10 Stop ND Filter Shootout: Lee Big Stopper vs NiSi Nano IR
If you’re looking to pick up a great ND filter, one of the new(er) brands on the block is NiSi; but how does this relatively young company compare to one of the biggest names in filters? In this video, NiSi Ambassador Imran Mirza pits the NiSi Nano IR 10 stop filter against the famed LEE Big Stopper.
First, a correction: in the video, Imran says the Big Stopper they’re using is made of Resin. It is not. Lee’s Big Stopper is made of high quality glass. Lee used to make a 10 stop resin ND in the early 2010s, but the current model, the one in this video, is glass.
Okay, now that this is out of the way, we can get to the comparison. For his part, Imran’s bias is obvious as a NiSi ambassador; but to be fair, he’s giving you the RAW files to play with in case you want to make sure he’s being honest. Short version: he is being honest, and the NiSi filter clearly outperforms the Big Stopper when it comes to color cast and sharpness both.
You can see the unedited final JPEGs below (download one pair of full-res RAW files at this link). All of the images are underexposed, but that’s not important. What we’re looking for is color cast, and as you can see, the Lee filter clearly produces more color cast in these particular comparison images. Lee are on top, NiSi below.
This first pair are 30-second exposures:
This second pair are both 8-minute exposures. Again, Lee on top, NiSi below:
It is genuinely impressive how little (if ANY) color cast is visible in the NiSi images. SOOC JPEGs and RAW files alike make it seem like it was captured without a filter, while the Lee filter shot looks a little zombie apocalypse-y.
Of course, you can correct the color cast in post—and Imran does in the video—but the NiSi filter’s almost cast-less 8-minute exposure will save you editing time. What’s more, when he zooms into the foliage alongside the waterfall in the second pair of images, it looks like the Lee produced a noticeable drop in quality… no bueno.
Check out the video up top to see the comparison for yourself, and then compare the RAW files for yourself. The NiSi Nano IR ND filter will cost you a bit more than the Lee Big Stopper ($150 vs $125), but if this comparison is accurate, there’s good reason to spend the extra cash.