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Neutral Density Filters

Shooting wide-open can be a problem: even at the camera’s minimal ISO value, the top shutter speed might still be too slow to allow an exposure that is not “blown”.

For example, on the Leica M9, the top shutter speed is 1/4000 second (the CCD can also produce odd effects at that speed). This is not fast enough to make a proper exposure at f/1.4, let alone f/0.95, even at ISO 80 (which is not a real ISO, and also loses dynamic range). At the real ISO of 160, a shutter speed of 1/32,000 second might be needed for snowy or beach scenes at f/1, but no camera has such a speed.

Assuming you have an f/2 or faster lens, a neutral density (ND) filter [more info] is generally mandatory to allow for daytime shooting. A 3-stop ND filter is the best all-around choice, but the ideal scenario is to have 3/2/6/10 stop ND filters (in that order). Filters can be stacked, but is not advised, due to flare issues.

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