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Tips and tricks

NiSi Vari ND and ND 1000 filters

Tips and tricks

Neutral density filters have long been included in the palette of photographic filter producer companies as a technological solution. Neutral density or ND filters are also known as grey filters in the public consciousness of photographers.
Photo: © Tamás Imre

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF 24-70mm f/2.8L USM + Nisi Vari ND 4-400 2 sec f/11 ISO 100

What is it all about?

ND filters reduce the intensity of light transmitted through the filter without any change in the original colours. It results in a longer exposure time depending on the type of the filter.
It makes sense when you photograph landscapes or running waters. For instance, if you photograph a waterfall and the exposure time is 1/125 sec, then placing an ND8 filter on the lens shutter speed will be longer by -3 LV, that is 1/15 sec. There is a chance here that the surface of the waterfall will be blurred, however, you can buy filters with much more density as well. Such filter is the NiSi Vari ND which can provide a graduated grey scale from ND4-ND400. Vari ND filtering can be advantageous as you can set the desired exposure time by rotating the filter and you do not have to vary with the aperture. What’s in it for us?
Why cannot we change the aperture as long as possible? It is important to know what aperture the subject requires. For instance, to photograph a waterfall the most ideal choice of aperture is f/11. At more quantity of light shutter speed is not that slow even at ISO 100 which could produce sufficiently blurred water mass. In such cases this filter comes in handy as through the filter shading can be adjusted and removes the excess amount of light for us. Vari ND filter is a great invention!
I received a 77 mm filter from Stúdió- Line Ltd. During the test, I installed the filter in the filter thread of a 24-70 mm wide-angle lens, I got a little bigger surface than without the filter, the front of the filter was exactly 82 mm. I was not very happy with that as I could not use the lens hood and the lens cap. However, the result of the slowed exposure spoke for itself (I found a trick during use, I’ll share it with you at the end of this article).
Photo: © Tamás Imre

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM + Nisi Vari ND 4-400 4sec f/11 ISO 100
I checked out Nisi Vari ND 4-400 with several lenses. The result of the tests as follows: It worked perfectly with 24-70 mm wide-angle lens and with ultra wide-angle of 16-35 mm, there were no stains in the pictures and my photos were razor sharp. However, in the 400 position there were little stains and the edges were a little darkened. It is normal though as in ND 400 position the density of the filter is 9 stop.
Unfortunately using the filter with my 70-200 mm lens the images were not as razor sharp as they were with the wide-angle lens, so I stopped testing the filter with this lens. The other filter was the NiSi ND1000 which takes off 10 stop light value from the photo subject. The filter is so dark that you cannot see through it. Use the live view function so you can even compose - it worked for me very well. The filter arrived for the testing in a size of 77 mm form Stúdió-Line Ltd. Here I had no problem with using the lens hood and the cap as this filter is not variable but a fixed ND 1000. It is also suitable to photograph subjects which are illuminated in an exciting way, even in intense daily light and not at dawn or at dusk.
What can we expect from this filter? This filter colours a little too, but the image quality is fantastic! I checked out the producer’s website: the filter is made of Japanese pro glass, its quality speaks for itself. It is considered to be a professional, high-quality filter which is a good news as there are lots of different producer’s filters out on the market and unfortunately they range from the pro quality to those of poor quality.
The NiSi is definitely belongs to the top range and its price is favourable too. If you have never used these kinds of filters, then take my following tips and you will use them happily and efficiently.

Tips for the usage of the filters:

1. Always use a tripod, otherwise you will got only blurred pictures.
2. Set the composition without a filter, then switch the lens to MF, install the filter and shoot.
3. Shoot in aperture (A or Av) preselection mode, do not use the manual mode (M) as in that case the camera will measure the light to the preset aperture even when the filter is on, so you will get slower shutter speed at the same aperture.
4. In case of Vari ND filters the auto focus system works at the ND4 position of the filter, so you do not have to keep taking off the filter, just set the sharpness and turn the filter to the desired extent then you can shoot.
5. Place a CPL polarization or UV filter under the Vari ND filter and it will as far from the lens as the hood can fit in which is very important to prevent the unnecessary light infiltration.
6. Set a timed exposure in the menu so you do not have to push the button at exposure. It is also advisable if you combine it with mirror lockup.
7. Give a nice cleaning to the filter and the front lens before every shot as due to the longer exposure time as the possible dust particles can be seen well in the final picture.
8. Do not use the filters with very narrow aperture, such as f/22-essel as the edges can be darkened badly.
9. Always set the ISO sensitivity to ISO 100, that makes sense if you use a filter and you can achieve the best image quality this way.
10. Do not take all of your pictures with a filter as after a while they will fall flat.
Photo: © Tamás Imre

Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM + Nisi ND 1000 4sec f/11 ISO 100

Summary

I was pleasantly surprised in Nisi ND 1000 and Vari ND 4-400 filters, they are well-usable and professional products. Unfortunately they did not work for me with telephoto lenses but it might happened only in case of my lens. This product is highly recommended for landscape photography, especially for waterfalls.
Thanks for the test opportunity to Stúdió-Line Ltd.
Text and images: Tamás Imre
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