Using graduated ND filters with a mirrorless camera

It’s been a while since my affections transferred from my big Pentax K20D SLR to my little Olympus OMD-EM10. The Olympus gives better picture quality, is a lot smaller and lighter and easier to use, and I’ve decided I like electronic viewfinders.

But I’m still taking the Pentax with me as a second camera when I go out on shooting trips. The simple reason is the sky. I bought a set of Lee neutral density graduated filters a long time ago, when I was still on film. For slide film I always wanted to get the exposure perfect on the slide (not like using ETTR with digital) and taking sunsets and sunrises means the sky is nearly always brighter than the ground.

I initially found two problems with using my Lee system on the Olympus. First, I didn’t have a lens adapter ring to fit. I was speaking to a man on the Lee stand at the last NEC photography show and he said they didn’t do an adapter that small for my system. He also said that the existing filters, even the hard grads, are a little too soft in the transition for a smaller sensor.

They’ve supposedly solved these issues and you can now buy adapters, holders and filters from Lee specifically¬†aimed at small sensor cameras. But, is there another problem?

I was playing around yesterday trying to see how I could bodge something up to use my filters with the Olympus and I noticed something else. The EVF of course adjusts its brightness to the scene, so you always see a mid-bright view. Using DOF preview, as you slide the filter down as soon as the dark part comes into play the EVF (and rear screenn) compensates and brightens a little. End result, you can’t see the transition.

I think it needs more investigation. Perhaps next time I go to a photography equipment show I’ll get them to do a demo for me. I’ll still need to shell out for a brand new set of filters and holders so until I sell some more prints I’ll have to keep schlepping the Pentax around with me.

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