5 Best Variable ND Filters for Video (2024)

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The featured image is of the SLR Magic Variable ND Filter Mark II

Choosing the right variable ND filter (VND) is crucial for videographers aiming to achieve perfect exposure and cinematic look for their footage.

With many options available, I’ve compiled a list of the best variable ND filters that promise to elevate your video production game, ensuring crisp, clear, and beautifully balanced visuals.

I’ve either used all of these filters myself or my videography friends have. We do not always agree on what is the best, so I’ve tried to keep the descriptions as neutral as possible.

If you’re new to VNDs, I recommend you read What is a Variable ND Filter? A Guide for Filmmakers first.

NiSi True Color Variable ND Filter 1-5 Stops

  • Sizes: 40.5mm, 43mm, 46mm, 49mm, 52mm, 55mm, 58cm, 62mm, 67mm, 72mm, 77mm, 82mm, 86mm, 95mm, 105mm
  • Stops: 1-5 Stops (ND2-ND32)

The NiSi True Color Variable ND Filters have excellent color accuracy and clarity.

Its durable build and smooth adjustment mechanism make it user-friendly.

Packaged with a Lens cap and Filter Pouch PRO, it is excellent for its color fidelity, construction, and reliability.

Pros:

  • Exceptional color accuracy with True Color technology, ensuring no color shift.
  • Versatile 1-5 stops of neutral density for creative control in various lighting conditions.
  • High build quality with a smooth rotation mechanism, making adjustments easy and precise.
  • Lens cap included
  • Waterproof coating
  • Lever for easy adjustments

Cons:

  • Vignetting with some wide-angle lenses (at maximum densities).
  • The lever may be prone to breaking.

SLR Magic Variable ND Filter Mark II

  • Sizes: 52mm, 62mm, 77mm, 82mm
  • Stops: 1 1/3 to 6 stops (Optical Density 0.4 to 1.8)

The SLR Magic Variable ND Filter MKii is a highly recommended variable ND filter due to its excellent image quality, reasonable price, and minimal, easily corrected color shift.

Although it has a narrower range of stops, it’s effectively usable.

It might require stacking another ND filter for bright conditions, potentially causing vignetting at wide angles. Its build quality and the handy side lever make it convenient, even during recording.

I regret not purchasing the 82mm version for less vignetting and compatibility with cinema lenses.

The inclusion of a lens cap for the larger outer ring is also appreciated.

Pros:

  • Excellent build and image quality,
  • Multi-coating reduces lens flares.
  • Large front filter ring to avoid vignetting,
  • The side lever makes it easy to rotate the rings.
  • Internal locking ring prevents the rings from accidental rotation and changes in exposure.
  • Hard stops at the minimum and maximum end of the range
  • It comes with a lens cap that fits the outer ring.

Cons:

  • Limited range in stops compared to competitors.
  • What the numbered markings mean is unclear, even though SLR Magic claims they are calibrated.
  • The lever might break in your camera bag if you’re not careful.

PolarPro Peter McKinnon Variable ND Filters – Signature Edition II

  • Sizes: 67mm, 77mm, 82mm
  • Stops: Two types available: 2 to 5 stops (Optical Density 0.6 to 1.5), and 6-9 stops (Optical Density Range 1.8 to 2.7).

The PolarPro’s new variable ND filters, co-endorsed by Peter McKinnon, offer high-quality optical performance.

Available in 2-5 stop (ND4 to ND32) and 6-9 stop (ND64 to ND512) versions, they feature hard stops to prevent vignetting and cross-patterning.

I recommend purchasing the 77mm or 82mm versions and using step-up rings for versatility and less vignetting.

The 2-5 stop filter is more affordable than the 6-9 stop variant.

Pros:

  • High image quality with no color shifts between stops
  • Haptic feedback and laser-engraved markings for precise adjustments
  • Includes Defender 360 case for excellent protection

Cons:

  • Premium price point – may not suit all budgets.
  • The stops are for reference only
  • No lever option

Tiffen Variable ND Filter

  • Sizes: 52mm, 58mm, 62mm, 67mm, 72mm, 77mm, 82mm
  • Stops: 2-8 stops (Optical Density 0.6 to 2.4)

Many videographers favor the Tiffen Variable ND Filter’s consistent color across all stops.

However, it lacks numbered markings, making it easy to lose track of settings since the dots don’t match specific stops.

The absence of hard stops at the max and min settings can lead to accidental over-adjustment. Higher densities can produce undesirable cross patterns, particularly with wide-angle lenses.

Pros:

  • Offers 2 to 8 stops of light control for precise exposure adjustments.
  • Constructed with high-quality optical glass and a thin profile ring to minimize vignetting.
  • Lightweight and user-friendly, enhancing the overall user experience and image quality.

Cons:

  • Incompatible with a hood, which may limit certain shooting conditions.
  • I know videographers who’ve had problems with the quality of the rings (they get stuck).

Moment Variable ND Filters

  • Sizes:  67mm, 77mm, and 82mm
  • Stops: Two types available: 2 to 5 stops (Optical Density 0.6 to 1.5), and 6-9 stops (Optical Density Range 1.8 to 2.7).

Moment has made a set of high-quality variable ND filters that complement each other well.

Moment did the right thing and made two filters with hard stops – each within a limited range of stops – instead of making a single filter to cover the whole range from ND4-ND512.

This has resulted in filters with no cross-patterning, no color shift through the ranges, and minimum vignetting (only on the 6-9 stops filter at maximum densities).

I couldn’t get the laser engraved stops to be where they were supposed to be with my lens and step-up ring.

I would also have liked a (detachable) lever and a center pinch lens cap to be included with each filter.

But all in all, these are excellent filters.

You can read the full-review of the Moment variable NDs here.

Pros:

  • Excellent build quality
  • hard stops at maximum and minimum range
  • no degradation of sharpness
  • no noticeable color shifts through the ranges
  • no cross patterning
  • nice flaring
  • lifetime warranty.

Cons:

  • The laser engraved stops are not on top of the lens
  • no lever option
  • no filter cap included
  • slight vignetting on the 6-9 stops filter.

Conclusion

So there you have it. Those are the five variable ND filters I’d recommend you test.

They’re all excellent, tried, and tested options, so it comes down to your needs, whether you prefer a lever or not, and budget.

I prefer filters with a lever, but some friends don’t because they say they break. I’ve never had one break, but I’m always careful when placing my camera and lens in the bag.

I also prefer VNDs with a lens cap included because I like to throw the camera and lens in the back with the filter attached. But that’s just me.

If you stack another filter on top of the VND, the lens cap might not be compatible. So that’s another thing to consider.

Up Next: If you want to get into the geeky stuff, such as ND filter factor, stops, and optical density, I recommend you read What is an ND filter? Quick Guide to Neutral Density Filters

Author

    by
  • Jan Sørup

    Jan Sørup is a indie filmmaker, videographer and photographer from Denmark. He owns filmdaft.com and the Danish company Apertura, which produces video content for big companies in Denmark and Scandinavia. Jan has a background in music, has drawn webcomics, and is a former lecturer at the University of Copenhagen.

    View all posts

4 thoughts on “5 Best Variable ND Filters for Video (2024)”

  1. Great review Jan! I’m glad you mentioned the SLR Magic Variable ND Filter Mark II! I have the 67mm and 82mm versions. What’s your experience with the NiSi 72mm Filter ND-VARIO Pro Nano 5-9 stops Enhanced Variable ND Camera filter?

    Reply
    • Hi Mark

      Thank you. I’m glad you found the article useful. I don’t have any experience with the NiSi, and none of my videographer friends use them (as far as I know). So I haven’t included them yet. That might change soon because I see a lot of videographers mentioning them in discussions. So I have to test them soon.

      If you purchase them, feel free to share your thoughts here.

      Best, Jan

      Reply

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