What is a Variable ND Filter

I have two multi-tools, both are made by Leatherman.  One sits on my desk and the other is in my camera bag, they are incredibly useful and I wouldn’t (intentionally) leave home without one.  From tightening a camera screw, opening a parcel, releasing the refreshing contents from a bottle of cool beer to getting a stone out of a horses hoof – not that I’ve had the opportunity to test the latter – they are invaluable.

With this in mind I’m going to draw a comparison with the new Solar Eclipse filter from Genustech.  Sadly the Genustech fails straight off when compared to a Leatherman, it doesn’t hold any fold out knives, pliers and for the life of me I can’t seem to open a bottle of beer with it.  What it does offer however is the ability to control light – it’s magic!

The Solar Eclipse is the big brother to the regular Eclipse, as well as being a Variable ND filter it also has a built in and independently adjustable polariser.  This is a unique combination filter that saves the hassle of carrying two filters and more importantly swapping them in the field.  I love how quick it is to adjust, I don’t need to dig around in a bag or pocket for it, it’s there already, waiting to be used.

I headed out this morning for a play – I grabbed my Canon 70D, lightweight Manfrotto head and legs, Solar Eclipse and wandered out to Booton Common in Norfolk, the common is an amazing Special Area of Conservation and Site of Special Scientific Interest managed by Norfolk Wildlife Trust.  Hidden away behind a handful of houses the common is wild and home to many rare species of plants and an abundance of wildlife.  Local rumour also sites it as a stalking ground of a local big cat, sightings of which led to the naming of our local microbrewery – the Panther Brewery.

Neutral Density (ND) and Polariser filters are in my opinion the two most important filters and the two that you aren’t going to replicate in post.

Firstly, the polariser.  If you want to reduce reflections in water, on car windows, darken and make the sky more vibrant by increasing contrast than this is the filter for you.

In the picture above you can see two photos I took, one without and one with the Solar Eclipse.  The unfiltered image on the left shows strong reflections on the stream whereas on the right the pola has almost completely reduced the reflection to such an extent that you can see the stones in the stream, good eh.

The Variable Neutral Density allows you to reduce the light that enters the lens without closing the aperture down.

The image on the left the aperture is closed down, f16 or near that.  You can see as such by doing this we have increased our depth of field – the background is all in focus.  The image on the right is taken with the Solar Eclipse.  The ND component has allowed me to shoot with a wide open aperture – f4 on this lens and has created a photo with shallow depth of field.  We have isolated the interest in the frame, we have focussed the viewers attention.  The Solar Eclipse is a vital tool in your storytelling kit.

Above for comparison are two photos both taken at f4, the left has no filter and the right has the Solar Eclipse, you can see what the ND filter does – it’s like you putting on sunglasses when outside the sun is too bright.  It stops light before it even gets to the lens.

This really, genuinely is a incredibly useful bit of kit.  If you are travelling light and need to be able to control the light that enters your camera then this really is a vital accessory for you.

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