September 6, 2017 at 2:34PM

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Best Variable ND Filter Money Can Buy?

What are the top two or three best variable ND filters available today? I'm talking pure image quality without factoring in price or value. I'm looking for minimal color casts, vignetting, flares, long lens issues, etc.

Secondly, what is the best variable ND in the $200 and below price range? (This post is specifically referring to 77mm size filters)

*Yes, I am aware of all the cons to using variable NDs. No need to discuss why I should use regular NDs. I use them. They are better. But there are plenty of run and gun type situations where screwing on and off NDs just doesn't work.

14 Comments

I don't understand, why do you care about the very best, when you already realize the tools you want are flawed. If you are as run and gun as you imply, it really doesn't matter. If you don't have time or a camera that change nd filters, then the current clients won't care if there are issues. Just realize that there will be better clients down the road and builds gear for people who can tell.

September 7, 2017 at 1:39AM

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Indie Guy
837

You are mostly correct, but I think the argument is a moot point for my question. I could benefit from a vari-ND which would allow me to focus more on content. Not all equipment purchases are or should be dictated by what my clients may or may not think. I have standards myself, and when it comes to lenses and optics, I put a high priority on this part of my equipment regardless of what clients think. I'm not looking for a vari-ND with zero optical flaws (which doesn't exist as far as I know,) just one that has the least image flaws in regards to the standard issues you deal with vari-NDs... because I care.

Bryan Tarnowski

September 7, 2017 at 1:43PM

I have the Genustech Eclipse. I haven't used it in over a year as I've been on a C100 but I recently bought a GH5 and stuck it back on a lens and was pleasantly surprised. I would much rather use built in ND's or a matte box but you're correct that it isn't always possible depending on what you're doing. I think for the most part the Genustech is very good, no real colour cast, just the polarisation effect on skin...which I hate...you get unnatural skin tones after naturally occurring reflections are removed. That said, perhaps the way to go is single ND's for an interview, dialogue scene if you're talking narrative etc, and then Vari-ND for legging it around gathering shots or shooting sequences outdoors in varying light.

September 7, 2017 at 3:12PM

2
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Liam Martin
DP, editor, part time director
711

Thanks Liam. Yes, I am only really interested in using a vari-ND in those news gathering and run and gun documentary type of scenarios. I avoid NDs for things like interviews, etc, or use my set of single NDs if needed.

Bryan Tarnowski

September 8, 2017 at 6:38PM, Edited September 8, 6:38PM

The best filter close to your price range is the Tiffen 77mm IR Variable ND filter that costs about $240 US right now. It is supposed to have no color cast and is not effected by IR pollution. ( all of my cheaper VND filters have color casts )

September 8, 2017 at 10:24AM, Edited September 8, 10:26AM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32235

Thanks a lot for the input Guy. Do most cameras these days struggle with IR pollution? I don't ever really seem to get a consensus from what I've read. I primarily shoot with a 5D Mark IV... is the IR pollution on this camera something to be aware of? Have you had any experience with the vari-NDs that are at the high end of the price range? The Heliopan, Schneider, Singh-Ray, etc? Do they do any better with color casts and vignetting than the ~$200 range?

Bryan Tarnowski

September 8, 2017 at 6:42PM

"Tiffen...no color cast"

I know absolutely nothing about their variable ND but that is ironic considering how notoriously green their 4x4's are

Drew

September 16, 2017 at 2:26PM, Edited September 16, 2:26PM

I have the Genustech and also find it very good (I use the 77mm)

September 10, 2017 at 8:00AM, Edited September 10, 8:00AM

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Thomas Dove
DoP
194

>>>Do most cameras these days struggle with IR pollution?

It depends on the camera. I've never had a problem with my GHx cameras, but I've seen IR contamination of black fabrics with Blackmagic and Sony cameras. ( potentially it could happen with any camera )

>>>Have you had any experience with the vari-NDs that are at the high end of the price range?

No. The most expensive VND I have used is the GenusTech Eclipse that originally cost about $180. ( I still own it )

You can spot color casts pretty quickly by simply shooting a white sheet of paper with minimum ND and then again at maximum ND. The color difference is easy to spot.

September 10, 2017 at 9:13AM, Edited September 10, 9:13AM

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Guy McLoughlin
Video Producer
32235

the best one i've used is the singh-ray. expensive but head to head is better than the tiffen, which i also have, and both are better than the lightcraft workshop variable nd.

out of all three, for best quality i'd use singh-ray, but best value is tiffen.

September 10, 2017 at 11:22PM

2
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HOYA VND 77mm does the job for me... its about $130-$150 there about (price increases with diameter) Nice Color reproduction and all that.. check it out.

September 11, 2017 at 9:11AM

3
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avatar
Wentworth Kelly
Director/DP/Colorist/Drone Op
2314

Genustech Eclipse, good with bmd and gh5. A small tips (from frank glencairn) to avoid polarization effects, buy a very cheap polarizer filter, break the glass, and stack vND to empty polarizer, this allow you to rotate VND to choose right light reduction, then rotate polarizer frame to remove polarization from VND.

September 11, 2017 at 4:10PM

0
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avatar
Carlo Macchiavello
Director
681

Aurora-Aperture PowerXND 2000 Variable ND Filter with Up To 11 Stops (ND 2000) of light stopping power.
Specifications:
Range – ND 16 – 2000 (ND 1.2 – 3.3, or 4 – 11 stops)
Slim profile of 5.5mm (important for minimum vignetting minimum on wide angle lenses.)
Filter thread sizes: (price increases with diameter).
37mm, 39mm, 40.5mm, 43mm, 46mm, 49mm, 52mm, 55mm, 58mm, 62mm, 67mm, 72mm, 77mm, 82mm, 86mm, 95mm, and 105mm.

Summary of the test report is available at: http://aurora-aperture.com/2016/03/30/powerxnd-2000-lab-test/

September 14, 2017 at 10:50AM

0
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avatar
Edmund Attong
Director, Director of Photography, Editor
81

September 14, 2017 at 12:21PM

0
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avatar
Shaeden Gallegos
Marketing Coordinator at RED DIGITAL CINEMA
71

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