If you own a camera with an interchangeable lens, like the Panasonic GH5, then I highly recommend investing in an inexpensive neutral density filter, even if you don’t plan on regularly using one. Neutral density (ND) filters, which are often described as sunglasses for your lens, allow the lens’ aperture to remain wide open, or the shutter speed to remain low, while in bright shooting environments.
ND filters, in effect, let you capture certain types of shots without overexposing them. Photographers often find them helpful for low shutter speed work, but for my workflow I sometimes use an ND for shooting videos wide open in bright conditions. Have a look at our brief hands-on video inside for more details.
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The first thing you’ll need to do when searching for a ND filter is to find the right diameter to match the filter threads on your lens. The diameter is usually marked on the lens itself with an ø diameter symbol. For the Panasonic Lumix G X Vario 12-35mm f/2.8, the filter thread diameter is listed as ø 58.
Once you know the thread size, you can now begin narrowing down the type of filters that will work with your lens. Keep in mind that each lens may have a different thread diameter.
For my 12-35 lens, I decided to go with the K&F Concept 58mm Variable ND filter, which is available on the cheap. Variable NDs are advantageous over standard ND filters, because they offer a range of stops, in this case 1 stop to about 8.5 stops, for light control. You’re able to turn the ring on the variable ND filter to change the degree of ND, and alter the amount of light being blocked by the filter.
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Of course, instead of a variable ND, you could opt for a standard ND, but the advantage of variable NDs is that you can change the amount of light being blocked on the fly. With a standard ND, you’d have to add or remove filters in order to change the amount of light being blocked.
Shooting outside without ND filter
Keep in mind that variable NDs will eventually exhibit an ‘x’ pattern in the shot after adjusting the filter towards its maximum value, so you’ll want to avoid going to the extreme with a variable filter. Of course, I find that anytime you introduce any type of filter, there is a chance for slight image degradation; it just sort of comes with the territory.
Shooting outside with ND filter
As you can see in the brief video example above, an ND filter can make a big difference on your creative ability when shooting video (or photos). If you’re just starting out with the 12-35mm Panasonic lens, I recommend K&F Concept’s filter, which can be had for just a hair over $20. But even if you don’t have this particular lens, there are likely many inexpensive choices for filters that fit your needs, just be sure to include the right diameter in your search.