We continue our mastering filters series with an in-depth look at the 15-stop solid ND filter, a top choice for photographers that want to have extended creative control over the images they create.
But why is a 15-stop solid ND filter something you need in your camera bag? These filters - assuming you buy one that’s of high-quality - can help you take your photography to the next level. By using a lower ISO and a larger aperture, the images you create are clean and beautiful, with features that are difficult, if not impossible to get during the daytime - like a shallow depth of field on a long exposure image.
Let’s take a closer look at these invaluable filters.
Why Use a 15-Stop Solid ND?
For people that have used 5-stop and 10-stop solid NDs, the first question they might have with a 15-stop solid ND is...why?
The answer to that question is very simple - image quality. No matter how good the filters are that you use, it’s just a fact of the matter that when stacking filters, your lens has to see through more elements. And, as the number of filters increases, the likelihood increased that the image quality will lessen.
Now, this isn’t to say that stacking filters is poor practice. In fact, you might only notice a very slight degradation in the quality of your images when stacking filters. However, because photography is all about the fine details, a 15-stop solid ND filter allows you to work with less and get more. That’s a great combination!
What’s more, though many people use 15-stop solid NDs under very bright lighting, you can still use it even under overcast conditions or in the early morning or late evening hours as the sun rises or sets. That means you can use your filter from sun up to sundown, without the need to swap out filters.
Blur Slow-Moving Clouds
There are occasions when you’re out shooting that the conditions just won’t cooperate. For example, if you’re out on a bright, sunny day with a few wispy, slow-moving clouds moving through the scene, a 5-stop or 10-stop solid ND filter might not have enough filtering power to get you the slow shutter speeds that you need to blur the movement of those slow-moving clouds.
But with a 15-stop solid ND filter, that won’t be a worry.
Slow-moving clouds are no match for 15-stops of filtering power. Where you can get an exposure of four minutes with a 15-stop solid ND, you can only get a 1/125 second exposure without any filter at all. And, consider this: an exposure time of 1/2 second with no filter becomes an incredible 4 hour 16 minute exposure with a 15-stop solid ND. That means no matter how slow those clouds (or rivers or cars) are moving, you’ve got plenty of light-stopping power to get the long exposure results you want.
Speaking of getting the results you want, a 15-stop solid ND filter allows you to utilize a larger aperture than normal. So, rather than having to shoot at f/22 to limit as much light as you can, you can open the aperture up a few stops. This can improve your images in a couple of ways. First, if you need a shallower depth of field, you have the leeway to open the aperture to achieve the depth of field you want.
Second, and perhaps more importantly, is that you can avoid using the maximum aperture of your lens and instead choose something wider - and closer to the lens’ sweet spot - for an image that is sharper with less distortion. Even by moving from f/22 to f/16, you’ll see sharper results, so just imagine the sharpness if you open up your lens to f/11 or f/8! A 15-stop solid ND filter allows you to do just that.
Quality is Key
As we’ve spoken about in each installment of our Mastering Filters Series, the quality of the filters you use is as important as the quality of the lens attached to your camera. Good glass can’t be hidden behind a cheap filter, otherwise, the results you get will not be reflective of your lens’ abilities.
Instead, equip yourself with a filter with a proven track record, like the Singh-Ray 10-Stop Solid Neutral Density Filter. There’s a reason why so many professional photographers turn to Singh-Ray - they are simply the best filters on the market today. The polished glass renders images with incredible clarity, minimal color casts, and high color fidelity. Whether you shoot indoors with a strobe or outdoors with nothing but natural light, this filter will help you create the images that you envision in your mind with the greatest of ease.
Greater creative control, improved sharpness, larger apertures, lower ISOs...there are just too many benefits of using a 15-stop solid ND filter to go without one any longer! Expand your abilities to create the long exposure images you most want to create by adding a top-quality 15-stop solid ND to your camera bag.