Electronic variable NDs using liquid crystals seem like one of the more unbelievable products until you realize that the technology has not only been around quite a while, but that other companies have been doing it successfully for some time — like RED with their Motion Mount. Most notably the technology is used in Sony’s FS5 to give a much larger range of ND stopping power, and also to give much finer adjustments similar to a typical variable ND but without the color shift.
In this case, Aputure has taken their DEC Canon EF to E-Mount/MFT adapter (which also comes in a “Speed Booster” variant), and simply added the electronic variable ND inside. This new Vari ND is apparently an improvement on the previous LC-Tec/Genus product that was circling the trade shows as late as IBC 2015, and should be able to overcome some of the color shifting and back focus issues of the previous iteration.
As for how it works, the Variable ND starts at a power of ND8 (ND .9) and goes up to ND2048 (ND 3.3). This is a range of 3 to 11 stops of Neutral Density, which lets you use lower f-stops in bright sunlight even with a higher native ISO. This is terrific for keeping a rig lightweight and run-and-gun, while still giving a result that should be more accurate and better-looking than a traditional variable ND (which uses two polarizers stacked on top of each other). All of this can either be controlled with the remote or right on the adapter itself.
One of the downsides of this technology, however, is that the adapter is always applying at least 3 stops of ND to begin with (slightly more than RED’s version), so Aputure is planning on allowing you to be able to remove the filter from the adapter, so you can still shoot with the Canon EF to E/MFT adapter in situations where you don’t need the ND.
There is no price or availability yet, but expect this to retail somewhere north of the bare DEC adapter, which starts around $340. We should have more information about release date and final pricing by the end of this year.