ND Fader Shootout – Heliopan vs. the new GENUS Eclipse

Since over 2 years now,  I use the Heliopan Vari-Grau ND Fader religiously. I tried a lot of different brands before and have to send them all back, because they get ether soft on a long lens or had some crazy color shift to it – sometimes both. The Heliopan – though expensive – was the only ND Fader that was holding up to my standards. 

Now GENUSTECH came out with a new version of their Fader ND. It’s called Eclipse and I gave it a test ride.

Genus

To my surprise, the Eclipse does not only play in the same league as the Heliopan, in some situations it “outfades” the Heliopan.
GENUS jumped through some hoops to make this possible. They use a brand new  laser based method which ensures superior color fidelity and sharpness.

Colorcast and sharpness
When you look at the picture below, you can see, that the Eclipse get’s a bit warmer ( providing more ND), while the Heliopan gets a bit greenish.
Both filters hold sharpness pretty well, even at max settings.

Filters

Mind that you always will get some color cast with polarizer based NDs, there is no way to totally cheat the nature of light – but GENUS did a pretty good job here, to minimize that effect as much as possible – and on the pleasing side, I must say.

What really gobsmacked me – you can see that on the 100% crops below – that the Heliopan seems to introduce some sort of moire in the roof shingles.
I have to admit, that I never saw that before, but I’m glad to see, that the Eclipse doesn’t sow that behavior.

Crops

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Eclipse has more usable ND steps than my Heliopan and you can fade it down much more, before it starts vignetting.
If you go over the max setting, the dreaded X-hatch comes in, like on every other fader that is based on two polarizers – but that’s the nature of the beats and nothing to write home about – just plain physics.

Markings
What I really like,  are the  markings for the stops. Oppose to other brands, they are actually useful.
Because of the nonlinear nature of the polarizers you also need non linear markings to get repeatable results, or – at least – know where you are at all.

scale

Quality
Also the build quality of the Eclipse is better than the Heliopan, which was always a bit to flimsy (especially for the price).
The damping is just right and it turns nice and smoothly.

Conclusion
I must say, I’m surprised and pleased with the Eclipse.
Genus did a great job here and you get a excellent ND fader for a attractive and affordable price.

Fader trick
Since any ND fader consists of polarizers, they act like polarizers.
The level of polarizing and all depends on the angle, the ND sits on the lens. I use an old polarizer ring (where I took out the glass) under the NDfader to dial in the fader effect and the polarizer effect individually. This is important, when it comes to skintones, where you don’t want a polarizer effect at all, cause it kills the subtle sub-surface scattering of light in the skin.

UPDATE: You don’t need that trick on a Heliopan VarND. For some reason the Heliopan shows no polarizer effect at all. I have no idea how Heliopan does this, but it works right out of the box, just NDing and no polarizing.

Also almost every sensor is prone to near infrared pollution. The stronger ND filtration you use the more prominent that effect is.
So you really want some protection here. A filter that cuts the near-IR at about 780nm is the HELIOPAN – Digitalfilter, BLF 1x, LW -0 – if you use heavy ND filtration – fader ore not – I really recommend to get one of those.

Karl von Moller made a great chart with the Eclipse, check it out:
http://t.co/lKgoV1HO

Frank

22 thoughts on “ND Fader Shootout – Heliopan vs. the new GENUS Eclipse

  1. Love your blog and your work. Just wondered if you have yet tested the 68-884405 77mm True-Match Variable Neutral Density Filter Kit. It’s very expensive, but hopefully will solve many of the problems that other Variable ND’s have.

    Thanks,

  2. Nothing surprise, as the Light Craft Workshop already made one.
    They used to have the mk ii version which seems not too good, but then they made the Digi Pro version that beat down any other brand even the Kenko one.

  3. Thanks for the review, very helpful. I didn’t quite understand the last part about dialing in ND/Polarizer separately; because you mentioned the polarizer “ring” without the actual glass; so not sure how you are getting polarization separate from the ND effect in that scenario; unless you meant you are orienting camera angle (relative to light source) and position around the light source(s) first.

  4. Didn’t get the Fader Trick. Can you explain or show this more precisely? Awesome article though! So you would prefer the Genug on your Blackmagic? Wonder when the Genus-Fader will be available in Germany

  5. Frank, can you describe to me what your doing here. You say you use an old polarizer with the glass taken out to dial the fader and polarizer separately? How is that actually working? Confused on how using an old ring without any glass can adjust anything? Also you then say your using a helopan digital filter to cut pollution. Is that also going under the fader? In total are you using 3 different items on top of your lens?

    Sorry for my confusion, rather uneducated in ND filters etc.

    Great job on your snowbells video! Was amazing.

    Clay

    • Okay I try it again.

      The faderND consists of 2 polarizers right?
      So they do act as a polarizer – i.e. taking away reflections and can do funky things to colors and skin tones. Usually you dial in a polarizer by twisting it till the level of filtration you want.

      The ND fader – once screwed on the camera is in a fix position (the one of the two pol filters that sits next to you lens – so the level of polarization is somewhat fixed.
      At what ever random angle this lower glass was installed in the factory, that dictates, how much pol effect you have with your NDfader.

      So you can of course unscrew it a bit, till the pol effect goes away and your reflections and skintones are back to normal. But who wants to work with an halfass screwed on filter? But since they always stay together, it’s more than one big assembly.

      So if you take an old pol filter – that consists of 2 twisting rings – just like a faderND – and take the glass out, screw it on your lens, and the faderND on top of it, you can do two things.

      1. dial in your level of ND as usual
      2. dial in the level of overall polarization, by twisting the whole unit, that now sits on the old empty pol filter assembly.
      Much like a second turning stage in a matte box.

      And yeah, the IR filter goes on top of everything – empty ring assembly – ND assembly and IR filter.

      Frank

      • I use Xume magnetic filter adapters that snap filters onto lenses by magnetism, for quick removal. You can use your trick with them very easily, since the Xume adapted filter rotates freely on the lens. (Although it may be confusing to have multiple rotating elements). xumeadapters.com

      • So IR filter can not be screwed first on the lens and then ND fader? Thanks for great tips and thank you in advance for answer!

        Mir

  6. Thank you for your review. Regarding the combination of IR filter + Genus ND filter + Empty ring assembly, doesn’t this vignette with the SLR Magic 12mm lens on a MFT sensor? I assume everything is 77mm threads, but I am worried that this triple stack of rings may cause vignetting with the 12mm lens. It would be helpful to know if anyone has tried this combination on a MFT camera (like GH2) before spending the money to only find that it does not work.

    • I have the exact same question. I’m considering a 77-82mm step-up ring and ordering 82mm versions of the Xume, Eclipse and IR filters. Except I don’t know if adding a second, generic step-up ring to the 58-77mm ring supplied by SLR Magic will create even more vignetting.

  7. Frank, thanks for sharing!

    Have you tested with long lenses, (200mm or more.)
    The Heliopan is good with 400mm, Genus Eclipse too?

  8. My name’s Zane from Obersammelsdorf, Austria and I just wanted to tell you your article is quite informative. The clarity of your writing is rather good and I can presume you are an pro on this subject. With your approval, would you allow me to grab your RSS feed to keep updated with new posts? Thanks a ton and please continue the great work.

  9. great review thanks!
    i just got the genus eclipse. is there a cheaper IR filter u could recommend? the Heliopan is $300?

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