Followers of this blog will know I have advocated the use of variable ND filters, particularly when it comes to shooting moving images
A very useful thing to have, or so it would seem
Too good to be true?
In a word -Yes
Katherine Holley and I were using filters made by brand 'X' during the South African township project, predominantly on the Canon 'L' series 24-105mm lens
They certainly did the trick when it came to cutting light down, allowing us to use wide apertures in very bright condition, its just the footage always seemed a little 'soft' at best
Our confidence was dented to the extent that we stopped using them.
So blaming brand 'X' (and a manufacturing defect they had been suffering from) I tried brand 'Y'
Using brand 'Y'for moving images does seem to be a step forward, sharper images for sure but then Lucinda Marland and I stared to use them on a very exciting stills project (which I can't talk about at the moment)
When using the Canon 'L' series 85mm F1.2 or the EXCELLENT Phase One 110mm F2.8 Schneider lens wide open there was was a lack of sharpness that was simply unacceptable, both lenses can be very difficult to focus wide open but this was shot killing stuff
We removed the filter and bingo, tack sharp stunning image quality was back with us.
So we wanted to use an ND filter, what to do?
We tried a low tech old school solution
The 0.9 ND by LEE Filters (which allows exposure to be cut by 3 f stops), along with the fancy but very effective bellows hood
The only problem was getting hold of one, sold out everywhere.
An exhaustive search did turn one up
Boy was is worth it, even wide open sharpness was unaffected
We were back in the the land of 'Sharp' once more
For a fraction of the cost of a Vario ND filter (well not a fraction but cheaper when you consider just the filter alone)
Yes, some are better, some are worse but it is a scientific fact that when you put two polarisers together image quality will be affected
Will I use one again? Perhaps for moving image work, but for stills I doubt it
Old school has proved to be the way to go for me
Now, just to get more of those LEE filters