Neutral Density (ND) filters aren’t new to the world of photography but that doesn’t make them any less valuable Photography is all about manipulating light, even daylight, to produce the image in your mind’s eye. The Tiffen Variable ND Filter promises to offer an adjustable control for manipulating light for both photo and video without the hassle of switching through or stacking multiple filters for the desired effect; so we took Tiffen’s promise and put it through it’s paces. Here’s how they did.
Tiffen really wanted us to check out their Variable ND Filter so they sent it via UPS in the world’s largest parcel which contained a relatively tiny retail package with the filter inside. Maybe it was overkill but better that it arrived safely, right!
The Tiffen Variable ND Filter’s purpose is pretty straight forward, by helping you control the amount of light that hits the sensor, it’ll allow you to shoot longer exposures in bright lighting conditions or even reduce the depth of field in faster lenses where you otherwise wouldn’t be able to. By helping you control the amount of light that passes through the lens, the Tiffen Variable ND Filter allows you flexibility whether shooting video or stills in bright daylight or with snow on the ground.
BUILD AND CONSTRUCTION
Tiffen really constructed a great filter; you get approximately 8 stops of light control in a thin 9mm rim. When timing is everything, making the necessary adjustments on the fly is not just do-able, it’s literally at your fingertips. The design of the control ring makes it as simple to make necessary adjustments without taking your eye off your subject.
The glass elements are really where Tiffen’s Variable ND filter really shines. Unlike the unwanted vignetting that occurs when stacking multiple filters, the Variable ND filter kept the image clean of any edge deterioration (at least on my Olympus 40-150 mm). One thing to keep in mind though, when set beyond its “MAX” setting some cross patterns may become noticeable.
We briefly touched on the strong points on the filter and rest assured, it works as advertised; there are some things to keep in mind. First, the light control ratings, “2-to-8 f-stops” is an approximation only. Tiffen does their due diligence and makes it explicitly clear on their product page that your actual mileage may vary. As mentioned previously, you must adhere to the scale to ensure that you’re not getting any image distortion. Sure, that’s common sense but when you first pick up the filter, it’s something to be aware of. Price may also seem like a factor, with a street price starting around $130 it’s a little on the pricey side but the filter’s construction and ability to help capture images with few compromises makes it worth spending a little more over some of the competitors. For the videographers out there, $130 is a drop in the bucket especially if it means you only have to carry one filter instead of several.
Ultimately the Tiffen Variable ND Filter is a solid accessory to keep around whether you’re planning to shoot outdoor portraits, landscapes, or any other application where you’ll need as much control over lighting as possible.