Vari-NDs. Ideal for Video DSLRs and 35mm adaptors.

I have just received my Singh-Ray Vari ND. Something I have desperately needed recently on a number of 5d shoots. The Canon 5dmkII has no built in ND filters like video cameras which means if you want to shoot wide open in bright light you have to stick  a huge amount of shutter in to knock the light back. Now this is a bad idea. You create unnatural movement and when there are artificial lights you raise the chance of flickering. Ideally when shooting with the 5d, which records at 30fps you should keep the shutter at 1/60th for optimal film motion. This is equivalent to 180 degrees in a film camera. It creates the most filmic looking image. Too low and you get motion blur, too high and you get staccato ND’s on the front of your lens you can knock back the light coming into the camera depending on the strength of the ND filter.

You don’t want one ND lens for your lens, you want a variety depending on the brightness of the light outside. This gets expensive and also very fiddly. An ideal solution is the Vari-ND. A clever little bit of kit that can vary the density from a minimum of 2 stops up to more than 8 stops! Very handy! With the Singh-Ray one there is no loss of colour, fidelity or sharpness. Check out the little movie below to see it in action


I bought the 82mm version which is the max filter diameter of my lenses, I have  also bought a number of step down rings to make this work on other smaller lenses. It’s not cheap, it costs $390. But it’s been around for a while, is of superb quality and is very highly spoken of by professionals in the photographic and video industries. Just with my simple play around today. It’s great. It’s like having an extra manual iris control on the front of the lens!

It also comes in a natty leather man pouch!


Now if this is too pricey for you I have also bought a cheap version off of ebay called the “Fader ND Filter”, it’s just over $100. I haven’t received it yet as it is coming from Asia. But it does the same thing according to the blurb and costs a lot less.

Ebay_02Ebay_01_rev01!BS1tK5w!2k~$(KGrHgoOKioEjlLmeN7IBKFOqL0gFQ~~_1I have bought a smaller diameter version of this and should hopefully arrive soon. When I get them I will compare the sharpness of the two. The Singh-Ray is superb. Be great if the cheapo one is great too…I will keep you informed

EDIT: Got my Fader-ND and used both on a recent shoot. Singh-Ray is better but if on a budget the fader ND is very very good.

Read about the shoot here

Also, I have just received the SmallHD DP1 720p monitor. I will review this soon too!


Want to learn how to create the film look? Click below.



      1. Color balance remains the same. Very neutral. Can shoot outside in bright sunlight ISO 100 with Zeiss 50mm @ f2.8 – 5.6
        Worth every penny!

        1. Color balance remains the same, Steve?
          ND Fader and EX3 camcorder is for me not acceptable, because of colorshifting.
          What do you use?


          1. I recently purchased a Fader ND II and when using it at around .6 density it gave a horrible greenish color cast. I checked it against a B&W .6 that I just purchased using my recently calibrated color meter and although they both have a color cast, the Fader ND is far worse. As I dialed in more ND the color went way out of bounds. I’m wondering if the Singh-Ray is similar. Although I have always respected b&W I’m looking forward to metering some other brands to see if they introduce less color. Oh, and on a related note…I just had my Minolta Color Meter II calibrated by Quality Light-Metric in Hollywood, CA. (it was 700 degrees off) I’m glad I had the Minolta II as they can’t calibrate the newer III due to some internal computer issue.

  1. You can make these quite cheaply. All they are is two linear polarising filters in one mount.

    You can achieve *precisely* the same effect with two off-the-shelf linear polarising filters from any of the usual suppliers (Hoya, B+W etc).

  2. I am purchasing the Cokin filter system, which can hold multiple (inexpensive) filters that you can rotate around. I am especially interested in the “Graduated ND” filters that will allow me to bring the sky down at least 2 stops, essentially “crunching” my dynamic range (histogram).
    Another cool thing about the Cokin system is that it has a couple of lens hood options that snap right onto it, so it essentially becomes a very cheap mattebox!

    1. Cokins are great. Been using them since I was a kid. What I love about these VariNDs is it feels like an extra iris for perfect exposure and perfect shutter speed which is so important.

    2. Devin.. I have that same Cokin setup – Grad ND8 – grand total of $40 US – cheapest “mattebox” known to mankind. However, after using them, the variND would be a REALLY nice thing to have around, because sunlight changes in intensity so quickly.. and it would be reat to adjust to ND6.3 or ND7.7 to get the right exposure/shutter.
      The Cokin holder is fast and cool… and easily replaceable when it breaks.

    3. Reading below.. be interesting to try a linear ND 8, coupled to a circular ND8… and have a snow shooting or white sand beach ND setup.. ND16! Maybe shooting f1.4 at noon in the snow. 🙂

      1. I have a nuts ND filter from Tiffen they sent me for Joshua Tree for filming in Desert, knocks it back ludicrous amount of stops. Will NEVER use it in England 😉

  3. Instead of 2 linear polarizing lenses, why not a circular polarized lens that you can adjust on the fly as the light changes.

      1. So, a circular polarizing filter “(varind”?) will work but a single linear won’t create the same effect as a ND filter?

      1. the GH1 has a 62mm but the fader make have i think all the different sizes.. very curious to see the results, im going to get the 62mm and a stepdown ring for 52mm lenses

  4. What size ND filter would you recommend for a Nikon 50mm 1.4 lens?
    Just about to buy a 5D MkII, trying to get a basic starter kit together.

  5. hi philip, i am about to buy the fader nd (lightcraft version) i have a 24-105 (77mm fit) and i’m about to buy a 50mm 1.4 (58mm fit)

    my question is, will everything be ok if i step ring down from 77-58mm?
    im not sure if stepping down that much causes any issues.

    im just trying to keep costs down.

    thanks in advance!

      1. thanks philip, i have the 5d, any ideas how far i would need to zoom to get rid of the vignetting?



        p.s. just watched your ustream in Austin, Texas… hehe nice one techie!

  6. Hello Philip,
    Thanks to your tutorials 5DMII & 7 D I manged to make Fully Equipped 5D Mark II Full HD video Camera system (for the first Time in Sri Lanka) with Redrock Cinema Rigs and accessories.

    Can you just advise me whether I can use Singh-ray vari ND 82mm with Canon 16-35mm without any vignetting?

    Thanks & best regards,

    Colombo Sri Lanka

  7. Hi Phil,
    Is the Fader-ND made of plexi-glass (plastic) or actual glass?

    I was thinking about scratch resistance & clarity when comparing plastic Vs glass optics. I had square plastic NDs but they suffered from low contrast as they were easily prone to lens flare issues and they were ‘soft’ in clarity.

    So is the faderND glass? Thanks mate.

  8. I have have tested both the FaderND Mk II (Lightcraft) and the Singh-Ray Vari ND.

    The FaderND introduced an unacceptable loss of sharpness, especially at long focal lengths. The Vari ND had a similar effect, but was almost imperceptible for most viewing environments.

  9. Hey Phil,

    For you this will be a quick response, you posted excitably about some square variable ND’s at somepoint, I cannot to save my life find out anywhere what they are, where they can be bought or anything, and it’s doing my nut in..

    Can you help pleassssse 🙂


  10. Sir,

    1. Is fader nd 77mm
    Rokinon 35mm on 7d
    good enough in terms of sharpness and softness

    or should i go with fix density nd filter –

    2. which company other than heliopan has best fixed nd filter?

    PS: I am a first timer

    Thank you

  11. Sir,

    I bought samyang 35mm 1.4. Yes it is great! You rock!

    Now I am looking for filter,

    Please comment whether lightcraft fader nd (77mm) fulfills the usual cinematic image quality or I must use fixed nd or heliopan to get there?

    Thanks sir

    PS: Camera is 7d

  12. Couldn’t thank you enough!

    sorry for being an idiotic curious cat, but

    I heard from dov simens that good isn’t good enough. It must me great if I am a first timer

    Is this good job good enough?

    Ps: I am greatly embarassed for not getting the meaning of good job as I might be aiming for the sky with this project and am taking a really really big risk with my health and investment.

    I am a First timer and scared. Again sorry for being so impossible.

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