Ask any Nature Photographer what the is most challenging element of shooting the great outdoors and they’ll tell you; Lighting. Unlike shooting in the studio, where we can control every single ray of light hitting the subject, shooting outside pretty much leaves us at the mercy of Mother Nature to position the light source in the shot for us. Then there is the problem of the amount of light. We all know the value of a tripod and long shutter speeds when the light is too low…. but how do experienced shooters deal to too much light?

For years, the solution to too-much-light has been to carry several Neutral Density Filters. Depending on how many stops of light one might need to block, they would also need to carry a corresponding filter to match: ND2 will offer one stop, ND4 gives you two stops and ND8 provides 3 full stops of light blocking filtration. But what if the shooter wants less than a full stop? or more than three stops?

My solution has been to use the Heliopan Variable ND filter, which is adjustable from 1/3  to 6.6 stops of ND filtration.  It’s 100% neutral in color and mounted in a black anodized brass ring that is numerically printed with an index for added convenience.  It also features a SH-PMC 16 layer multi-coating for the lowest flare and greatest color saturation. It’s heavy, made of brass…it really feels solid, the rotation is very smooth. Quality.

When using this filter, the results speak for themselves; the ability to choose exact amount of light filtration has allowed me to choose a shutter speed that gives me the specific effect I am going for. The lack of a color shift with this filter (which I normally experienced with other Vari-ND filters) has resulted in a lot more keeper shots.  It’s a very precise filter, just what you’d expect from Heliopan. At over $400, it’s not an in-expensive “gizmo”, but it’s still  less expensive than purchasing all the other separate filters that would be able to do what this filter does by itself.

For build quality and results, I rate this filter a solid 9.5/10 . I’d give it a 10/10 if it came with a nicer case, rather than the plastic cover, which frankly, is kinda hard to open…but that doesn’t affect the photo quality, and photo quality is everything!  I recently have started using the incredible video capabilities of my DSLR, and this filter has been perfect for shooting in bright sunlight. Give this filter a try, it’s a great photo gizmo.

Here’s a shot of Sol Duc Falls, Olympic National Park. F16, 25 Seconds, ISO 200 in full sunlight.