How good is the cheap Hong Kong Fader ND?

View – With / without – view the full 1080p grabs at Flickr

Buy – View current Fader NDs on eBay, shipping internationally

Thanks to a request from a friend Alex Kanakis I’ve decided to revisit the Fader ND by Light Craft Workshop / HL Optics, the much cheaper Hong Kong alternative to the Singh Ray Vari-ND filter (view at B&H Photo Video here)

These are useful for video because you can achieve correct exposure in daylight or under strong studio lights without resorting to high shutter speeds, and maintaining a wide aperture for shallow depth of field. High shutter speeds and deep depth of field are desirable for some things but often they just look ugly.

They’re also useful for long exposure timelapses, if you want to blur motion.

Since DSLRs do not have built in ND filters the Fader ND comes in really handy. I don’t use mine as much as I should, since I often shoot in low light and my shots are quite chilled with little action, but you really do notice the difference on handheld stuff and scenes with plenty of movement when you have a shutter speed higher than 1/100 with no motion blur at all.

I don’t like having to carry a lot around, especially not 3 or 4 ND filters of different strengths.

So how good is the Fader ND by HL Optics from Hong Kong?

Here are some 1:1 crops of frame grabs taken from my GH1 in 1080p mode and Zeiss 85mm F1.4

Exhibit A

Without Fader ND

With Fader ND

Strange splitting effect in the bokeh of reflective surfaces it seems, this is the most noticeable effect of the Fader ND compared to without.

Exhibit B

Without Fader ND

With Fader ND

The faint reflection of the white plate in the red cup is slightly more evident WITH the Fader ND, probably down to it’s polarising effect which blocks light passing in a certain direction from entering the lens to reduce or increase reflection. This can be toggled by rotating in the opposite direction like a normal circular polariser.

Exhibit C

Without Fader ND

With Fader ND

Sharpness doesn’t suffer a jot with the ND filter, but I feel colour saturation takes a slight hit. The circular polarising effect is something to keep an eye on. It doesn’t have a separate control and seems to vary depending on the fader strength. Look at the amount of red reflected in the blue hard drive on the ‘with’ shot.

All in all it’s a great deal for what can be an essential tool for DSLR shooters. What do others think of the Fader ND? Have you tried the much more expensive Singh Ray option? Let me know in the comments…

Buy – View current Fader NDs on eBay, shipping internationally