Breakthrough X4 Neutral Density Filters Review

Breakthrough X4 Neutral Density Filters review
Review

Price when reviewed

£109

$139

Our Verdict

There are two things that you want from a neutral density filter, it should cut out the prescribed amount of light and it should be neutral. Breakthrough's X4 series of ND filters deliver on both scores but also have the benefit of shedding water droplets, being easy to clean and being able to survive being dropped onto hard surfaces. They may cost more than some of the competition (including Lee Filters), but they do the job you want and are made to last.

For

  • Shatter-proof glass
  • Sheds water droplets and easy to clean
  • 25-year warranty

Against

  • High price (prices go up with filter size and strength)
What is the Breakthrough X4 Neutral Denisty Filter?

Neutral density filters, also know as ND filters, are designed to reduce the amount of light entering a lens to enable long exposures or wide apertures to be used in bright conditions. They are especially popular with photographers looking to blur movement and videographers who need to maintain a low shutter speed while shooting with a wide aperture.

Breakthrough makes its X4 series of neutral density (ND) filters in a range of strengths or densities and in square and circular format. The square filters are designed to slot into Breakthrough’s X100 Holder, but they are also compatible with other manufacturer’s filter holders including Lee Filters’ original 100 filter holder and its new Lee100 holder.

Read our Lee Filters Lee100 Filter System review

Follow the link to buy the Breakthrough X100 Holder and get 5% by using the code CAMERAJABBER

Specification

  • Filter Format: Circular and 100mm square
  • Circular filter diameter: 43 – 95mm
  • Filter strength: 3, 6, 10 and 15-stop filters available
  • Construction: CNC machined brass and 3.1mm Schott Ultrawhite B270 glass
  • Coatings: Each side has 8 layers of Multi-Resistant Coating to reduce flare and ghosting, Breakthrough Nanotec Nano Coating to repel dirt and water
Breakthrough X4 Neutral Density Filters review
Features

Breakthrough makes both square and circular versions of its X4 Neutral Density (ND) filters. The circular filters are available in range of sizes from 43mm to 95mm and they screw directly onto the end of a lens.

The square Breakthrough X4 ND Filters require a filter holder and an adapter to mount on a lens. Breakthrough makes its own X100 Holder, but the filters are also compatible with other 100mm-type filter holders such as Lee Filters Lee100 holder.

Both types of filter are available in a range of strengths or densities including 3, 6, 10 and 15 Ev or stops. However, not every strength is available in every size of circular filter.

Breakthrough uses 3.1mm Schott Ultrawhite B270 glass for the filters, which is remarkably tough. The circular filters also have a CNC machined brass frame with a knurled edge that makes them easy to grasp, thread and tighten or loosen on the lens. The frame is bonded to the glass and weather-sealed.

Meanwhile the square filters have a thin frame of foam just inside their outer edge which is designed to act as a light seal.

Each side of the filters has an 8-layer Multi-Resistant Coating, which means there are 16 layers on each filter.  These reduce flare and ghosting as well as maintain contrast.

Breakthrough’s Nanotec Nano Coating is also applied to help keep water and dirt off the filter.

The circular filters are supplied in a thin plastic box, which is a bit tricky to open, especially with cold or gloved hands. The square filters, however, each come in a soft zip-close case that has a tab that shows clearly the strength of the filter.

In a thoughtful touch, Breakthrough colour-codes the case trim and tabs for the strength of filter. The tabs for the 3-step ND filter and 3-stop graduated ND filters, for example are green while the 6-stop filter case tabs are red.

Breakthrough X4 ND Filter review
Build and Handling

The square filters have nicely ground and rounded edge which helps them slide smoothly and easily into a filter holder. Meanwhile the circular filters are easy to thread onto a lens and they stay attached.

Despite shooting on an Icelandic beach with plenty of sea spray and sand blowing around, I found the X4 ND filters stay clean and water droplets bead off quickly.

The coatings are also reasonably resistant to fingerprints, but if you don’t handle the filters carefully, prints inevitably build up. However, they wipe off easily with a lens cloth.

Performance

One of the criticisms of Lee Filters Big Stopper filter is that it has a blue colour cast. The Breakthrough X4 filters, however, are neutral. I’m impressed how neutral the results are when using the strongest (15-stop) filter. It means that rather than having to correct any colourcast before you can get the look you want, you can get acceptable images straight from the camera.

Crucially, each of the filters also extends shutter speed by the anticipated amount and image detail level is maintained very well.

I found the square filters’ foam doesn’t create a perfect light seal with the Breakthrough X100 Holder but it works a treat with the new Lee Filter Lee100 Holder.

Breakthrough encouraged me to drop the filters onto rocks and while I was initially nervous, I soon realised that the Schott glass is made to survive. After dropping filters several times, however, I noticed the odd mark in the coating so it still pays to be careful.

Breakthrough X4 Neutral Density Filter Sample Images
Verdict

Breakthrough’s X4 ND filters are excellent. My only criticism of them is that the plastic case that’s supplied with the circular filters is hard to open and it’s not marked with the filter’s strength. That means that you have to open the case to find out or use a marker pen on the case.

Also, once you open the case, you have to really peer at the filter to read its strength – at least with the 82mm filters.

I tend to favour square and rectangular filters because using a holder allows you to position the graduation of a graduated filter. However, circular ND filters are often more convenient.

Whichever you opt for, Breakthrough’s X4 Neutral Density filters are a great choice if you can justify the cost.

Follow the link to buy the Breakthrough X100 Holder and get 5% by using the code CAMERAJABBER

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