Variable ND filters-disappointment? How can they even sell them?

tiCreativeMediatiCreativeMedia Posts: 81Member
edited February 2014 in Nikon Lenses
so, I just had a chance to try and use my variable ND filter last night doing long exposures. I got this terrible cross pattern at the higher settings. I just did some research on them, and apparently this is common with variable ND filters? These things are like $150. How can they charge that much if they don't really work at all the settings?

Here's an article I found on a Tiffen ND. I have a Hoya, but they both do the same thing-

http://www.ephotozine.com/article/tiffen-variable-nd-filter-review-20475

wow... unbelievable waste of money. I hope I can get a refund.
D7100, 35mm 1:1.8G, 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED AF-S DX, 24-70mm f/2.8G ED, 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED
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Comments

  • autofocusautofocus Posts: 625Member
    While they can be frustrating for still photography they work extremely well for video in daylight conditions. I've used mine in video to add contrast, color, and even as an effect to fade in/out of a scene. Not to mention having the ability to lower aperture. For stills, the better solution is stacking fixed ND filters to capture the desired effect.
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    edited February 2014
    so, I just had a chance to try and use my variable ND filter last night doing long exposures. I got this terrible cross pattern at the higher settings. I just did some research on them, and apparently this is common with variable ND filters? These things are like $150. How can they charge that much if they don't really work at all the settings?

    wow... unbelievable waste of money. I hope I can get a refund.
    Same reason that they can charge so much for a variable zoom that does not work at all the settings (low light).

    I have a Hoya and it works pretty good for most situations. You just need to know the limits of your gear. If you want to expand the limits, buy better gear (ie: non-variable NDs, constant aperture zooms, primes).
    Post edited by WestEndBoy on
  • Golf007sdGolf007sd Posts: 2,840Moderator
    @tiCreativeMedia: Question: What were you taking pictures of at night that required you to us an ND filter in the first place? At what stop on the variable ND filter did you notice the problem? What lens did you use for the shot you were trying to take?
    D4 & D7000 | Nikon Holy Trinity Set + 105 2.8 Mico + 200 F2 VR II | 300 2.8G VR II, 10.5 Fish-eye, 24 & 50 1.4G, 35 & 85 1.8G, 18-200 3.5-5.6 VR I SB-400 & 700 | TC 1.4E III, 1.7 & 2.0E III, 1.7 | Sigma 35 & 50 1.4 DG HSM | RRS Ballhead & Tripods Gear | Gitzo Monopod | Lowepro Gear | HDR via Promote Control System |
  • PapermanPaperman Posts: 468Member
    edited February 2014
    My homemade variable ND ( one circular + one linear stacked on each other ) did the same ( + terrible hue ) and I was thinking about getting a variable ND like the one mentioned assuming one manufactured as a variable ND would work flawless. Thank God I saw the post/test.

    Seriously, how on earth can they give 3.5-4 stars to something that does not work ? Long exposures is what an ND is mainly for ( video / daylight wide apertures is not my thing ) and it is shown that it just does not do the job.
    Post edited by Paperman on
  • TaoTeJaredTaoTeJared Posts: 1,306Member
    @tiCreativeMedia - you turned it too far and need to dial it back. (I'm assuming it was like a "X" across the whole image.) What was the brand - that can make a big difference.

    There are one's that do not have that - they are also $400+.

    There is a bunch of garbage out there when it comes to filters. I thought I learned my lesson long ago, but then I got cheap (-er, still cost $100) and burned again with a 10-stop filter I took on vacation. Just another lesson in "Just do it right and spend the money." The amount sucks, hurts, and is usually ridiculously expensive for what it is, but with the money you spend on things that don't work, it easily adds up to what you should have spent originally.
    D800, D300, D50(ir converted), FujiX100, Canon G11, Olympus TG2. Nikon lenses - 24mm 2.8, 35mm 1.8, (5 in all)50mm, 60mm, 85mm 1.8, 105vr, 105 f2.5, 180mm 2.8, 70-200vr1, 24-120vr f4. Tokina 12-24mm, 16-28mm, 28-70mm (angenieux design), 300mm f2.8. Sigma 15mm fisheye. Voigtlander R2 (olive) & R2a, Voigt 35mm 2.5, Zeiss 50mm f/2, Leica 90mm f/4. I know I missed something...
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    edited February 2014
    I have a complaint too!!!!!

    so, I just had a chance to try and use my "variable aperture zoom lens" last night doing snapshots. I got this terrible blurriness when the sun started going down. When it came inside, it got even worse. I just did some research on them, and apparently this is common with "variable aperture zoom lens"? Apparently they are really slow (whatever the hell that means as if I have a PHD in photography - Geez!!!!) and the shutter gets really slow. These things are like $1,000. How can they charge that much if they don't really work at all the settings?

    Here's an article I found on a 28-300 3.5-5.6 variable aperture zoom. I have a Nikon 28-200 3.5-5.6, but they both do the same thing-http://photographylife.com/reviews/nikon-18-300mm-vr/6

    wow... unbelievable waste of money. I hope I can get a refund. - See more at: http://www.digitaltrends.com/photography/quick-guide-to-the-various-types-of-camera-lenses/

    So the point of the above is that this is the same issue: variable ND vs fixed ND, variable aperture zoom vs fixed aperture zoom, prime vs zoom. They all have limitations. You can get around some of them as TTJ pointed out by spending more money, but they still have their limitations.
    Post edited by WestEndBoy on
  • PapermanPaperman Posts: 468Member
    edited February 2014
    Not sure what you mean jshickele ... Variable aperture zooms are naturally "slow" due to the aperture limitation but quality would not be affected in any other way -simple variations due to selected f-stop ( as in every lens ) but that's it ... And naturally, the tele end will have poorer quality but that is not aperture related .
    Post edited by Paperman on
  • proudgeekproudgeek Posts: 1,422Member
    I've heard of this issue before, particularly as it relates to variable ND filters. For what it's worth, I have a constant ND filter and have never had this issue, but it cost $200. You get what you pay for. Also FWIW, $150 for a filter that takes the place of several others costing a total of several hundred dollars sounds too good to be true. And we all know what that usually means.
    Before you give up on it, try covering your viewfinder while shooting. That might help a little.
  • TaoTeJaredTaoTeJared Posts: 1,306Member
    From what I understand of the Vari filters the "X" appears due to the use of two polarizers (that is what a vari filter effectively is) and how it handles the light frequency. Some of the best actually use a highly modified and refined polarizer film that eliminates the "X" by ensuring the light wave isn't effected by the film. At least that is what the marketing materials say.

    @jshickele - please describe this better "blurriness when the sun started going down." What type of blurriness? Lens flare, shakes, ??? - If you can post an example it is easier to see what you mean.
    D800, D300, D50(ir converted), FujiX100, Canon G11, Olympus TG2. Nikon lenses - 24mm 2.8, 35mm 1.8, (5 in all)50mm, 60mm, 85mm 1.8, 105vr, 105 f2.5, 180mm 2.8, 70-200vr1, 24-120vr f4. Tokina 12-24mm, 16-28mm, 28-70mm (angenieux design), 300mm f2.8. Sigma 15mm fisheye. Voigtlander R2 (olive) & R2a, Voigt 35mm 2.5, Zeiss 50mm f/2, Leica 90mm f/4. I know I missed something...
  • WestEndBoyWestEndBoy Posts: 1,456Member
    It is a slow lens, so when the light goes down the shutter speed becomes longer and everything becomes blurry if I hand hold. I am using it to illustrate how tiCreativeMedia's critique of his variable ND filter might sound if it was applied to a variable zoom lens. You will note that I copied his original post and replaced "variable nd filter" with "variable zoom lens" and added a few more edits of my own. I was pointing out that he may have being using his gear something it was not designed for.

    Obviously I did not do a very good job.......
  • IronheartIronheart Posts: 3,017Moderator
    The instructions that came with my tiffen vari-ND said that if you turn the dial outside of the min-max range that you will get an X just like TTJ said. Let's be careful out there ;)
  • To be honest, I think it's quite rude how some of you guys ridicule @tiCreativeMedia 's post and problem description.

    There is surely a large difference between blurriness because the camera needs long exposure times and a 150-Dollar filter by a respectable brand producing artefacts at specific settings that seem to be within normal usage range. Apparently, his "mistake" was that he used it as a too extreme setting, so why not just tell him that?

    There is also really no need in asking why he needed to use a filter anyway if it was dark; I would assume he had a reason to make it even darker, and it's surely not the reason for the x-pattern polarizing artefacts that the framed scene is not brightly lit.

    Yes, it's true that you have to know the limits of your gear, but indeed it's completely justified to ask why products that work so crappily are even sold, and not for 30 bucks, but for prices of brand products. Saying that there are even more expensive products doesn't justify selling crap for just-a-bit expensive.

    When you buy a 1,500-dollar studio microphone, I guess you'd be confused for it to produce a lot of noise, and you wouldn't really accept the argument that there are 4000-dollar mics that don't. (Product prices in that market range from 99 thru something like 5000 dollars) Right?

    @tiCreativeMedia: Yes, the variable ND filters suck (I hadn't even heard of any filters that don't, like @TaoTeJared describes). Then again, they're infamous for it, too, and it's always a good idea to do some research before buying something like that.
  • henrik1963henrik1963 Posts: 559Member
    I am in the market for a 10 stop ND filter. They seem out of stock around here. I have no problem finding variable ND filters - now I know why :-)

    tiCreativeMedia has a valid point - variable ND filters do not work well in all situations. And thats good to know.
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,365Moderator
    Oh, great, a time to express my concerns regarding variable ND filters. All variable density filters have four surfaces of potential reflection. Instead of spending the $400, I have 77mm ND8X Hoya HMC and an ND64X Hoya Pro1, 3 stops and 6 stops respectively. So, I can have a single filter for these levels, plus I can combine them for 9 stops. These are both made by Tokina in Japan. I have no problems with those who like a variable one, but using two filters when one is needed seems strange.
    Msmoto, mod
  • proudgeekproudgeek Posts: 1,422Member
    I hope my response was not construed as being rude; it was certainly not my intent. I was merely pointing out that it's buyer beware when things like this look so great. Research is definitely your friend. TiCreative, I'd suggest that instead of buying a variable ND, figure out the number of stops you're most likely to need from a filter, and start there. Truth be told, when I was shopping for mine, the guy at the counter at B&H pushed the 2-9 stop pretty hard, but I stuck to my guns and told him I wanted a constant 10-stop filter. I've been very happy with it.
  • Rx4PhotoRx4Photo Posts: 1,199Member
    edited February 2014
    @ tiCreativeMedia, I surely hope you're able to return the filter for refund if it's not satisfactory. When I was in the market for ND filters I read several reviews that reflected the same thing that you're seeing. I decided not to buy an variable ND. I did read that there's one that's supposed to be better than the rest of them. It's the Lee Big Stopper Vari-ND. Some say that it doesn't create that x-pattern that you're speaking of. Very expensive though.

    I, just like Msmoto, decided on two ND's and they have satisfied me totally. One is a Tiffen 3 stop and the other is B+W 10 stop. I decided to buy the B+W 10 stop over other brands because I read that other brands may change the hue of your final image. The B+W, although pricy, does not cause this hue change. The 3 stop is perfect for shooting wider apertures in bright sunlight for better bokeh. The 10 stop is perfect for brushed cloud patterns and smooth mirror-like water surfaces. I've occasionally combined them for 13 stops. Dealing with 2 filters might be slightly less convenient but each serves it's purpose wonderfully.

    Oh... In terms of using a ND filter at night....I used my 3 stop ND while photographing the Toronto skyline at night from across the water on Centre Island. Posted on PAD several months ago. I forget but it was like a 120 second exposure. Beautifully smooth water in the foreground.
    Post edited by Rx4Photo on
    D800 | D7000 | Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 | 24-70mm f/2.8 | 70-200mm f/2.8 | 35mm f/1.8G | 85mm f/1.4G | Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art | Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art | Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM | Zeiss 100mm Makro-Planar ZF.2 | Flash controllers: Phottix Odin TTL

  • ThomasHortonThomasHorton Posts: 323Member
    I have been very happy with my Marumi vari ND filter.

    Like everything else in photography it is a compromise. There are advantages to Vari NDs and disadvantages. Just like there are advantages to single density filters and disadvantages.

    I am not sure why there would be an argument on which is best. Best for what? It all depends and it is all a compromise. :)
    Gear: Camera obscura with an optical device which transmits and refracts light.
  • FlowtographyBerlinFlowtographyBerlin Posts: 477Member
    edited February 2014
    I am not sure why there would be an argument on which is best. Best for what?
    Easy: Least image quality degradation.
    Post edited by FlowtographyBerlin on
  • AdeAde Posts: 1,071Member
    I have a Fader variable ND. I bought it mainly for video but have use it for stills as well.

    An advantage of variable ND is the ability to dial-in any fractional f-stop. Need 2.5 f-stops of correction? 4.75? 5.33? 6.25? All covered, just rotate the filter to taste. This would be impossible to do with straight ND filters and is especially useful when shooting video in bright conditions as all your other settings (shutter speed, aperture, ISO) are often fixed due to other considerations. (Plus we don't have the latitude of shooting RAW video).

    Yes, the interference pattern is something to be mindful of for this type of filter. In bright conditions at least, one can typically see when the patterns start to appear in the viewfinder and work around the problem if necessary.

    @Rx4Photo The Lee Big Stopper is not a variable ND; it is a fixed 10-stop ND filter.
  • PhotobugPhotobug Posts: 4,321Member
    The instructions that came with my tiffen vari-ND said that if you turn the dial outside of the min-max range that you will get an X just like TTJ said. Let's be careful out there ;)
    +1...my Tiffen manual warns you not to go outside the min and max and they are right. I had to see it myself. Never had a problem staying with the min and max marks.
    D750 & D7100 | 24-70 F2.8 G AF-S ED, 70-200 F2.8 AF VR, TC-14E III, TC-1.7EII, 35 F2 AF D, 50mm F1.8G, 105mm G AF-S VR | Backup & Wife's Gear: D5500 & Sony HX50V | 18-140 AF-S ED VR DX, 55-300 AF-S G VR DX |
    |SB-800, Amaran Halo LED Ring light | MB-D16 grip| Gitzo GT3541 + RRS BH-55LR, Gitzo GM2942 + Sirui L-10 | RRS gear | Lowepro, ThinkTank, & Hoodman gear | BosStrap | Vello Freewave Plus wireless Remote, Leica Lens Cleaning Cloth |
  • MsmotoMsmoto Posts: 5,365Moderator
    Oh, yes, video. I can see this as many of the exposure parameters are fixed. Variable ND is the only answer.

    I do not shoot video……yet.
    Msmoto, mod
  • Rx4PhotoRx4Photo Posts: 1,199Member


    @Rx4Photo The Lee Big Stopper is not a variable ND; it is a fixed 10-stop ND filter.
    Ur right. Thanks.

    D800 | D7000 | Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8 | 24-70mm f/2.8 | 70-200mm f/2.8 | 35mm f/1.8G | 85mm f/1.4G | Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art | Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art | Sigma 50mm f/1.4 EX DG HSM | Zeiss 100mm Makro-Planar ZF.2 | Flash controllers: Phottix Odin TTL

  • tiCreativeMediatiCreativeMedia Posts: 81Member
    @TaoTeJared yeah it's a Hoya? but still... $140 for the lens
    D7100, 35mm 1:1.8G, 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED AF-S DX, 24-70mm f/2.8G ED, 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED
  • tiCreativeMediatiCreativeMedia Posts: 81Member
    @Golf007sd Hi! I was shooting the sunset over the water in boston... wanted to get a sheen off of the water. So, I set my lens to the min setting... even within min and max, I still get the cross pattern.

    with that said, I have now ordered a 10 stop ND, but I really want the variability.

    THANKS!!
    Dave
    D7100, 35mm 1:1.8G, 10-24mm f/3.5-4.5G ED AF-S DX, 24-70mm f/2.8G ED, 70-200mm f/2.8G ED VR II, AF-S VR Micro-Nikkor 105mm f/2.8G IF-ED
  • PB_PMPB_PM Posts: 3,809Member
    edited February 2014
    You need to use a circular polarizer, not an ND filter, to deal with reflections.
    Post edited by PB_PM on
    If I take a good photo it's not my camera's fault.
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