They’re very popular in cinematography circles for their cine lens lineup, and just a couple of months ago, Irix Lens released a new range of variable ND filters. They say it’s one of the slimmest and most compact ND filters in the market. The Irix Edge Vari ND 2-5 filter comes in two versions – the Magnetic Mount System (MMS) version and the more standard screw-in version. I received a copy of the latter for our review and was pleasantly pleased with the color rendition and lack of X pattern banding in the images taken with it.
Too Long; Didn’t Read
There was no X-pattern whatsoever when using this lens, which is a boon for landscape photographers. During the Irix Edge Vari ND 2-5 filter testing, I didn’t observe any color shift. The addition of a tiny protruding knob makes it easy to turn and adjust the neutral density strength without accidentally smudging the filter with your fingers. It’s got 24 layers of coating to reduce reflection and keep it oil-resistant and waterproof. No real complaints with this filter; Irix has produced a strong competitor in the variable ND filter segment.
Pros and Cons
- 24 layers of anti reflective coating
- Oil resistant and waterproof elements
- No X-pattern banding
- No vignetting even at 24mm
- Super smooth rotation of front element
- No color cast / shift even when doing exposures over 180 seconds
Irix claims that this is one of the slimmest ND filters on the market, and at 4.7mm, the MMS version of the Irix Edge Vari ND probably is. The screw mount version isn’t much thicker at just 6.2mm. The 24 layers of coating have to be some kind of record though. Irix says this reduces reflections and keeps oil and dust off the filter.
Taken from the product page of the screw mount Irix Edge Vari ND 2-5 filter:
|Filter Type||VariND 2-5|
|Sizes||67 72, 77, 82, 86, 95mm|
|Coatings||Antireflective – both-sided, multilayer|
|Special-type coatings||Double-sided Nano type coating – dirt and moisture repellent|
The screw mount Irix Edge Vari ND 2-5 filter comes in a simple but adequate plastic case. It’s got a cardboard branded sleeve that helps prevent accidental opening of the case when inside your bag.
The inside of the case is padded with thick white foam and has a circular slot for the filter to sit snugly in. There are two cutouts for your fingers to easily lift the filter out of the case.
At just 6.7mm, it is possibly one of the thinnest filters in the market. The MMS version of the Irix Edge Vari ND is even thinner, taking advantage of the lack of the screw-on threads for its slimmer profile. Keeping the filters this slim ensures that vignetting is kept to a minimum (not that I noticed any during my tests).
These filters are made of lightweight, durable aluminum and coated black. The coating possibly helps prevent stray light from reflecting off the edges into your sensor when taking a long exposure. Irix hasn’t stated what glass is used in the construction of these. They do say it’s of the “highest quality optical glass which guarantees the high light transmission.”
Ease of Use
I used to carry around a bulky square filter pack with multiple lens size adapters in the past. I often avoided carrying them around for fear of accidentally dropping these expensive filters while mounting them. Currently, most of my primary lenses (Nikon 17-35mm, 24-120 f4 Z mount, and 70-200mm f2.8 F-mount) are all 77mm in diameter. The Irix Edge Vari ND filter easily slips into any backpack or messenger bag pocket without taking up much space.
I’m always super careful (some might say overly) when mounting lenses and filters. Well, I’m this way with most of my camera gear. Mounting the filter to the front element of my lens was straightforward, but the anti-slip grip around the edges helped me hold it firmly. The sides of the filter don’t feel flimsy or fragile at all, thanks to these grips.
The little knob helps you easily adjust the strength of the neutral density without having to grip the edges of the filter and accidentally smudging the front element.
Vignetting, color casts, and X banding are the three primary factors by which I judge the quality of any variable ND filters. When I first used the Irix Edge Vari ND 2-5 filter on my Nikkor Z 24-120mm f4 S lens, I noticed slight vignetting in the corners at 24mm (observed in the image above). I realized soon after that this was due to the presence of an existing UV filter on my lens. There was no noticeable vignetting after removing the UV filter and mounting the Vari ND filter directly onto the lens.
Being a screw-on type filter, it’s not always convenient to keep mounting and removing the filter when you want to switch between long and short exposure images. I deliberately arrived at my first test location well before sunset, so I could test the color correctness of the filter when doing images that didn’t need long exposures. I have to say I was pleasantly pleased with the results, and at all ND settings there was no color shift seen in the images. This lines up with Irix’s claim of this filter being color neutral. The below shots are unedited and taken with various levels of ND strengths.
Completely non-existent. I found no instances of this whatsoever during four days of testing the Irix Edge Vari ND 2-5 filter. I did however, notice unusual banding on one occasion only (seen in the above image). This was at 24mm, taken when the sun was almost directly behind the camera. There was nothing to my right that could have cast the shadow seen in the bottom right of this photo. It didn’t last too long either, so I’m dismissing it as a temporary anomaly.
What’s the ‘cinematic look’ that Irix claims you can achieve with this filter? This would probably be the ability to use an extremely wide aperture in bright lighting conditions. The ability of the Irix Edge Vari ND 2-5 filter to provide varying degrees of brightness control would help you achieve this. Get your subject popping out of the background with shallow depth-of-field even in very bright sunlight.
I’d say it’s not just this. I liked the filter’s contrast at its base setting, up to ND 5. Even when I wasn’t shooting long exposures, I noticed an added punch in the colors and shadows while using it. Lens flare was also incredibly well controlled.
Extra Image Samples
From day one, The Phoblographer has been huge on transparency with our audience. Nothing from this review is sponsored. Further, lots of folks will post filter reviews and show lots of editing in the photos. The problem then becomes that anyone and everyone can do the same thing. They’re not showing what the filter can do. So we have a section in our Extra Image Samples area to show edited and unedited photos. From this, you can make a decision for yourself.
- No visible color cast
- Anti slip grip edges
- Inclusion of knob for easy adjustment of ND strengths
- No X pattern banding
- Dust and oil resistant
- Some visible banding when shooting with the sun behind you: a possible anomaly with my copy of the filter
The Irix Edge Vari ND 2-5 filter checks a lot of boxes when it comes to what a good quality, durable ND filter should have. Irix claims this is one of the thinnest ND filters available today, although that tagline is probably more suited to the magnetic mount version. It’s color neutral which helps to avoid doing any color corrections in post-processing: something that plagued most neutral density filters for years. Portrait and landscape photographers will both find this filter useful and helpful in creating some really pleasing images. Irix has maintained the high manufacturing standards seen on their cine lenses with this range of filters.
For its neutral color results, lack of vignetting and X-banding, and excellent control of sun flare, I’m giving the Irix Edge Vari ND 2-5 filter 4 out of 5 stars. Want one? Check them out on Amazon.