If you have read my reviews or my posts for any length of time, it should be easy to pick up on the fact that I am a budget first photographer. In other words, I am not running out to stores to purchase the latest and greatest or most expensive gear. For me, with a limited budget, I need bang for buck.
One item that I have been meaning to get for a while now is a variable ND filter. I really love long exposure photography, especially black and white high contrast stuff with silky smooth water. ND filters are virtually required for that sort of photography, so if I wanted to try it out I needed to get myself an ND filter.
[rewind: Sigma 24-105mm Initial Thoughts]
The reason I was looking into a variable ND filter is that I also shoot a lot of video interviews while at my hobby “job” covering my local professional soccer teams. In the bright sun of midday, when I am usually outside doing these interviews, it can be hard to get the settings on the camera where they need to be for the look I am going for, so a variable ND filter would be ideal to help me bring down the exposure to a level I need.
FOTGA Slim Fader 82mm Variable ND Filter Review
Being as I am always on the lookout for a good deal, I did a quick search on amazon for variable ND filters and came across this FOTGA Slim Fader Variable ND Filter. I had originally been eyeing a Tiffen model that runs for around $150, but that was a bit more than I was wanting to spend. This FOTGA was only $18.99 on Amazon, so I figured I would give it a try.
The filter had a good range, from ND2 to ND400, so I figured it would be a good option. When it arrived in the mail, I was really excited to give it a try. The filter felt solid, and seemed to be built well. The ring moved smoothly and it attached to my Sigma 24-105mm F/4 lens easily (and came off easy enough too, which I have heard can be a problem with cheap filters).
Sadly though, that is where my excitement for this new filter ended. Excited to try it out, I ran out to the local river and set up to give it a try, and when I came home to examine the images, well let’s just say that I was not impressed at all.
Probably the first third of the ring from the minimum mark worked well enough, but then things started getting hairy. Towards the end of the ring, where it should have been approaching ND400, the filter made any images unusable thanks to what can only be described as an X across the image (see below).
Honestly, for $20, I am not too surprised that this item turned out to be a bust. Cheap photo accessories like this are almost always hit or miss, and it is entirely possible that I just got a bum copy, but still I wanted to share my thoughts on the filter.
For my needs, I decided to send the filter back. It was actually more than enough for what I needed with the video, but for wanting to fiddle with the long exposure photography, I needed the far range of the fader to work and it simply didn’t produce what I needed.
Final Thoughts and Product Rating
Had I just needed it for the video, I would have kept it and just stayed within the first 1/3rd of the fader range. But as is, I decided it would just be better to get my money back from Amazon and invest in the more expensive filter which was my plan in the first place.
Given the results that I received with this filter, I wouldn’t recommend it to anyone, with one exception. If you need a cheap variable ND filter, something easily replaceable, and you don’t need more than 1 or 2 stops of exposure difference, then this could work in a pinch. Still, for most people, I would say stay away and just go with a higher end filter, and I am confident in giving this filter a disappointing 2 out of 5 stars.
If you are still interested in this filter, you can find them on Amazon here.