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11-12-2015, 12:02 PM   #1
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Recommend any good variable ND filters?

I am planning to buy a variable ND filter for my Sigma 17-50 mm f2.8 lens (77mm filter thread). Does anyone have any good recommendations for which brand to get? Tiffen seems to be the most commonly available on the market but has "meh" reviews. Singh-Ray is almost the same price as the lens Is it really worth investing $350+ for a variable ND filter? I am not a professional photographer by any means but at the same time I don't want ruin the photo quality (color casting, vignetting, sharpness loss etc.,). I usually don't enjoy spending a lot of time on post-processing. I have read some decent reviews about Hoya but many people have been complaining about the filter touching the front bulge of lens.

Any recommendations/suggestions? I probably will need something like 1-4 stops only. I am not sure if I will ever use it to an extreme extent of going 8 or 9 stops.

Thanks.

11-12-2015, 12:58 PM - 1 Like   #2
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Most of them are decent up to 4-5 stops. After that you can get banding -- especially visible with wider lenses. I gave up on variable ND filters and purchased a good set of three ND filters which works very well for my purposes: -3 stops, -6 stops, -9 stops.

If you really are going to only need a max of 4 stops, why not get a set of two NDs: -2 stops and - 4 stops? Not only cheaper and delivering better quality, but that should cover 90% of your use cases as well.

YMMV

Michael
11-12-2015, 01:04 PM   #3
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The problem with Variable ND filters is that they are basically just 2 polarizers stacked and you can get weird effects like an X-pattern and uneven colorization, especially with wider angles and stronger ND settings.
If you only need 1-4 Stops only, I would get a good 1 Stop and a 3 Stop ND (B+W, Hoya) and just stack them.

Edited to add: Michael beat me to the punch :P
11-12-2015, 01:19 PM   #4
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Thank you. I have been doing some research online for past couple of hours as well and it seems that even the expensive variable NDs create artifacts and vignetting. I was trying to figure out an easy way to carry stuff when travelling. I guess standard ND filters are the best way to go. Any recommendations for which brand ND filters to go for?

Thank you for responses.

11-12-2015, 02:31 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by uday029 Quote
Thank you. I have been doing some research online for past couple of hours as well and it seems that even the expensive variable NDs create artifacts and vignetting. I was trying to figure out an easy way to carry stuff when travelling. I guess standard ND filters are the best way to go. Any recommendations for which brand ND filters to go for?

Thank you for responses.
I use B+W ones and I am very satisfied with them. Although they are not cheap... I also used a Hoya CP filter but I really had lots of trouble removing smudges and gave up on it and use B+W for CP, gradual neutral density and ND filters. Another method for ND filters are the Lee and Cokin systems. Those you don't screw into the filter thread of your lens. I don't have any experience with them, but both seem to be very good options to.
11-12-2015, 02:44 PM   #6
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QuoteOriginally posted by Fries Quote
I use B+W ones and I am very satisfied with them. Although they are not cheap... I also used a Hoya CP filter but I really had lots of trouble removing smudges and gave up on it and use B+W for CP, gradual neutral density and ND filters. Another method for ND filters are the Lee and Cokin systems. Those you don't screw into the filter thread of your lens. I don't have any experience with them, but both seem to be very good options to.
Many photographers recommend Lee Filter System. It is very convenient as you can use one filter for all your lenses but not good for travelling. I was basically looking for something that is small and easy to carry. Looks like a dedicated ND filter is still the best solution.
11-12-2015, 02:58 PM   #7
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QuoteOriginally posted by uday029 Quote
Many photographers recommend Lee Filter System. It is very convenient as you can use one filter for all your lenses but not good for travelling. I was basically looking for something that is small and easy to carry. Looks like a dedicated ND filter is still the best solution.
Yes, that was also my consideration. And since I only use them for my DA*16-50 I didn't have a problem with a solution for one filter size only. That might change if I buy into the new FF system though...

11-12-2015, 03:17 PM   #8
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QuoteOriginally posted by uday029 Quote
Thank you. I have been doing some research online for past couple of hours as well and it seems that even the expensive variable NDs create artifacts and vignetting. I was trying to figure out an easy way to carry stuff when travelling. I guess standard ND filters are the best way to go. Any recommendations for which brand ND filters to go for?

Thank you for responses.
Haida ND filters have been reviewed to be just as good optically as B+W and Lee products but significantly cheaper. I have the Haida 77mm ND1000 and cannot compare it to B+W or Lee as I don't own any of these, but the filter is definitely very, very good. One of the few exceptions to the rule "You get what you pay for."
11-12-2015, 06:27 PM   #9
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Cokin is adequate for non-professional work. Fairly cheap but you have to buy the system-holder etc. I use these most often.

For really good fun with ND filters: a 10 stop filter is great. See this review:
"The Ultimate Guide To Neutral Density Filters" by Peter Hill | Redbubble
I have a B&W, its pretty fine except for a warm cast that can be corrected in post if needed but for landscapes sometimes its ok to leave it.

A variable ND filter maybe more useful for video. I have one that I use for my Sony rx100 -Heliopan and it works fine for video.
11-12-2015, 06:29 PM   #10
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V-A-V Cokin square plastic filters. Several I own have developed a strange mottled or speckled surface, as if someone misted plastic solvent onto the surface causing tiny cobwebby spots all over it. Not all of the filter have it, and on a few a doesn't really matter (mist/fog effect, and "center-soft" with clear center and misty/foggy surround). However, I will never buy another Cokin filter.
11-12-2015, 08:09 PM   #11
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77mm Variable ND Filters

I would be looking at Marumi as I have a couple of their polarizers and an quite impress with the $$$ vs quality ratio of their products.
2filter.com shows a 77mm @ $162 U.S.(Marumi 77mm DHG Variable ND2-ND400 Filter). I have a promaster 49mm and a "Cameron"
52mm Variable ND and would be hard pressed to recommend either of them.
11-13-2015, 12:25 AM   #12
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I use a B+W variable ND, expensive, but buying all the individual ND's will not be cheap either especially in the 77mm size... you cant use the hood...
B+W 77mm XS-Pro Digital ND Vario MRC-Nano Filter 66-1072522 B&H
just looked it up here are some pictures where i had it on the DA12-24: https://www.flickr.com/gp/131658389@N08/80U53Y

The 3rd & last one show the filter in the corners... @12mm

I love the variable ND, it gives a lot of flexibility especially as in the case of the flicker pictures in a narrow canyon with changing light. Actually you can focus on the scene and the required shutter speed and aperture and just turn the glass until you reach the desired settings...
Limitation is that it is much bigger and will in most cases not allow to mount the hood on the lens... and that it vignettes in the corners @ 12mm

Last edited by max_pyne; 11-13-2015 at 12:41 AM.
11-13-2015, 03:45 AM   #13
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QuoteOriginally posted by MJSfoto1956 Quote
I gave up on variable ND filters and purchased a good set of three ND filters which works very well for my purposes: -3 stops, -6 stops, -9 stops.
+1
So did i, and went with B&W. Consider it like lenses: once you buy it & take care of it, they will last you a very long time. So a bit more extra cash for it won't hurt.
11-13-2015, 08:06 AM   #14
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I was using a variable ND filter until I noticed splotches and bands in a few photos. I bought a set of Formatt-Hitech ND filters in 67mm which have proved to be excellent, though rather expensive. Now I have Tiffen and B&W ND filters for smaller sizes. They also work well, but add a yellow/brown color cast. I can't really tell a difference between the Tiffen and the B&W filters.
11-13-2015, 09:30 AM   #15
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Thank you all for your responses. I have decided to go with Haida ND 3.0 filter. All the tests and reviews online suggest that its very close (and in some cases better than) b+w and its available for half the price. I hope someday we can get rid of the Variable ND disadvantages.
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