Lately I’ve been doing some research for a variable ND filter. Many sites have reviewed them for sharpness, color shift and build quality. Most of them settled on the Tiffen Variable ND filter as a top contender. To the best of my knowledge, the tests were sound and I felt I didn’t need to spend the big $$$ for the big name brands. Since the Tiffen is what Nikon ships with the D810 Filmmakers kit, I found it wise to stick with the Tiffen VND.

Tiffen 77mm Variable ND Filter Tiffen 77mm Variable ND Filter

Currently being in the Province of Quebec (Canada) made locally finding a 77mm Tiffen Variable ND filter even more difficult. Local stores seem to carry less and less of the useful photography gear. I could put my hands on a Genus 77mm ECLIPSE ND Fader for $339.99. Not the most interesting option price wise. I had to source out the filter online and out of province as it’s not packaged with french instructions.

Montreal Back River Hydro Station - Nikon D810 ISO 64 f/22 30 second exposureMontreal Back River Hydro Station – Nikon D810 ISO 64 f/22 30 second exposure

I promptly received the filter and I rushed to the Montreal Back River, literally my backyard for a few tests. I was pleasantly surprised. The filter mechanism was smooth and I was able to shoot with the full 8 stops at 24mm without getting X-BARS on my full frame D810 DSLR. X-BARS are more common when using a Variable ND Filter at it’s MAX setting on a Full Frame Camera, especially at wide angle.

Old Mill - Ile de la Visitation Nature Park - Nikon D810 ISO 64 f/22 126sec exposureOld Mill – Ile de la Visitation Nature Park – Nikon D810 ISO 64 f/22 126sec exposure

If I were to use a Neutral Density filter for photography and only photography, I would probably use a Hoya NDx400 or even a 10 Stop ND Filter. With variable ND I get a versatile filter for photography and a great tool for videography without having to fill up my camera bag with a multitude of filters and accessories. A Full 10Stops would have been great.

Since shooting video with the Nikon D810, I’m experiencing a whole new world of video. The manual controls that were lacking in the D3s and D300s introduce a technical aspect I didn’t have to worry about in the past. Even with the D810’s low native ISO of 64, you find yourself having to shoot with small apertures revealing to much of your background. To reduce the depth of field and maintain your shutter speed and frame rate, you need to use the variable ND to reduce the amount of light entering your lens, thus shooting at wider apertures.

To date I’m quite satisfied with the Tiffen Variable ND. It behaves better than expected for a filter in its price range. My one disappointment is it doesn’t have external threads for a lens cap or sun shade. I’ve heard that a good old fashion 90mm push on cap should work fine. On the PLUS SIDE the glass element is wider than the mounting threads. This reduces the chances of vignetting.

I personally would stay clear of eBay for this type of purchase, especially Chinese vendors. I’ve received counterfeit items in the past through eBay vendors

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