Johnny Baird and the NiSi Natural Night Filter

Belfast City using Nisi Natural Night Filter Johnny Baird

NiSi NATURAL NIGHT FILTER:

FIRST IMPRESSIONS & COMPARATIVE IMAGES

Night photography is a massive a part of my photography, and one often I have both the most joy, and frustration, with. Becoming increasingly frustrated with light pollution I decided to try out NiSi’s Natural Night filter. Before I bought the filter I did some searches for information and reviews, finding hardly anything out there. So, I thought after spending some time with the filter I’d give my own two cents worth and a few things I’ve learnt from using it. I’ve had this filter for about two months now, and have only had a handful of chances to use it (by no means the filter’s issue, but my own.) I have no affiliation, endorsements etc. from NiSi, so this is an unbiased and honest first impressions review.

What is it?

The NiSi Natural Night Filter is a dedicated night photography filter that aims to combat common wavelengths of light pollution.

How does it work?

The glow from light pollution often prevents a camera from properly capturing a night scene. The NiSi Natural Night Filter blocks wavelengths from mercury vapour, sodium and low CRI streetlights.

Price:

Not cheap, and a big part of the reason why I wanted to provide a few comparative shots for anyone interested in this filter. Pricing , as of May 2017: 100x100mm filter £155.00, €180; 150x150mm filter £211.00, €243. WOW! Here I give my first impressions on the 150x150mm filter on a Nikon 14-24mm f2.8 lens. Just as a side note, I used the Lee 150×150 holder, but the Lee holder does need rotated to hold the filter (otherwise it will slip through to it’s doom.) On a side note, if you are interested in purchasing this filter please do check with your local camera store for price and support them (it is important to support small businesses like my friends here in Camera Filters, they won’t set you wrong and you may save something if you mention my blog post here !!)

Quality:

This is pure class. Right from opening the box you know this is a quality product, presented well. Made from precision annealed, optical glass, finely ground and polished to perfection. Included is a nice soft carry pouch for protection (seems to be leather.) NiSi maintain that NANO coating technology reduces reflection, thereby minimizing ghosting and flaring. The glass also has a protective layer for general filter cleaning.

Durability:

It is too early for me to say how this will fair in the long-term. I did have one incident when the wind lifted the filter off my bag and blew it onto the ground. As I heard the glass settle itself on the concrete ground I thought “Oh Noooo!” Now, this was barely a foot drop, but glass even dropping from that height can be disastrous. Not a scratch, not a chip, not a crack – spotless. Impressed, and a little more careful now!

First impressions:

Nothing is perfect though, so I will break it down to what I consider the positives and negatives. I’ve only had very limited use of the filter for astrophotography– either the skies have been cloudy, the moon shining bright, or I’ve been working. As a result much of my first impressions are based on shooting the cityscape of Belfast.

Positives:

• It does what it says! So often disappointment follows a manufacturer’s claims. The NiSi Natural Night Filter delivers, effectively cutting out the yellow/orange muck of light pollution.
• No apparent affect on sharpness.
• Greater depth and clarity (including clarity of stars.)
• Better colour separation, and overall a more accurate representation of the scene.
• The filter is essentially magenta coloured glass, so it isn’t surprising that there is often a purple/magenta cast to the image. Personally for me this is much more pleasant than the yellow glow of light pollution, and easily adjusted in LR using the tint slider.
• Increased tone.
• Reasonable job of preventing flaring from streetlights. In image set 3 a flare is still present in the filtered image, but is much less dominant than in the unfiltered image.

Negatives:

• Flaring was not abolished in all cases (but this may be partly down to the lens – the Nikon 14-24mm lens seems to be a magnet for flaring.)
• Manually setting correct in camera white balance can be trial and error (and is a must!), and as twilight deepens white balance must continually be altered. So far I’ve found anywhere between 4000 and 8000K will work, depending on the time of twilight/night. In camera Auto White Balance did a reasonable job in some cases, though I wouldn’t recommend it (image set 1.)
• The filter almost cuts out too much yellow, making some yellow lights to be imaged as more a deep orange/reddish colour, and not fully true to the scene the naked eye sees.
• Lights emitting a blue colour will be rendered more purple in the image than blue.
• Loss of approximately 0.5 to 1 stop of light. This accounts for exposure differences between comparative images.

Can the filter’s effect be replicated in LR?

I didn’t spend too much time trying to replicate the filter effect in LR – mostly down to the fact that I’ve edited many a night shot containing light pollution and know how far I personally can push it. Perhaps those more proficient in postproduction would be capable of minimizing light pollution than I could. In image set 4 I adjusted the WB in post to a value I would be more likely to use in the field. My personal opinion is that adjusting the WB alone in post (and possibly more advanced post production e.g. playing around with hue/saturation sliders) could not replicate the depth, colour rendition and clarity produced with filter use.

Conclusion:

In the bag it goes, and in the bag it will stay – the NiSi Natural Night Filter will be a piece of equipment I will frequently use in my night photography. For me it is worth the investment considering the amount of night photography I do, and seems like a filter that will both produce better results and endure (provided I don’t drop it!) I am an avid fan of trying to get everything right in the field and is the reason I use full manual mode, and various filters including grads and polarisers. Despite the fact that some light pollution can be reduced in postproduction, I much prefer the use of the NiSi Natural Night filter and less hassle in post. Again, personally I can’t fully replicate the effect of the filter in post, and prefer the work the filter achieves.

Should it be in my kit bag?

If you are reading this I can only assume you are a night photographer, either astro and/or cityscapes, or have an interest in it. With a whooping price tag I would recommend you assess how much night photography you do. If it is a large part of your shooting then, yes, it is a worthy investment. I would very much like to hear your own personal views on the images and any experiences you may have. Which do you personally prefer?

Test images – Equipment, EXIF & post production details:-

Camera Body: Nikon D810
Lens: Nikon 14-24mm f2.8
Tripod: Manfrotto MT190CXPRO4
All images shot in RAW format.

Image set 1:

ISO64, 19mm, f11, 20s, AWB (7350K no filter, 8800K with filter), Tint -10 (with filter), Tint -4 (no filter.) Mirrored basic LR edits applied to both images using LR sync function. This was shot during blue hour, though I believe this filter is not recommended for blue hour use. The filter certainly came into it’s own as twilight deepened.

Image set 2:

ISO64, 24mm, f11, 30s, Manual WB 5950K, Tint -4. Mirrored basic LR edits applied to both images using LR sync function.

Image set 3:

ISO250, 24mm, f11, 30s, Manual WB 4250K, Tint -6. Mirrored basic LR edits applied to both images using LR sync function.

Image set 4:

ISO250, 24mm, f11, 30s, Manual WB 4250K & Tint -6 (with filter and no filter.) WB adjusted in LR for unfiltered image to see if filter effect can be replicated in LR (WB adjusted in post to 3500K, Tint 0.) Mirrored basic LR edits applied to both images using LR sync function (except WB in this instance.)

Image set 5:

ISO2500, 20mm, f2.8, 15s, Manual WB4050K & tint -7 (no filter), Manual WB7850K & Tint 0 (with filter.) Images straight out of camera.

Image set 6:

ISO3200, 14mm, f2.8, 30s, Manual WB4050 & tint -7 (no filter), Manual WB6850K & tint -6 (with filter.) Images straight out of camera.

 

Cheers for reading – please feel free to comment, like and share.

Regards Johnny Baird

 

Camera Filters Ireland are the Official NiSi Distributors and will offer you the same independent advice as I do here in this article.  The filters are available here and come in 77mm screw on, 100mm slide in filter and 150mm insert filter.

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