URTH Circular Neutral Density Filters Tested
I came across the URTH brand whilst considering ‘Neutral Density Filters (ND) for my landscape photography.
The URTH company was founded in 2014 by Christian and Chris (formally Gobe) in the US, later to be joined by Minnie. The company based in Australia (NSW) has a simple, but worthwhile, philosophy based on sustainability and the environment, for each product sold URTH will plant five (5) trees. Whilst some may dismiss this as a sales tactic, I can confirm this is not the case.
To date the company has made a massive impact on protecting and promoting the environment, to date:
TREES PLANTED: 3,644,080
CO2 Emissions Saved: 521,484
Employment Days Created: 26,074
Purchased for the Test
The company’s filters are reasonably priced and receive excellent feedback on Amazon UK.
I ordered an ND1000 Plus+ (£46) and variable ND2-400 (£37) for this review blog, purchased with my own money, the review is not sponsored by URTH / Gobe.
On receipt, they appear well manufactured and come beautifully presented in a recycled box and a foam-lined tin for safe storage. A small lens cloth is included with each filter. The code for planting the trees is inside the box lid, it is small, and this could be printed in a larger font.
ND filters reduce light hitting the camera sensor. A handful of photography techniques require less light to produce the required image. The amount of light reduction for each filter is measured in f-stops.
Nikon 20mm f/1.8
Filter Build and Quality
The ND2-400 filter contains optical glass produced by the Japanese Company AGC glass (AGC are the world leader in glass production). This filter has an 8-layer nano-coating for improved light transmittance, to aid image clarity, assist in cleaning and protect the glass from contamination.
The ND1000 Plus + filter contains optical glass produced by SCHOTT in Germany. The filter has 20-layers of nano-coating, maximising light transmission and protection from oil grease and scratches. The coatings also ensure consistent light transmission with no colour cast or hue.
The filter body is manufactured from high-grade magnesium, double threaded for filter stacking. URTH filters carry a life-long guarantee to provide peace of mind.
This variable ND filter has a knurled edge to assist in rotating, and a graduated guide (max to min) in white for easy reference. The rotation is well dampened and turns smoothly, aided by the knurled rim.
Filters are identified with white text on the edge of the rim.
Demo of ND2-400
The ND2-400 (1-8 f-stops) in the studio, rotated from min to max and back again.
ND filters effectively reduce the amount of light falling on the image sensor, contradicting the photographer’s mantra “more light the better”. Shooting with a slower shutter speed gives emphasis to movement within an image, the typical example is photographs of motion blur in waterfalls.
Example: Slow Shutter Speed
When the amount of ambient light exceeds the maximum shutter speed an ND filter reduces the ambient light allowing for a slower shutter speed and image capture.
Shoot Wide-Open/Shallow Depth of Field
ND filters allow the photographer to shoot wide-open in bright light (maximum aperture of the lens) allowing for a shallower depth of field, often used for isolating the subject.
Example: Subject Isolation
URTH ND2-400 Variable
URTH variable ND filters have two stacked polarising filters. The angle of polarisation of the two lenses determines the ND (f-stops) of the filter. Variable ND filters are not generally suited to wide-angle lenses since polarising filters are most effective at 90°degrees and many wide-angle lenses exceed this.
A Nikon 20mm f/1.8, for example, has a field of view of 94°degrees.
That said, the ND2-400 on a Nikon 20mm lens is effective up to 4- 5 f-stops, mid-way between min and max guide on the edge of the filter.
To demonstrate the effect of exceeding the 90° degrees angle on a Nikon 20mm lens please see the video below. Notice the coloured artefacts and strong vignetting in the upper left and lower right once the filter reaches its max setting.
Water in Motion URTH ND2-400
Due to ongoing COVID restrictions, I couldn’t travel more than 5km to locate a suitable waterfall. However, we have a small sluice with fast following water locally.
I attached the ND2-400 to the Nikon 20mm and mounted the camera securely on a tripod. Setting the ND2-400 mid-way between the min and max and the Nikon D780 to manual mode, the resulting exposure was as follows:
Shutter: 4 Seconds
*Unfortunately, calculating the exact f/stops includes some guesswork in the field; I would adjust the ND filter until satisfied with the image captured.
Nikon D780+20mm f/16 4s ISO 100
Water in Motion URTH ND1000 Plus+
The ND1000 Plus+ filter is rated at ten (10) stops.
I attached the ND1000 Plus+ to the Nikon 20mm and mounted the camera securely on a tripod.
Nikon D780 in manual mode, the resulting exposure was as follows:
Shutter: 6 Seconds
Nikon D780+20mm f/16 6s ISO 100
Water in Motion Before and After
To demonstrate, no filter on the right and the URTH ND1000 Plus+ filter on the left. Please slide to see the before and after.
[twenty20 img1=”3904″ img2=”3968″ offset=”0.5″ before=”No Filter” after=”URTH ND1000 Plus+”]
There is no doubt that these ND filters are high quality, and manufactured with premium materials, including lenses from two of the world’s largest and most renowned glassmakers in Japan and Germany.
The URTH ND1000 Plus+ filter showed no noticeable colour cast or hue, and images retain clarity and definition, showing a slight reduction in the blue spectrum, seen in the before and after above.
Again, the URTH ND2-400 variable filter is an excellent choice; however, (most variable filters) have limitations. Used as intended, the filter produces clean images, without any noticeable colour cast or hue. With the ND2-400 filter affixed, it was impossible to install the lens hood. It is equally impossible to fit the filter with the lens hood installed due to the thickness and increased width of the variable filter (no such issues with the ND1000 Plus+). However, this was specific to my Nikon lenses and may not be an issue with other branded lenses.
Unfortunately, the ND2-400 variable filter doesn’t suit my current lens lineup, I use a 70-200mm zoom and a selection of wide-angle lenses, none of which are particularly apt to ND variable filters.
Where does this leave us? URTH (Gobe) are producing ND filters that match or exceed the quality of more expensive brands. The ND1000 Plus+ is an outstanding performer and is an excellent choice, now residing in my camera bag full-time.
Would I recommend URTH as a company? Yes, they stand behind their products offering a LIFETIME warranty, customer service is excellent, and Casper managed my email enquiries promptly.
It is refreshing to see a company dedicated to protecting, and sustaining the environment and massive reforestation. I love the idea of ten (10) trees planted because of my purchase.
*Disclosure: As an Amazon Associate, I earn a small commission for qualifying purchases, this helps to cover the running costs of the website