This review has been translated from my original article on saggiamente.com (in Italian)
Neutral density (ND) and graduated neutral density (GND) filters are among the most useful tools in landscape photography. In the last years many manufaturer entered the market in Europe, for this reason the average quality has increased and good products are manufactured and branded by chinese companies too. NiSi is one of these companies, they have 10 years experience in China and they’ve contacted me to introduce their products to the European market. I’ve received many filters, al made of Schott glass (a germany company producing glass for Zeiss’ lenses), and I’ve decided to test two of the most popular filters: the ND64 (6 stops) and the GND 0.9 hard (3 stops). This is the NiSi Italian website.
NiSi Filter Packaging
Filters are really well packed, inside they’re wrapped in soft paper and inserted in a imitation leather case with a magnetic snap. The case is well made, protective and slim, but if you have more than 3 filters is better considering a filters pouch, like the amazing Terrascape I’ll review soon.
Light leaking and real stops
The 6 stop filters from NiSi has a gasket to prevent the light to sneak in and ruin your shots, this is really well done and stop effectively the light in both the Lee Filters holder and NiSi Filters holder V3 and V5. Remember to also cover the viewfinder when taking long exposures, the light can get in from there too!
Tip: As you can see from the image above, the gasket isn’t symmetric, this means you have to insert it in the right direction as shown in the picture, or the guides on the sides will ruin the gasket.
Both the ND64 and the GND 0.9 can be used in other holders that support 100mm wide filters. As you can see in the image below the filters can be really useful in strong light situations, in this case I’ve managed to take a long exposure (thanks to the ND) maintaining the details in the bright area thanks to the GND.
If you’ve used a ND filter before you’ve maybe noticed a difference between the real reduction of light and the advertised one. Even with the best manufcaturing the outcome can have a gap as big as 1 stop from the target. For this reason I always test my ND filters in controlled light to be sure of the real value and “light-stopping” capabilities. Comparing the hystogram below I needed a correction of -0.38 EV to match a shot with an increment of 6 EV with the filter and the control shot taken without any filter on. This means my filter is a 5.62 stops filter, pretty close to the 6 advertised, this is the smallest gap I’ve ever had testing a filter this way.
Glass quality and color cast
Both the ND and the GND have a nano coating to reduce flare, reflections and for an easy cleaning. There’s also an IR-cutting treatment, to avoid the infrared light reaching the sensor, quite important in really long exposure with low light.
As we can see in the image above the NiSi filters reduce the reflections in both filters, comparing with Haida and Lee Filters. I would like to point out the Lee is a resin filter, because Lee doesn’t have GND made of glass and NiSi in resin I couldn’t compare better matching filters.
In these images, that look identical at first glance, I’m comparing a detail of an image with and without the NiSi Filters ND64. It should be visible, after few seconds, the slightly red/warm cast. This isn’t a huge problem, the cast is uniform and really subtle. I’ve found a similar cast in the Haida ND64, but in that case it was non-uniform.
The GND has a similar cast, but less prominent because of the transition and fewer stops.
Generally I’ve been really impressed of the quality of these filters, I also support the choice to use a similar glass in all the range, this consistency allows to obtain good results when stacking more than one filter.
The ND64 and GND 0.9 filters from NiSi are probably the highest quality filters I’ve tested, the price of course is alligned with the quality but they’ve just reached our market. I’m giving 4.5 out 5 to these products.
+ Outstanding optical quality
+ Same glass used across the range
+ Virtually no color cast
+ Compatibility with other Filters Holders
– High price