“Almost fifty shades of grey…” That’s how Cokin describes their latest variable Neutral Density filter. Variable ND filters have been around for some time now, but ever since the advent of HDSLRs and their blitzkrieg on independent video production, variable ND filters have increased in popularity by an enormous margin for their incredible versatility. Cokin is a French filter manufacturer that recently launched a new line of filters called Pure Harmonie which is supposed to be even higher quality, and without color-casts that some ND filters can cause.
Pros & Cons
- Very thin filter housing that shouldn’t cause vignetting problems on wide lenses
- No perceptible loss in sharpness until the absolute maximum setting
- Nicely made with quality materials
- Not the cheapest, but you pay for quality
- It would be nice to have some kind of hard-stop for minimum and maximum settings
Cokin provides a really nice carrying / storage case for the ND-X filter, which I appreciated. It’s a far cry better than the cheap plastic boxes most filters come housed in.
You can see that the filter ring is knurled which makes it easy to manipulate while it’s on your lens. You can also see clear markings to denote how much of the Neutral Density filter you’re applying. I do wish the mark was a bit brighter though as it can be a little hard to see.
Twisting the filter to maximum will cut the light dramatically (Cokin claims 8 stops reduction) which can be handy if you really need to cut down the light coming into your camera, but it does make it nearly impossible to see through the lens at this point so do your focusing beforehand.
Well considering we’re discussing a screw-in filter, with few moving parts, actually just few parts in general, I would hope that it was made well and with quality materials. When I opened the box for the Cokin Pure Harmonie ND-X I was greeted with a high quality storage case which admittedly surprised me. When I took the filter out of its snazzy case I was really pleased to see that the filter felt like it was really high quality. I’ve seen and held some real cheap filters over the years and I can tell you, this is not one of them.
Ease of Use
ND filters are wonderful tools to have for landscape photography as they allow you to cut massive amounts of light from your scene and utilize a long exposure during normal daylight hours or really long exposures in shade or fading light. This is how one achieves the “glass-like water” effect seen often in landscape imagery. However, this is no one-trick-pony we’re talking about here, ND filters can also allow you to shoot wide open in daylight if your camera doesn’t have a super fast maximum shutterspeed, AND they also are what allows you to keep your shutterspeed at a constant level outdoors when using DSLRs for video. The Cokin ND-X is a very thin filter, but the ring itself is knurled at the edge which makes it easy to manipulate when it’s on the front of your lens.
I’ve tried a few different ND filter brands over the years, and recently I’ve even tried some other vari-NDs which were quite popular. All of them degraded my image quality for stills, but were mostly acceptable for video purposes. I was really pleased to see that there was hardly any degradation of the image quality until I got to the absolute maximum setting ND level. In my opinion this is completely acceptable because I can finally get a quality image out of the camera while using a somewhat affordably priced ND filter.
As I mentioned, I’ve tried a number of filters over the years, and from the moment I opened the box, I suspected I was looking at a quality product. The build of the Cokin ND-X feels really nice in the hand, and the filter elements themselves gave me clean and clear light reduction without nasty color-casts (typically magenta). In the quick video samples I did I was able to easily control my depth of field with a very shallow look during bright afternoon sunlight (obviously less than ideal shooting conditions). I feel like Cokin has been paying attention to the other variable-ND filters that have come to market, and looked for ways they can improve upon the designs and image quality. I have to say, I commend them for their efforts.
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