), and just slide the filter up or down WHILE metering, and leave it in place when your meter centers (or points to the right EV for the kind of shot you are taking.)

  • It's not the DoF I'm interested in, it's the position of the grad, which apparently becomes clearer when you preview the DoF. Mar 4 '11 at 22:24
  • As someone who uses ND Grads regularly, unless you have some very thin DOF with a very blurry background, it doesn't matter a bit. Even if you did have a blurry background, it still isn't going to matter much, since the transition into ND is a very soft effect, and you certainly don't need that much precision positioning it.
    – jrista
    Mar 4 '11 at 23:15

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