Variable ND Filter Shootout

I need to get a larger ND filter for my new lenses. So I want to review 6 of them.

Testimonial-1

I need to get a larger ND filter for my new lenses my Tamron 24-70 and my Canon 70-200.

I got a wide variety of ND filters at prices from $50 all the way to $500. I totally believe if you are going to buy a $2000 lens, you don’t want to put cheap glass in front of it, but I am hoping that I will be surprised and one of the cheaper ones will win in my testing. $500 doesn’t make sense, how can two flat pieces of glass be more expensive than multiple curved pieces of glass on one of my lenses that cost less?

I normally only review 3 items before I buy one but this time since it is an easy test I will be testing 6 ND Filters.

  1. Does it soften the sharpness? Others complained about it going soft at long focus lengths. This is most important to me, if any fail here I will drop them.
  2. Does it shift the color (green tint)?
  3. Does it add vignetting? None on 24-70 at 70mm. Check at 24mm
  4. What it does to bokeh?
  5. Does it play well on wide lenses?

Want to use for both video and stills, video (shooting wide open at long focus lengths) and still (shooting wide angle with aperture closed down).

Testing ND Filters Heliopan Tiffen Singh-Ray Genus Polariod Lightcraft

Sharpness

  • OK here is my setup and what it looks like before I zoom into each photo.
  • On the left is the shot without any filter and on the right is the Polariod, if you are watching this at 1080 you can see the Polariod is softening the image, so I am taking it out of the running.
  • Next up is the Genus and it looks really good, not perfect but really close to the original shot. You are going to notice that all the ND filters added a color cast to each shoot and we will cover that later.
  • The LightCraft is a bit soft, not as bad as the Polariod so I will leave it in the running for now.
  • The Tiffen looks awesome, best one out of all them, remember I am viewing the actual RAW stills while you are watching this at best at 1080, even some of you are watching this at 360 resolution so I might be seeing things you can’t.
  • The Singh-Ray looks really good and so does the Heliopan, I would say that the Singh-Ray is slightly better than the Heliopan, but not as good as the Tiffen.
  • I also tested the corners and at a much darker ND level and all these results are the same as in the center at about 4 stops of ND filtration.

LightCraft ND Filter out of the running

Bokeh

  • Next up is my Bokeh test using my 70-200mm at 2.8 without any ND filter you can see the small light source out of focus creates clean bokeh.
  • The Genus adds some texture to the bokeh
  • And the Lightcraft adds way to much texture, at this point I am taking the LightCraft out of the running.
  • The Tiffen looks pretty much exactly the same to the Genus
  • The Singh-Ray looks good
  • and the Heliopan is the best, maybe this is why it is Phillip Bloom’s favorite
  • But the Tiffen and the Genus are pretty good
  • Bokeh is important here because the reason for using an ND filter for video is you can shoot wide open, when you shoot wide open you get bokeh

Color Shift

  • I thought I would be smart and white balance after putting on each ND filter and shoot a color chart for a color shift or color cast test, and use the RBG Parade, but they all looked the same since I WB.
  • So what I did is use a white background and then look at the RBG Parade, this time I didn’t white balance for each from the original no filter shot.
  • All the ND filters reduce the blue channel, some a little more than others but they all do it.
  • Using RGB curves I can boost the blue channel back up
  • The Genus is the only one that requires an additional tweak to the green channel as well to balance the color out.
  • Kind of sucks they all do it, so if you are outside it is worth it to custom white balance after you put the filter on, don’t kid yourself into thinking your non ND filter shots will match your ND filter shoots in post

Vignetting

  • Next up I tested for vignetting for all my lenses that I will use this filter on
  • I found that I had no vignetting issues with my 70-200mm 2.8 and I didn’t have any issues at 70mm on my Tamron 24-70 2.8.
  • The issues came only at 24mm on my Tamron for both video and photos
  • The Genus was the best here, no vignetting to be found in the corners, the Tiffen in 2nd place for some reason a small dark area in the lower right corner
  • The Singh-Ray is the worst and the Heliopan 2nd worst.
  • Now when you look at stills the Genus wins again for vignetting
  • and the Singh-Ray really looks bad and so does the heliopan for stills, and yes I shoot stills!

X Factor

  • Since I use my DSLR to take pictures as well as video, I wanted to see how they did at their darkest settings
  • They were all bad at the max setting for stills, I had to lower them a good stop before some of the X “vignette” pattern would go away.
  • On the video side you can crank them up much higher but I would not use max on any of them even with video.

Construction

  • Singh-Ray has two printed markings which is so smart.
  • The Singh-ray sticks out the farthest that is why you get vignetting

Variable ND Filter Shootout

Conclusion

  • Before I tell you which one I am getting, be sure to check out my T4i training course and I am about 1/3 of the way done on my T3i course.
  • Also if you want to see more detailed comparison videos please help support me by buying from the links on my blog post to the gear.
  • Didn’t get the Neewer or Fotga because B&H doesn’t carry it.
  • Both the Heliopan is too expensive and has vignetting issues on my Tamron
  • The Tiffen wins in sharpness
  • The Genus requires a little more post work than the Tiffen
  • I am buying the Tiffen
  • If you are short on cash I would get the Genus
  • If you don’t own a really sharp lens to begin with the Polariod would work but I would would stay away from it because later you might want to get better glass and then you will have to upgrade the ND filter at that point.

The Great ND Filter Shootout

Bonus Review Step Up Rings

  • Step-up rings, compare cheap to expensive.
  • The cheap Bower 77 to 82mm sounds grity when you are putting it on the lens which makes me nervous
  • The B&W 77 to 82mm feels better but twice I had it lock up on an ND filter and could not get it off.

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Tiffen 82mm ND Filter, if that is not your filter size, follow this link and then type in the search box “Tiffen 77mm Variable ND filter” for example and that will help me make more videos like this one.

Tiffen 82mm ND