While photographers find neutral density (ND) filters useful, they are essential for videographers. That’s because you need to keep the shutter speed to around twice the frame rate to get attractive footage. And in bright conditions, that means using an ND filter if you want to shoot at wide apertures.
The trouble is that you need to swap between different strengths of filter as the sun pops in and out from behind clouds. That’s where variable strength or variable density ND filters like the PolarPro Variable ND can come in handy. Instead of changing the filter, you simply rotate the filter to adjust its strength or density.
PolarPro makes two strengths of variable ND filter in the Peter McKinnon Edition range, 2-5Ev and 6-9Ev. This post is our PolarPro Variable ND 2-5Ev Peter McKinnon Edition review.
- Glass material: Fused quartz
- Frame material: Aluminium
- Filtration strength: ND4 to ND32 (2-5Ev)
- Optical density range: 0.6-1.5
- Available Thread size: 67mm, 77mm, 82mm
- Diameter: 67mm = 73.6mm, 77mm = 84mm, 82mm = 89mm
- Filter depth: 67mm = 8.4mm, 77mm = 8.48mm, 82mm = 8.48mm
- Weight: 67mm = 41g, 77mm = 50g, 82mm = 56g
PolarPro uses aluminium for the filter frame around fused quartz glass with an ultra-low refractive index.
The filters are available in three thread sizes, 67, 77 and 82mm. I tested an 82mm filter and used step down rings on some lenses.
Unlike some variable ND filters the PolarPro Peter McKinnon Edition filters are slim at under 8.5mm deep. That helps to minimise vignetting.
The beauty of a variable ND (VND) filter is that you can rotate the filter to adjust its density. Increasing the density reduces the amount of light that passes through the lens and thus enables a slow shutter speed to be used. A VND with a strength of 2-5Ev can reduce a shutter speed of range of 1/250-1/2000sec down to 1/60sec. That’s perfect for shooting video at 30fps.
PolarPro supplies the Variable ND 2-5Ev Peter McKinnon Edition filter with a rubber-like DefenderSlim Filter Cover, a Magnetic Hard Case a soft case and a microfibre cloth.
The DefenderSlim Filter Cover slips over the filter to act as a lens cap when the filter is fitted. However, it can also hold the filter while you fit or remove it. That’s handy because it reduces the risk of getting fingerprints on the filter.
The PolarPro Variable ND 2-5Ev has a smooth, silent action. This, coupled with the knurled edge of the filter, means you can adjust the strength of the filter while recording.
The adjustment can be made by eye while looking at the camera’s screen, but there are also laser-etched stop markings on the edge. These allow you to adjust the exposure by a specific amount. They also enable to quickly assess and adjust the required aperture and/or sensitivity when you’re setting up the camera.
Variable ND filters are prone vignetting and cross polarising artefacts when they’re used with wide-angle lenses. PolarPro claims that the Variable ND Peter McKinnon Edition 2-5Ev filter is suitable for use on lenses as wide as 16mm. I’ve been able to test it on a range of lenses but the widest was 17mm and it keeps vignetting under control very well.
However, shooting a blue sky with 5Ev filtration at 17mm introduces some variation in tone across the image – depending upon the angle of the sun to the camera. It’s not bad, but something to watch out for.
The often-mentioned cross-effect that’s seen with some VND filters is avoided because the filter cannot be rotated to an extreme density.
I also noticed that the filter warms images or video slightly, but not to an unpleasant or unacceptable degree.
If you’re shooting scenes with lots of detail you’re unlikely to notice any flaws and appreciate the ease of exposure control. The high-quality glass in the filter ensures that detail levels are maintained and 4K video looks as you would expect from your camera.
The PolarPro Variable ND 2-5Ev Peter McKinnon Edition filter is a high-quality product. I found it invaluable when shooting video in bluebell woodland, for instance. I wanted to use a wide aperture to isolate a flower and even though the sun kept disappearing and reappearing, I could maintain the aperture and adjust the exposure with the filter.
The 2-5Ev range is suitable for shooting video a wide range of lighting conditions. It means you can set the camera to manual exposure, set a nice low sensitivity setting and control the exposure smoothly and effortless with the filter.
Where to buy the PolarPro Variable ND
The PolarPro Variable ND 2-5Ev is reaching stores now, Adorama is selling the 67mm version, the 77mm version and 82mm version for $249.99 each. If you need to shoot in very bright light, very large aperture or use Log Format at over ISO 400, take a look at the 67mm, 77mm and 82mm 6-9Ev filter which retails for $299.99. Alternatively, both filters are available together for $449,99. The 82mm kit is the most versatile and best value option as it can be used with step-down rings on smaller lenses. However, 77mm and 67mm kits are available.
It’s also possible to buy the PolarPro Variable ND from Amazon.com