[00:00:00] This is the Freewell Magnetic Variable ND and Circular Polarizer filter system. At some point in that name, your brain might have gone “well, wait, hold on – what?” yeah it’s kind of like that. This thing is really cool. Let’s get into it.
[00:00:19] Before we get into what this system is, let’s first talk about what it does. It is a variable ND or an ND system – ND for “Neutral Density”. And if you’re not familiar with that, let me just go over that really quickly – the whole idea behind Neutral Density glass or Neutral Density filter is that it limits the amount of light coming through the lens and getting to the sensor. Think of it like a tinted piece of glass – it just darkens the light that’s coming through.
[00:00:41] Now, why would you want to reduce the amount of light coming in? Well there can be a few different reasons. If you’re doing still photography, one of the most common reasons to do this would be to have an artificially longer exposure than you would normally have for any given lighting situation. Let’s say for example that you want to have a really long exposure so you can have blurred waterfalls – that’s a pretty common use of this. Typically if you’re doing that, even if you’re shooting at an ISO of 100 and an aperture of f/11, shooting at a shutter speed longer than maybe a second or so is probably not going to happen if it’s full daylight.
[00:01:11] So, you’re going to want a longer exposure than that so you need to reduce the amount of light coming in and that’s exactly what an ND filter will do. In the world of video, it’s not about having a long exposure but it’s more about having a precise combination of ISO, and shutter speed or shutter angle, and aperture, within any given lighting situation.
[00:01:30] So an ND filter would allow you to limit the amount of light so that you can, for example, shoot at a base ISO of maybe 400 with a shutter speed of 1/60 or shutter angle at 180 degrees and still shoot wide open, say at f/2.8 even though you’re in full sunlight. That combination will not work in a full sun situation unless you have an ND filter.
[00:01:49] So, there’s two reasons that you might use it both in still and in video. What about the variable part – a variable ND? Well, a variable ND allows you to change the amount of light coming through the filter in real time by simply rotating it.
[00:02:01] A variable ND is actually two pieces of glass that line up like so and allow a certain amount of light through but then as you rotate them, they allow less and less light through. And if you’ve played with a variable ND before you might know that if you go too far, you end up where you cannot get enough light through the lens filter system and you end up getting some kind of weird cross-hatching on your sensor. And so what you want to do to avoid that is use a variable ND with hard stops. A hard stop means that you can’t rotate it too far so you don’t get that cross hatching. This system does all of that. We have our ND or Variable ND along with the hard stops that stop us from rotating too far.
[00:02:37] The system also has a polarizing filter in it. Now, what is a polarizer? Well a polarizer allows you to cut glare or reflection. So, if you’re shooting a scene that has water or glass in it and you’re getting a lot of reflections or glare, the circular polarizer will allow you to minimize or even completely eliminate that, allowing you to not have the reflection or even to see through glass – let’s say on a windshield on a car. So, that’s what the ND and the circular polarizing systems do. But how does it work in this sense? This is all magnetic and all the pieces stack and snap together in a really cool way. So let’s have a look at this.
[00:03:10] It starts with this ring – this is simply a filter holder; this is the magnetic part that holds all the other pieces together. Once you put this on the camera, you don’t have to take this back off again – in fact, it comes with a lens cap that will attach directly to this magnetically, so you don’t have to worry about unscrewing this every time you want to take the filter off.
[00:03:28] The first piece that goes in is this VND base. The VND base is a one stop ND filter, and this is required for the other part of it to work. With a single stop filter here combined with the other two filters that we’ll talk about in a moment, that gives you the two pieces of glass that have to rotate against each other. If you don’t put this base in, then the other part won’t work because it doesn’t have anything to rotate against.
[00:03:52] So let’s go ahead and attach this. To do that, all you have to do is line up the two Freewell logos and snap them together, and that’s it. As I said, this has a single stop ND capability, so with this on, you’ve got one stop of ND even if you don’t add anything else to it. Next let’s add one of the variable rings – you have two rings to choose from; a two to five stops and a six to nine stop.
[00:04:13] When you combine these with the single stop ND filter that’s already in place, that gives you the VND capability. So, to do that, we’ll start with the two to five stop – simply take this filter and look for the letter A that’s on the filter – this is what you’re aligning with then you take the filter that you want to add on, look for the letter A on that and line them up until they snap together.
[00:04:36] Once they snap together, that is your hard stop. Now you can see as I rotate this, it actually stops there. Let’s go ahead and rotate this so we can see the difference as I go from two stops to five stops, you can see the difference in the ND and of course you can hear the stops.
[00:04:53] If you want to swap to the six to nine variable ND, then all you have to do is pop this off, grab the other one and line them up. Once they’re lined up, there’s your variable ND. And again, this is a six to nine stop.
[00:05:06] So, there’s the variable ND aspect of it – you have a single stop ND here which is the variable base and then a six to nine and a two to five stop filter that you can add to it. However, if we flip these two filters over, you’ll see they have different names on the back. This one says CPL. This is a circular polarizing filter. Now, to use this filter as a circular polarizer, you don’t actually need to have the ND base in here, but you can leave it in if you want to.
[00:05:31] I’ll go ahead and take this out – pop the CPL on here and now I have a circular polarizing filter that freely spins all the way around and gives me the effect of a circular polarizer without the ND. If I want to add a stop of ND, I can just pop this guy back in, put this back on and now I have a circular polarizer with a single stop of ND. But what if you want more? What if you want a circular polarizer with even more neutral density?
[00:05:59] Well that’s what this guy does. This is an ND 32 and CPL (Circular Polarizer). The ND (Neutral Density) 32 is a measurement that is not measured in stops – it’s a little confusing as to why they’re different – we have stops on one side but then the other side is listed as a 32. The 32 is actually a fraction 1/32 of the amount of light. Here’s the easy way to remember that – the ND filters start with 2. An ND 2 filter is half the light. It’s a fraction – ½ – that’s half the light, so that’s one stop. Then you go from ND 2 to an ND 4, that’s two stops and then you double it again to an ND 8 is three to an ND 16 is four and an ND 32 is five stops. So this is a five stop ND and circular polarizer in one.
[00:06:42] Now, you can actually combine that with the other single stop in here to get another stop of ND or if you’ve already purchased the previous Freewell Magnetic ND filters, the ones that I did a video on a couple of years ago, those will actually still work with this system – assuming they’re the same size, of course.
[00:06:58] This is a 77mm variable ND system and I have over here the original 77mm system that I tested a couple years ago. Now, one of these filters is a circular polarizer, so I don’t need that, but this ND filter that I have is actually a ND 64, giving me six stops of drop so I could actually take this and combine it with the other ones, it’s all goes together, it’s pretty cool.
[00:07:19] So, instead of just testing all this in the studio, I’m actually leaving tomorrow morning on a road trip. I’m driving from Oregon to Austin. So, on that trip, I’m going to shoot a bunch of B-roll and insert that right after – right after this.
[00:08:27] Now that you’ve seen some of the footage from the variable ND and the polarizing filter, there’s actually one more piece to this puzzle that just adds one extra layer of awesomeness to it, and that is a pro-mist style base ND filter.
[00:08:40] So you have two of the base ND’s. To start, you’ve got your straight ND filter that is the ND one stop. However, it also comes with this filter here. This is a Mist VND base adding that “mist look” to your images… adding a little bit of halation to the highlights. This is something you see in cinematography quite a bit where you want to have that – just that edge; that sharp harsh edge of light taken off and softened a little bit just a slight amount of glow around it. It’s really beautiful and it can be really nice. It’s not for everything, but it’s a great trick to have in your bag.
[00:09:12] So let’s take a look at a few sample shots using this mist filter.
[00:09:33] Now that you know what it does and how it works and you’ve seen some samples from it, you probably want to know what this thing’s going to cost. Well, on its surface, it’s not cheap – however, if you combine all the different pieces from the competitors out there, then you’ll find that this is actually a very very good price.
[00:09:47] So, here’s the pricing that Freewell shared with me. First of all, this kit as it is will sell for a retail price of 399.99, so $400. Now, they do have early bird and super early bird pricing – I’m not actually sure when that pricing goes into effect or how long it goes into effect for. To figure out what the pricing is right now today whenever you’re watching this video, just click the affiliate link down below. It’ll take you to their website where you can buy directly and of course you’ll see the pricing there.
[00:10:12] Now, to compare it to the other things on the market – if you compare to buying individual filters on their own from Freewell, the grand total would come out to $740, so that’s obviously a pretty significant price break. If you jump over the PolarPro lenses though, that combination would bring you up to $1360. So that’s a pretty significant difference.
[00:10:30] Now, I’m not comparing the two side by side – I can’t tell you whether one is better than the other. I really don’t know, I’ve actually never used the PolarPro. I do know that they come very highly regarded but so do the Freewell filters. So hopefully, this pricing comparison is relevant and realistic.
[00:10:44] The other price comparison they have on here is from Moment. With Moment, you’ll see that you can actually spend less, however you can’t get all the same pieces. You can’t get the ND 32 and CPL and you don’t get the Mist filters.
[00:10:55] So there you have it. This is quite the system… it’s very very cool the way it all comes together, it has a great little case that everything gets stored into which is really really nice and overall, I think it’s pretty awesome. I’ve been enjoying using it a lot and I think that you will too. If you decide to buy one of these, please do use the affiliate link down below. Other than that, if you’ve got any questions drop them into the comments or reach out to Freewell themselves on social media. Thanks, we’ll see you in the next video.