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    Variable ND Filters
    #1
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    Hello Listers,

    I'm going to shoot more video with a DSLR and of course, I'll miss having the built in ND on my video cam. Fair enough. If I want to rig out, I have some 4x5's but want a solution for traveling light and hand held. So how are you handling this?

    Do you feel that a good VND filter works well enough to use outdoors mostly? For 4k?

    Do you have one larger diameter filter and use step downs for your smaller lenses? This is likely to muck up the lens hoods, so already an issue. I sure don't want to buy a whole bag full of VND's.

    And what specific filter could you recommend? For my other threaded filters, I usually use BW which are nice but carry a premium price. Are there others that should be considered?

    TIA Grant


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    #2
    Senior Member puredrifting's Avatar
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    VNDs are sub-par. Period. Very few, if any of them offer a polarizing/ND filter effect that covers the entire FOV of a wide angle lens evenly. They are a pair of stacked polarizing filters
    so you get the polarizing artifacts whether you like it or not. VNDs usually have color casts that change your colors as well.

    You can manipulate your camera's ISO and utilize a three filter set of fixed NDs or even a two filter set that covers 98% of all exterior situations.
    I typically start out in the early AM with an ND3 and about 10:00 AM, depending on what the sun/cloud cover/exposure is doing, switch to an ND6.
    I keep an ND10 around for the occasional shoot on a white sandy beach at noon or shooting in snow in the afternoon.

    Variable NDs are really not very good, even the expensive ones with YouTubers names on them. Fixed NDs are also less expensive for good ones. Never skimp on
    filter quality. Lots of people use them but the results are usually not great. I have a few of them, expensive and cheap ones from back in the 5D MKII days and they
    all kind of suck, I never use them anymore. It's a bit more work with your settings to used the fixed NDs but worth it. Exposure outside is only rarely is jumping
    around all over the place (maybe with wind and clouds?), but playing with ISO and aperture with a fixed isn't a big deal.
    It's a business first and a creative outlet second.
    G.A.S. destroys lives. Stop buying gear that doesn't make you money.


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    #3
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    PD, so I would summarize your thoughts as a definite negative? <;-)

    As I said, I am looking for a quick run and gun type solution and not so much interested in carrying multiple filters. Like everyone else, I prefer not to compromise my IQ to any great extent. I don't mind jiggling the iso some, but don't want to lose my preference of aperture, I mean that's one of the big reasons I want ND to begin with.

    You have pretty much confirmed what i have heard here and elsewhere. And for sure, I have avoided cheapo filters to the detriment of my IRA. So even your "more expensive" filters struggle with issues? I wonder why an outfit like BW or Schneider would put their name on a filter, charge $300-500 for it and have it be really junk? Have they improved any since your 5d2 days, maybe the last 5 years or so as they have become a thing?

    I'm trying to optimistic about this prospect, but I'd sure like to hear from someone who just loves theirs.....

    Regards


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    #4
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    You will be disappointing with all VNDs if you expect them to perform as well as a B+W standard ND. I think of VNDs as the filter equivalent to zoom lenses. Zoom lenses are generally softer than primes, and have more distortion, but we use zoom lenses for their versatility, not because they're perfect optically. Now some zooms are really good and almost rival primes in their performance, and I think the same thing goes for VNDs.

    VNDs have improved significantly from the old Tiffen, Genus, and LCW VNDs of the 5D MKII days, although there are still plenty of horrible VNDs out there. I have an SLR Magic MKII and Aurora-Aperture XND Mark II, and I'm quite impressed with their performance. They don't appear to affect sharpness, and color cast is minimal (more on this below). I haven't had a chance to fully test the Aurora-Aperture, but it does introduce crosshatching toward max attenuation, whereas the SLR Magic doesn't have the crosshatching issue.

    Color cast varies per filter, but it also depends on the rotation of the filter; I'm not referring to attenuation, but the rotation of the entire filter. If you hold a VND in front of your lens and slowly rotate it, the color will shift from a yellow/brownish color to a blue/purpleish color. I'm pretty sure that this holds true on VNDs that incorporate a quarter wave plate and those that lack them. Here's a video that illustrates what I'm talking about.

    My SLR Magic has extra long threads and a locking ring that allows me to rotate the entire filter to dial in polarization or manipulate color cast. As in the video above, I can manipulate the Aurora-Aperture's color cast by placing a rotating ring between my lens and VND, but this increases the likelihood of vignetting on wide lenses.

    If you're using photo lenses, just get a 77mm or 82mm VND and put step up rings on all your lenses. You could also look into Xume magnetic filter holders.
    I recommend a VND with front filter threads, as you can use a screw on lens hood or stack other filters if need be.
    Look for a filter that has front threads a size or two larger than the rear threads (this reduces vignetting).
    Add a rotating ring between your lens and filter to dial in polarization or adjust tint.
    Bear in mind that you won't get the best result on UWA lenses.

    Here's a VND mini shoot out that I did a few years ago.

    And this DPReview thread is also interesting.


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    #5
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    https://youtu.be/EQxazGqgYxE
    I have this one and LOVE it.
    No crosshatching and great quality filter.
    A little K&F Concept 72MM Ultra Slim ND Filter Adjustable Neutral Density Filter(ND2-ND32) Variable Lens Filter for DSLR Camera Lens NO X Spot,Nanotec,Ultra-Slim,Weather-Sealed colour shifting towards green but overall best VND that I have.Just be careful because there’s two variants of this.....a cheaper version.

    K&F Concept 72MM Ultra Slim ND Filter Adjustable Neutral Density Filter(ND2-ND32) Variable Lens Filter for DSLR Camera Lens NO X Spot,Nanotec,Ultra-Slim,Weather-Sealed


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    #6
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    I had a Genus back in the day, then bought a Tiffen a few years ago. Yuk for both. Iím back looking for another ND solution. For the time being, Iím currently using my old matte box with fixed 4x4ís. That and a set of screw on fixed Ndís may be the way I end up going- simple, modular but not the fastest. Something faster and easier for the field would be nice, but Iím still wary of vari NDís.The new matte box from Polarpro seems to solve much of the speed issue, but the deluge of sponsored reviews they have out there sets my spidey senses off. Their screw on vari NDís get good marks from sponsored reviewers, but there are precious few reviews in the wild from regular consumers. Odd. Also, the notion of a proprietary system (Basecamp model) is a huge turn off.

    In the end I may end up getting a lighter /smaller clamp-on matte box than my old Petroff and use the 4x4ís I already have. I might also add a set off fixed screw onís with adapter rings for packing light and compact.

    Is the SLR Magic Really that much better than other vari NDís ?


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    #7
    Senior Member puredrifting's Avatar
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    I've tested some of the new, expensive ones and what Imamacuser posted is true, they are always a compromise, I don't care if you spend $500.00 for one. I could possibly live with the color casts but the inconsistent wide angle
    coverage is a deal breaker for me. I shoot a lot of wide angle outdoors and VNDs look like garbage in that situation with ND falloff on the edges and horizon line. If you never use wide angle lenses, have a blast but I always use
    wide angles. Just depends on how much you are willing to degrade your image for convenience. I'm not.
    It's a business first and a creative outlet second.
    G.A.S. destroys lives. Stop buying gear that doesn't make you money.


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    #8
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    My copy of the original Genus is the worst VND I have ever used, it significantly softened the image, and was beat by my $5 Fotga VND.

    Here's a list from worst to best VNDs that I've used.

    Genus original
    Fotga
    Light Craft Workshop Mark II
    Tiffen
    Genus Solar Eclipse
    Aurora-Aperture XND Mark II
    SLR Magic Mark II

    As I said, I haven't fully tested the Aurora-Aperture, but I'd still put it a notch under the SLR Magic due to the crosshatching.


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    #9
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    Thanks everyone for the comments. Anyone have any comparisons between the SLR magic and best quality models from BW, Schneider or Heliopan?

    Grant


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    #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Imamacuser View Post
    My copy of the original Genus is the worst VND I have ever used, it significantly softened the image, and was beat by my $5 Fotga VND.
    Argh, it was truly horrendous ;-O.

    The Sandmarc fixed ND/ Polarizer packs are very intriguing. Naso did a review of them: https://www.newsshooter.com/2019/12/...-in-polarizer/ . If push came to shove and I needed to get a vari ND, Iíd go with the SLR Magic II. That said, Iím thinking Iím going to get a smaller clip on Matte box like a Genustech Lite ($195.00)and pickup the Sandmarc 4-6 stop ND/Pol kit as a low profile/ incognito alternative. Iím less willing to create color issues and image degradation than I use to be, just for conveniences sake. I already have nice 5 stop and 6 stop fixed 4x4ís, Iíd rather not drop even more $ for something like the Polarpro proprietary system.

    Good discussion for clarifying priorities.


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