Getting Started: Variable ND Filters

Variable ND Filters

The secret sauce to ultimate image control.

What’s In The Box?

Alas. Your Variable Neutral Density filter (otherwise known as VND) has arrived. The filter comes in a protective, shiny tin box labeled with the appropriate name. Gently twist open the tin can (if it’s tough at first, that’s perfectly normal) to see its contents. You’ll find the filter comes alongside a microfiber cloth to swiftly clean any imperfections while shooting. Be sure to keep this by your side, or in your camera bag, at all times, as it’s important to keep the VND clean and dust-free.

  • The Tin Can: Sturdy and protective.
  • The Tin Lid: Gently twist off to see contents.
  • The Filter: The holy grail.
  • The Microfiber Cloth: Your defense against scratches and dust.

What Is a VND and How Do You Use It?

Simply put: a VND controls the amount of light that’s led into your camera. They’re composed of 2 layers of glass; when you rotate the outer layer, it changes the amount of light being led through.

So, what makes our particular VND’s unique? We built these long-lasting filters to help build protection against cross-polarization. Each has hard stops on both ends for an increased level of customization: there's a 2-5 stop variable, as well as a 6-9 stop variable. The 2-5 stop variable is perfect for everyday shooting, whereas the 6-9 stop variable works especially well under super harsh lighting conditions. Both will be extremely useful to have on hand in case you run into any varied scenario.

  • The 2-5 stop covers a range of ND 4 to ND 32
  • The 6-9 stop covers a range of ND 64 to ND 512

Setting Up Your VND

To attach the VND to your lens, simply align the threads and screw it on. It’s normal if the numbers don’t perfectly align with what’s on top of your lens, but it’ll still accurately depict how much light is being shown through. If the filter does not screw onto the lens, ensure that the diameter of the filter matches the diameter of your lens (i.e.: 58mm, 62mm, 77mm etc.). To find the correct diameter of your lens, look at the circle with a slash through it and check the number right beside it. If you have a plethora of lenses with different diameters, you don’t necessarily need a filter for every lens; use a step up ring. We would recommend getting a VND that fits your largest lens, and use a step-up ring that will fit up to your biggest size.

Stacking Filters with Your VND

If you want to use other filters with the Moment Variable NDs they can only be stacked behind the filter. Although the filter does work with standard lens caps on the front, it doesn’t fit standard sized filters.

Note that if you stack another filter on the back, that this will push the VND filter further away from the lens which could result in some clipping if you’re shooting on a very wide lens (like a 16mm focal length).

Shooting Tips

VND’s are the perfect tool for photographers and filmmakers to achieve the exact look you want, with the exact settings you want. You should never have to compromise your settings for a balanced exposure — work smarter, not harder. If you’re a photographer wanting to shoot shallow depth-of-field portraits during the middle of the day, try setting your aperture and shutter speed first, then manually adjust your VND filter to the exposure that fits the best.

VND’s are perfect for capturing long exposures or motion blur in broad daylight, as well. You can achieve these same results with a fixed ND, but having the ability to adjust on the fly is incredibly convenient (rather than having multiple fixed ND filters, that’s where the variable ones come in handy).

If you’re a filmmaker looking to achieve cinematic footage no matter what time of day it is, set your shutter speed to double your frame rate. Work your way to adjusting your aperture,  then, lastly, set your variable ND to balance the exposure. For example, if you're shooting 4K at 24FPS, set your shutter speed to 1/48. Following this rule of thumb ensures your footage has a buttery, cinematic look and feel. It can be a subtle difference, but will definitely elevate your work from ametuer to professional.

With the filter — Buttery smooth with dynamic range for cinematic motion

Without the filter — Jittery footage with unbalanced exposure

While there are tons of different filters out there, variable neutral density filters are arguably the most versatile and most useful. Once you start using them, you’ll find it much harder to live a creative life without them. We sincerely hope this information helped you and be sure to tag us in your Instagram shots. We’d love to see!

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