Reviews |Haida NanoPro Variable ND Filter

Haida NanoPro Variable ND Filter Review

Essential for any videographer

Haida Variable ND
Review

Price when reviewed

£140

$146
Check current price

Our Verdict

High-quality glass with some subtle but clever design features, that make this large 95mm VND an ideal choice for film-makers and photographers. As with all variable NDs, there is a slight colour cast, but this is easily corrected. The benefits of being able to adjust exposure without dipping into camera settings is worth the small colour cast sacrifice. 95mm is an ideal choice for videographers while the smaller versions are well priced and offer superb value for photographers.

For

  • Good quality glass
  • Great design
  • Exceptional value

Against

  • Some friction on rotation
  • No max and min stops

What is the Haida NanoPro Variable ND Filter

Variable NDs should be an essential part of your kit bag as they enable easy adjustment over the amount of light that passes through your lens and into your camera.

Of course, you can do this by adjusting your camera’s settings, but there are many occasions where there’s just too much light, and it’s impossible to use the creative camera settings you want.

You may be shooting a summer portrait and want to open the aperture up to soften the background or extend exposures to get smooth water or cloud effects. In other situations, you may be shooting video and due to the brightness of the location find that you’re unable to adhere to the 180º shutter rule.

In all these situations, a Variable ND is essential. The Haida NanoPro Variable ND Filter is a great example.

What marks the Haida out against much of the competition is the range of sizes available with the largest 95mm being ideal for videographers while the smaller 67mm is ideally suited to the standard Sony kit lens, amongst others.

The Haida VND works by using two polariser elements; the rear element is fixed while the front one rotates. As the front element is rotated the strength of the polarization increases, effectively reducing the amount of light that can pass through.

Features

The Haida Variable ND features a full metal frame construction, with some fine detailing that helps enhance usability.

As is common with the design of most variable NDs, the front element rotates to enable the reduction in exposure. In this test, I’m looking at the 95mm version, which is an ideal fit with the Sony 28-135mm lens, with the lens hood removed.

While this is the largest in the range the other sizes; 67, 72, 77 and 82mm all feature the same design.

On the edge of the filter is a small peg that enables easy rotation when the filters in place on your lens. The edge of the front and rear elements are also textured so you can feel the difference between each.

The rear element features large rises around the edge which give better grip when screwing onto your lens. When in use, this raised design makes it easy to feel the filter and element when behind the lens.

Along the front edge of the front element, there’s a fine knurled texture that again helps you to grip when turning the front element if not using the peg. It’s all well thought out and designed.

Haida Variable ND

Also on the edge of the filter are markings showing the strength of the effect. Unlike some other filters, there is no stop at either end of the rotation, so you will need to be careful you avoid the dreaded VND X.

This occurs if you push the effect too far.

The filter is rated at between 12 – 400ND, which translates to between 4 and 9 stops, more than enough for most situations.

Build and Handling

The quality of filters has vastly increased in recent years, and when it comes to larger examples such as this 95mm, any imperfections in the glass or coatings will show up glaringly obvious in the image.

Checking the filter over before attaching it to the lens, and it’s apparent that this is a level up from entry-level filters. However, it’s not quite to the level of the more expensive Nisi example.

However, for most people, the payoff on the price makes the Haida well worth a look.

Aside from the price checking over the filter and there are a couple of design features that highlight it’s mid-range rather than premium status.

The first is that there is some slight resistance in the rotation of the front element, it’s just not ultra-smooth. The second is that there are no rotation stops at the max and min points.

Both of these points are small, especially when used for stills, but for video these features are a little more important.

Screwing the filter onto the front of the lens and it’s a good fit, the threads are accurate and during attachment, the textured outer on the rear elements enables for easy tightening.

Secured and using the pin to rotate the element it’s all smooth enough, you can hear the frame friction as it rotates, but it’s nothing to worry too much about.

Over several video shoots the filter worked without fault, this is one accessory that any videographer really cannot afford not to have. The ability to subtly adjust the level of light falling into the camera by using the filter makes lighting incredibly easy.

The filter comes in a protective plastic case with a foam insert, which does the job of protecting the filter but is a slightly cheap addition.

Performance

Attached to the front of Sony 28-135mm the filter was predominantly used for filming over the month-long test. At first, I did have a few small reservations, the slight friction from rotating the front element, and the lack of stops at the max and min points. During the test, these two issues did continue to bug me, but only a little bit.

First off the design works, if you’re behind the camera, then you’ll know it takes time to get the exposures for your shots right, especially if you need to kick out the background with a wide aperture. The slightest shift in light and it’s back to the settings, however, with the variable ND in place a slight shift to increase the density and your back in action.

Haida Variable ND

I use variable NDs for filming as a matter of course, and the Haida is as good as any when it comes to the actual performance. Money seems to have been spent on the quality of the glass and Nanocoatings, while savings have been made on the construction.

After the first couple of shoots, it was obvious that the Haida NanoPro was a decent bit of kit, and after a couple of hours shooting, you get to know how the filter adjusts and where to avoid.

The results from the filter are excellent, there is a slight colour cast which you’ll see in some of the sample footage, but generally, that cast is subtle and easily corrected in post. One thing to note is the denser the effect of the filter, the greater the cast.

As for optical quality, the filter had little effect on the sharpness of the footage captured, which is a good thing obviously, and there were no visible signs of a vignette or any other optical flaws for that matter.

As variable NDs go the Haida NanoPro is as good as any optically, and while the mechanics are good, there is room for improvement.

Verdict

Decent variable NDs are expensive, but as ever, there are plenty of cheap alternatives. As I’ve found in the past, those cheap models are often a false economy. While we all aspire to premium models and often buy the cheapest, the Haida proves it’s well worth looking at the mid-range.

What you get for spending that extra on the Haida is a huge leap in optical quality over the entry-level models, and at the other end of the scale optically it does the job of filters twice the price.

Haida Variable ND

However, there is a difference between the Haida and premium filters in as far as the mechanics, there is a little more friction on the rotation, and there are no end stops, but hey, it’s still a great filter.

If you don’t already use a variable ND when filming, then you really should, it will make a huge difference to the quality and creative control you have over your footage.

By using a variable ND, you’ll be able to easily adhere to the 180º shutter rule, which will result in greater dynamic range and better more natural motion in your films.

The Haida might not be the Schneider ND Vario, but then that filter does cost three times the amount, but it’s a good and cheaper alternative.

For the price, the Haida NanoPro Variable ND is outstanding value and manages to hit that careful balance of optical quality, price and build.

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