A variable ND filter can be very handy. You only need one filter that covers multiple highlights. Haida launched the CPL VND Pro II, a variable neutral density filter that also functions as a polarizing filter. Haida asked me to review this new variable ND filter with bias capabilities.
First off, I don’t like variable ND filters. This is from a photographer’s perspective. Some time ago I had the opportunity to use another variable neutral density filter, and it showed the disadvantages of these filters. You can read my review of this Haida M10 inset VND filter and see why I don’t like it that much.
As said, if you are a photographer, I think you better have a selection of good quality ND filters. That’s why I use Haida Red Diamond filters and Haida NanoPro magnetic filters: the former for normal situations, the latter if I want to travel light.
Why a neutral density filter for filming?
I have a short primer for anyone unfamiliar with the basics of film exposure. The best choice for shutter speed is the inverse of twice the frame rate. The aperture is used to achieve the desired depth of field. So the ISO level is the only thing that can be used to set the correct exposure.
If you’re using log footage for recording, you’ll likely end up with a higher base ISO. For the CLOG-3 of Canon cameras, ISO 800 is the base ISO. So if you want to shoot outdoors in the sun, you will have to close the diaphragm to f/16 or f/22, which is often not desired.
In this situation, the only solution for the videographer OR the filmmaker is a neutral density filter. This way you can keep your ISO at the base value, shutter speed at the inverse of twice the frame rate, and aperture set for your desired depth of field. This is why professional video cameras often have built-in variable ND filters.
An ND filter for everyone
A filter system is not practical for video. Although it is possible to use it, it is often too bulky, especially when the camera is used on a gimbal or Glidecam. Until now I used Haida NanoPro Neutral Density Magnetic Filters to get proper exposure.
But the magnetic filter system is also not ideal, as I only have a 3, 6 or 10 stop ND filter. Many times the best exhibit was asking for something in between. That’s why for the videographer or filmmaker, a variable ND filter is the best choice.
Haida released a variable ND filter with built-in circular polarization filter. Since a variable ND filter is based on rotating two polarization filters, I was wondering how well this could work. Haida sent me a sample of the Powerline VND Pro II for review.
A closer look at the Haida CPL VND Pro II
The Haida CPL VND Pro II is a well-designed filter that can vary between three and seven stops. Made from an aluminum alloy, it is lightweight without sacrificing build quality. The red ring has a recess that indicates the available stops. A well-designed lever allows the filter to be rotated to adjust it to the desired strength.
The red ring can also rotate separately from the neutral density setting. This is the bias option which allows you to choose the bias you want after choosing the correct neutral density. It is easy to attach and detach the filter or rotate the polarization without the risk of detaching it by mistake.
The filter is not very fine, which is to be expected. If you used it with an ultra-wide angle lens for photography, I think you would experience vignetting. But for videographers and filmmakers, this is not really a problem due to the 16:9 aspect ratio.
Using the Haida CPL VND Pro II Filter
There are two important things to look for when choosing a variable ND filter. First of all, the color rendering must be perfect. You don’t want a color cast, no matter how dense the filter is. The Haida CPL VND Pro II performs well in this aspect; it shows no visible color cast.
The second thing is the risk of cross formation when the filter is used at its extreme density. I’ve seen this with the Haida M10 built-in VND filter, which allows full 360 degree rotation. Check out my review of this filter to see how this cross-training occurs. The Haida CPL VND Pro II shows no such thing. Images and photos show even exposure across the entire frame.
One thing to watch out for is uneven polarization that occurs with wide-angle lenses. This is due to the viewing angle and is not related to this specific filter. But at first glance, you might mistake this for signs of cross-training. When used at a longer focal length, where the uneven polarization becomes less obvious, there is still no sign of cross-training effect, just the normal polarization effects.
Fitting the filter to the lens is easy thanks to the excellent grip. Adjusting the neutral density is also easy and, as it is infinitely adjustable, you can rotate the lever until the exposure is correct. The numbers in the inset may be difficult to see. You need to look at the correct angle to be able to look into the inset. But with normal use, the actual density that is set is not important. Simply turn the lever until the exposure is correct.
There is just enough resistance to the rotation of the red ring. This ring is for biasing, and its resistance holds it in place as you turn the lever inside the red ring. Using the Haida CPL VND Pro II gives you complete control.
Although I was a little skeptical at first, I have come to really like the Haida CPL VND Pro II filter. It provides the control needed for filmmaking, and I also have the option of biasing without the need for a second filter.
The filter is well designed and easy to use. It is made of high quality material and K9 optical glass has plenty of coatings to ensure good image quality. Although it can also be used for photography, I think it is mainly intended for the video world. Still, if you don’t want to pack a lot of neutral density filters on your photography trip, you might want to consider this filter as well.
What I like
- Well created
- Full aluminum alloy
- Convenient, continuously adjustable neutral density range (3-7 stops)
- No cross-training when used to the max
- Integrated polarization
- Bias ring has the perfect amount of resistance to rotation
- No visible color cast
What could be improved
- The metal lever unscrews easily
- Neutral density indication can be difficult to read (although not that important in practice)
- When used on ultra wide angle lenses for photography, vignetting may occur
- The lever may be too long when using a matte box
If you are looking for such a filter, the Haida CPL VND Pro II is a good choice. My advice is to buy a filter with a diameter of 82 mm and use lowered rings to adapt it to lenses with a smaller diameter. This way you only have to buy one filter and you can use it on all the lenses you own.
What do you think of this filter? Please share your thoughts or experience with this filter in the comments below.