The NiSi Medium Graduated Filter (Medium Nano IR GND) is the latest addition to the NiSi range of drop-in/sheet filters aimed at landscape photographers. It’s designed to fill the gap between the shorter graduation of the NiSi Hard Graduated Filter and the larger graduation of the Soft Graduated Filter. But is this a filter that you absolutely must have in your kit?
About the filter
The NiSi range of 100mm filters are made with 2mm optical glass with a UV coating for even light transmission and high image quality. The front and back of the filters are double ground, polished and multi coated, which is said to reduce reflections and flare. In use this becomes immediately apparent because shooting directly into the sun doesn’t cause the same level of flare problems you can face with resin filters, but it does occur.
Landscape photography can see photographers working in all weather conditions and the NiSi Medium Graduated filter, like all others in the range, features a Nano coating to reduce streaking from water. It’s also said that this coating improves scratch resistance. In use, when water hits the filter surface tension is maintained so it remains as a spot rather than running down the filter. This makes it easy to wipe the water away without smearing to continue shooting.
The Nisi 100x150mm Medium Graduated filter is available in 2, 3 and 4 Stop strengths. And like all other NiSi sheet filters the Medium Graduated Filter comes with a stylish leather wallet with a magnetic flap to keep it safe, although keeping a number of filters in a larger case is much safer and ultimately more space efficient in your camera bag.
Filling the gap
The NiSi Medium Graduated Filter features a graduation area of roughly 25mm. This is comparable to the graduation of many competitor soft grads, and fills the gap between the NiSi hard and soft grads. The advantage of having an even softer grad is that it’s perfect for more hilly and mountainous scenes, while the hard grad is ideal for near straight horizons. The medium grad works best for uneven horizons where elements such as trees or rocks etc. protrude into the sky.
The downside is that you have three filters where with other filter systems you might only have two. And of course, you have to consider the additional cost this introduces. The thing is, while the NiSi system requires you to have an extra filter to cover all bases, it ultimately provides more in-camera control over sky exposure in a much wider range of situations. And it’s safe to say that you don’t need to have all the light reducing strengths for each of the three graduated filter types.
NiSi Medium Graduated Filter in use
Before buying the NiSi Medium Graduated Filter I already owned a 4-stop soft graduated filter and a 2-stop hard graduated filter, which have worked well for me. But it didn’t take long before I realised that there was a gap between the two; one where in certain situations neither was ideal. When shooting near straight yet uneven horizons the best option was the hard grad, but this would darken elements protruding into the sky area. The soft grad on the other hand would have to be positioned so low in the holder that the ground exposure would also become graduated.
As soon as the medium grad was available I purchased the 2-stop version. I opted for this because I find it to be the most versatile strength for a range of shooting conditions, and it suits my style of photography. But with 3- and 4-stop options available there is a filter to suit all requirements and higher contrast situations where you need a stronger ND grad.
When I used the 2-stop medium grad it allowed me to maintain a perfect exposure of the sky and land without darkening off the rocks in the middle ground as much as my hard grad did. In this situation the soft grad was totally unsuitable. The addition of this new filter to the system really has filled the gap to offer more control over exposure with excellent image quality to match.
Straight uneven horizon
For the image above I would typically use a hard ND grad to deal with the straight horizon created by the sea. However, in this scene I was hoping to maintain colour and detail in the headland on the left and in the rocks on the right. Despite the near straight horizon the NiSi Medium Graduated Filter performed exceptionally well with detail maintained throughout the scene.
The image above shows the headland and horizon at a 100%. At this magnification you can clearly see the colour and detail that has been maintained after using the medium grad filter.
Complex uneven horizon
Uneven horizons are what the NiSi Medium Graduated Filter was intended for, and for this shot of the derelict barn at The Roaches in the Peak District clearly shows how well it performs with complex elements protruding into the sky. Just like the image of the seascape, detail has been maintained throughout the scene, with just little darkening of the tallest tree at the top.
The image above shows the tallest tree so you can see how the filter graduates exposure over larger elements above the horizon line.
NiSi Filters are exceptionally well made and offer excellent image quality and minimal colour casts, which is why I moved over to the system last