Moment is a photographers outfitter with a foot firmly in the world of design and looking good. The filter features laser-etched markings around the frame that enables you to see the densities from behind the camera, a sure sign that Moment look at function as well as aesthetics. Results are superb, showing this is a VND that perfectly balances design, looks and quality.
Metal protective case
Notch marking design
No rotation pin
What is the Moment Variable NDs?
Variable NDs are one of the most useful filters you can wish to own, both for stills and video. They’re essentially an ND with a density that can be adjusted, in this case from 6 stop to 9 stop (ND64 – 512).
The Moment Variable ND is a lens mounted filter and screws directly into the front of your camera’s lens; it can then be rotated to increase or decrease the effect.
Increasing the density enables you to extend exposures in bright conditions or use large apertures in bright light so that you can get creative with depth-of-field.
Variable NDs have been around for years, and while they’ve been used extensively in the video world, they’re only now just taking hold for photography.
At the moment we’re rather spoilt for choice when it comes to options, and the price of VND’s has fallen dramatically compared with a few years ago, while the quality and innovation has risen.
The Moment variable NDs stand out due to a few design flares, and come in two options either the ND 4 – 32 / 2 – 5 Stop or the ND 64 – 512 / 6 – 9 stop which I’ll be looking at in this review. They’re also available in a variety of diameters from 58-82mm.
As there are so many variable NDs around, manufacturers need to do something a little bit special to make their filter standout.
That’s exactly what Moment has done. From the protective case to the notch cut into the filter so you can see the density from behind the camera, Moment has done the extra to improve the user experience.
But, as ever is this more style over substance? I headed down to Hengistbury Head to give the filter a test.
Moment as a company sell themselves as a photographers outfitter and as such there’s a certain style to maintain when it comes to their product range.
The filter arrives in a metal canister reminiscent of the old film canisters used for 35mm cinefilm. It’s a nice touch and sets the tone for what feels like a high-quality product.
The filter optics are made from German Schott B270 Pro Cinema Glass; this is designed to give optimal optical clarity.
When looking at the front element, you can see the reddish tone of the coatings and these coatings have been designed to give images cinematic colour as well as offering additional protection.
These coatings are reminiscent of those used by Tiffen on their screw-in ND filters.
A feature that we’ve increasingly seen on Variable NDs is the hard stops; this helps stop the over-rotation of the elements and prevents the polarisation cross.
While many filter manufacturers are going for ultra-thin Moment, have kept a bit of thickness in the frame of the filter. This means that firstly there’s a front thread within the filter, so you could in effect double up on the filters if you feel the need, or use your standard lens cap to protect the filter while in transport.
That addition thickness also gives a very slight conical geometry that Moment says acts as a micro lens hood to help cut down on glare and reflections.
The finish of the filter has been well thought out with laser-etched markings showing you the density of the filter from behind through a small notch.
Quality machining is apparent with fine knurling on the front element to help with easy purchase and a red anodised ring setting off the look and of course, helping with the removal of the filter when the time comes.
In this test, I’m looking at the 6-9 stop (ND64- ND512), but the filter is also available as a 2-5 stop (ND4 – ND32).
Build and Handling
The quality of variable ND filters keeps on increasing and the Moment filters machine work and finish are just about as good as it gets.
I checked back through my old Variable NDs, some of which are now well over ten years old and few if any match the finish of the Moment.
From the overall look with the anodising and knurled rear ring, to the slight front contour and laser-etched markings, it’s all beautifully finished.
Being a filter, there’s little to it physically, and most of the quality will come down to the optics rather than build. However, with VNDs, there is the moving front element.
This front element is good and tight, with enough friction to make it easy to rotate to the exact point you want.
The markings on the ring are a real help and visually guide you to the density you want.
When it came to the smoothness of rotation, while it was smooth, I didn’t feel it was quite as smooth as the NiSi which almost felt like it was rotating on bearings. That said that smoothness doesn’t detract from the filter use.
The overall build quality and design are exceptional; the only addition I would like to have seen would be an optional rotation pin out of the side.
Hengistbury Head is an ideal location, lots of beach, cliffs, dunes, beach huts and most importantly a cafe which serves outstanding pasties and of course coffee. Checking the weather early, it looked like the day ahead was pretty clear, a few clouds but generally sunny with light wind.
However, by the time I got to the beach, the weather had turned from a pleasant sunny morning to a cloud covered typhoon.
While the rain held back the wind did whip up, but then this is the British summer and however much you check the weather you can never be 100% sure what you’re going to get.
Still, I had a few locations in mind and set off. First walking around the head, through the sandstorm, past the beach huts before landing at the cafe. After refreshments, and things settled, I retraced my steps, set-up the camera and got to work.
I’ll start by saying that I love the design of the circular metal cases, they slip into a pocket with ease, and when you want the filter, they’re easy to access.
I popped the case into my jacket pocket, and it added little bulk or weight. When I’d set-up the camera and it came to fitting the filter there was something retro about taking a filter from a metal case rather than something plastic.
I love shooting with filters; it makes you stop and take note of the scenery and helps to slow down the general pace.
I’m using a Sony 24-70 f/4 with 67mm filter thread so used a 67-77mm step-up ring to get the fit required.
Using the filter was a joy; being able to see the density through the small notch in the filters frame was a nice touch and one that added to the enjoyment.
I checked the filter at each marked density and then adjusted to get the exposure length I wanted.
Overall I was impressed with the ease of use, a rotation pin for the front element would have been a nice addition, but that’s just preference and it worked just as well without.
With the shoot over I flicked through the shots and reviewing on the back of the Sony A7 III all looked good. I was generally impressed with what I had captured despite Pip (Pip being my Lab, who tried and failed to disrupt the tripod with sticks, ball and anything else she could find during the longer exposures).
Great to use, but how did the images look?
Setting the aperture to an exposure extending f16 and sensitivity to the lowest ISO50 I was able to achieve the long exposures I was after. To be honest, there wasn’t a great deal of light around due to the clouds, so I was at somewhat of an advantage for this type of shot.
The results were excellent, they might not win awards, but I have to say I was pleased with the look and effect.
The filter does seem to boost contrast slightly, but the overall quality was superb, clear, sharp, and plenty of definition and tonal graduation even at the maximum density.
Moment Variable ND64 – 512 verdict
There’s plenty of choices when it comes to variable NDs at the moment and the quality of those that I’ve looked at in the last year has been exceptional.
But, finding a VND that stands out for one reason or another is rare, yet the Moment Variable ND has done exactly that.
From the first moment the case is opened, and the filter is handled, you can feel that it is something different. The red hue of the coating of the front element highlights that difference visually if nothing else.
But look over the frame, and you see the laser-etched markings, the anodising, knurling and small design features such as the notch that make it that easier to gauge the density.
There are cheaper and more expensive variable ND filters out there, but this is a good middle ground.
The optical quality is excellent, you do get a slight increase in contrast and a slight shift in hue, but nothing a quick tweak in Lightroom, Affinity or Photoshop won’t sort in a click or two.
Overall I’m really impressed with the Moment Variable ND and have to say it’s excellent in every way.