Variable ND filters have been part of our production life for years now and I’m sure you, like me, are looking for a system to meet your filming needs. Today I introduce the NiSi Swift VND Mist Kit – a variable ND system consisting of three elements. The main element is the actual variable ND filter, which can reduce exposure by up to 4 stops. Then there’s an additional ND filter that takes it even further by reducing exposure by up to 9 stops. But the jewel on the crown is the third element, which is a Black Mist Filter. For me it is a complete barrel and pistol filter system that can help in the field in constantly changing and challenging light conditions.
Why use a natural density filter in front of the lens?
Well, the answer is simple: you want to be able to control the amount of light entering the camera’s sensor. I hear some of you asking, “Why is it beneficial to control the light entering the camera?” Well, there are several reasons for this:
The first reason is to be able to keep the shutter speed or shutter angle at a certain value, for example the video above was shot at 25 frames per second and I want my shutter speed to stay at 50 (okay to keep a certain rhythm of movement, associated with movies).
The second reason is to be able to control the ISO settings. For example, the footage above was shot with the FUJIFILM X-H2 in f-log 2, and the manufacturer’s recommended ISO for maximum dynamic range is 1000, which is quite high.
Cap this with the willingness of many creators to express themselves through working with fast lenses. And there you have it, we need some kind of “sunglasses” on the lens to be able to control the light.
Well, some cameras have this ND filter built in, while other filming equipment like mirrorless cameras don’t have it at all! So bottom line, we need to use some kind of solution, like a matte box or a screw-on lens filter, to provide the missing ND function.
As a documentary filmmaker, a variable ND filter is my preferred solution option as it allows me to quickly respond to changing shooting situations in the field, and in this regard the NiSi Swift Kit does a remarkable job.
How to use the NiSi filter system
By simply screwing the variable ND main filter unit onto your lens, you have full control of reducing exposure by 4 stops. Assuming it’s an extremely bright, sunny day and you need even more ND filtering, you would simply attach the 5- to 9-stop add-on filter. It’s not magnetic, but I like that solution too. It holds up very well off-road!
As I mentioned before, the real gem of this kit is the Black Mist Filter. It can be attached to the variable NDs or completely separate to the lens itself.
For example, if you are filming indoors and the amount of light is not enough, but you still want to use the Black Mist filter, you can do it with this filter.
Why should I care about the Black Mist filter?
A Black Mist filter reduces contrast in the image and adds halos to light sources. Personally, I like to use this type of filter in some productions as it negates the harshness of the “video look”. In other words, it can help achieve a more “movie-like” look, depending on the lighting arrangements you have on set or in the field.
What I like about working with the NiSi Swift VND Mist Kit
- The quality of the filter glass is very good and there are hardly any color shifts.
- The “X effect” associated with variable ND filters is almost eliminated.
- The exposure range control has fixed stops at each end.
- The Black Mist power is 1/4, which is what I personally like. Not too strong and not too weak.
- Adding and removing the filter components is very simple and straightforward.
What could have been improved
- To use the black fog on only one lens, you must first use the adapter ring that comes with it. If you lose it or forget it, you’re just lost… I wish NiSi had designed the system so that the included adapter ring wasn’t so critical.
- Another thing is the included carry case. It’s just too big, especially if you want to save space in your luggage when traveling.
Apart from that, it is a very easy to use filtration system. Almost like a mix and match.
My feeling is that the overall picture quality is not compromised when using this system, so I won’t hesitate to use it when I want to control the lighting or add an extra aesthetic look to my video. I’d love to see NiSi expand the availability of other filters and make them even more useful. Last but not least, it would be great if this single adapter ring could be redesigned. On one occasion I had to back out of my original plan and film with a Black Mist on the lens simply because I didn’t have that ring with me.
The entire NiSi Swift VND Mist Kit along with the Black Mist Filter will set you back $409. Some components of it can also be purchased separately.
Which VND filter system do you use? Do you have experience in handling NiSi filters? Please let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.