Years ago when I was first starting to use lens adapters with my Lumix GH2, I remember wishing there was an adapter on the market that had a built in ND filter. I had no idea if this was at all possible from an engineering or design perspective, but just felt that having the ability to control ND filtration easily across every adapted lens would be a lifesaver.
Like many of you, speed is key for me when I’m on set. I often work on productions with limited time and budget, and therefore am always on the hunt for tools that can help speed up my workflow without sacrificing quality… This of course is why I thought an adapter with a built in ND would be so invaluable.
Not long ago, Fotodiox released a line of products to serve this very need – their ND Throttle adapters. They are designed to adapt a wide variety of glass (Canon, M42, Leica, etc.) to cameras with mirrorless mounts like those offered by Sony, Blackmagic, Panasonic, and Fuji amongst others.
While I’ve been keeping my eye on these adapters for some time, I only recently found a direct need for one as I’ve been shooting more and more with my Fuji X-T2, and have been wanting to adapt my Canon glass to it.
So a couple weeks ago I decided to order the adapter and test it out to see how what kind of optical performance it was capable of.
Here are my thoughts…
CANON EF – FUJI X ND THROTTLE
My first impressions of the adapter straight out of the box were quite positive. It felt well built and sturdy on my camera. It had no issues locking into my X-T2 (some adapters are a bit tight or loose), and it held even some of my heavier glass quite firmly.
On a totally superficial note, I don’t like the color of the throttle ring. It’s a metallic blue that kind of cheapens the look of the adapter (and therefore your whole setup), and I much would have preferred it was all black. I know that’s nit-picky, but still…
Shooting with the adapter though, proved to be a really positive experience all around. The day I got it I took some on the fly test shots to gauge how it would perform under real world circumstances, and was definitely impressed.
I could tell even from the EVF on the camera that the filter wasn’t introducing any major color shifting, and after experimenting further in post I was really able to see just how well the image clarity and sharpness held up.
One complaint I did have while shooting was that the actual ring on the adapter (to adjust the ND setting) felt like it could have been tighter. I wouldn’t call it loose, but it was loose enough that you could accidentally knock it out of place without realizing. After a few shots I got in the habit of double checking the setting before each shot, but it would be nice to have it lock into place more firmly to avoid any potential slip ups.
Another thing I realized quickly was that I was definitely going to need another adapter with no ND filter at all. Fotodiox states that this adapter will cut 1 to 8 stops of light (depending on your setting), but to my eye the low end is really more like 2 stops. This of course means in low light situations a normal adapter that will allow the light to fully pass through would be preferable.
Neither of these things really affect image performance or quality as long as you are using the adapter properly… They are just considerations to take into account when determining which scenarios it may be ideal (or not) for.
For me, I knew the ultimate test of whether this adapter would become a staple in my camera kit would come down to color performance. And while I was largely optimistic (based on what I was seeing in the EVF while shooting), I still had to dig a bit deeper to decide if I could really trust the adapter on a real shoot.
Virtually all ND filters (but especially variable ND’s) are prone to color shifting, and often can cause images to look warm/green when used at stronger levels. Unfortunately this is the case even with some of the higher end variable ND filters on the market, so to perfectly honest I wasn’t expecting the world when it came to this $79 adapter.
That said, the results actually exceeded my expectations by a long shot.
Take a look at the images below… All of them are JPEG stills from my X-T2 shot in Astia Soft mode at ISO 200.
The first is a still captured with no ND filter at all –
The second image is using the ND Throttle at almost full strength –
While there certainly is some degree of color shifting, it’s not that severe at all considering the fact that the ND was stopped down almost the entire way. I would confidently shoot with this and color correct in post as needed. Also – it’s worth noting that the color shifting is virtually identical no matter how you have the ND Throttle set. In other words, cutting 2 stops of light vs. 8 stops will have about the same amount of color shifting.
For good measure, I wanted to compare the performance to my Tiffen 77mm Variable ND.
This is how the image looked with the Tiffen only (no ND Throttle used) –
Take a look at them side by side now. On the left is the ND Throttle and the right is the Tiffen. Both are set close to their maximum strength –
Clearly the ND Throttle performs better.
This was surprising to me as I assumed that Tiffen (who after all specializes in making filters) would outperform a discount brand like Fotodiox, but clearly I was wrong. While price can certainly be factor with regards to quality, the other variable here is size…
I would have to assume the Fotodiox outperforms Tiffen at a lower cost thanks to the significantly smaller amount of glass required for the filter. Presumably Fotodiox can use higher quality material, as Tiffen needs to cover a much larger (in this case 77mm) size while still keeping costs competitive.
Whatever the case, it’s pretty great to know that this adapter can be relied on for professional work. It’s by no means perfect, but it’s good enough to be trusted on a real production if needed, and can easily be color corrected in post to neutralize any minor color shifting.
So in a nutshell, I would highly recommend this adapter for those of you looking to simplify your workflow on set. It certainly has some room for improvement (as I’ve already outlined above), but when used carefully and under the right circumstances it will deliver great results.
Many of you have been asking for more X-T2 footage, and I plan to release some more soon! I have been busy finishing my feature film in time for festival submissions, but with that process now coming to a close I look forward to documenting my X-T2 projects in more detail soon.
Noam Kroll is an award-winning Los Angeles based filmmaker, and the founder of the boutique production house, Creative Rebellion. His work can be seen at international film festivals, on network television, and in various publications across the globe. Follow Noam on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook for more content like this!