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Sangye Ince-Johannsen

A $40 variable ND filter that surprisingly doesn't suck

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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

post-30112-0-95716100-1410812121_thumb.j

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EOSHD Pro Color for Sony cameras EOSHD Pro LOG for Sony CamerasEOSHD C-LOG and Film Profiles for All Canon DSLRs

 

 

Isn't Bower one of those labels that just slap their name? This could be any number of East Asia OEMs then. 

 

Sort of. Their name is on a lot of miscellaneous accessories that are sold in the US, but Bower is best known for being one of three major brands that sells the same affordable set of cine lenses (along with Rokinon and Samyang). They are also the exclusive distributor for the exotic 40mm f/0.85 IBELUX lens.

I have no idea which OEM is behind this filter, all I know is that it's being sold on eBay and Amazon with the Bower label. And it's quite impressive for the price.

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