Review – GOBE ND2-400 Variable Filter + Discount Code

We have never really been big fans of using a Variable ND Filter. Mainly because we’d heard so much about the dreaded ‘X’ Effect issue that these filters have. Some brands have now released Variable ND filters that address this issue but only give you a maximum of 5-stops of light reduction and quite frankly are too expensive for the average photographer.

So, what is a Variable ND filter?

A Variable ND filter is a neutral density filter that allows you to manually adjust the density (strength) of the filter. Typically, you twist a ring on the outside of the filter, similar to a polarizing filter, and the filter shifts between low and high densities (often anywhere from 1 up to 10 stops of light depending on the brand).

Why use a Variable ND filter?

As Travel Photographers we tend to take a wide range of images and more recently during trips to Japan, Hong Kong, Macau and Shanghai we have been taking a lot of street type images. We love to blur movement in our images, and this was not ideal at times using our bulky NiSi Square Filter Holder combined with the 6 or 10-stop filters, so many of our images were shot at a small aperture (f16-22) and low ISO settings to obtain the slow shutter speeds that we required. However, shooting at a small aperture can result in ‘Diffraction‘, which most photographers try to avoid (don’t worry about shooting at small apertures if your intended output is just social media). Ideally, we wanted to shoot at larger apertures (f2.8-f8) but with slower shutter speeds. The only alternative solution was to look at a Variable ND filter where we would have complete control over the amount of light that would allow us to achieve the slow shutter speed we needed.

Please Note: We are NOT dedicated Landscape Photographers. For our Landscape images, we would generally NOT use a Variable ND Filter. Instead, we would use the square 100mm x 100mm ND Filters.

As mentioned above, Variable ND Filters have had a reputation over the years for being quite expensive. However, over the last year, we have been using the GOBE brand of filters. We have found their filters to be of the highest standard in quality while still remaining reasonably priced. The GOBE ND2-400 Variable Filter ranges in price from AUD$40.00 for the 37mm lens thread up to AUD$90.00 for the 86mm lens thread (check out the discount coupon code at the end of this post). We were given the 77mm for this review courtesy of GOBE Filters. The filter arrived in a round metal case slightly larger than the filter (so much better than the crappy plastic cases that are supplied by some filter makers). Also included was a GOBE Cleaning Cloth which is a great touch. The filter is well-made and the rotating ring is smooth although it is a little tight to rotate which, in our opinion, is a good thing as it restricts it from moving once set. The rotating ring is also quite narrow so for those of you with ‘big fingers’ it may be a bit awkward, however, it is a necessary evil to avoid excessive vignetting in the corners of the frame. The filter is made with Japanese optical glass and is weather sealed.

The GOBE ND2-400 Variable Filter can be rotated from ND2 (50% light transmittance) which is equivalent to 1-stop all the way up to ND400 (0.25% light transmittance) which is equivalent to 8.66-stops. This a fantastic range to work with, and will cover most of your needs.

In our testing with the filter, we have found that it struggles at wide-angle focal ranges such as 16mm-24mm. We tested it with our Sony FE 24-105 f/4 lens and to get the maximum strength of the filter we needed to shoot at 35mm and greater. We also tested the filter on our Sony FE 16-35mm f/4 lens at 16mm (f/8) and there were dark corners at all settings using the filter (this could be partly due to the need to use a 77mm-72mm step-down adapter ring on the lens).

No matter what focal setting you use we have found that the dreaded ‘X’ effect issue does affect images once you use this filter at the MAX setting. However, once the rotating ring is moved slightly back the ‘X’ disappears although you will still have dark corners on wide-angle lenses. We found the ideal MAX setting was between the MAX and the largest square box on the scale once zoomed in to at least 50mm. Therefore, we would really only class this as a 1 stop – 8.66 stop variable filter when used on focal lengths 50mm or higher. Also, as is the case with many brands of ND Filters, there is a colour cast when using the filter. This can be easily fixed in post-processing.

There are no ‘stop’ markings on the filter so when using the filter you will need to have some sort of an idea of the shutter speed you want to attain for your image. Naturally, at the MIN setting, it will be a 1-stop reduction in light but beyond that, you will have to watch your shutter speed if you want to calculate full-stop increments.

Note: This is just a guide. You should always test your filter settings as it may change from filter to filter. The test below was taken using a Sony FE 24-105 f/4 lens at both 24mm & 35mm focal ranges. Hover over the images for a magnified view.

No Filter

Taken on a tripod without a filter in Aperture Priority Mode. Edited in Lightroom CC.

Camera: Sony A7Rii
Lens: FE 24-105mm f4
Focal Length: 24mm
Aperture: f11
Shutter Speed: 1/6th sec
ISO: 100

With the GOBE Variable ND Filter

Taken on a tripod with the filter in Aperture Priority Mode. Edited in Lightroom CC.

Camera: Sony A7Rii
Lens: FE 24-105mm f4
Focal Length: 24mm
Aperture: f11
Shutter Speed: 2 sec
ISO: 100

The Garage Roller Door Test

No Filter - 24mm

This shot was taken on a tripod without a filter in Aperture Priority Mode. No editing.

Camera: Sony A7Riii
Lens: FE 24-105mm f4
VAR ND Filter: No Filter
Focal Length: 24mm
Aperture: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/320th
ISO: 100

Lightroom – image WB has been set to Daylight and lens correction applied.

GOBE Variable ND filter - MIN Setting

This shot was taken on a tripod with the filter in Aperture Priority Mode.

Camera: Sony A7Riii
Lens: FE 24-105mm f4
VAR ND Filter: Set at MIN
Focal Length: 24mm
Aperture: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/125th
ISO: 100

Lightroom – image WB has been set to Daylight and lens correction applied. There is a slight colour variance using the filter

GOBE Variable ND Filter - MAX Usable Setting

This shot was taken on a tripod with the filter in Aperture Priority Mode.

Camera: Sony A7Riii
Lens: FE 24-105mm f4
VAR ND Filter: Set at 5th last box on filter ring
Focal Length: 24mm
Aperture: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/25th
ISO: 100

Lightroom – image WB has been set to Daylight and lens correction applied. The corners are still dark but usable.

GOBE Variable ND Filter - MAX Setting

This shot was taken on a tripod with the filter in Aperture Priority Mode.

Camera: Sony A7Riii
Lens: FE 24-105mm f4
VAR ND Filter: Set at MAX
Focal Length: 24mm
Aperture: f8
Shutter Speed: 8 sec
ISO: 100

Lightroom – image WB has been set to Daylight and lens correction applied. Totally unusable at the MAX setting.

No Filter - 35mm

This shot was taken on a tripod without a filter in Aperture Priority Mode.

Camera: Sony A7Riii
Lens: FE 24-105mm f4
VAR ND Filter: No Filter
Focal Length: 35mm
Aperture: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/320th
ISO: 100

Lightroom – image WB has been set to Daylight and lens correction applied.

GOBE Variable ND filter - MIN Setting

This shot was taken on a tripod with the filter in Aperture Priority Mode.

Camera: Sony A7Riii
Lens: FE 24-105mm f4
VAR ND Filter: Set at MIN
Focal Length: 35mm
Aperture: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/125th
ISO: 100

Lightroom – image WB has been set to Daylight and lens correction applied. There is a slight colour variance using the filter

GOBE Variable ND Filter - MAX Usable Setting - 35mm

This shot was taken on a tripod without a filter in Aperture Priority Mode.

Camera: Sony A7Riii
Lens: FE 24-105mm f4
VAR ND Filter: Set at middle of last box on filter ring
Focal Length: 35mm
Aperture: f8
Shutter Speed: 1/4th
ISO: 100

Lightroom – image WB has been set to Daylight and lens correction applied. The corners are still dark but usable.

GOBE Variable ND filter - MAX Setting

This shot was taken on a tripod with the filter in Aperture Priority Mode.

Camera: Sony A7Riii
Lens: FE 24-105mm f4
VAR ND Filter: Set at MAX
Focal Length: 35mm
Aperture: f8
Shutter Speed: 15sec
ISO: 100

Lightroom – image WB has been set to Daylight and lens correction applied. Totally unusable at the MAX setting.

CONCLUSION

We found this filter easy to use. It gave us so much more control over our shutter speed when shooting at our ideal apertures. The filter is NOT ideal for wide-angle lenses however it does perform better when using longer focal lengths. At AUD$66.00 (77mm) this filter is Highly Recommended.  For wide-angle lenses or if you want a filter that isn’t affected by the ‘X’ effect you may want to consider the GOBE ND2-32 Variable filter – Entry Level (1-5 stops), GOBE ND2-32 Variable filter – Pro Level (1-5 stops), however, these are a bit more expensive.

Get 15% Discount

If you use the coupon code ‘widescenes‘ at checkout you will receive a further 15% discount off any item on the GOBE filters website. 

Disclaimer: Although we are affiliated with GOBE Filters and receive a commission on any sales when using the coupon code, this review is totally unbiased. As Professional Photographers we would never recommend the use of any product unless we use the product ourselves. We did receive the filter with compliments of GOBE Filters but were not paid for this review.

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