Singh-Ray Variable Density ND Filter - Feedback

Discussion in 'Digital SLR' started by CJS, Mar 25, 2007.

  1. CJS

    CJS Guest

    Hi all,

    A short time ago some of you were good enough to help me with the issues I
    had with my "budget-priced" ND filter (ie "useless piece of cheap crap")
    producing grossly unsharp images. I mentioned I'd dropped them in the bin
    and ordered the variable density ND unit from Singh-Ray - Well it arrived a
    week or 2 ago and I put it through it's paces over the weekend with some
    flowing water shots - thought some of you might appreciate a few thoughts on
    the unit ...

    First up, it just "ooozes" quality - it looks nice - feels nice - and works
    very much "as advertised". I wanted some long exposures at F11. Normal
    metering at ISO 100 was giving me shutter speeds hovering around the 1 sec
    mark. I took a few shots at this speed, but the results weren't even in the
    ball park for what I was hoping to achieve. Popped on the Vari ND - went
    manual - 30 sec @ F11 and just gave the filter a twist until the metering
    indicated a standard exposure (I'd prefocused then switched to MF, even
    though it would still probably have been fine with the filter on). Piece of

    The Vari ND has a 2-Stop minimum - would have been nice if it could be made
    a 0 stop minimum, then it could be left on the camera all the time, but
    unfortunately that just not the way it is. Only other slightly negative
    observation is that it comes in a fancy leather pouch - I'd personally feel
    safer with it in a standard plastic twist-apart case (so it wouldn't get
    scratched), although it's quite a thick unit - about the same as the Canon
    500 close-up adaptor - so one of the thicker cases would be needed.

    On a side note, I've been doing a bit of experimenting with stacking
    multiple exposures recently (good technique for smoothing out high ISO
    noise, but very useful at ISO 100 as I've found out when used vith different
    blending modes ... With the Vari ND and Canon's programmable timer it's a
    piece of cake to automate the whole thing --- I was able to get the camera
    up on a tripod - set the timer to take 4x 30 sec exposures with 45 sec
    inbetween (so the noise reduction could do it's thing) - then just go sit on
    a rock for a few minutes whilst the camera did it's thing.

    At the risk of being called a spammer again! I'd recommend the unit to one
    and all - expensive little bastard, but then again so is a collection of
    standard NDs

    If anyone's got any questions about it just let me know.

    CJS, Mar 25, 2007
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  2. CJS

    Paul Furman Guest

    What sort of situation was this? Isn't ISO 100 already pretty darn low
    noise? Looks cleaner for very large prints?
    Paul Furman, Mar 25, 2007
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  3. CJS

    Alan Browne Guest

    What did you pay for it? I just visited the site and it's truly
    intriguing. I would probably look at the 72mm and use it on my 72 and
    55mm threaded lenses.

    Does it polarize at all?

    Alan Browne, Mar 25, 2007
  4. CJS


    Jan 23, 2007
    Likes Received:
    I've had my eye on one of those for some time now. The ARE expensive! But, as is usually the case with glass, it's probably worth it. I'm glad you like it, I'll have to move it up my priority list.
    auer1816, Mar 25, 2007
  5. CJS

    CJS Guest

    Hi Alan,

    I paid USD 345 for the "non-slim" version - I assumed that the USD 395 slim
    version would be like my slim Heliopan UV filters and not have an inner
    thread (so can't mount any additional filters). With the "non-slim" version
    I was able to attach a Heliopan UV for additional protection.

    I understand that it's only available in 77mm, so you'd need an adaptor. I
    asked about an 82mm variety to got with Canons new WA lens and was told
    "Only 77mm for now - difficult to manufacture in larger sizes - but
    obviously will review the situation when a large player like Canon enters
    the market @ 82mm - (in summary) will see how many people ask for it".

    I'm not sure what "polarising" is - but it works like 2 pair of polarising
    sunglasses rotated relative to one another. It's a minimum of 2 stop down to
    "more than 8 stop" - they say that it'll go beyond 8 stop, but that the
    point where you might get some bars showing - can't comment further as I
    didn't push it into that territory. Between 2 and 8 stops they claim that
    there's no colour shifts and I've seen nothing to contradict this. Some
    appeared a bit skeptical, but at the end of the day singh-ray have a
    reputation for bloody good stuff - and from what I've seen it's well


    CJS, Mar 26, 2007
  6. CJS

    CJS Guest

    Hi Paul,

    A wee bit of background ...

    I was reading through the excellent (and free) PBase Magazine
    ( and came accross (about 3 issues ago) the work of 1
    Sean T. McHugh. If you don't know of him already he's one of those enviable
    chaps who - just when I think I'm starting to get a few things right -
    demonstrates quite modestly that I don't know shit when it comes to
    photography. (take a look at and you'll see what
    I mean.

    In one of his tutorials he outlined a technique of reducing high-ISO noise
    by stacking identical images - so I took 32 images and stacked them with
    opacities ranging from 100 (bottom) to 50 to 33.3 to 25 to 20 percent etc. I
    then flattened all 32 and compared it to just 1 taken at ISO 3200. Different
    as night and day. The stacking reduced it to what looked visually like about
    ISO 200.

    Whilst doing my long exposure shots in the weekend I took 4 with the
    intention of stacking them as per the above - like you say, 100 ISO is
    pretty darn good, but I wanted to see what 4 stacked would do (if anything).
    I got a little side-tracked when I tried playing with the blending - I
    turned off the top 2 layers and blended the 3rd to the bottom with screen
    blending at 50% opacity and all of a sudden it started to look rather nice -
    so I did the same with the 2nd layer from the top (at 33.3%) and it looked
    even better - then did the same with the top layer (at 25%) and it looked
    better again. From there I only had to give it 1 minor global tweak
    (levels/gamma I think) and it was looking great. I was fully expecting to
    have to use curves to lift some of the shadow detail, but it did it nicely
    for me - whilst at the same time not ruining a relatively large & delicate
    area getting very close to clipping at the top end.

    I tried a few variations but in the end it was pretty much just the above
    plus a little dodging/burning and a slight hue tweak (one of these days I'll
    remember to shoot a test shot with a grey card when shooting raw!)

    To be honest I still don't understand many aspects of layer blending - but
    it's definately something I'll experiment more with in the future. Final
    print was a 22" x 33" canvas - with sharpening a'la Sean McHugh as well (I
    gave it a global 300% at 0.3 pixel just to sharpen up the high-frequency
    greener/plantaion - but liked the effect of around 50% @ 15 pixels -
    something I hadn't tried until now (needs to be done at LOW magnifications
    to see the global effect though - I had it about 1/2 size on a 24" Dell
    CJS, Mar 26, 2007
  7. CJS

    Paul Furman Guest

    Ah yes I have seen cambridgeincolour, and those are excellent tutorials.
    I'm checking out the pbase stuff.

    OK but why use a ND filter to make the exposures even longer? Moving
    water or something?
    Paul Furman, Mar 26, 2007
  8. CJS

    CJS Guest

    I think they're a real treat. Just about every photography magazine I pick
    up is crammed full of lists of prices from every man (and his dog) and a
    never-ending tirade of questionable "reviews". But here we have a magazine
    I'd pay decent money for - and it's free :)
    Yes. Sometimes even something at high as 1/13th can give me the effect that
    I'm after, but on this occasion even 1 to 2 seconds looked aweful - so I
    aimed for 30 sec, which was just right. I guess the selling point of the
    Vari ND is that you can simply dial up the F-Stop - Dial in the shutter
    speed - then just Dial in the degree of reduction you need to get a good
    exposure - no compromises needed :)
    CJS, Mar 27, 2007
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