B+W XS-Pro ND-Vario MRC Nano Filter
Neutral density filters are some of the most useful filters that outdoor photographers can have with them in the field. They permit photographers to technically and creatively control their exposure, which allows them to get the result they desire. For example, when needing to use a shallow depth-of-field aperture setting in bright sunlight or increasing the exposure time to get blurred motion in an image. They’re also very useful when shooting videos as they’ll allow one to maintain the proper frame rate (shutter speed) and aperture settings in bright light conditions.
The B+W XS-Pro ND-Vario MRC Nano Filter is a variable neutral density filter that allows the photographer to control the amount of neutral density applied by rotating the filter ring from 1 (min) to 5 (max) F-stops. B+W has long been known for making some of the highest quality filters available, and its new XS-Pro ND-Vario filter continues this tradition. Made of high quality brass with a very durable black finish, it should last a lifetime of rugged use. The filter rotates very smoothly as you adjust the neutral density setting and stops solidly at each end of the range. I especially like the fact that there are three different exposure setting scale markings around the outside of the filter so that it’s very easy to see your density setting no matter the orientation of the filter.
The XS-Pro ND-Vario filter incorporates B+W’s Multi-Resistant Coating (MRC) with Nano Technology, which makes the filter extremely scratch resistant, produces “a better beading effect with water, making the cleaning of this filter even simpler and faster than ever before” and reduces fogging, according to B+W. As expected, being in B+W’s top-of-the-line filter series, the XS-Pro ND-Vario has excellent image quality. I couldn’t detect image degradation on any of my images, even at the edges. The neutral density quality is also very good; I could only see a very slight greenish cast in my images, which is very easy to remove in post-processing. The colour cast was significantly less obvious than other variable neutral density filters I’ve used.
The XS-Pro Vario ND filter has an extra-wide design, meaning the filter is wider than the lens thread end that attaches to the lens. For example, the 77mm filter I tested had a filter that was actually 82mm wide. The advantage of this is that the wider diameter will reduce vignetting when using wide-angle lenses. B+W says that vignetting shouldn’t occur on most 17mm lenses on a full-frame body, but as all lenses vary I would highly recommend that you try it on your wide-angle lenses to make sure vignetting doesn’t occur. No vignetting occurred on my two different 24mm lenses, but I didn’t try it on any wider lenses.
The B+W XS-Pro ND-Vario MRC Nano Filter is available in all the common sizes from 52mm to 82mm. It’s not inexpensive (about $419 for the 77mm version that I tested), but their quality and durability justifies their cost, and it’s one of the best variable neutral density filters I’ve used.