Fuji X100s and Heliopan 10 Stop ND filter

This post I’m totally geeking out. Last post I had a couple of questions about the Heliopan 10 stop filter in my stack, concerning colour cast and was it worth the cash? This isn’t a comparative review, because I don’t have another 10 stop filter to compare it to, so I thought I’d compare it to not using it. I threw in a comparison to the built in 3 stop filter of the x100s for good measure. 10 stop filters are notorious for adding strange colour shifts which can be a bear to fix in post. I bought the Heliopan in the hope it was manageable in terms of correction, but I’m not a colour fiend like some who want to match colours exactly, so my standards might not match your expectations. Caveat Emptor.

So onto the testing! This was accomplished while walking the dog around the neighborhood pond that has a big fountain. The 10 stop is ideal for making water softer and more pleasing, and a nice bright sunny day makes it practicable without having to use  shutter speeds that need a bulb setting. All images started life as raw files, processed in Adobe Lightroom 5.3 using ACR 8.3. I applied a lens correction profile on import.

This is the base shot. Automatic mode, just let it rock at 200 iso.

Fuji X100s No ND

OK, so the fountain looks boring. So I switched on the built in ND 3 stop filter (thank you Fujifilm, this was a stroke of genius), switched to aperture priority metering and gave it another go:

Fuji X100s ND 3

The shutter speed is as low as you can go in this situation 1/15s, but that still doesn’t make for a pretty (or at least prettier) fountain. What is interesting is that this is a true ND. It dropped the exposure 3 stops and is truly neutral. Time to get serious and break out the big gun!

Fuji X100s ND 10

Well, that fixed the fountain! But at a cost. The exposure is correct, but the colour is decidedly off. There is no issue with sharpness, but there is a pronounced colour shift. I then enabled the built in ND filter again, for a combined effect of 13 stops! This pushed it too far and the image was under exposed by 1.3 stops. Should have had 50 seconds exposure, but the automatic stops at 30 seconds. It really didn’t add anything to the effect anyway, so I guess 10 second is sufficient in this case. If there were clouds scurrying across the sky, it could have been worth it, but not today.

Fuji X100s ND 13

This image is eminently fixable. Adjust the exposure by +1.33 and it is completely comparable to the 10 second exposure.  I used auto WB and the value shifted -250°K. Not huge, but noticeable. There are some other issues as well. The tint needed zeroing out (-8) and a slight desaturation adjustment (-14). That gets as close as I care about to the original scene without the filter in terms of colour corrections and it looks pretty close. I could spend a few more hours fine tuning the corrections, but I’m not that critical. I prefer to adjust to my own taste.

Fuji X100s ND 13 Post Processed

The final Product. This is 13 stops of neutral density, with 1.33 stops of recovery in post and the colour corrections above. It gives the fountain and the water that smooth, silky appearance and the detailed reflections. Now if it was just an interesting picture!

Overall, I would recommend the Heliopan filter. I don’t have experience of anyone else’s, and I’ve used it to good effect on the x100s. It is pricey, with a $30 premium over the comparable B&W filter and about $50 more than the Hoya, (at time of writing) but I only intend to buy one.

More to come….

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