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I got in on the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera (bmpcc) fire sale and in preperation for receiving my new camera I have been researching neutral density filters. What I would like to know is what are people's preferences between single ND filters and variable ND filters. And also your thoughts on IR filtration for the bmpcc. I already know if you go the "straight" variable ND route Tiffen seems to be a good trade off as far as quality and price. Dave Dugdale did an incredible review of "straight" variable ND filters. Honestly it is amazing it took an amateur like Dave to do such a test. I see so many posts on the internet from people who could have either saved themselves money or used a higher quality product had someone simply done what Dave did and test them out. These people are pros mind you! So the choice was simply, right? Wrong! I then came across another video showing IR (near infrared) issues with the BMCC... and other cameras including Alexa products. So there are numerous solutions. One could say the near IR pollution thing is nonsense and just get a "straight" Tiffen variable ND. Or you could go with a set of individual ND filters and skip the variable. You could also get an IR cut filter and use either single NDs or variable ND. Or you could get the Tiffen combined IRND variable filter. Or you could get the single IR ND filter sets. B&H has a strong three filter set for $164.50. Okay, that is a lot of options. The reason I posted is I want to know which one will give you the best results. I know the variable NDs have the polarization "issue." Sometimes I like using a polarizer on video so it isn't always an issue for me. Also there is a hack where by you turn the whole filter assembly en bloc to reduce or get rid of the polarization effect. I don't know how effective that is. This guy shows the "hack" to optimize the use of a variable ND filter... Here is a video showcasing the Tiffen IRND variable filter. So what should I do?
I broke my L.C.W Fader Variable ND II a while back, and finally got around to replacing it. I decided to give the Bower variable ND a try, at $40. Bower makes decent lenses, so I thought I might luck out. And luck out, I did. It's definitely better than the L.C.W, with less bokeh striation / "texture", no noticeable color shift up to the strongest setting, and the characteristic 'X' pattern only shows up at the very strongest settings (7/8+), as opposed to on the L.C.W where it dominates the image at every strength above 2/3 or so. I haven't tried many higher end variable ND filters, but I'd like to see how this one stacks up against them. So far I'm very impressed. The only issue I have noticed is that the first 1/5 of the adjustment throw seems to go from a strong polarizing effect to a more transparent effect, without any ND loss or gain. After that the polarizing effect stays minimal, and the neutral density increases as expected. On the plus side, this quirk might mean that the filter could double as both a variable ND filter, and as a linear polarizer. The bokeh texture / "striation" is my biggest complaint, but it's still not as coarse as the L.C.W Fader mk. II that I used to own. The 'X' pattern also doesn't show up until a strength that I find myself unlikely ever to want to use anyway (e.g. T1.3, 1/50s, bright sunlight, ISO 1600). Color shift is negligible. Sometimes green things seem to get an ever so slightly brownish cast, but it's so, so subtle. Softening is also quite mild. In my testing it's not an issue, and if anything seems to be a subjective change rather than an objective softening. I have not used it on a lens longer than 85mm, though, so maybe it's worse on teles. My verdict is that, for $40, this is should be an obvious choice for a budget VND. If I had more money of course I'd buy a Schneider, Singh-Ray, or Heliopan, but this performs like what I'd expect from a VND in the $150-$250 range. I've attached one sample. For more, look here: https://www.dropbox.com/sh/gbf684pt21g64zg/AAA-Mk1MYCRdxuQwN98UkC22a?dl=0