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Tiffen Vari ND filter, 58mm - Disappointing

Discussion in 'Accessories' started by ThomD, Mar 30, 2014.

  1. ThomD

    ThomD Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 1, 2013
    SF Bay Area
    I've been wanting to try a variable ND filter for a while, but the "best" ones are very expensive. When I found the Tiffens (around $99 US) and some positive reviews, I decided to give it a try. Currently listed on Amazon as a 2-8 stop filter (I swear it said 9 when I bought it.), I could only get good results unto 4.5 stops. I could get 7 at most, but there were issues.

    I tested this with a couple of controlled scenes to see how many stops I could get before it started to display the corner vignetting and X pattern that all variable ND filters eventually show. The filter has 6 marks between the max and min labels on the rotating section covering about 90 degrees of filter rotation.

    The transition from min to max is not consistent. At min, there is one stop of light loss. At mark 3 it is 2 stops; at mark 6 it is 4.3 to 4.5 stops. That's fairly linear, but then very small motions make a big difference in light cut off. At the max mark, it jumps to about 7 stops. Unfortunately, between mark 6 and the max mark, the corners start to darken. It is not too bad, but the change form 4.5 stops to 7 stops happens over a very narrow range, so it is difficult to control.

    It will get darker than 7 stops, but the X pattern makes the images unusable. There might be a sliver of 8 stops that isn't bad, but I could not find it.

    I still haven't taken any "real" pictures with it, but I'm not wowed.

    I'll admit, this may be normal behavior for VND filters. If so, I'm just glad that I didn't spring for one of the better ones to learn that it isn't what I was hoping for.

    in this age of solid ISO ranges in the cameras, I think I'd be happier with something like a 6 and a 10. If needed, I can fill in the range by raising the ISO.
    • Like Like x 1
  2. klee

    klee Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 20, 2013
    Houston, TX
  3. walter_j

    walter_j Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Sep 10, 2013
    Hagwilget, B.C., Canada
    I'm considering filters too. I'm leaning towards a grad filter - perhaps cokin. Any experience with this? Or should i just spend the bucks on a Lee. I will mostly use them for mountainous landscapes. I may take a drive through Jasper and Banf this summer, and take some shots where Ansel took his (grin).
  4. darcius1

    darcius1 Mu-43 Regular

    Jan 6, 2013
    Sandwich Isles
    I recently got a formatt hitech reverse grad ND and was happy with my initial results. Shoot with a Cokin ND grad leftover from my film days and FLW that I also enjoy for sunsets.
  5. RT_Panther

    RT_Panther Mu-43 Legend

    May 4, 2011
    Well, you *shouldn't* be disappointed with a Lee...:smile:
  6. klee

    klee Mu-43 Veteran

    Mar 20, 2013
    Houston, TX
    shot these tests with the EM5 at ISO 200, f1.4.

    -without the ND filter I was at 13EV (1/4000s)
    -with the vivitar at Minimum setting, it dropped it 2 stops to 11EV (1/1000s)
    -dropping it by 6.5 stops (1/25s) the purple tint starts to appear ever so slightly.
    -the max usable (attached photo) was at just under 5EV (1/13s) which is just over 8 stops.

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  7. Cruzan80

    Cruzan80 Mu-43 All-Pro

    Aug 23, 2012
    Denver, Co
    Sean Rastsmith
    When I have had to use the max on my vari-nd, i will shoot a grey card to adjust. Mine is a fotasy (~(25USD), and performs for the times I need it.

    Sent from my LG-P769 using Mu-43 mobile app
    • Like Like x 1
  8. andix

    andix Mu-43 Regular

    Jun 16, 2012
    I made the mistake of buying a variND made by Promaster. Not exactly cheap (but then again this is Canada and everything is more expensive.) This one retailed about 48 CAD new.

    I haven't got any previous experience with NDs, variable or not. Bought this as a workaround to be able to shoot at f/1.8 with the limiting ISO200 of the M5 in broad daylight. And I can attest to the filter being useless past half the density, too. I have experienced everything described here, from the "X" pattern to the purple/bluish tint.

    My theory is, since these are not "real" ND filters but two polarizers superimposed, one should expect this to happen.
  9. FullyOMD

    FullyOMD Mu-43 Regular

    Apr 7, 2014
    Watford, UK
    Glad I found this thread. I was just about to buy myself one of these filters for use on my travels next month. Might have to go and have another look at ND filter.
  10. tosvus

    tosvus Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jan 4, 2014
    I would advise against variable nd's other than for using with video. The fixed nd's are better quality for sure.

    Also, if you don't mind the bulk, the guy over at personal-view sells nice 4x4 filters/holders, made out of glass rather than resin that the cokin p filters usually are made of. They are fairly reasonably priced, and if you ever want to do video, they fit most matte-boxes.
  11. ThomD

    ThomD Mu-43 Top Veteran

    Jun 1, 2013
    SF Bay Area
    I finally got a chance to put this through its paces in the real world and it wasn't as bad as I thought. My buggest issue was the artifacts at high ND levels. This is mostly an issue at wider fields of view (for all brands I suspect). So, it isn't bad, but I still think a fixed ND6 and ND 10 would be easier to use for me.
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