Breakthrough Photography 77mm X4 ND Filter Review
What made me decide to get a circular ND filter
For a few years, I’ve been using the NISI V5 100mm filter system – a set of square frames and filters. In that time, I’ve run into a couple of consistent issues;
- It’s way too bulky. It’s convenient that it comes with a case, but having to cart around an entire system takes up too much space in an already crowded camera bag.
- When shooting seascapes, you have to move quickly. I found moving with a square system was pretty unreliable as it was all held by a tiny clip/pressure on the glass – I had some close calls dodging some oncoming waves.
Recently, I decided to get a circular system after seeing the likes of Nick Page & Mads Peter Iveson using them.
I didn’t want to cheap out, I’ve been there and done that. Also, considering circular filters attach directly to the lens, I wanted to make sure I had a good quality one that would protect it.
I looked into Nisi Filters but they didn’t (at the time) have a 6 stop 77mm circular ND filter without a CPL (which would cut the light). Kase was another contender (a brand who Mads Peter Iverson uses) however I quickly stopped considering them after looking at the reviews for their customer support in Australia. Polar Pro, a brand Michael Shainblum uses quite extensively for his photography/timelapses, produces great quality products however the cost and the difficulty of buying it from Australia ultimately outweight the pros of the brand.
The winner was: Breakthrough Photography! I was pretty surpised – and impressed – with the lineup of photographers they have using their glass – Nick Page, Erin Babnik, Sean Bagshaw & Art Wolfe to name a few. Most seem to use their new magnetic system, however for my needs (and budget!) I chose to just get the single filter. It was easy to purchase and ship and their customer service is great (with fast reply times).
- Weight: 30g (1.1 oz)
- Glass: X4 SCHOTT Superwhite B270 optical glass made in Germany
- Frame: (thickness/depth) X4: Brass 3.1mm
- Glass Coating: X4 MRC16 (16 nanocoatings, 8 on each side)
- 6 Stops
- Thread size: 77mm with another 77mm thread internal for stacking filters
Cost: $250 AUD ($169 USD) with free postage to Australia
Out of the box
- The thickness of the grip allows for holding and screwing the filter without smudging it with your fingers
- The filter has a 77mm male thread for screwing onto a lens and ALSO a female thread on the frontside for stacking filters if you’re into that
In the field
On the left (below) is a shot taken without the filter at ISO 100, F22, 16mm at 0.6sec
As you can see, since it’s a such a bright environment, the picture gets blown out like crazy and is pretty much useless.
On the right (below) I captured an image with the 6 stop ND at ISO 100, F11, 16mm at 1.0sec and it’s not blown out.
Having the filter on allows me to reduce the amount of light hitting the sensor and capture a shot at a longer shutter speed, showing those beautiful water streaks.
I’m very good at getting camera gear and myself wet. This filter wasn’t going to miss out on the fun and sure enough it got soaked. What I found was the glass allowed for the water to bead which made life easy when it came to wiping the water off.
Breakthrough Photography are the only company I’ve seen who have comparison images on their website directly comparing their filter against the more well known brands like Lee Filters and Formatt Hitech. Honestly, after trying the X4 I can see why they do.
I only had one issue which wasn’t even really related to the filter. When originally using the filter I was freaking out because the images that came out had a magenta cast… turns out that was due to light leakage from the viewfinder which was fixed easy by putting my beanie over it. This is an ‘issue’ that will happen with all filters attached to the Nikon D610, so it’s not really an issue at all.
Overall, this has swiftly become one of my favourite pieces of gear of all time. It’s easy to use, secures itself nicely to the lens and works incredibly well. Along with being easy to clean and small enough to pack in any camera bag, it was a purchase I am definitely glad I made.
Hey! I'm Dale - a landscape photographer from the Central Coast of Australia.
I write about all things photography.