A variable neutral density filter gives you the ability to adjust the opacity of the filter, typically from two to eight stops. Cinematographers and shooters who use large strobes outdoors with their lenses set to a wide aperture absolutely have to use ND as their shutter speeds are relatively locked in (1/50″ for motion, 1/250″ for flash). Landscape photographers also love to use variable ND filters to slow the motion of water to create dreamy landscapes.
Tiffen Variable Neutral Density
This is the best value in a quality variable ND filter that I’ve come upon. You’ll find that the Tiffen Variable ND costs about half the price of a Singh-Ray Vari-ND. Another advantage of the Tiffen line is that they offer a wide range of filter sizes, from 52mm up to 82mm. The filters are oversized to accomodate the view of wide-angle lenses.
Singh-Ray is the Rolls-Royce of filters and one of the earliest to offer a variable ND filter. The Vari-ND comes in two sizes only, 77mm and 82mm. The 77mm has the option of a thin mount‚ which reduces vignetting on wide lenses by getting rid of the front filter threads.
Polarizing filters help reduce reflections and glare. For digital photography, you want to be sure that you use a circular polarizer as a liner polarizer will likely not work with your camera’s auto-focus and TTL exposure meters. A polarizer will also subtract about 2-stops from the ambient light, which can be helpful if you want to dim the ambient without reaching for a variable-ND filter.
B+W Kaesman XS-Pro MRC Nano Circular Polarizer
If you shoot pro-series glass, then this is the polarizer that you should be using. Kaesman-type filters use a higher-grade polarizing foil. The XS-Pro mount is designed specifically for DSLR use with wide angle and zoom lenses. The MRC Nano coatings provide anti-reflection coatings with a more durable surface for repeated cleaning. Available in nine sizes from 49mm to 82mm.
It used to be that I always had a UV filter on the front of all of my lenses. Today, with the quality of Canon’s L-series lenses and their digital sensors, I prefer to not use filters, unless I have to. Of course, there are still shoots where water, wind, and dust conspire against my gear. So, I still carry a range of clear filters in my kit and thread them on as needed.
B+W XS-Pro Clear MRC-Nano
If you shoot pro-series glass, then this clear filter is worthy of being on the front of your lens. The XS-Pro mount is designed specifically for DSLR use with wide angle and zoom lenses. The MRC Nano coatings provide anti-reflection coatings with a more durable surface for repeated cleaning. Available in nine sizes from 49mm to 82mm.
B+W XS-Pro UV MRC-Nano
If you shoot pro-series glass in high-UV environments (near the ocean and in the high mountains), then this UV filter is worthy of being on the front of your lens. The XS-Pro mount is designed specifically for DSLR use with wide angle and zoom lenses. The MRC Nano coatings provide anti-reflection coatings with a more durable surface for repeated cleaning. Available in nine sizes from 49mm to 82mm.
There’s no need to buy a pro-grade filter for every lens you own—especially when they are different sizes. Most of my lenses are 77mm in diameter. A few are 67mm or 62mm. For these, I use a Step-Up Ring to fit my 77mm filters to the smaller lenses.
B+W Step-Up Adapter Rings
A step-up ring enables you to use a larger filter on a smaller lens. You order them based on the size of each. I prefer the quality of B+W step-up rings. Enven though there is no glass involved, the B+W craftsmanship is second to none.
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