Panavision Liquid Crystal ND Filter

Neutral density filters are an absolute necessity for reaching your desired F-stop in all types of lighting scenarios and this means swapping out expensive pieces of glass in front of your lens (unless you have built-in in-camera NDs). Panavision is showing off a prototype filter that promises to make your future on-location life just a little easier. The filter uses liquid crystal technology and I had an opportunity to try it out at Cinegear 2018.

It feels a little like magic when you see it: Click a button and you can seamlessly hop between 0.3, 0.6, 0.9, 1.2, 1.5 and 1.8 ND increments on a single piece of 4×5.65 glass. I didn’t have a chance to mount the filter on a camera at the show, but Panavision promises no tint or unwanted coloration is added to the image throughout this process.

The filter is powered by a watch battery and lasts for a week or more. Yes, a full week. Only having to battery swap once a week certainly makes the pain of having yet another type of battery to track on location a little less painful.

When is it available and how?

While the technology is promising, don’t stop investing in high quality ND filter kits just yet. Panavision says the filter won’t be ready for primetime until at least 2019 and the company is primarily a rental operation, so getting your hands on one may be tricky. Also, the filter needs to be powered, so I’d expect only certain matte boxes will be compatible. So, for now we’ll have to use the trusty ND filters that we’ve all gotten used to over the years.

What NDs are you using? Do you think variable NDs will be the future or do you rather continue to trust the “fixed ones”? Let us know in the comments below.