Luzid is a new player in the filter game. They started in 2015 as a joint venture between four companies: CameraGearUK from the United Kingdom; Desmond Photographic from the U.S.; Bravo Distsribution in Canado; and Photo Ideas from Greece. Their goal is to produce top-of-the-line filters with Brass frames and Schott Superwhite Glass for half (or less) the price. They claim to be comparable to top brands Breakthrough, Heliopan and B-W. When I saw their Amazon description compared their 10-stop nd filter to Breakthrough's, I knew I had to try it given the popularity of Breakthrough with the Improve Photography community. I also thought the timing was perfect given Mark's recent review of 30 nd filters, in which Breakthrough appeared to reign supreme.
Luzid's entire line includes a ND1000 neutral density filter (which I will call a 10-stop even though nd1000 is just under 10 stops), a circular polarizer filter, a UV filter, a combination circular polarizer/4-stop neutral density filter, and brass step rings. I wanted to test the whole line, minus the UV filter because I never use them. To me, the core filters any landscape photographer needs are a 3-4 stop nd filter for shooting waterfalls and other things where you just need to cut a little light out, a 10-stop filter for adding a lot of movement in things like ocean waves, clouds or car lights, and a circular polarizer to cut reflections and deepen blue skies. I have been testing the 10-stop nd, the cpl, the cpl/nd combination and a step-up ring for the past month and have really enjoyed them all. Most recently, I spent a couple days in Washington's Palouse region near Pullman and tested out the filters (along with gear from Lensbaby,Lowepro, Heavy Leather NYC and Lance Straps for future articles).
I love the build quality on these filters. They all feature a heavy-duty brass knurled frame. These frames were miles ahead of the Tiffen and Hoya filters I have that were similar in price. The knurled frames have deep grooves that are awesome for getting your filters on an off your lens.
Each filter has 16 coatings with an advertised easy-to-clean top coat. The glass on the filters is all Schott B270. I read a lot of technical information and specifications on this glass, but to be honest, I cannot tell you what any of it means. At the end of the day, it is the same glass used by Breakthrough and other top brands so that should suffice. Luzid also offers a lifetime warranty on all its filters. That could mean a lot or that could mean a little. Since I have not used the warranty program, I cannot tell you how good it is, but I figure it is better to have one than not.
Not all the Luzid filters come in all sizes. The 10-stop ND filter comes in most sizes. The CPL comes in 67 mm, 77 mm, 82 mm and 95 mm. The CPL/ND combination only comes in 77 mm. Because I do not have a lens with a 77 mm thread, I needed to use a step-up ring. I have a set of cheap step-up rings I bought on Amazon. They work fine, but I wanted to test out the Luzid step-up ring with their filters. The Luzid step-up ring is much much nicer than the cheap ones I got from Amazon. It is made of the same heavy-duty brass as the filters with the nice, thick knurled edges with plenty of grip. The only issue I had was that the thin ring and thin filter made it somewhat difficult to separate the step-up ring and the filter while they were on the lens. It would have been near impossible if the ring and filter did not have the nice grooved frames that made it much easier to grip. It was not a huge issue unless I wanted to switch the filters and leave the same step-up ring on the lens. Since this is not a common occurrence for me, I was not worried about it. You can get a Luzid step-up ring from Amazon for just under $20, which is the price of an entire set of the cheap ones. If you rarely use step-up rings or if you have a lot of different filter/lens sizes, then going the cheaper route may be wise, but if you are going to use one or two step-up rings a lot, then it would probably be worth getting the nicer, heavy-duty one.
I did not do any scientific testing with these filters. I simply used them as part of my gear while I was out shooting. I wanted to see how they were to use and then look at the results when I got home. I also do not want to bog you down with a bunch of different shots that showed the same results so I limited myself to three shots for the review. I used the 10-stop filter in all three shots, but only used the CPL and CPL/ND combination in one of them. I really wish I could have tested the CPL filters out with some waterfalls, but I do not have many options living in Las Vegas, and I did not have the chance while I was in the Palouse to see much but green fields and red barns. All of the images were taken on a Fuji X-T1 with the Fuji 18-135 lens.
This first shot is not a great image, but my family was playing at an indoor play place in Moscow, Idaho and this scene was across the street. It had some red, green, yellow and blue and it was the middle-of the afternoon with terrible lighting so I thought it would be a good test for color cast. Like all the high-end ND filters, Luzid advertises no color cast. We all know that is almost never the case, so I wanted to see what kind of color cast we would be dealing with. Both of these images have had no editing done whatsoever other than cropping and converting the raw file to .jpg.
This is the original image taken with no filter. It was taken at f/16 at 1/125 second. The colors are a little muted because it was converted straight from the raw file, but I figured this was the best way to see any variation in colors.
This image was taken with the Luzid 10-stop ND filter. It was taken at f/16 and 2.5 seconds. That means I got just a little over 8 stops of exposure using the filter. You can see this image is slightly more exposed too so I probably should have stopped at 8 stops. While that is disappointing to only get 8 stops instead of 10, I am impressed with the color. The greens seem a little more muted and the sky is slightly warmer. It can be difficult to tell because I could not get the exposure exactly the same in camera and I did not want to apply any edits. Overall, I am pretty impressed so far.
The next set of images was taken just before sunset. On this one too, I only used the 10-stop neutral density filter. I really wanted to capture some movement in the clouds, but as you will see, even at long exposure times, there was just not much movement happening. I also did a three-image hdr blend in lightroom to see what effect that had with the colors and quality while using the filter. I am going to show you the straight conversions of raw files first and then the edited versions. On the edited versions, I used an Improve Photography preset in lightroom and made some other minor adjustments and then copied and pasted those edits so the two images would have the exact same edits so any color variations would not be lost.
This first image is the straight raw image taken with no filter. I combined the three exposures in lightroom and exported with no changes. It was taken at f/10 and 1/60 of a second.
This image is another three-image hdr blended in lightroom with no other edits. It was taken with the Luzid 10-stop ND filter. I stayed at f/10, but the exposure on this image was 15 seconds. That means I was actually able to get a full ten stops using the filter for this shot. Even at 10 stops more exposure, this one came out just slightly more exposed as well so you can see there is some variation of how many stops you can actually cut out depending on the conditions. You will also see this image is a bit warmer than the original. We lost a little of the punch in the green foreground and green hill, but we added some nice warm color to the sky to help emphasize the setting sun. Remembering what the scene looked like, I think the sky was actually more accurately represented in this image while the landscape was more accurate in original image (although that needs more punch as well as the raw file lost some of the green that was actually there).
This is the edited version. I applied the Improve Photography basic landscape preset in lightroom, raised the shadows and dropped the highlights a bit more. The resulting image is still too dark and could use some dodging and burning in photoshop, but that would have defeated the purpose of the test, which was to apply the exact same edits to each image. I edited this image first to make it reflect the actual scene as best as I could remember it. In theory, applying the exact same edits to the next image should show us exactly what effects the filter had.
After edits, you can see this image is quite a bit warmer. While I really like the sky, the foreground lacks that nice green punch it should have. Luckily, that would be a really easy effect to fix in lightroom or photoshop. That being the case, I love the effect on the skies, something that would be slightly more difficult (for me at least) to duplicate in lightroom or photoshop.
My final set of images compares all three filters. It is an image taken at the famous T.A. Leonard round barn in Pullman, Washington. It was taken in the middle of the afternoon with bright sun and blue skies. Although there was a no trespassing sign (and I was set up on the railroad tracks), the owner kindly waved at me and told me not to worry about moving my car as he drove off his driveway to get around my car. All of the images were straight raw conversions with zero editing.
The first image was taken with no filter. It was taken at f/18 and 1/125 of a second. This image screams for focus stacking and a faster shutter (which I did for my personal editing later), but it would have been a pain to keep all that straight for all the different filters so I closed the aperture way down to keep everything in focus and let the wheat blur in the wind. You can see the original image is missing the punch in the blue sky and green fields.
The second image, you can probably guess, was taken with the 10-stop nd filter. It was also taken at f/18, but with a 6.5 second exposure. That means we got 9.5 stops using the filter. That makes me think the first test image may have been more of an outlier. There are two things you will notice with this image. First, it is quite a bit warmer, to the point where it is pretty unappealing. Again, that is easy to fix in post processing, but blue skies and green grass are probably not the best use for this filter. The second thing you will notice is how much movement we got in the wheat. This can be a useful tool if you want to go more abstract with your image or be creative. I wanted the wheat to be sharp so this filter was not useful for me on this image.
The third image was taken with the Luzid circular polarizing/4-stop neutral density filter. It was also taken at f/18, but with a 1/15 second exposure. That means it cut out three stops. It also did exactly what a circular polarizer is supposed to do by darkening that blue sky. Again, the wheat is blurred more than I want, but the colors are much closer to what I remember.
The final image was taken with the Luzid circular polarizing filter. It was taken at f/18 and 1/60 of a second. Like most polarizing filters, it cut out one stop of light. You can see I got that blue sky the cpl is supposed to give you. The first thing I noticed when using this filter is how much change I got when rotating the filter. I have been using a cheaper Tiffen cpl for a while and I never noticed a lot of difference when I rotated it so I felt like I did not understand how to use it properly. The first time I used the Luzid filter, I finally understood what everyone had been saying about rotating your cpl to get the proper effect. I was very happy with the results and used the Luzid CPL for the rest of my blue sky images during my vacation in Washington.
Overall, I was very happy with the Luzid filter line. The step-up ring was solid quality. The filters were all easy to use with quality materials and nice knurled brass frames. The ND1000 (available on Amazon) allowed me to get 8-10 stops to create some nice long exposure. While the colors tended to be a little warmer with the filter, but it was nothing that would cause problems in post processing and the effect on sunset skies was actually desirable. The CPL (available on Amazon) and the CPL/ND combination filters (available on Amazon) worked great and performed exactly how they are supposed to. The biggest key is you can get these filters for half or less than what other major brands are selling for. I tried to figure out what kind of glass and materials some of the filters more comparable in price were using and I had trouble locating any technical information on the glass used. On the contrary, the higher end filters all advertised the use of the same Schott B270 glass. To me that tells you something. I could be completely wrong, however, so feel free to correct me if you have greater knowledge. Let me know what you guys think and if anyone coming to Glacier in September on the free Improve Photography workshop wants to try out the filters, I will have them with me there.