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  1. #1
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    The Tiffen "Variable" ND filter

    I went and bought a 77mm Tiffen "Variable" ND filter (often referred to as a "Fader"). This is one of the highly recommended inventions for this year, allowing you to get great sky shots with your high-end SONY lenses, which are all basically fitted with a 77mm filter ring.

    The beauty of this thing is that it will give you an additional 2-8 stops of light reduction (0.6-2.4). Simply twisting the filter ring and much like the polarizing filter... the light is effectively reduced and controlled, before it ever gets in the lens or the camera.

    If you do not understand what a Neutral Density filter can do for your photography, you really need to check it out. ND filters are one of the best methods of deal with sky, motion and DOF issues. Many people use "graduated" NDs, which are a good choice, but require attaching the filter, aligning it with the horizon, taking the shot and then its subsequent removal. This "variable" ND could be on the camera when you start your outdoor shoot and with a quick twist, you get your well-timed shot with 2-8 tops of light control, aside from you aperture setting.

    As we all know, changing the aperture alters the Depth of Field (DOF)... the ND filter reduces light without changing the DOF. Also, a tighter aperture (above f/13) causes the image to involuntarily soften on a digital camera due to diffraction. The addition of a ND-filter allows you to back off the tight aperture and still get your image. Like they say: "An effective f/8 and you look great!"

    I went with the 77mm size for SONY's commonality among the high-end lenses, but you can get a set of filter-ring reducers and use it on many other lenses, too.

    Anyway, more on this... later, when I get the darn thing.
    Last edited by DonSchap; 12-20-2011 at 10:36 PM.
    Don Schap - BFA, Digital Photography
    A Photographer Is Forever
    Look, I did not create the optical laws of the Universe ... I simply learned to deal with them.
    Remember: It is usually the GLASS, not the camera (except for moving to Full Frame), that gives you the most improvement in your photography.

    flickr & Sdi

  2. #2
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    I've been wondering about getting one of those for a while myself. I'd be interested in your thoughts Don when you've tested it out. I presume it works by having two independant rotating polarising screens?
    Around every picture there's a corner & round every corner there's a picture
    - the fun's in finding them

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
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    interesting. i have heard alot of negative things about this filter. poor distribution of light, severe vignetting and blotchiness.
    it also doesn't replace grads...its a different animal to a grad filter. it replaces, (supposedly), multiple ND filters.
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  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2008
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    Monmouthshire, UK
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    Tiffen don't have a great name.
    I have the Singh Ray variable ND but it's not cheap.
    I used it to smooth out the River in this Image.

    Name:  228 WyeBridge_DSC1346_DxO.jpg
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    Camera: Sony A900
    Lens: Minolta AF 85mm f/1.4
    Exposure: 3.2secs at f16 [+0.3ev]
    ISO 100
    02nd Oct 2011

  5. #5
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    Jan 2008
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    Quote Originally Posted by Rooz View Post
    i have heard alot of negative things about this filter. poor distribution of light, severe vignetting and blotchiness.
    Hmm let me think a cheap filter with botchiness or diffraction due to f/13.... I think I'll just stop down my lens thanks.

    When I really need to drop my shutter speed I'll screw on a devoted ND filter.
    D800, D300, D90, 24-70 f2.8, 70-200VR f2.8, 300 F4, 105 micro, 16-85VR, 50mm 1.8, Tammy 90 macro, 70-300VR, SB900, 2xSB600, MB-D10, 055XPROB 322RC2. New computers to run photoshop faster. C&C always appreciated. PhotoGallery
    Pressing the shutter is the start of the process - Joe McNally ... Buying the body is the start of the process - Dread Pirate

  6. #6
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    Dec 2007
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    tiffen had a good name..

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
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    Des Plaines, IL
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    It arrives...

    Well, it is Christmas Eve... and what to my wondering eyes should appear? Why a Tiffen 77mm Variable ND filter, oh dear.

    Upon quick analysis, it seems to acts like tandem polarizing filters, except a lot more convenient. Working two circular polarizers is tricky, because they both want to spin, when you rotate then. I suppose I could use a piece of gaffer's tape to hold the one, but still... how many of hobbiests have twin $150+ 77mm CP-filters?

    Now, I do admit that I did buy a 82-77mm stepdown filter-ring adapter, so I could get my two Kaesemann CPs (77mm & 82mm) to emulate this... but, the "filter stack" starts to get kind of thick by doing that. Most CPs are rather thick as it is, unless you buy the even more expensive "slim-line" professional models. Hey, what the heck? That's what you get when you stack on your lens pipe. The shorter the focal length, the worse the vignette-effect.

    The "CP" 81->77 "CP" "virtual-variable-ND" filter sandwich
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    The Tiffen "Variable" ND-filter
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    My real interest is to see and report how this particular filter affects the SONY a850's focusing system, because that has been one place I have noticed filters introducing annoying negative interaction on my more expensive lenses. Oh, the cheap lenses seem to suffer no real ill-effect, because their sharpness is... marginal, as it is. But, once you slap a $1000 price tag on a lens... they are touchy... with a capital "TOUCH." You simply have to move to a higher grade of filter to alleviate the problem.

    EDIT: After a couple preliminary shots, using the SONY Zeiss 135mm f/1.8 @ f/1.8... 1/15th sec, ISO 200 under Tungsten, Target Distance: 8-ft: there is a very slight focal point shift. I use specular highlights to pick this up. This particular lens @ f/1.8 reveals the green and purple shifts on either side of the focus plane with highlights. It is easier to detect which way filter affects the image. Anyway... the shift is very acceptable, in my estimation, based on the results I have gotten with other less-expensive circular polarizers in the past. Even when stacked with the Tiffen Digital Ultra-Clear HD filter... the shift is still awesomely acceptable. So, as far as I am concerned on this particular filter... step one is in the bag -> No detrimental focus shift using the most sensitive lens I have in the bag.

    EDIT II: My son, sensitive to my photography needs, gave me as a Christmas gift an ExpoImaging Rogue 3-in-1 Honeycomb Grid System, which includes a 25 and a 45 physical grid... and when you stack them, you get a 16 effective grid. This kit package also came with the Lighting Filter Kit for it, which has 20 "labeled" gels which fit into the Honeycomb Grid System, providing color correction filters, Yellow/Red filters and Green/Blue filters. All in all, a pretty cool and truly portable solution for your electronic flash.

    I am pretty sure only a photographer would get a kick out of these devices. You have to realize what you need in your photographs to appreciate what these items provide. For most "light capture" by the unwashed... hey, if it looks like "Sally Sue"... that's goo' enuff (Sorry... my cynical side with flaring up, again).

    "Happy Christmas to all... and to all, a good night!"
    Last edited by DonSchap; 12-24-2011 at 09:51 PM.
    Don Schap - BFA, Digital Photography
    A Photographer Is Forever
    Look, I did not create the optical laws of the Universe ... I simply learned to deal with them.
    Remember: It is usually the GLASS, not the camera (except for moving to Full Frame), that gives you the most improvement in your photography.

    flickr & Sdi

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Feb 2006
    Location
    Des Plaines, IL
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    An annoying detail...

    It's kind of funny (odd), I suppose, but there is an annoying detail about this filter that makes it a little more difficult to use. When you place it on the filter ring, it's overall diameter prohibits you adding back your lens hood. It is only slightly larger, but just enough to block most hoods apertures.

    Now, agreed, the filter is more difficult to manipulate when a lens hood is in place. You would have similar difficulty with operating any circular polarizer filter. The SONY 70-400 G has a convenient sliding door in the lens hood to allow access to manipulate the filter, but that is an exception and certainly not the rule. Again, it does not fit over this "variable" ND filter either.

    The problem is that with this specific prohibition, you cannot reverse the hood on the lens, for stowage, either. You had better stow it safely, to avoid forgetting it somewhere in all the hub-bub.
    Don Schap - BFA, Digital Photography
    A Photographer Is Forever
    Look, I did not create the optical laws of the Universe ... I simply learned to deal with them.
    Remember: It is usually the GLASS, not the camera (except for moving to Full Frame), that gives you the most improvement in your photography.

    flickr & Sdi

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