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Old May 15th, 2009, 09:19 PM   #1
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The Singh Ray Vari ND is expensive. And worth it!

Hi all:

Not sure how many of you have ponied up the bucks for the Singh Ray Vari ND filter? Singh-Ray Filters: Vari-ND Variable Neutral Density Filter
I did and used it for the first time today. I must say that this filter is a revelation and I am wondering why I have not heard more about people raving about it with the 5D. I shot in bright late afternoon sun with the 5D MKII and a Nikon 50mm 1.4 AI lens. I used a 52mm to 77mm step up ring to attach the Vari ND to the lens.

I will go so far as to say that having this filter ALMOST negates the need to have manual controls. Put the filter on the 5D MKII, point the camera at whatever you are going to shoot. What's that, it is giving me a crazy 1/1500th of a second shutter speed? No problem, just dial down the Vari ND until I got what I wanted which was 1/60th and ISO 100. Begin to shoot. I am following a subject that goes from nuclear daylight to a patio that drops the light levels way down.

This is the kicker, as I track the subject, the Vari ND is functioning like a manual iris control. It is smooth, it is repeatable and I don't even need to mess with the clicky exposure compensation dial on the back of the camera. Brilliant! Genius! It is right on the lens barrel next to the focus ring, just like on a real broadcast lens. This is even better than my HPX170 as far as tracking and quickly tweaking exposure. The only thing I am missing are zebras but with the Z-Finder, so far judging exposure is right on. WYSIWYG.

I am officially blown away, this works great. I can get the exposure I need in any situation in about 5 seconds. Of course, the Vari ND is not needed for interiors but for exteriors or super bright windows as BGs on interiors, this thing is magic.

Most expensive filter I have ever bought at close to U.S. $400.00 but well worth it. This will make my 5D life so much easier. Looking forward to a firmware update but if it never comes, this still makes the camera VERY usable for my needs. So count me as a fan of this filter. All you people pissing and moaning about a firmware update, buy this, it puts you 90% of the way there.

Dan
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Old May 15th, 2009, 11:05 PM   #2
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Sounds great for outdoor work. I think the price explains why you don't hear more about it.

So how does it differ from two polarizers? Or does it?
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Old May 15th, 2009, 11:14 PM   #3
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Dan,

Welcome to the world of variable ND. I can't believe so few people use them either.

John,

As far as I understand it the vari-ND is 2 high quality circular polarizers placed back to back. In fact this is what I use instead because I was put off by the price of the Singh-ray version. That said I will probably pick up the Singh-ray one next time I travel to the US just for the sake of convenience. There is also a cheaper chinese variable ND filter here in China but I haven't tried it yet.

Dan
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Old May 16th, 2009, 05:59 AM   #4
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I also use two polarizing filter back-to-back. Works great with no distortion. Try it and save.
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Old May 16th, 2009, 08:49 AM   #5
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I agree that the vari-nd is well worth the price..... it's thin enough to use wide lenses.... and it just works as promised.
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Old May 16th, 2009, 09:36 AM   #6
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They work great... I got the Vari-ND Filter which has the polarizer included with the ND's...

It a little harder to work with as you have to work with two rotating rings versus the single
ring on the non polarized version..

both are very good...

as to the price... I took an inventory of all my lenses and noted the filter diameter of each...

then I purchased step rings to fit the lenses that did not have the correct filter size so I could
use the vari-nd on as many lenses as I could...

if you compare any other filter system and add the cost of 8 full stops of ND plus a polarizer
then the Vari--ND is not a bad price afterall.... plus it does work with most of my lenses..
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Old May 16th, 2009, 10:55 AM   #7
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Ray:

My same exact justification for the price. Look at all of the filter diameters of the lenses you will be using and then price out two or three regular NDs for each and you will quickly find that the price of Singh Ray is very reasonable considering it is really eight filters or so in one.

I am a big believer that in our business, if you want to have tools that allow you to freely create and realize your vision, sometimes you have to spend a lot of money. P2 cards for instance. A Letus setup was another. They are expensive but they let me realize my vision, which is great. And considering what I paid for my BVWD600 back in 2000, this stuff is a ridiculously cheap and much more capable.

The 5D MKII is cheap for what it does, but add three or four good lenses, the Vari ND, the Z-Finder, a good shoulder mount bracket, etc. and you are edging into EX1/EX3 territory as far as price. But for what it allows you to do, having the correct tools for the 5D MKII is essential.

Dan
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Old May 17th, 2009, 12:29 AM   #8
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Dan,

I just re-read your report & noticed that you were are using a Nikon lens so presumably already have manual aperture control. Are you using the variable filter to just give a final tweak to the camera settings i.e. setting the aperture manually & then dialling the filter to give the ISO/shutter combination you want?

Another question, what is the range of movement from zero to maximum? With my home-brew two polarising filter set-up there is as expected 90 degrees from the filters being in parallel letting through maximum light to 90 degrees when they are crossed. Is the Singh-Ray the same?

Cheers

Nigel
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Old May 17th, 2009, 09:40 PM   #9
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Yes to all of your questions.

Yes, I used it today to shoot at a music festival. Jam sessions all over an old west town in blasting daylight. Some musicians in full daylight, some in shadow right next to them. The Singh Ray functions essentially like a manual aperture. I dial it on to land the ISO shutter where I want them (usually ISO 100 and shutter 1/60th) then adjust exposure once I have locked exposure. It really works quite well, I was pretty happy with the results from today. It was about as difficult of a lighting/exposure situation as you could hope for, and the 5D MKII with the Singh Ray were pretty usable.

Yes, the exposure range is about 90 degrees although to get what I want as far as exposure, I was rotating the Vari ND with my pinky while focusing with my thumb and index at the same time just like I would do on a broadcast camera. That's what I am really digging about this, the muscle memory from shooting so many years with broadcast lenses is still there.

Dan
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Old May 18th, 2009, 05:04 AM   #10
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Sounds like a winner Dan. Any chance of seeing a few stills or even some vid showing the results of your exploits at the festival?

Cheers

Avey
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Old May 18th, 2009, 10:44 AM   #11
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Hi Wayne:

Yes, I am actually compressing the clips right now for editing. I have been using DVC ProHD rather than Pro Res as the files are only slightly larger than the originals versus six times the space for Pro Res.

I will try to put together a little montage of clips tonight. If I want to post to Vimeo though, it is going to look stuttery right? (30p chopped to 24p by Vimeo?). So should I put it on YouTube HD or ?

Dan
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Old May 18th, 2009, 11:52 AM   #12
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Nah, stick it on Vimeo Dan and I'll download it. Great stuff looking forward to it.

I've been coding my files as XDCAM HD which makes similar size files to the Raw files and the picture looks almost identical. I tried ProRes and my MacBookPro couldn't cope with it, kept telling me my graphics card wasn't up to the job so I ditched that idea in the end,

Avey
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Old March 8th, 2010, 07:16 PM   #13
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As a follow up to the Singh filter discussion..

has anyone tried this filter...

Singh-Ray Vari-N-Duo Polarizing Variable Neutral Density Filter

the Singh Vari-N-Duo adds the LB Warming polarizer to...

Singh-Ray Filters: Vari-ND Variable Neutral Density Filter

...the Vari-Nd....

and costs $50 more...
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Old March 9th, 2010, 12:34 PM   #14
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dont forget the Fader ND.. almost the same quality (its been said!) at a much lower price

Light Craft Workshop - Fader ND adjustable ND filter (ND2~400)
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Old March 10th, 2010, 11:52 AM   #15
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We just got a pair of Fader NDs for the 58mm lenses and already had the Singh Ray for the L glass.

The Fader ND is nicely made and works wonderfully as does the SR.

I've been building a whole second system lately for this springs projects, everything from an all LED lighting kit to new shoulder mount system, VF, the Fader NDs and smaller EF lenses...all kinds of stuff that is intentionally light and small for travel and remote work.

Hopefully I can do a little review of it all but for now the Fader ND gets a big thumbs up.

A wonderful advantage of the variable ND concept that I think gets lost with it's shallow DOF use, is it's equal importance in action work.

It's very cool to dial in the f/stop you need for deeper field and moving subjects, and then just grab the ND and rotate it till you get the exposure you want.

Variable NDs have literally changed the way we shoot.
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