I need to get a larger ND filter for my new lenses. So I want to review 6 of them.

I need to get a larger ND filter for my new lenses my Tamron 24-70 and my Canon 70-200.

I got a wide variety of ND filters at prices from $50 all the way to $500. I totally believe if you are going to buy a $2000 lens, you don’t want to put cheap glass in front of it, but I am hoping that I will be surprised and one of the cheaper ones will win in my testing. $500 doesn’t make sense, how can two flat pieces of glass be more expensive than multiple curved pieces of glass on one of my lenses that cost less?

I normally only review 3 items before I buy one but this time since it is an easy test I will be testing 6 ND Filters.

  1. Does it soften the sharpness? Others complained about it going soft at long focus lengths. This is most important to me, if any fail here I will drop them.
  2. Does it shift the color (green tint)?
  3. Does it add vignetting? None on 24-70 at 70mm. Check at 24mm
  4. What it does to bokeh?
  5. Does it play well on wide lenses?

Want to use for both video and stills, video (shooting wide open at long focus lengths) and still (shooting wide angle with aperture closed down).

Testing ND Filters Heliopan Tiffen Singh-Ray Genus Polariod Lightcraft

Sharpness

  • OK here is my setup and what it looks like before I zoom into each photo.
  • On the left is the shot without any filter and on the right is the Polariod, if you are watching this at 1080 you can see the Polariod is softening the image, so I am taking it out of the running.
  • Next up is the Genus and it looks really good, not perfect but really close to the original shot. You are going to notice that all the ND filters added a color cast to each shoot and we will cover that later.
  • The LightCraft is a bit soft, not as bad as the Polariod so I will leave it in the running for now.
  • The Tiffen looks awesome, best one out of all them, remember I am viewing the actual RAW stills while you are watching this at best at 1080, even some of you are watching this at 360 resolution so I might be seeing things you can’t.
  • The Singh-Ray looks really good and so does the Heliopan, I would say that the Singh-Ray is slightly better than the Heliopan, but not as good as the Tiffen.
  • I also tested the corners and at a much darker ND level and all these results are the same as in the center at about 4 stops of ND filtration.

LightCraft ND Filter out of the running

Bokeh

  • Next up is my Bokeh test using my 70-200mm at 2.8 without any ND filter you can see the small light source out of focus creates clean bokeh.
  • The Genus adds some texture to the bokeh
  • And the Lightcraft adds way to much texture, at this point I am taking the LightCraft out of the running.
  • The Tiffen looks pretty much exactly the same to the Genus
  • The Singh-Ray looks good
  • and the Heliopan is the best, maybe this is why it is Phillip Bloom’s favorite
  • But the Tiffen and the Genus are pretty good
  • Bokeh is important here because the reason for using an ND filter for video is you can shoot wide open, when you shoot wide open you get bokeh

Color Shift

  • I thought I would be smart and white balance after putting on each ND filter and shoot a color chart for a color shift or color cast test, and use the RBG Parade, but they all looked the same since I WB.
  • So what I did is use a white background and then look at the RBG Parade, this time I didn’t white balance for each from the original no filter shot.
  • All the ND filters reduce the blue channel, some a little more than others but they all do it.
  • Using RGB curves I can boost the blue channel back up
  • The Genus is the only one that requires an additional tweak to the green channel as well to balance the color out.
  • Kind of sucks they all do it, so if you are outside it is worth it to custom white balance after you put the filter on, don’t kid yourself into thinking your non ND filter shots will match your ND filter shoots in post

Vignetting

  • Next up I tested for vignetting for all my lenses that I will use this filter on
  • I found that I had no vignetting issues with my 70-200mm 2.8 and I didn’t have any issues at 70mm on my Tamron 24-70 2.8.
  • The issues came only at 24mm on my Tamron for both video and photos
  • The Genus was the best here, no vignetting to be found in the corners, the Tiffen in 2nd place for some reason a small dark area in the lower right corner
  • The Singh-Ray is the worst and the Heliopan 2nd worst.
  • Now when you look at stills the Genus wins again for vignetting
  • and the Singh-Ray really looks bad and so does the heliopan for stills, and yes I shoot stills!

X Factor

  • Since I use my DSLR to take pictures as well as video, I wanted to see how they did at their darkest settings
  • They were all bad at the max setting for stills, I had to lower them a good stop before some of the X “vignette” pattern would go away.
  • On the video side you can crank them up much higher but I would not use max on any of them even with video.

Construction

  • Singh-Ray has two printed markings which is so smart.
  • The Singh-ray sticks out the farthest that is why you get vignetting

Variable ND Filter Shootout

Conclusion

  • Before I tell you which one I am getting, be sure to check out my T4i training course and I am about 1/3 of the way done on my T3i course.
  • Also if you want to see more detailed comparison videos please help support me by buying from the links on my blog post to the gear.
  • Didn’t get the Neewer or Fotga because B&H doesn’t carry it.
  • Both the Heliopan is too expensive and has vignetting issues on my Tamron
  • The Tiffen wins in sharpness
  • The Genus requires a little more post work than the Tiffen
  • I am buying the Tiffen
  • If you are short on cash I would get the Genus
  • If you don’t own a really sharp lens to begin with the Polariod would work but I would would stay away from it because later you might want to get better glass and then you will have to upgrade the ND filter at that point.

The Great ND Filter Shootout

Bonus Review Step Up Rings

  • Step-up rings, compare cheap to expensive.
  • The cheap Bower 77 to 82mm sounds grity when you are putting it on the lens which makes me nervous
  • The B&W 77 to 82mm feels better but twice I had it lock up on an ND filter and could not get it off.

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Products Used In This Video – Find Prices

Help me make more of these types of videos by purchasing gear from the links posted on my site. It costs you nothing extra, and helps support me to make more videos.

Tiffen 82mm ND Filter, if that is not your filter size, follow this link and then type in the search box “Tiffen 77mm Variable ND filter” for example and that will help me make more videos like this one.

Tiffen 82mm ND

44 comments

  • Dave!

    What a fantastic site! I stumbled onto it maybe about a week ago and I’m a little embarrassed to admit I’ve watched nearly all your videos since. A few months ago I decided I wanted to get serious about learning as much as I could about shooting DSLR video and finding your site last week was very exciting. I’ve soaked up so much from you already, you can be sure anything from B&H I order will be through a link on your site. I greatly appreciate what you’ve put together. Your collection of videos are inspiring, informative, creative, educational, and a joy to learn from. Thanks so much.

    Tim

  • Hi Dave.

    With LC Fader M II – on a 70-200, the sharpness
    went down a lot.

    You’ve opted for Tiffen.
    We have, too.
    Just a single round one for now – Water White with the better light transmission properties.

    Thank you for the review, Dave : ).

  • Very interesting test, some how you didn’t
    test any of the nd filter I use
    B+W and HOYA
    Good to see Tiffen is a winner How about flare ?

  • Ahhh… I can breath now.
    I was nervous I was going to have to buy new filters.
    (I also use Tiffen filters)

    Could you put a link to B&H in the “support the site” box. Or on the gear page like “This is the link.” I never know if I clicked the right link. It would make it a lot easier to help out.

    Thanks,

  • @John-Mark and @Rick I just updated the gear page link from the old LightCraft I had to the new Tiffen I recommend now. Thanks for your support! Any of the links that send you to B&H on my site will work for supporting me, doesn’t matter which one.

  • Great Video Dave. As a Genus ND owner I can say I’ve been quite happy with it considering the price.

    Also, what kind of viewfinder were you using during filming?

  • Great review!
    Although I wish you compared the lens flare. I have had my lightcraft for over a year and love it, although I don’t like the lens flare I get when shooting into the sun. Do the others perform the same shooting toward the sun?

  • @Dave, You are an expert FOR FLARE JUST
    against the sun. Any way despite is a pain I rather use regular B+W or Hoya ND filters not variable because of the flare that is very hard on variables ND , However this Tiffen is very low cost to be truth, will be nice to see the flare test.

  • Excellent video and a very fair approach to this!
    I second the inquiry into the viewfinder you have on your 5D. I believe I’ve seen it before but anxious to hear what you think (perhaps you’re waiting to tell us in a future post?). In any event, I’ve owned the light craft for a few years now and you’re the first one to point out (right away!) what disappointed me most about it – the awful texturing in the bokeh.

    I’ve since upgraded to the heliopan based on many positive reviews from Philip bloom and the like. However, had I seen this first, you probably would have swayed me! But still, very pleased with the heliopan. I’ve not experienced the vignetting, however I have been shooting crop sensor (t2i). I just bought a 5D this week. Safe to assume the full frame might show this more?

    Keep up the great work. Been following you from the beginning.

    Ed.

  • I must say I love my Heliopan. I too did a long comparative process before purchasing (albeit via evaluating online reviews). Based on it’s excellent performance at long focal lengths (>100mm) I took the plunge. I shoot a lot of surfing, so use the canon 100-400mm extensively, and the heliopan is still pin sharp at 400mm. Haven’t noticed the vignetting issues you mention Dave. Great review of what’s out there, thanks.

  • Great Review Dave!

    I am currently looking to buy one myself and read about the Heliopan being quiet sharp on tele without color changes.

    Also note that there is a SLIM version (without threads) that avoids the vignetting issues on wide angle (below 35mm). In Europe this one cost about 205$ with shipping to USA.

    Would be interested to know if people use lens hood (especially for video), if so if they can attach the original one to the lens or are they forced to use non-slim filters to attach one that screws on to the filter?

    Thanks for sharing, greetings from Ireland. Markus

  • I have the slim version without threads for the lens cap. I don’t notice any obvious vignetting, even on my Tokina 11-16mm. It isn’t actually such a hassle to adjust it from inside the lenshood on the 100-400, as generally once you’ve adjusted it you’ll leave it on that setting for a while whilst shooting anyhow. I got mine online from fotomayr.de in Germany and they have excellent service.

  • I reckon 500 for a filter is indeed too much.
    I guess the only reason is market size. If you manufacture 100 times more lenses than a speciality filter then maybe the cost is understandable.

    Great review Dave, thanks!

  • Hey Dave

    I love the site. Thank you for all of your reviews. I already own the Ligthcraft fader mark 2 so I think I’m stuck 🙁

    I noticed the viewfinder on your camera during this test is different from the one in your gear page which you describe as DIY. I used to have use a $30 carryspeed on my T2i but I haven’t been able to find one that is inexpensive and will cover my 5D3 larger viewscreen.

    Thoughts?

  • Great stuff, Dave. I had been leaning towards the Tiffen. I think you pushed me over the edge.

  • Great review —> I am gonna buy a 77mm size because I have 4 canon lenses that take that size. I went to B and H and noticed the Tiffen is $65 off making it just $10 more than the Genus. However, I really want you to get credit for it. Do you have a B and H link for Tiffen 77mm Variable? Please answer quickly so I can get it ordered and you get some kind or credit.

  • Dave Great review. Amazing, had a a Genus email this more about their eclipse, good timing that for sure.

    Any thoughts for us buying across the pound, BH for us Europeans is a tad far?

    Thanks , again, love your site

    Charles

  • The new Genusech Eclipse Fader which has only just been released is getting rave reviews. Meant to be as good as Heliopan but at half the cost. Would be good to update review with it.

  • This was a really great, comprehensive review. I love the criteria you had when reviewing the ND filters. It seems you really value a great quality image in a lot of different aspects.

    One question, was there a particular reason you added the filters to the lens at the head of each demonstration, or was that simply to show viewers how it’s applied?

  • B&H and Amazon both have the Tiffen 77mm filter for $129.00 now.

    Thanks for posting this video Dave. I was just looking to buy one of these and you saved me some research time!

  • hey dave, great video! just git my canon 5d mark and tamron 24-70 both also on account of your advise. so thanks for your awesome work. one question: what viewfinder are you using here? u got a new one?
    keeo up the work

  • very nice review. i did my own tests comparing singh-ray and LCW, and the singh-ray was superior in resolution beyond 70mm. under 70mm the difference was much less. so focal length plays a role too. singh-ray is nice all around except for the price.

  • Im looking this two brands Singh Ray Vari ND or the Tiffen, well yo made a god point about it and i know tiffen its just V-ND and SRay has polarization on it but according to your experience witch one would you pick? money its not the issue.

  • Thanks for the review Dave! I have the LCW and the Kenko NDX and some information I could share with.

    I own the LCW MKII and the Digi Prohd. Same issue for the MKII in tele or large aperture but the Digi Prohd is way much better no matter in sharpness, the bokeh issue, you should really try it.

    And the Kenko NDX, no matter in sharpness and color cast, it is almost perfect, but it cost me around USD530 when I traveled Tokyo and bought it there.

    So I now use the LCW MKII on wide angle lens shooting landscape, the Digi Prohd and Kenko for my tele and bigeyes.

    Hope this helps too!

  • Dude, why do you need to test so many new gadget items and stuff all the time? Just figured out where all my money has gone the previous year following you and cheesycam :p

    Thanks a lot! Keep em coming! Have a great new year!

    Photographer
    Bjørn
    Norway

  • Hi Dave, great test. Quick question. Is there a reason why you used Non-Native ISO settings? I think you said 100ISO and 5000ISO. Is that correct? We are shooting a similar test with newer stock Genus and LCW faders.
    Thanks,
    Jared

  • Hey Dave,

    Great site, really appreciate the knowledge sharing.
    I primarily shoot stills and am a big fan of daylight long exposures. I’ve been in the market for a V-ND for quite some time now. The Tiffen looks like a great product, but I need a filter that stops down beyond 8 stops. Some of the cheaper ones out there go ND16 but the quality is very poor. Stacking filters kills me on vignetting and the Cokin solution is crazy expensive if you need to stack high end glass filters.

    Any ideas?

  • I’m about to get a Hoya. It’s $10 cheaper than the Tiffen. I’d have a hard time buying Tiffen anything after trying some Tiffen UV filters for protection. Aren’t they the Yugo of filters with B+W and Hoya reigning supreme?

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