photo by jk78 via iStock
If you’re a landscape photographer, there are plenty of different filters you should have in your bag.
A polarizer is a must, and a graduated neutral density filter is a good asset as well.
Many landscape photographers also carry a kit of neutral density filters. I used to be one such photographer, but now I’ve started using a variable ND filter instead.
The convenience of having multiple ND filters in one is simply too good to pass up. Of course, like any other lens filters, there are good and bad options when choosing a variable ND.
If you’re ready to upgrade your kit with a quality variable ND filter, consider one of the following options.
Kenko Professional Variable NDX Filter
This Kenko Variable NDX is the ND filter I have in my kit, and it has impressed from day one.
It offers a range of light-stopping power from 1.3-8.5 stops, so it truly offers a wide range of possibilities for creating long exposures.
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What’s more, the practical use factor range is ND2.5-450 and is extendable to ND1000. Just imagine the gorgeously smooth motion you can get at ND1000!
Kenko offers these filters in 77mm and 82mm sizes. The filter is made by mounting two pieces of high-quality polarizing glass opposite one another, that way when you turn the filter ring, it provides smooth operating motion and lightens or darkens as you see fit.
When using ND filters of any kind, getting a neutral color result is key. Kenko ensures that your images have hyper-neutral color balance thanks to a depolarizing plate inside the filter.
That means there’s no color shifting, no vignetting, and no flare. Instead, you just get a wide range of stopping power thanks to high-quality materials and top-quality construction.
Why carry around a big ND filter kit when something like this will do the job and do it well?!
Marumi DHG Variable ND Filter
I’ve used Marumi filters many times over the years, and they have performed well (and are typically priced affordably, too).
Their DHG Variable ND Filter offers continuous adjustment from ND2 to ND400. Though that isn’t quite the range of the Kenko filter outlined above, it’s still a good variation of light-stopping power for most shooters.
Marumi uses prime Japanese optics to craft these filters, so they provide crisp, clean, and sharp results.
The ultra-thin screw thread on the filter frame is both easy to attach and detach from your lens, and because it’s so thin, vignetting isn’t a problem.
The aluminum filter frame is lightweight and durable, so it can stand up to a little punishment as you strive to get those gorgeous long exposures you seek.
Like Kenko, Marumi has ensured that the filter produces hyper-neutral colors, so you don’t have to worry about color casting when using this filter. As you can see in the before and after images above, there is no difference in the color tones, yet in the second image, the shutter speed has been extended to blur the movement of the water.
There’s a reason why Digital Camera Magazine awarded Marumi Variable ND Filters with their Gold Award - they are simply built right to give you top performance!
Syrp Variable ND Filter
Though Syrp might be better known for their motion control devices, they actually make a really good variable ND filter.
I tested this rig a couple of years ago, and I found it to be every bit as good as some of the heavy-hitters in the filter industry.
What’s nice about the Syrp option is that it comes with two step-up rings so you can fit an 82mm filter to a 72mm or 77mm lens. They even throw in a genuine leather carrying case and a lens cloth too!
The filter itself is made of high-quality Japanese glass so you get those sharp results you’re looking for whether you’re using the filter for still photos or videos.
This particular model offers 1-8 tops of filtering power, so you can smooth out motion for long exposures or open up the aperture nice and wide to get gorgeous bokeh.
If you’ve never used a variable ND filter before, this is a good one to start with!
B&W XS-Pro Digital Vario ND Filter
Though this filter is $300 for a 77mm version, it’s still a good buy considering a complete ND filter kit would likely cost twice that much.
And for that price, you get B&W’s solid reputation for building some of the best filters in the business.
This model offers 1-5 stops and has an extra wide mount that aids in avoiding vignetting when using wide-angle and ultra wide-angle lenses.
The filter has a Multi-Resistant Coating with Nano Technology that ensures the filter repels contaminants like water and oils from your skin.
The filter ring is made of brass, so it’s a little heavier than other filters on this list. But brass is also highly durable, so this rig can stand up to a ton of use for years and years to come.
That’s just what you want in a variable ND filter - excellent results and long-lasting durability.
Tiffen Variable ND Filter
If you’re a more budget-conscious buyer, Tiffen makes a quality variable ND filter that won’t bust your budget.
Just like the other filters discussed above, the Tiffen Variable ND Filter has a built-in rotating ring that allows you to quickly and easily adjust its filtering power. The ring offers smooth rotating action for precise control that discerning photographers demand.
With exposure control from ND 0.6-2.4, this filter will give you 2-8 stops of filtering power. Again, that’s not as wide a range as other filters on this list, but is still more than adequate for most photographers.
What makes this filter an especially good buy is Tiffen’s ColorCore technology. ColorCore ensures that you get color-neutral results, which is not something that many budget-friendly variable ND filters can claim.
On top of that, ColorCore helps control the precise density of the filtration. This means that you have more control over the exact degree of filtration in your photos.
At about $90 for a 77mm filter, it’s a steal too!