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VND VS. Traditional Neutral Density Filters

Today’s camera filters have certainly come a long way; the variable neutral density (VND) filters and neutral density (ND) filters both have some exceptional features to offer creatives wanting to amp up their filmmaking and photography game. Each type is however different and has instances that they are the best at achieving the perfect shot.

Our new Peter McKinnon Variable ND Filter, which comes in two variations, The Signature Edition II and the Mist Edition II, offers the best of both worlds. We’ll explore those here, but first, let’s discuss what fixed and variable NDs are and how they differ.

VND vs ND filter, Variable ND vs Fixed, Fixed ND vs VND

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What Is A Neutral Density Filter?

When placed before the camera lens, traditional ND filters reduce the amount of light making its way into the camera. They provide some extent of light control so you don’t overexpose a shot. This allows you to widen your aperture in bright light conditions, to create a shallow depth of field and selective focus effects that exceed the shutter speed capabilities of the camera. As less light enters the camera, a slower shutter speed also creates a blur effect on objects in motion while keeping static objects focused.

ND filters usually incorporate various stop values which demonstrate how they control light exposure, for example using a smaller 2-stop allows more light into the lens compared to a larger 9-stop alternative. In the event you would like to reduce light intake (or vice versa), you would have to manually swap out the filters.

VND vs ND filter, Variable ND vs Fixed, Fixed ND vs VND

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VND vs ND filter, Variable ND vs Fixed, Fixed ND vs VND

Full Width Side by Side #Dos.

What Is A Variable Neutral Density Filter?

The VND filter does the same thing a fixed ND filter does by controlling the amount of light entering the camera, but with a VND, all the filtration effects are molded into one single unit.

A VND filter is comprised of two circular polarizing layers of glass that are designed to dial in the opposite direction of each other. The inner polarized ND filter is fixed directly onto the lens of your camera, while the outer polarized filter is fitted and rotated with the front frame. Unlike any other variable neutral density filter, our Peter McKinnon VND’s unique design has specific stop values lasered onto the frame of the filter. This combined with a one-of-a-kind Haptic Feedback mechanism allows you to feel each stop value as they occur so you never have to take your eyes off a shot.

A single VND adjusts various levels of light by a set of stops so that you can tweak the range of light exposure from perhaps 2-stop to around a 5-stop (our VNDs have both a 2-5 stop and 6-9 stop variation). Just a simple turn of the front polarized ND filter on these VND filters controls the amount of filtration so you can achieve a variety of darkness levels. There is no need to use or swap out individual filters to alter light coming into the camera as one VND does the job.

How VND Filters Differ From ND Filters

The difference between these filters can be narrowed down to what a cinematographer or photographer needs in certain scenarios. However, for us to truly examine the VND and fixed ND filter, and how they measure up to each other, it’s best to compare units that are up-to-date in their category. 

Our collection of PolarPro filters are the most upgraded and sophisticated units you will find on the market today. Users can expect products made of the finest quality materials, lightweight designs, and deliberate enhancements that optimize durability and use. 

VND vs ND filter, Variable ND vs Fixed, Fixed ND vs VND

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VND vs ND filter, Variable ND vs Fixed, Fixed ND vs VND

Full Width Side by Side #1.

VND vs ND filter, Variable ND vs Fixed, Fixed ND vs VND

Full Width Side by Side #Dos.

How Are They Used Differently?

Fixed neutral density filters are best for photographers needing to maintain light exposure levels throughout a shoot. It’s often used in relaxed and predictable settings where changing the filter regularly is unnecessary. VNDs, on the other hand, give cinematographers a wider filter selection in one go for an evolving space or production. As such, they are more convenient to use because there is no need to interrupt a shoot to physically swap out filters.

Even though a VND filter offers a range of stops, it just so happens that typical filters, when pushed past a density exceeding the 8-stop setting, tend to leave a cross pattern on your image, sometimes even tinting the picture. This occurs particularly when using a wide-angle lens and is usually remedied by dialing the stop setting back a bit.

In cases such as this, one would opt to substitute the VND with a fixed ND of a higher density but our Peter McKinnon Variable ND filter has resolved this issue. Not only does it offer a higher 6-9-stop variation range but it’s also engineered with quality polarized ND filters that will eliminate any chance of cross-polarization and vignetting from occurring through an inventive reset stop range.

In the event you want to exceed the density range offered by a VND, we have several ND filter packages inclusive of multiple filter options for many different types of cameras that cinematographers can combine to cover pretty much every lighting condition. They offer a low refractive index, color neutrality, and the perfect target transmission. This makes it easy to achieve any look they desire at cinematic shutter speeds.

When you’d like to capture shots of moving objects, like a cascading waterfall, pedestrians on a busy roadway, or merely smoke whisking in the air, the neutral density filter comes highly recommended for its effect on shutter speed, which ultimately emphasizes movement through a blurring effect.

However, unlike other VND filters, the Peter McKinnon Mist Edition II can also facilitate this task. The Mist Edition II is the industry’s only Diffusion + VND filter in one. It takes the blurring effect to another level by giving your footage a soft and dreamlike effect while maintaining contrast and clarity of the subject.

VND vs ND filter, Variable ND vs Fixed, Fixed ND vs VND

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Innovative VNDs Can Do More

Even though ND and VND filters differ simply from what they can offer the cinematographer and the project at hand, if a shoot doesn’t require extreme footage, then perhaps a multifaceted single unit such as the Peter McKinnon Variable ND filter is just what you need. The unit comes in two variations, our Signature Edition II and the Mist Edition II; both are available in 2-5 and 6-9 stop options. They offer added streamlined features, great flexibility, convenience, and guarantees one of the best user experiences you will find compared to other filters on the market.

Visit our PolarPro store to learn more about our filters and other products to see if there is something there for you.