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Anyone Recommend a Variable ND Filter

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I would recommend against Vari ND and get a nice Tiffen ND kit with XUME magnetic filter adapters. 

I have this same kit and using the magnets are a breeze! 

Vari ND is always terrible because it takes the natural reflections out of people’s skin tones. Not to mention the price you pay for one with minimal image shift. Also Vari ND vignettes really easily. But mostly the reason I don’t use them is the way people look with them. It’s two polarizers put together so it’s going to remove those reflections.  

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I was also in the market for a variND filter and decided to go with a set of fixed ND filters.  
Variable ND is a basically two (non-circular) polarizers on top of each other.  My reasoning for not getting a variable ND was the following:
1 - chance of accidentally changing the ND strength. 

2 - not vary accurate ND strength value marking. 
3 - making it difficult matching two different shots from different cameras if I ever wanted to have a B-cam 

 

At the end having bunch of NDs is going to take more space and it's more work ( @DaveAltizer - h/t for XUME) and more expensive. But it'll provide better image quality, and more repeatability and lower chances of accidental exposure changes in middle of a shot. 

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1 hour ago, DaveAltizer said:

Vari ND is always terrible because it takes the natural reflections out of people’s skin tones. Not to mention the price you pay for one with minimal image shift. Also Vari ND vignettes really easily. But mostly the reason I don’t use them is the way people look with them. It’s two polarizers put together so it’s going to remove those reflections.  

I used to stack a vari with a IR cut and started getting green vignetting with the pocket camera. 

It depends on the situation, but for run and gun it can be a workable option. I hate any sort of external NDs based on the negative experience with even 400.00+ NDs. 

It's a shame to have to worry about vignetting on a 24-105/11-17 Etc. 

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They're a great tool when you need them. Like a lot of producers we have sets of NDs and Varis - Genus, Tiffen, Heliopan.

I've tested them often for shoots vs the Hoya ProNds and Solas at various strengths.

I like the Tiffen w/ a Hoya IR cut combo the best.

The Tiffen is great, very little detail loss comparatively and that combo (on our BM cams at least) has a noticeable warming. Keep it at 4 stops and below and it's great on skin tone.

I did a blind test here last week coincidentally, with the Sigma 18-35mm and MBSM w/ a ND16 ProND and the Tiffen/Hoya on a close-up and the Tiffen was the more flattering image.

For fast changing location work they're invaluable.

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I went with a Singh-Ray 77mm Vari ND some years ago and I'm not sure I liked the image I was getting running a 5DM2 with 35mm L.

It seemed to steal a lot of the colour and flattened the image. Not sure I'd run a Vari ND again.

For me it was another vote for a camera with internal ND filers.

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I have the Tiffen Variable ND Filter - after looking at lots of comparisons it's pretty sharp (important!) and the color tint isn't too bad (AWB takes care of it).  I do recommend it, although you missed the rebate on it where it was like $60 USD a month or two back.

I also have the Breakthrough 82mm filters in 10, 6 and 3 stop.  

FWIW, I'm still mainly using the Tiffen filters because it's much more convenient when running around, I hate changing filters.  The Xume thing is a good idea but I'm not convinced the IQ is worth the extra hundreds for the Xume stuff (I haven't done any indepth comparisons but haven't really noticed anything different when using the Tiffen vs the breakthroughs - I know the breakthrough is "better" but for an interview it's practically unnoticeable).  Plus I don't really like what it does to the WB, but maybe I'm just not used to it.  The varibales are just so much more convenient, and it's really not that expensive for the Tiffen.

 

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1 hour ago, manueldomes said:

I'd second the Tiffen recommendation. Got it again after breaking one a year ago (and it took a lot of force to break!)

For docu work I can't imagine not having one. If there's color shift, I reckon it's the good kind - I like the skin tones with it.

I also gave my vote to Tiffen, of course fixed ND is always going to be better, but for run and gun and docs a VARI ND is a life saver, there are tones of youtube videos about ND filters, comparisons, recommendations, etc, for price and quality, Tiffen is the way to go...

Below is a good comparison video that can help you to decide..

 

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3 hours ago, Simco123 said:

Has anyone used the Hoya Solar Variable NDX?

It came out a few months ago but not seen many reviews yet.

http://solasndx.hoyafilterusa.com

Looks good. I exclusively use B+W vario ND Nano filters on my lenses after going through various other cheap and expensive ones as they have multi coated glass surfaces which means you can shoot into the light without worrying about veiling flare. Looks like this Hoya has the same so should be a winner if it's reasonably priced. 

 

 

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I like my Heliopan (on BM micro). But the qualification to that is that as a hobbyist with possibly greater tolerance of sub-optimal performance than some of the professionals here, it’s all about convenience. 

Image quality or convenience... definitely something to think about...

 

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About the Xume adapters: I've bought it for my last vacation trip to Europe, because I was using a single camera to stills / video, and wanted to remove the ND filter for stills (and occasionally put a polarizer).

If you will use a variND with them, be sure that your variND does not need a lot of force to rotate when adjusting, like mine - when used directly in the lens thread, it is an advantage (since it is harder to make unintentional shifts on adjustment), but when using Xumes it could cause all the filter to rotate, instead of just the front part. Xume's magnets are strong (no problems at all with falling filters), but I had this issue.

And could be just unluck in my part, but after 3 weeks (changing filters a lot of times during the day, I must say), the magnet on my Xume's lens adapter detached from the adapter. Managed to glue it back, but was an annoyance.

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+1 for the Xume adapters.

One thing to keep in mind is that if you go with fixed NDs then you're probably relying on your cameras ISO to do the fine-tuning, but with modern cameras that have many many stops of clean ISO it shouldn't be as much of a problem as it used to be, so that's a downside that matters much less.

I ended up buying a Tiffen 4 stop to compliment my internal 3-stop in my XC10 because the combination gave me 180 degree shutter in full sunlight, plus there's not much visible noise at 4 stops of ISO gain so it wasn't too large a step size.  I'd suggest doing tests ahead of time for how much ND you need, and how much noise you'll tolerate, and therefore how large the steps are in your 'set'.

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8 hours ago, Snowfun said:

I like my Heliopan (on BM micro). But the qualification to that is that as a hobbyist with possibly greater tolerance of sub-optimal performance than some of the professionals here, it’s all about convenience. 

Image quality or convenience... definitely something to think about...

 

Do you mean people using varaible ND are hobbyist who prefer convenience over IQ vs professionals who use fixed NDs who needs the IQ?

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