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03-02-2017, 08:05 AM   #1
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"Recommended" variable ND vs "recommended" ND set

Just starting to get interested in using ND filters (rather than stacking shots in Gimp/Pshop) and have looked at various threads here.

BigMackCam recommended a Neweer set with ND2, ND4 and ND8 but also mentioned that Zomei is "nice" (but not necessarily referring to variable ones such as this). I might see the need for having more than ND8 so a variable one might be nice.

Severe LBA has left me with limited funds to pursue this, and I do know that folks here either love (like) variable NDs or hate them, so I would love some input on which of the ~$20-25 choices to buy. Yes, I know you get what you pay for. I plan to get 55mm to fit the 20-40 and my new Tam 90, the most likely candidates for walkaround.

03-02-2017, 08:24 AM - 1 Like   #2
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I recently researched this topic as I needed to get a larger ND filter for a newer lens. I primarily shoot landscapes and I ended up getting a 6.6 stop filter (2.1). For the amount of darkening I need in bright environments, I think this will be a good compromise. I can use a circular polarizer if I just want 1-2 tops of darkening. Breakthrough Photography has a helpful ND buying guide on their web site. I've steered away from variable ND filters as there are quite a few reports of less than optimal results. While very versatile, a decent variable filter is pretty expensive. I suggest that you read reviews on whatever product you are considering as a poor quality cheap filter is probably wasted money. You can reduce the filters you need by buying the size for your largest lens and using step-up rings for smaller lenses. The large filters cost more, of course, but you won't need any duplicates.

Last edited by dave2k; 03-02-2017 at 09:27 AM.
03-02-2017, 09:48 AM - 1 Like   #3
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QuoteOriginally posted by madison_wi_gal Quote
... I plan to get 55mm to fit the 20-40 and my new Tam 90, the most likely candidates for walkaround.
The 90mm lens will work well with a variable ND. The 20-40 might sometimes have issues with the sky at the wide end, but the issues are manageable.

Variable ND filters are made up of 2 circular polarizers (CPL). At wide angles, one CPL filter can show uneven darkening across the frame. Two CPL filters rotated at an angle to each other can make that uneven darkening look like a faint but noticeable "X" pattern in a blue sky. The X gets stronger as you increase the amount of ND.

I use an 8-stop variable ND with my 16-50. It works as wide as 16mm with some precautions. My usual strategy is to compose on a tripod with liveview, set the ND to more effect than I want to exaggerate the "X" on the rear display, then back off the amount of ND. That prevents the X from showing in photos. I also have a 10-stop non-variable ND for longer exposures with no risk of an "X".

My filters are Hoya and Bower brand in the $50 to $100 range. I recommend them but they are outside your target budget. You were considering Neweer brand and I can say I'm satisfied with their external intervalometer.
03-02-2017, 03:08 PM - 1 Like   #4
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DeadJohn:

The effects you report are due to the fact that the sky is polarized - at least if it is a normal blue sky (which is blue because it is scattering, and polarizing in the process, sunshine). With a wide angle lens you are seeing different amounts and orientation of polarization across the sky, and hence across your field of view. The polarization is strongest at a 90 degree angle to the direction of the sun. If this effect is of concern to the OP, then she should definitely go for a non-variable ND filter.

If one is shooting almost anywhere else - inside, say - then any variable polarization across the frame should be minimal, and a variable filter should be just fine. I have a Vivitar variable filter, and it is fine. My recollection is that it was around $50 at B&H for a 77mm size.

03-02-2017, 05:41 PM   #5
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QuoteOriginally posted by AstroDave Quote
..If this effect is of concern to the OP, then she should definitely go for a non-variable ND filter.
I guess I'd be using it outside so non-variable it is.

Thanks!!!
03-02-2017, 07:13 PM - 1 Like   #6
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Do all the coatings and water repellents they advertise justify the price hikes?
03-02-2017, 11:01 PM - 2 Likes   #7
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I just want to give you my 2 cents on this topic... I was going through multiple ND filters and only Singh-Ray and Lee was good to some extent but I sold all of them (with loss) and soon will be getting new filter that I think it will be the best. My mostly used ND filter was big stopper or 10 stop ND filter. You will find out that color cast is very bothering also some loss of sharpness. I hope that new filter I will get this spring will mitigate all troubles I had before. It is expensive but that is anyway the price range for good ones. Look at Breakthrough Photography filters... This is my choice and stay away from variable ND filters.
03-10-2017, 11:27 AM - 1 Like   #8
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Im pretty sure the Big Stopper has a colour cast too. Unless thats what you meant.

03-10-2017, 12:19 PM - 1 Like   #9
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All of them are plagued to some extent with color cast, but I talked to someone who got Breakthrough Photography filter and when I looked at sample pictures the color cast was almost nonexistent. But I checked raw files at the back screen, also he assured me that there is maybe minimal color cast but he can not see it...
03-10-2017, 07:57 PM - 1 Like   #10
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QuoteOriginally posted by wissink Quote
Do all the coatings and water repellents they advertise justify the price hikes?
The coatings can make a difference. In bright sunlight, uncoated filters can contribute to contrast-reducing flare. One inexpensive resin filter from Newer actually contributed a milky appearance to photos when there was a light source in the scene.

I like Singh-Ray, Lee, Formatt Hitech, and Helios. In most cases, B+W works fine. In many cases, I can't tell Tiffen from B+W. I still have one variable ND filter from B+W that isn't bad at focal lengths longer than 28mm.

Last edited by AquaDome; 03-12-2017 at 09:16 PM.
03-12-2017, 02:30 AM - 2 Likes   #11
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QuoteOriginally posted by madison_wi_gal Quote
BigMackCam recommended a Neweer set with ND2, ND4 and ND8 but also mentioned that Zomei is "nice" (but not necessarily referring to variable ones such as this). I might see the need for having more than ND8 so a variable one might be nice.
My suggestion is to just buy an ND8 (or 10) and leave it at that. Variable NDs are more hassle than they are worth, introduce undesirable things and unless you are spending big, are shocking quality. CPLs also have a 1-2 stop dimming effect, so they can work (in a pinch), but the basic purpose of a ND is to allow you to slow your shutter speed - a stop or two can easily be done by just stopping down the lens and sticking to the base ISO, so that makes not getting an ND2 filter money (and bag space) saved for little lose of amenity. If the scene is so bright that playing with ISO and aperture won't cut it, an ND4 is unlikely to do much either, so that makes it a non-priority too. Something in the ND8-10 range will give you loads of light-stopping power, and really let you slow things down, well beyond what you might achieve by playing with the exposure triangle. It also happens to be my most used ND filter (after I made the mistake of getting a ND4 to begin with, finding it a struggle, my ND8 completely changed my view of ND filters!).

The big advantage of the 3-piece ND set is being able to combine them for a good range of light stopping power. If money and bag space are no object, go crazy, but I suggest, given your budget, start with the filter that will give you a solid result and learn how to use it to get the effects you desire. Then re-assess. That's why I recommend the ND8. And if you don't have one, a good quality CPL filter. My ND8 and CPL are permanent features in my camera bag - you never know when they may come in handy!, other accessories are on a use-case only inclusion basis.

Of course, if you are after a very particular effect or have a special use case that requires a light ND then you should get one... but that should be obvious
03-22-2017, 12:19 AM - 1 Like   #12
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QuoteOriginally posted by GodsPetMonkey Quote
My suggestion is to just buy an ND8 (or 10) and leave it at that. Variable NDs are more hassle than they are worth, introduce undesirable things and unless you are spending big, are shocking quality. CPLs also have a 1-2 stop dimming effect, so they can work (in a pinch), but the basic purpose of a ND is to allow you to slow your shutter speed - a stop or two can easily be done by just stopping down the lens and sticking to the base ISO, so that makes not getting an ND2 filter money (and bag space) saved for little lose of amenity. If the scene is so bright that playing with ISO and aperture won't cut it, an ND4 is unlikely to do much either, so that makes it a non-priority too. Something in the ND8-10 range will give you loads of light-stopping power, and really let you slow things down, well beyond what you might achieve by playing with the exposure triangle. It also happens to be my most used ND filter (after I made the mistake of getting a ND4 to begin with, finding it a struggle, my ND8 completely changed my view of ND filters!).

The big advantage of the 3-piece ND set is being able to combine them for a good range of light stopping power. If money and bag space are no object, go crazy, but I suggest, given your budget, start with the filter that will give you a solid result and learn how to use it to get the effects you desire. Then re-assess. That's why I recommend the ND8. And if you don't have one, a good quality CPL filter. My ND8 and CPL are permanent features in my camera bag - you never know when they may come in handy!, other accessories are on a use-case only inclusion basis.

Of course, if you are after a very particular effect or have a special use case that requires a light ND then you should get one... but that should be obvious
I stopped by here before work and I'm pleased I did! Thanks for the useful tips - I was in the same boat. Is there a reason why you recommend an ND8 rather than an ND10?
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