Anybody experience with Fader ND Filters?

Started Mar 30, 2013 | Questions
RoelHendrickx
RoelHendrickx Forum Pro • Posts: 26,471
Anybody experience with Fader ND Filters?

With a superfast lens on its way towards me, I think I will be needing some ND filtering in order to be able to shoot at large aperture in bright light.

This caught my attention : the Light Craft Workshop (LCW) Fader ND Filter (Mark ii).

It's a filter that can "fade" between 2 stops and 8 stops of ND strength.  Sounds convenient.

But of course convenience comes at a price (and I am just referring to money).

The fading effect, insofar as I understand it, is created by having actually two filters on top of eachother, with an interaction similar to polarizing.  That sounds like it would degrade image quality much more than just using a regular 2stop ND or a 4stop ND or and 8stop ND.

Does any of you have experience with this kind of filter?  The brand in question or others?

(I will also experiment with the filters I already have : my ND filters are of the square Cokin kind and I am not too happy with them, but I have a reasonably good circular polarizer in the right filter size, so I will try how that one works for starters: it's between 1.5 and 2 stops.)

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Wilki Regular Member • Posts: 157
Re: Anybody experience with Fader ND Filters?

Got one a few weeks ago for getting those silky waterfall shots and have been really impressed with if.

The only watch out is that at higher densities a clear cross can appear on the image (but not all the time or with every lens)

One piece of advice - buy one for your largest filter size and some step down rings. I wish I had because I now have two !

papillon_65
papillon_65 Forum Pro • Posts: 27,030
Re: Anybody experience with Fader ND Filters?

I also have one and I have not noticed any IQ degradation using it. They're excellent and as Wilki says, make sure you get a large filter size one. Avoid cheap imitations, the Lightcraft one's are the real deal but there are cheaper poorer quality versions floating about.

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RoelHendrickx
OP RoelHendrickx Forum Pro • Posts: 26,471
Different ND values for different FL?

Wilki, thanks for your thoughts.But I have a few questions still.

Wilki wrote:

Got one a few weeks ago for getting those silky waterfall shots and have been really impressed with if.

The only watch out is that at higher densities a clear cross can appear on the image (but not all the time or with every lens)

One thing I have read, is that the amount of stops ND available with the Filter, is different from lens to lens.  Use is not advised for very long focal lengths.  And for very wide focal lengths, the actual range of ND is more limited than for a short telephoto, i.e. the adverse effects appear sooner.

Can you share some thoughts on that.

One piece of advice - buy one for your largest filter size and some step down rings. I wish I had because I now have two !

Well, bigger filters are of course more expensive, and then I need to add the step up rings.

In normal photographic use, I hardly ever use any kind of filter.  I would be getting a Fader ND for a specific very fast lens (Voigtlander Nokton).  It's filter size is 58mm : that is not too expensive.  The only other lenses I could see myself using ND on, would be the Zuiko 12-60 lens (72mm filter) and the Zuiko 50-200 lens (67mm filter), when traveling.

I just think that putting a 72mm filter on a 58mm lens (the Nokton) would look and feel really awkward?

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Mike_PEAT Forum Pro • Posts: 13,344
I just use two polarizers...

You can achieve more and cheaper with two linear (or linear + circular for dSLRs) polarizers, and cross polarizing them.

RoelHendrickx
OP RoelHendrickx Forum Pro • Posts: 26,471
Re: I just use two polarizers...

Mike_PEAT wrote:

You can achieve more and cheaper with two linear (or linear + circular for dSLRs) polarizers, and cross polarizing them.

I already have a circular polarizer in 58mm filter thread.

Using a second one would be good enough?

Does it have to be linear or can it be a second circular one?

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Robert Hagqvist
Robert Hagqvist New Member • Posts: 1
Re: Anybody experience with Fader ND Filters?

Watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8xcRv7ySIcI

I am fully satisfied!

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LMNCT Veteran Member • Posts: 4,908
Re: Anybody experience with Fader ND Filters?

Good advice on the use of two linear pol.  I have a 72mm fader and use step down rings for various lenses.  It makes for a largish package.  I prefer using my Cokin holder and 4X &X ND filters.  I feel that I have more control that way.

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RoelHendrickx
OP RoelHendrickx Forum Pro • Posts: 26,471
Well, just multiple HDs is also an option.

Good advice on the use of two linear pol.  I have a 72mm fader and use step down rings for various lenses.  It makes for a largish package.  I prefer using my Cokin holder and 4X &X ND filters.  I feel that I have more control that way.

When going for just simple ND filters, I guess that 10x and 4x would be most useful.
Lesser is hardly worth it or most often adjustable with shutter speed.
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Dr_Jon Veteran Member • Posts: 5,984
Re: Anybody experience with Fader ND Filters?

The problem with variable NDs is they do tend to fall off a cliff at longer focal lengths. Also if the most transmissive end doesn't allow auto-focus it can lead to a lot of faffing about.

I bought a Heliopan variable ND (a couple of years back) as was better with these issues. The Heliopan is 0.3 to 1.8 ND density, which is 1 to about 6 stops) BUT they really aren't cheap, especially if you want the 77mm one (as I did). The cheaper variable NDs tend to die a death at focal lengths much above 70mm. (You can make your own variable ND with a polariser and a circular polariser, although again only for short focal lengths.) One of the reasons I like the Heliopan is its brightest setting is enough to AF my Canon camera with F4 lenses (some other good ones start at 2 stops).
Some links:
http://philipbloom.net/2011/06/04/the-best-variable-nd-filter-i-have-used/
http://www.digital-photography-school.com/create-your-own-variable-neutral-density-filter
(Longer pause to find the site I remember about longer focal lengths... although the reviewer only added that section after some nagging in an online discussion...)
http://www.quantumpie.com/light-craft-workshop-fader-nd-mark-ii-review/
...scroll down to "Resolution Test at Longer Focal Lengths"
This is more a warning about cheap(-ish) variable NDs than a suggestion to buy something that expensive. It is so handy though.... err, I also just bought a Lee Big Stopper for the really long exposures where I really care the most about the quality, but that's mostly to avoid stacking filters to get the maximum light loss.

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Jon Stock Senior Member • Posts: 1,608
I was looking at the same thing

I found some good info here:

http://nofilmschool.com/2012/12/dave-dugdale-variable-nd-filter-shootout/

http://blog.vincentlaforet.com/2010/11/24/fader-filters/

http://philipbloom.net/2011/06/04/the-best-variable-nd-filter-i-have-used/

I was thinking about getting this filter:

http://www.ephotozine.com/article/tiffen-variable-nd-filter-review-20475

Instead I went with a 10 stop ND filter.

I also found a good test for Polarizing filters here

http://www.lenstip.com/115.4-article-Polarizing_filters_test_Results_and_summary.html

I did not find an equally good review of different ND filters.  So I bought an expensive brand name I trusted:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/752941-REG/B_W_1066181_58mm_110_Solid_Neutral.html

I may have paid too much.

The 10 stops may be too much, maybe a 6 or 4 stop filter would work better.  I will find out over time.

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RoelHendrickx
OP RoelHendrickx Forum Pro • Posts: 26,471
Thanks for all those links

Jon Stock wrote:

I found some good info here:

http://nofilmschool.com/2012/12/dave-dugdale-variable-nd-filter-shootout/

http://blog.vincentlaforet.com/2010/11/24/fader-filters/

http://philipbloom.net/2011/06/04/the-best-variable-nd-filter-i-have-used/

I was thinking about getting this filter:

http://www.ephotozine.com/article/tiffen-variable-nd-filter-review-20475

Instead I went with a 10 stop ND filter.

I also found a good test for Polarizing filters here

http://www.lenstip.com/115.4-article-Polarizing_filters_test_Results_and_summary.html

I did not find an equally good review of different ND filters.  So I bought an expensive brand name I trusted:

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/752941-REG/B_W_1066181_58mm_110_Solid_Neutral.html

I may have paid too much.

The 10 stops may be too much, maybe a 6 or 4 stop filter would work better.  I will find out over time.

Ten stops seems indeed much.

The Variable (Fader) ND filters I was considering (and that I can get my hands on), are of the brands LCW (Light Craft Workshop) and Haida (the second a bit cheaper but supposedly made in the same factory, or so goes the rumour anyway).

Both are in the same price range ballpark (around 70-80 EUR for a 58mm filter size).  A lot cheaper than Heliopan etc, and I plan to use it sparingly anyway.  If it turns out to be indispensable, I can always still upgrade, but I don't want to spend several 100 EUR now (with a lens already crushing my budget).

That Fader ND should give a range between 1 (or 2) and 10 (or 8) stops.  But you must take care not to overdo it, or you will get an ugly black cross across the frame.

I would be happy if I could vary between 1 (or 2) and 6 (or maybe 8) stops.

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Jon

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dezignman Senior Member • Posts: 1,591
I could not use a fader...

...with anything over about 60-70mm.  I got horrible color casting and decreased IQ worsening at longer focal lengths. It didn't work out for me.

RoelHendrickx
OP RoelHendrickx Forum Pro • Posts: 26,471
Re: I could not use a fader...

dezignman wrote:

...with anything over about 60-70mm.  I got horrible color casting and decreased IQ worsening at longer focal lengths. It didn't work out for me.

Well, that should not really be a problem, because I will be getting one for use almost exclusively at 17.5mm...

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RoelHendrickx
OP RoelHendrickx Forum Pro • Posts: 26,471
Re: Anybody experience with Fader ND Filters?

Dr_Jon wrote:

The problem with variable NDs is they do tend to fall off a cliff at longer focal lengths. Also if the most transmissive end doesn't allow auto-focus it can lead to a lot of faffing about.

I bought a Heliopan variable ND (a couple of years back) as was better with these issues. The Heliopan is 0.3 to 1.8 ND density, which is 1 to about 6 stops) BUT they really aren't cheap, especially if you want the 77mm one (as I did). The cheaper variable NDs tend to die a death at focal lengths much above 70mm. (You can make your own variable ND with a polariser and a circular polariser, although again only for short focal lengths.) One of the reasons I like the Heliopan is its brightest setting is enough to AF my Canon camera with F4 lenses (some other good ones start at 2 stops).
Some links:
http://philipbloom.net/2011/06/04/the-best-variable-nd-filter-i-have-used/
http://www.digital-photography-school.com/create-your-own-variable-neutral-density-filter
(Longer pause to find the site I remember about longer focal lengths... although the reviewer only added that section after some nagging in an online discussion...)
http://www.quantumpie.com/light-craft-workshop-fader-nd-mark-ii-review/
...scroll down to "Resolution Test at Longer Focal Lengths"
This is more a warning about cheap(-ish) variable NDs than a suggestion to buy something that expensive. It is so handy though.... err, I also just bought a Lee Big Stopper for the really long exposures where I really care the most about the quality, but that's mostly to avoid stacking filters to get the maximum light loss.

Thanks for the links (of which I had already looked at a few).

And also about the warning at longer focal lengths.

But I intend use primarily if not exclusively for use on 17.5mm, in order to be able to shoot the Nokton of that focal length also with wide aperture in bright sun (circumstances where even 1/4000 would not be fast enough...)

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amtberg Veteran Member • Posts: 6,169
Re: I just use two polarizers...

I believe the second one needs to be linear.

amtberg Veteran Member • Posts: 6,169
Check out this review

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nECdBiu5Rrw

I thought it was an excellent review and as a result I bought the Tiffen variable ND filter.  I've been quite pleased with it.  I bought it in 58mm as I'll mostly use it with my 12-35, and I'll use it with the 35-100 when I eventually buy it.  Both are native 58mm lenses.  I have a step up ring to use it with my Nokton 25mm (52mm filter size).

RoelHendrickx
OP RoelHendrickx Forum Pro • Posts: 26,471
Re: Check out this review

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nECdBiu5Rrw

I thought it was an excellent review and as a result I bought the Tiffen variable ND filter.  I've been quite pleased with it.  I bought it in 58mm as I'll mostly use it with my 12-35, and I'll use it with the 35-100 when I eventually buy it.  Both are native 58mm lenses.  I have a step up ring to use it with my Nokton 25mm (52mm filter size).

Interesting to know that both Pany 12-35 and 35-100 are 58 mm filter-threads. The Nokton 17.5mm is too.
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micksh6
micksh6 Senior Member • Posts: 2,613
Re: Anybody experience with Fader ND Filters?

For those who don't notice image quality degradation with Light Craft Workshop Fader ND MkII, open this link and scroll to the bottom where it's tested with long focal lengths.
http://www.dancingphysicist.com/light-craft-workshop-fader-nd-mark-ii-review/

Sure, the effect will not be that noticeable on wide angle, and I believe that non-pixelpeepers don't see it, but the degradation won't go away completely. Some fine details may be lost which may become apparent when you'll want to print large. And don't think Light Craft filter is multi-coated, which means you depend on luck when using it.

For comparison, this is how really high quality vari-ND should work:
http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/50171338
DIY vari-ND with quality circular and linear polarizers. No sharpness loss at 150mm FL at all.

With Sunny 16 rule and real ISO 100 (if you shoot RAW) on modern cameras you won't need more than 3 stop ND to shoot with F0.95 under bright sunlight.
I only have F1.8 and F1.4 lenses and single polarizer (1.3-1.7 stops of light loss) is always enough to shoot wide open with F1.8 in California. With F1.4 I sometimes have to put 3 stop ND, but then shutter speed won't be faster than 1/2000s.

The minimum light loss with vari-ND will be about 2.5 stops. So, if the only its purpose to allow shooting with F0.95 lens wide open it will mostly be used at its maximum transmissivity.

The real problem with all filters is not how to block the light. The problem is switching between bright sunlight and shadows where you may want to quickly get rid of the filter, otherwise shutter speed becomes too slow.

For that purpose single 3 stop ND is more practical as it has no rotating parts. I suggest to get B+W MRC 3 stop filter, it will serve the purpose and provide much higher image quality than Light Craft vari-ND. I got this filter and it doesn't reduce resolution at long telephoto - I did the same test as polarizer test I linked above.

PS. If you go to snow mountains and 3 stop ND won't be enough you can always add your polarizer to ND. If the CPL is good enough there won't be noticeable IQ degradation. I stacked 4 filters for 15 stop light loss, it was OK because I only use high quality filters.

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RoelHendrickx
OP RoelHendrickx Forum Pro • Posts: 26,471
Thanks for a detailed and well-motivated reply.

micksh6 wrote:

For those who don't notice image quality degradation with Light Craft Workshop Fader ND MkII, open this link and scroll to the bottom where it's tested with long focal lengths.
http://www.dancingphysicist.com/light-craft-workshop-fader-nd-mark-ii-review/

Yes, I 've seen that and it worried me a bit.

Sure, the effect will not be that noticeable on wide angle, and I believe that non-pixelpeepers don't see it, but the degradation won't go away completely. Some fine details may be lost which may become apparent when you'll want to print large. And don't think Light Craft filter is multi-coated, which means you depend on luck when using it.

True, and again : my use WILL mostly be on 17.5mm.

For comparison, this is how really high quality vari-ND should work:
http://www.dpreview.com/forums/post/50171338
DIY vari-ND with quality circular and linear polarizers. No sharpness loss at 150mm FL at all.

Impressive but expensive I assume.

Thanks for the link anyway.

With Sunny 16 rule and real ISO 100 (if you shoot RAW) on modern cameras you won't need more than 3 stop ND to shoot with F0.95 under bright sunlight.

True.

I only have F1.8 and F1.4 lenses and single polarizer (1.3-1.7 stops of light loss) is always enough to shoot wide open with F1.8 in California. With F1.4 I sometimes have to put 3 stop ND, but then shutter speed won't be faster than 1/2000s.

The minimum light loss with vari-ND will be about 2.5 stops. So, if the only its purpose to allow shooting with F0.95 lens wide open it will mostly be used at its maximum transmissivity.

I am seeing a 1 stop difference at the maximum transmissive state.  And it builds up to a few stops. So that seems more versatile.

I also have a CPL for when that is enough.

The real problem with all filters is not how to block the light. The problem is switching between bright sunlight and shadows where you may want to quickly get rid of the filter, otherwise shutter speed becomes too slow.

Ah, that's exactly where I like the variability : at maximum transmissivity, you can leave it on in any sunlight (even mild shadow).  Still enough shutter speeds.

For that purpose single 3 stop ND is more practical as it has no rotating parts. I suggest to get B+W MRC 3 stop filter, it will serve the purpose and provide much higher image quality than Light Craft vari-ND. I got this filter and it doesn't reduce resolution at long telephoto - I did the same test as polarizer test I linked above.

A single ND sounds good for IQ, for sure,  but may create that problem of being too dark with no time to screw it off...

PS. If you go to snow mountains and 3 stop ND won't be enough you can always add your polarizer to ND. If the CPL is good enough there won't be noticeable IQ degradation. I stacked 4 filters for 15 stop light loss, it was OK because I only use high quality filters.

No snow is my foreseeable future, just very very bright sun...

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