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BTM_Pix

My Prototype Electronic Variable ND Filter

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So... I've been messing around with making a new add on for my controller system and this is it in its embryonic (cardboard and electrical taped chassis) form.

P1200049.thumb.jpg.4729030a02506e7524c8ace4cf92ca55.jpgP1200054.thumb.jpg.d39e37bbdc9f6092ceaef962c615dd1f.jpg

It has 3 dedicated keys on the controller for incrementing and decrementing in stops (it goes to about 95% total blackout) and a clear function. Though this is not a full clear as there is about a half stop of ND at the lowest position.

The level of reduction is actually fully variable but for the implementation I'm after it makes more sense to control it in stops.

As with the other functions, it can be recalled within one of the 8 one touch recall global presets along with exposure, white balance and picture settings.

I've also incorporated an automatic aperture tracking function.

This means that you set the exposure and ND level that you want at a given stop (say f8) and it will adjust the amount of ND up and down as the aperture changes to keep the exposure constant at any aperture.

Right, thats the good news out of the way....

The bad news is that the surface area is going to need to be a lot bigger (these things are usually mounted at the back of the lens but I'm after a front mounting solution for flexibility) to work properly.

Quite a bit bigger and unfortunately that will mean quite a lot more expensive.

The question is how big and how expensive would this be before you wouldn't want it, if you even want it at all? (currently its part of my controller system but I've already ported it to a small micro controller to have it be a standalone as well).

The other question is would you want it within a lens adapter solution anyway rather than it being front mounted (as per the Lens Throttle EF to MFT) so it could be an electronically controlled version of one of those ?

 

 

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45 minutes ago, BTM_Pix said:

So... I've been messing around with making a new add on for my controller system and this is it in its embryonic (cardboard and electrical taped chassis) form.

P1200049.thumb.jpg.4729030a02506e7524c8ace4cf92ca55.jpgP1200054.thumb.jpg.d39e37bbdc9f6092ceaef962c615dd1f.jpg

It has 3 dedicated keys on the controller for incrementing and decrementing in stops (it goes to about 95% total blackout) and a clear function. Though this is not a full clear as there is about a half stop of ND at the lowest position.

The level of reduction is actually fully variable but for the implementation I'm after it makes more sense to control it in stops.

As with the other functions, it can be recalled within one of the 8 one touch recall global presets along with exposure, white balance and picture settings.

I've also incorporated an automatic aperture tracking function.

This means that you set the exposure and ND level that you want at a given stop (say f8) and it will adjust the amount of ND up and down as the aperture changes to keep the exposure constant at any aperture.

Right, thats the good news out of the way....

The bad news is that the surface area is going to need to be a lot bigger (these things are usually mounted at the back of the lens but I'm after a front mounting solution for flexibility) to work properly.

Quite a bit bigger and unfortunately that will mean quite a lot more expensive.

The question is how big and how expensive would this be before you wouldn't want it, if you even want it at all? (currently its part of my controller system but I've already ported it to a small micro controller to have it be a standalone as well).

The other question is would you want it within a lens adapter solution anyway rather than it being front mounted (as per the Lens Throttle EF to MFT) so it could be an electronically controlled version of one of those ?

 

 

Holy Mother of God. You're like the Einstein of the Group. If you make this cheap (with an inbuilt battery an bluetooth controller), this could sell in the million. Lemme PM you. 

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Very cool... My view is this...

1. Still shooters dont really use ND filters

2. Video shooters use them all the time.

3. Hybrid shooters need/want switchable NDs.

I dont personally think that still shooters would like to pay 'much of a premium' for an electronic ND and as still shooters are in the majority that may well be a barrier for an in camera electronic ND.

I like this sort of solution...

https://dronedj.com/2017/10/12/dji-16mm-lens/

As a hybrid shooter I would be all over a set of lenses that had built in electronic nd filters...

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1 hour ago, sanveer said:

Holy Mother of God. You're like the Einstein of the Group. 

I very much doubt that !

I bet you Einstein hasn't just forced an EOS to F mount adapter on to one of his favourite lenses so badly that he had to spend 2 hours cutting it off !

Would Albert have used an EOS to F adapter though?

Probably more an E to MC kind of a guy.

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16 minutes ago, Robert Collins said:

Very cool... My view is this...

1. Still shooters dont really use ND filters

I've seen enough waterfall, river and night time traffic headlight  streak shots to suggest that they do ;)

They're also useful as a device to take out people in shots of busy sites with long exposures in daylight.

People using faster lenses shooting wide open on cameras in bright light that don't have a high enough shutter speed to make the exposure is another one.

By and large though, they aren't necessarily looking for variable ones but grads and big stoppers so, yes, they are already covered far more cheaply and compactly. 

16 minutes ago, Robert Collins said:

I like this sort of solution...

https://dronedj.com/2017/10/12/dji-16mm-lens/

As a hybrid shooter I would be all over a set of lenses that had built in electronic nd filters...

For adapted lenses there is a really good solution for EOS to E mount (and MFT but its less so because of the crop) from Aputure that has both a variable electronic ND and a follow focus in it. 

It just needs that missing link of AF really which now there are companies like Viltrox (as well as Sigma) making cheap AF adapters might actually happen but I don't know where Aputure are at with it as an ongoing product.

Having it in front of the lens in the form factor of a 4x4 filter is a way to get it for every lens native type on every system which is where I want to head with it but its not without its challenges.

From a hardware and software control point of view its complete but I need to source some bigger pieces of the glass to sort out the optical end so its a way off yet.

1 hour ago, Grimor said:

Any downside on sharpness or color cast?

In its current format its too early to draw any conclusion. Light leaks and reflections inside the case are skewing things but to be honest it was just a way to hold it in front of a lens in some sort of sensible manner while I wrote the control code.

Its as much a proof of concept and a component test in its current form so saying it gets darker and brighter on command is about all I'll commit to at this moment in time performance wise ;)

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I would be interested in a lens adapter solution only, I don't have any problem turning my VND manually, but I hate to constantly switch it unscrewing from one lens to another. But I don't understand how could you pull it off technically, as the flange distance would be changed. There is already an aperture ND adapter but it works only with adapted lenses for obvious reasons. But if you can pull it off somehow, that would be a miracle for sure. I would pay.. probably up to 200$ for such a device.

 

Actually I do have an idea about another device for lumix cameras which I wanted to share with you. Will do in PM. 

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17 minutes ago, Amazeballs said:

I would be interested in a lens adapter solution only, I don't have any problem turning my VND manually, but I hate to constantly switch it unscrewing from one lens to another. But I don't understand how could you pull it off technically, as the flange distance would be changed. There is already an aperture ND adapter but it works only with adapted lenses for obvious reasons. But if you can pull it off somehow, that would be a miracle for sure. I would pay.. probably up to 200$ for such a device.

 

The difference is in the remote control of it - especially if the camera is on a gimbal or jib - as part of the overall camera remote control system rather than just saving the manual turning of a variable ND (though I am lazy enough to think that an advantage as well ;) ). So this means saving and recalling instantly with the rest of the settings but more importantly the auto tracking feature that maintains your exposure precisely when changing apertures rather than you having to adjust it manually (with the usual overshoots and re-adjustment as vari NDs don't have fixed points between individual settings).

With regard to putting it inside a mount, I referenced the Aputure device and I think its a great solution but limits the mount options as it terminates in MFT and E mount only and isn't particularly cheap. The choice of terminating mounts is by and large fine because MFT and E mount cameras are ones that a lot of people use but it rules out other mounts that people use such as EOS-M, Nikon and even EF itself. Its also an either/or situation with a speed booster as you can't have both and if you have an MFT and an E mount camera you need to buy one for each. By putting the ND on the lens we can avoid all of that and you can use say a Canon lens on an MFT mount speed boosted, a full frame E mount without booster or on an EF system all with the same variable ND functionality.

As for swapping it between lenses, the final form is unknown but if its a square format then it will drop into a matte box or Cokin style holder or via a magnetic filter hold system so it shouldn't be too painful. 

The halfway house solution though is to put it in lens adapters that terminate in different mounts other than MFT and E mount to provide a more flexible halfway house between something like the Lens Throttle and the Aputure.

It will likely be cheaper than $200 as a front mounted system and certainly less than that within a mount.

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Amazing. I'll take one ASAP without the protruding wires, ha, ha. I use ND's all the time for stills and video. This could be a killer travel solution with your control device and any new Sony since they stripped all the apps. Arsenal raised $2.6 million on Kickstarter and like many they can't seem to get out of their own way. I like your controller a lot more as its not dependent on an app for functionality.

Cheers

Chris

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9 hours ago, BTM_Pix said:

The question is how big and how expensive would this be before you wouldn't want it, if you even want it at all? (currently its part of my controller system but I've already ported it to a small micro controller to have it be a standalone as well).

The other question is would you want it within a lens adapter solution anyway rather than it being front mounted (as per the Lens Throttle EF to MFT) so it could be an electronically controlled version of one of those ?

I would love something like this.  I've spent too much already for VNDs (make people/video look quite matte/flat) or solid NDs (Breakthrough Photography) but need to pop them on/off with zume magnetic adaptors and only in 3 and 6 stops, so have less control of aperture/exposure.

I'm still not sure why panasonic doesn't have an electronic ND built into their cameras like some of the higher-end sonys.

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6 hours ago, BTM_Pix said:

 

The halfway house solution though is to put it in lens adapters that terminate in different mounts other than MFT and E mount to provide a more flexible halfway house between something like the Lens Throttle and the Aputure.

It will likely be cheaper than $200 as a front mounted system and certainly less than that within a mount.

It seems that the timing would be right for an adapter solution. Canon and Nikon are bringing out mirrorless and we are likely to see a lot of adapter use in the next 5 years.

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A lot, well some now in reality, use Graduated ND filters more than the "normal" ones. Pro's probably use the Normal ones a lot more. Now most Medium and Large Format shooters use them all the time. It is a lot more laid back, and they are a lot more serious about their work on average. But I doubt many non pros use them at all anymore.

Probably in reality way easier to just do multiple exposures or the HDR way, and the heck with ND filters on Photo stuff. And if you are a Wiz in Photoshop you can make just about anything happen if you want it to these days.

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15 hours ago, BTM_Pix said:

I've seen enough waterfall, river and night time traffic headlight  streak shots to suggest that they do ;)

True enough of waterfall, river and seascapes - I often take a 10 stop ND filter with me But it isnt strictly necessary. This shot was taken without an ND. About 20 shots (equivalent to 95%) taken at 1/8, f16, iso50 and then 'mean averaged' in photoshop....2work.jpg.2b080898f6ceed36bdda6db3f84869b3.jpg

Headlight streak shots dont usually use NDs, they are a function of 'night time' plus 'low iso' resulting in a long shutter speed.

They're also useful as a device to take out people in shots of busy sites with long exposures in daylight.

Well you could use an ND for this but it wont turn out that well because you will tend to get 'ghosting'.

The standard method is to take multiple shots on a tripod over a reasonable period of time and 'median average' in photoshop.

People using faster lenses shooting wide open on cameras in bright light that don't have a high enough shutter speed to make the exposure is another one.

A very minority case with modern cameras. My fastest lens is an 85 1.4. There are over 1200 images (keepers) from my 85 1.4 in my Lightroom library but only '1' image was taken with the maximum shutter (1/8000) with the aperture stopped down (to F2.) (And I live in Thailand.)

 

 

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I love the functionality of this device and hate messing with my manual variable ND while shooting video.  I hate to say though that I probably wouldn't buy one unless it was almost as small as a variable ND.  Maybe a bit bigger radius and thicker but not nearly as big as the prototype there.. it would need to be small enough to fit into a camera bag while attached to a lens.  I'm a hobbyist shooter though, I could maybe see a dedicated crew shooting with something that large.

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