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Breakthrough vs NiSi: The World’s Best Neutral Density Filters?


In recent years, the number of new ND filter manufacturers has risen quite dramatically and this, of course, is great for competition. This competition has helped push companies to create even better filters that are sharper with better color rendition.

Both of these are very important factors when deciding between filters and considering the price, it helps to do a little research before you buy. Although the price of the average filter systems has gone down, they’re still pretty pricey, but for many photographers, they are also indispensable.

Two prominent companies, Breakthrough Photography and NiSi Filters, have been making waves in the photography community with their latest filters. Breakthrough claims their filters are the most color neutral and sharpest filters available on the market. NiSi, on the other hand, has been received very well by many professionals. I wanted to see how both systems compare to one another.

In my latest video above, I run a number of tests demonstrating their performance to determine which is the best.

From a usability standpoint, there are a few defining differences, but personal preference plays a huge part. With the NiSi, for example, the polarizing filter is part of the holder system, allowing you to change where the effect is applied without needing to remove any ND filters in the holder. This does, however, prevent you from using the polarizer without the holder.

Breakthrough opts for a more conventional approach which allows their filters to be used as regular filters as well as part of the system. This means you need to apply your polarizer settings before placing ND filters into the holder. Otherwise, you may need to remove the ND to adjust it.

Regarding the actual performance of the ND filters, I compared both using the Canon 5DS R and the Canon 24mm F/3.5 T-SE lens, which is known for its incredible performance. Looking at both images below you can clearly see the difference in color. The Breakthrough image is far more neutral with significantly better colors and this is something I find extremely useful.


When it comes to sharpness between the two there isn’t any difference that I can see for real-world use. Both produce excellent images and can produce fine detail very well. In a further test, I did with more controlled settings I did find the NiSi filters to be sharper than the Breakthrough filters.

In short, Breakthrough filters are great for colors and NiSi filters may be a little sharper.

About the author: Usman Dawood is the lead photographer of Sonder Creative, an architectural and interior photography company. You can find more of his work on his website, Instagram, and Twitter.