Wednesday 5 June 2013

Living & Photography: China-made Cheap But Not Tacky ND Filters From Taobao

Image from Locky's English Playground
Sometimes, it take quite a bit of courage to buy something from Taobao, mainly due to the not-so-cheap postage. This is particularly true if you are trying to buy a number of different products from different suppliers, which is why I will try to buy all I need from just one. It is easier said than done of course, since I can't buy photography gear and a glass tea set from the same supplier, so usually, I will just choose the most essential product to buy from a list of many, and then tell myself to forget about the rest. Often, this strategy helps me save lots of money.

This time round because I broke my 77mm UV lens filter in a lens drop incident at waist height, I need to buy a replacement. Since that broken UV filter cost over $100 and it is of little photographic use other than protection, it would be silly to buy the same one again. If I have to buy, I thought to myself, I will buy an ND filter.

Background photo taken using welding glass
Image from Locky's English Playground & Locky's E.P. @ Digitalrev

ND filters are great tools for photography as I have mentioned several times before (see Photography: Welding Glass Photography (WGP) Result 2012 and Photography: ND Filters & Photography for details), but they can do quite a bit of damage to your wallet, thus Taobao came to my mind once more.

Image from Taobao

Just typed "ND" in the search bar and I easily got hundreds of shops offering ND filters. My budget helped me narrow the search down to about 5 and after comparing the price-cum-postage I decided to buy from this shop.

Image from Locky's English Playground
From the shop, I picked 77mm ND2, 77mm ND4 and 77mm Variable ND2-400. The earlier two costs RMB 24 and the last one costs RMB 105. Why did I buy three filters? Simply because it costs the same postage of RMB 30 for one item or ten, so I might as well buy more. Then why didn't I buy more? I tried to ask my friends if they wanted to give the ND filters a go but they were worried about the quality of the filters so they told me to be the guinea pig first. I guess those RMB 24 is probably too much for them to lose.

Anyway, I must say I am very pleased with the fact that these filters are glass, not plastic, it has a bit of weight which I like, and the build quality is pretty sturdy good.

Image from Learning DSLR Video

As for the quality, well, hard to say from my limited knowledge, so I try to read up on it. I find this website pretty informative.

I must say, I have no plan to do all the tests, but I did try out the sharpness as well as the Big X test. It happens that on the 22nd this month (Wednesday), there was a black rainstorm signal and so I earned an afternoon off. I was woken up by the thunder and lightning at 4:30am and immediately I took out my 7D and  went to the living room to try to take photos of the lightning. What was sad was the only hit I got of an actual lightning bolt was taken at the moment before I remembered to set the lens to infinity.
A lightning bolt, that only a good-eyesight person can see
Image from Locky's English Playground

So, for the next 3 hours, I was basically sitting there taking hundreds of 30 seconds long exposure photos using my ND filters.
Taken with ND 4 filter for 30 seconds at 5:33am
Image from Locky's English Playground

Basically, non-variable ND Filters do no produce that big X, and the photos captured were quite nice.

However, when sun began to rise, I had to put my ND 2, ND4 and my ND 2-400 all together to get the sky dark enough, and that's when the big X appeared.
Taken with ND2, 4 and 2-400 filters for 30 seconds at 6:32am
Image from Locky's English Playground
Taken with ND2, 4 and 2-400 filters for 30 seconds at 6:33am
Image from Locky's English Playground
Taken with ND2, 4 and 2-400 filters for 30 seconds at 6:36am
Image from Locky's English Playground
Of course, you are not advised to combine your ND filters like I do, cos even if you can get your shots, they will be either very noisy or very blur. What I did was because I had no choice and I was so desperately trying to get at least one shot of the lightning, so...

Overall, if you are not in need of a super dark ND filter, these cheap ND filters from Taobao are great at their prices. The build quality is not bad and they do their job alright. If you are super tight on your budget and you are adventurous enough to try out new things, do see the links below if you are interested.

Welding Glass installed on the mask
Image from Wikipedia
But of course, if you wanna take long exposure photos in bright daylight for more than 30 seconds, remember that welding glass is still your best friend.

For more references, do visit the links down below.

postage -- (n) [U] the money that you pay for sending letters and parcels through the post:
easier said than done -- informal said when something seems like a good idea but it would be difficult to do:
guinea pig -- (n)[C] a person used in a scientific test, usually to discover the effect of a drug on humans:
sturdy -- (adj) physically strong and solid or thick, and therefore unlikely to break or be hurt:

Travelling & Living: Patong Beach VS Kamala Beach (Why Patong Beach Is Overrated) @ Locky's English Playground

Technology: My First Galaxy S2 Surgery -- Sea Water Damage S2 Fixed!! @ Locky's English Playground

Photography: Welding Glass Photography (WGP) Result 2012

Photography: ND Filters & Photography

首頁-格林爾數碼器材專營店-- 淘寶網

Variable ND Filter Shootout @ Learning DSLR Video

Variable ND Filter Shootout - Polariod Genus Lightcraft Tiffen Singh-Ray Heliopan @ YouTube