To all of you who are experienced with graduated neutral density filters, I wonder if you could give a first time buyer of ND filters some advice. Here are my questions:
1. When you purchase, do you usually purchase all three (i.e. 0.3/0.6/0.9), or can you cut some costs with equal results combining a 0.3 with a 0.6, and then not purchase the 0.9?
2. For shooting nature scenes like rice fields and beautiful blue skies, do you find yourself using hard steps or soft steps? I'm asking because I might not be able to afford a set of each, and therefore want to choose what I'll get most use out of.
3. Next, do you ever find a time for using ND filters with people?
4. Setup wise, am I wise to go with a Cokin P system, and then combining Singh-Ray or Lee with that? Or, am I just better to go with Cokin all around? I've heard from a friend that he gets more clarity in images by using Singh-Ray over Cokin. I guess he ought to for the price difference!
5. Lastly, will Cokin P work with my Canon 16-35 2.8L and my 24-70 2.8L? I noticed on Cokin's site that they rate Cokin P for 28mm and up, but X-Pro for 15mm and up.
Thanks for the input.
For what it's worth, I found the Cokin "P" holder quite good, as it doesn't vignette if you slice off the outer slot on each side. My reasoning was that I would never stack another filter with the grad filter, so the extra slots are redundant.
I did fine with the two stop and three stop soft edge filters alone. As John Shaw noted, when you need a grad filter, you really need it, so a single stop just isn't that useful. The Cokin grey grad isn't very neutral, nor is it optically very good. I had good results with the Singh-Ray grad filters, but they certainly are very expensive for a piece of plastic.
Once I went digital, I stopped using the Singh-Ray filters. I found it far easier to take two or three bracketed exposures and blend them later in Photoshop, either manually or using the HDR function. This also avoids the tell-tale dark mountain-tops and trees you get with grad filters.