I bought a inexpensive variable neutral density filter, this ND2-ND400 variety. I wasn't expecting a whole lot because of the very low price point, but I think I'm either using it incorrectly or my unit is defective. Do I simply need to back off the maximum filtering setting until the results are acceptable? It seemed to provide very minimal filtering when I reached and acceptable point, maybe ND8 or so. Is this cheap ND filter only usable up to something like ND8? I am shooing with a full frame camera and a 17-40mm lens.

17mm, approximately maximum ND filtering: enter image description here

40mm, approximately maximum ND filtering: enter image description here

17mm, less then maximum ND filtering: enter image description here

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    \$\begingroup\$ Normally we do not recommend a polarizer on such a wide-angle lens.... except you used two of them! They don't cancel each other out :) \$\endgroup\$
    – Itai
    Commented Feb 15, 2013 at 3:35
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Itai - So would your suggestion be to use a square solid ND filter over a threaded one on my wide angle lenses? Forget the vari-ND threaded? \$\endgroup\$
    – dpollitt
    Commented Feb 15, 2013 at 20:09

1 Answer 1


Yes, that cross effect is common with all variable neutral density filters, especially with very wide angle lenses (12-17mm). You'll have to do some combination of zooming out or backing off the maximum density.

I did some experimenting with a mid-range filter in the blog : Marumi ND2-400 Variable ND Filter Review. The effect was almost non-existent at 17mm with that filter, but noticeable at max density at 12mm.

The filter I tested did give roughly 7-8 stops. It was roughly an ND2 at its minimum. You should certainly get better than ND8 from it.

  • \$\begingroup\$ Does it means the cross effect is only on the variable filters. Then I can use a ND400 (or ND1000) on a wide angle without this effect? \$\endgroup\$
    – рüффп
    Commented May 5, 2014 at 15:19
  • \$\begingroup\$ You could use a non-variable filter with none of the problems you see with the variable filters. One caveat is that with wide angle lenses the light is passing through more of the filter material towards the edges of the frame (passing through at a shallower angle), so there is likely to be more attenuation, even with a fixed ND filter... \$\endgroup\$
    – BobT
    Commented May 24, 2017 at 17:30

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