High tech meets high touch in Syrp’s variable neutral density filter
There’s high tech; there’s high touch; and occasionally you get both in the same product.
Welcome to the world of Syrp, a New Zealand company who first came to our attention with their wildly successful Genie motion control time lapse device Kickstarter campaign (more about that device in a future installment, but for now it’s sufficient to write that they raised more than four times their goal of $150,000, bringing in $636,766 to get the Genie launched).
This is a company that knows marketing — and knows how to turn function into occasion the same way Apple does.
And how many of us DON'T understand that?
Ben Ryan at Syrp was kind enough to provide us with their new variable neutral density filter, most recent addition to its expanding product line, and we ran it through its paces. His timing was especially propitious, as Syrp has just announced its expansion into the U.S. market.
Let’s get straight to the bottom line: their variable ND filter works well; at $139, it’s a great value; and except for one small quibble (more in a moment) it’s a joy to use.
It’s even a joy to take out of the box (just compare the packaging to my go-to filter brand, B+W). In addition to the packaging, each filter comes with a lovely leather travel case, a cleaning cloth, and two step down rings.
We coerced – I mean, enlisted the help of – our 17 year-old to test Syrp's small ND filter (67mm with two step down rings for 58mm and 52mm; you can also get the large version, 82mm, with 77mm and 72mm step down rings) on a very bright, late August afternoon.
Test gear consisted of a Canon Rebel SL1 set to ISO 100 (no snarky comments – I ditched my 5D Mk II while I could and replaced it with a pair of SL1’s and a lens or two given my emphasis on video work) and a Canon 50mm 1.4 EF lens wide open. Additional details? We mounted the combo on a Manfrotto 502HD fluid head atop a Gitzo G1128 Mk II carbon fiber tripod, and used a Westcott diffuser to take some of the bite out of the summer sun.
As a control, I compared the Syrp to a pair of single value ND filters I own from B+W, their 0,9 and 0,6.
I love B+W.
We set the aperture to 1.4 – if you’re using ND filters it’s in order to open up the aperture, so why not go all the way? – and set the shutter speed at 1/50 second, the speed at which we generally shoot video. We rotated the filter through each of the almost 9 stops available to us. Good thing, too – it took almost everything the filter had to get to an approximately right exposure (we didn’t bother fine tuning at that point, though of course we could have).
We then removed the Syrp ND and replaced it first with the 0,9 and then added the 0,6 by holding it over the 0,9 (they’re not designed to be screwed together) — which got us to a similarly positive result.
Color temperature and optical clarity to my eye looked flawless with both manufacturers’ filters, though I did see a touch of chromatic aberration from the B+W combo which I chalk up to combining them in a way clearly not intended by the manufacturer.
My one quibble – and the one place where the B+W was superior – was screwing the step-down ring onto the lens. While the step-down ring mated flawlessly to the Syrp ND filter itself, the manufacturing tolerance for the threads which mate to the lens was a bit too tight. It wasn’t enough to prevent me from using or enjoying the filter, but to quote the Zohan, it was not “silky smooth.” Definitely something to be addressed.
I did not have this problem with their 82mm VND with 77mm step-down ring mated to my Canon 28-70 2.8L.
Don't let the quibble prevent you from putting the Syrp on your short list. There are variable ND’s for less, and there are variable ND’s for more (I settled on B+W filters because I could see the difference between that brand and other well-known and often well-regarded brands and thought it worth the money) – but I haven’t seen a filter from anyone that combines optical performance this good with the Syrp’s sense of occasion at any price.
SYRP Available in the United States
From Press Release:
Auckland New Zealand – August 27, 2014 – SYRP Ltd, designers of professional motion control video and photo accessories, announced today the appointment of Inovanti, LLC as their US Sales Management Team. The New Jersey based team from Inovanti is a well-established and highly respected independent consultancy that has been involved in the photography and video industry for over 25 years. Lorenzo Gasperini formally representing PocketWizard and currently celebrating 15 years of service with Sekonic, Japan will lead the team and introduce the unique Syrp product range into the market. During the appointment of Inovanti, Lorenzo stated “From the first moment I saw the Kickstarter video, I knew it was a winner and we were going to be a part of it”.
Ben Ryan, Director of Syrp said “We couldn’t be happier to be partnering with Inovanti in the United States; their industry experience and knowledge about photography and video will be a great asset to our brand. We are really excited to bring the Genie and other Syrp products into the hands of more and more film-makers and photographers throughout the USA and be able to enhance our service by providing dealers with a direct point of contact in the United States.”
Lead by Lorenzo, John Sawyer will assist in sales account management of all potential US dealers. John’s strong cinema background and industry contacts along with Lorenzo’s photography background will be an asset to the brand. Both professionals will visit accounts, demonstrate the products and assist the dealers with their sales and marketing needs, office support will by handled by Dana Barry at their New Jersey base.
The partnership with Inovanti in the US also coincides with the setup of a new Philadelphia based warehouse which will manage fulfilment of Syrp products directly from the US drastically cutting down shipping times and cost to dealers and ultimately end customers.
Since Syrp’s highly successful launch of the Genie – Motion Control device into the market via Kickstarter, the company has released two new products; the Magic Carpet Sllder and Variable ND filter and will continue to develop new innovative technologies focusing on simplicity and usability. Ben Ryan said “In addition to our enhanced US operations we have scaled up to a new 250m2 design studio in Auckland, New Zealand. The facility will allow us to employ additional expertise in software, design and engineering that will handle all R&D of new products as well as marketing and customer service.”
(cover photo credit: snap from Hugh Brownstone)