If you use graduated neutral density filters regularly, the news from Aurora Aperture may be something to explore: the company claims to have develop the first variable Graduated Neutral Density (GND) filter.
With a hard transition and a continuous range of 5 stops, the new Aurora PowerGXND may not be the filter to solve all your needs for balance between dark and light areas of your images, but it is a step in the right direction. While a soft transition filter may still be needed for some moments, this new filter will probably fit well within the workflow of many landscape photographers, and also in a videographer’s tool bag. In fact, if it works as claimed, it may well be something of a new experience to try on video.
“The Aurora PowerGXND family is the world’s first variable GND filter,” said Jeff Chen, founder and CEO of Aurora Aperture Inc. “offering a wide range of light balancing capability for both photographers and videographers. Until now users need to carry multiple fixed stop GND filters with light reduction values of one, two, and three stop with no fractional stop value. With our variable GND filters, all you need is one filter and just rotate the filter until you see the desired result, it is truly that easy.”
Aurora Aperture went to Kickstarter, again, for this new project, and with 26 days to go today – the crowdfunding was launched on January 13th – the $8000 goal is almost reached, meaning the filter will be a reality. In fact, Aurora already announced plans to expand on the initial specifications, due to the interest from supporters.
Graduated Neutral Density filters come in fixed values, and you usually change to the filter value adequate for each shooting situation. While with ND filters the introduction of filters allowing to change the density, a bit like rotating a polarizer, was possible, designing a graduated neutral density filter is more complex. Until now, apparently, at least for hard transition GND filters.
Until now users have had to carry multiple GND filters, each offering a different value in terms of light reduction. Not anymore, according to Aurora. The PowerGXND is all you need, as the filter rotates and offers any value up to 5 stops. There is another interesting aspect to this filter: the PowerGXND is continuously variable without fixed value limitations. When you change regular GND filters, you jump from 1 stop to 2 or more, while this filter adjusts to any intermediate value. Not only you do not need to change filters, you can also better fine tune any exposure adjustment. For videographers this may be an interesting feature and one reason more to try the Aurora PowerGXND.
The filter offers 5 stops variation and comes with a hard stop, meaning the filter can be rotated between minimum and maximum without overshooting the functioning range. This feature, highly demanded by users that have had to contend with filters that go beyond the usable range, introducing an X over the image, makes the filter, once more, a potential asset for video usage. Aurora says that the hard stop is implemented to maintain the already thin frame profile as in the original PowerXND 2000 filter design. The PowerGXND features a brand new direct reading scale which indicates the approximate value. This allows users to quickly dial in a filter to a desired stop value.
Based on the PowerXND 2000 filter family introduced in 2016 by Aurora, the PowerGXND features Schott B 270 i Ultra-White Glass and high quality polarization film. With multi-layer nano coatings applied, like the PowerXND 2000 and PowerND filters, these filters are capable of answering the demands of 4k videos and modern high density sensors.These coatings are applied to the glass surfaces on both sides of the filter. Perfluoropolyethers (PFPE) are used as hydrophobic and oleophobic coating agent so the filter surfaces are able to repel water, soil, and dirt.
Although the PowerGXND is a circular filter, it was designed to be used with square filter systems such as Cokin, LEE and other, through an adapter plate. The PowerGXND filter can be rotated and locked in the adapter plate while the plate can be moved within the square filter holder. This will allow users to adjust the brightness transition within the captured shot.
For users who do not have a square filter system yet, Aurora offers a simple yet effective ultra low profile square filter system along with the adapter plate. The three slot ultra low profile square filter holder is designed to reduce the distance of the lens surface to the first stack of square filters. This reduces potential vignetting caused by square filter systems with ultra wide angle lenses.
There are three ultra low profile square filter systems available:
- 130mm system compatible with Cokin X-Pro and 130mm (width) square filters, adapter rings of 82, 77, 72, 67, 62, and 58mm included.
- 100mm system compatible with Cokin Z and other 100mm (width) square filters, adapter rings of 62, 58, 55, 52, 49, and 46mm included.
- 75mm system compatible with LEE Seven5 and 75mm (width) square filters adapter rings of 49, 46, 43, 40.5, 39, and 37mm included.
After the Kickstarter campaign was launched, Aurora updated the information on the website, stating that they are willing to expand the system to 150mm, if there is enough feedback from users suggesting the need for square systems with those dimensions, which are common for many landscape photographers, are important. Apparently there is.
With the update, Aurora also clarified that the PowerGXND is intended to be used with square filter systems, the same way as rectangular GND filters. In fact, the company does not offer the filter stand alone, always packing it with the necessary adapters. Why? So users can effectively move the transition area according to the needs of each specific scene, something that is impossible to achieve with normal circular filters.
The Aurora PowerGXND is now available through Kickstarter. Dealers and general availability will start in May 2018. List price starts from $149 to $329, depending on filter sizes.