**Update 24/09/2018: I dropped and broke this filter while out shooting the night sky not long after writing this blog post. I decided not to buy it again as I just found for what it does against the cost, it just wasn’t worth it.**
Ahh the NiSi Natural Night Filter, where to being…
When I started getting into astrophotography about 4 years ago there were no workshops available in my area where I could go and learn so I was doing lots of online research, I was watching YouTube videos, trawling the forums and asking many questions. There seemed to be a recurring theme in my research and that was remove any filters attached to your lens, get rid of that polarizer, get rid of that UV filter because it can cause unwanted flares in your images. I did test this theory with keeping a UV filter on at night and yes, it did cause unwanted flares – so there was that, keep filters off at night!
Fast forward 4 years and along comes the NiSi Natural Night Filter specifically designed for night photography and especially astrophotography. I’ll admit, when I first heard about the NiSi Natural Night Filter I thought to myself, this has to be an absolute farce. It’s going to be a waste of money.
This filter goes against everything I was originally taught about the use of filters and night time!
Living here in Ireland, we are plagued by light pollution, we don’t really have to many places we can go to get away from it. If we head to the North Coast, we start picking up light from Scotland, we’re getting the glow coming from behind us, it’s absolutely everywhere.
So what is the NiSi Natural Night Filter, what does it do?
In a nutshell and in terms both you and me understand, it’s a filter that you use at night that removes light pollution. Do you know that nasty orange/white glow you get from the street lights? Well it removes that wavelength of light allowing you to basically see through it and in turn it shows through the real colors of objects and the sky.
NiSi describes their Natural Night filter as this: Between mercury vapor, sodium, Low CRI streetlights, there are many undesirable wavelengths of light that pollute the night sky. The glow from these can keep your camera from seeing the sky properly and ruin your night images.
If you want to find out more about the filter, read up on the complicated specs of the filter, then head over to the NiSi Website.
Onto the before/after images!
First, both images have been taken with the exact same settings, same white balance set at 3750, same aperture, same exposure time.
These images are by no means a masterpiece, hell my 6 year old daughter could take them! I just wanted to get out and test the NiSi Natural Night Filter, to see how it performed and to see if it really is worth the price tag of £211 – yes that’s £211! I’m shooting with the 150mm NiSi system so unfortunately I get completely roasted when it comes to me buying filters. Sad face.
So the below image, I’m facing west, looking towards Derry/Londonderry/Doire/Maiden City/Stroke City – the city with many names! Just before the city there is a huge industrial estate, you’ve got Dupont, the power plant, the harbour etc which almost have as many lights as Derry itself! To the right on the image, you’ve got a random light that serves absolutely no purpose (I hate light pollution).
As you can see from the before shot, there is excessive orange flow coming from everywhere, the sky is orange, the field is orange, the grass is orange. You can make out the stars but they are being washed out with the light pollution.
Now the after image, using the NiSi Natural Night Filter. Instantly you can see the difference it has made already. It has taken out that nasty orange glow from almost everywhere in the image. To me it looks like all the colors are now their true colors, the sky is the darker blue color, the grass is green, the blacks are black and the wheat is it’s yellow color.
Now onto the 2nd image. This time I’m facing east, therefore I’m getting reflective light pollution from Derry behind me. Again in the before image, everything is shades of orange, the entire image has an orange cast, the building, the car, the sky, the ground. In the after image 95% of this orange glow has gone. From visiting this location many many times during daylight hours, the colors of the building are exactly how they are during the day, all the colors are true and are well defined between each other. The other thing to notice is just how much for contrast and depth the image has with using the filter, it’s a great starting point now for post-processing.
And now we move onto a few more images from my local town. I to test out the filter some more, and to see what effect it has inside a heavily light polluted area.
Can you replicate the NiSi Natural Night Filter effect in Lightroom?
I’ve tested this, in the below video which I’ve sped up 500%, I’ve tried to replicate what the NiSi Natural Night Filter does, and I’ve spent 7 minutes getting it as close as possible. The big first notable change is when I change the white balance to a much cooler temperature, but still the entire image still has an orange cast. Also if you look on the right hand side of the image, the airglow never really disappears, you can change the color of it, apply negative saturation and reduce it slightly, but it never goes away. IMO you can’t replicate NiSi Natural Night Filter in post.
What I really like about the NiSi Natural Night Filter is that it cuts out that 10 minutes or so of editing just trying to remove the light pollution, but not only that, I’m starting with an image that has the light pollution already removed, I’m then not having to edit an image that has already been edited – if that at all makes any sense ha!
And here’s the comparison between the filtered image, and the image I’ve done in Lightroom & Photoshop.
Conclusion – is the NiSi Natural Night Filter worth the investment?
So far yes. Although this is a first impressions review where I’ve only used the filter for testing, so far I’m quite impressed and I don’t regret buying it. I love how it really separates the colors, rather than having them all blend together. My greens are greens, my browns are browns, my reds are red, they don’t have that orange cast over them caused by the light pollution.
This filters gives me an even better starting point when it comes to me post-processing my images as I’m now not going to have to spend the time removing the light pollution. Something else I’ve noticed is that the images seems be sharper now like I’ve applied clarity to the image. If you take a look at the first image above, pay special attention to the treeline area, look how sharp the trees have become in the after shot.
The filter reduces the amount of light you let in, perhaps around a stop or so, but this isn’t the end of the world, you can either compensate for this in camera, or bump the exposure during post-processing.
I’m looking forward to introducing Nisi Natural Night Filter to my night time adventures in the very near future and I’m sure I’m going to be very impressed by what it allows me to do, but also allow me to shoot in more light polluted areas.
If you’re interesting in purchasing the Nisi Natural Night Filter, get in touch and I can point you in the right direction 😉
Disclaimer: I am no longer a NiSi Filters Ambassador and have changed my filter system to Formatt Hitech.
I am a NiSi Filters Ambassador. NiSi have not given the NiSi Natural Night Filter to me in exchange for a positive review. I tried a few times to get NiSi to send me the filter to test it thoroughly but with no joy – in the end I bought the filter with my own hard earned cash – a huge thanks here goes out to Gareth at Camera Filters Ireland for the very speedy service, who had it in my hand within 12 hours after ordering and with the packaging more secure than Fort Knox. Everything you read here is 100% my own honest thoughts about the product and has in no way been influenced by NiSi.