It's been already 8 years that I decided to become a full time photographer and five years now that I specialized in black and white time exposure. Throughout those years, I have used many different types and brands of ND filters with some disappointments and surprises.
I started with a cheaper set of circular filters from Hoya, back then it was a great bang for the buck but it had its limits; vignetting was apparent at 16mm to 18mm on my wide angle lenses using only one filter, you can imagine that stacking them involved a major cropping and loss of pixels. Also, the color cast was awful, really... For a B&W photographer you may think that it is not important, for some cases you are correct but for the majority of my shots true colors are essential in order to reveal contrast and grades by working them separately. And you know, I still enjoy shooting sunsets... This was a while back, I haven't followed the brand after that but I am pretty sure they came up with much better products.
I then tried Lee Filters Foundation Kit . Very promising at first but major downsides after a couple of sessions. The color cast was fine as long as I did not filter too much, the more stops the worst it became but still much better the Hoya system. The deal breaker for me was light reflection (light sneaking in between filters). I lost many shots due to the reflection of the barrel of my lens on the exposure, for some I could even read the lens info.
Examples of light reflection
Which brings me to the last kit I owned till this day, Formatt Hitech 165mm with a lucroit filter holder. Very impressive gear. The size and weight of the kit itself could justify the high end price... $200 and plus for a single filter and a smacking $140 for a plastic filter holder, well done but still, it's just plastic. Add to that heavy duty adapter rings and a bag to carry all that on top of the backpack... The "firecrest" glass is good, no color cast whatsoever and pictures are sharp as can be. Very good glass but very fragile! It happened to me a couple of times when I accidentally knocked over my camera on the tripod trying to move from an uncomfortable position and both filters didn't make it, even just one filter on cracked by falling on the grass. That is a big disadvantage considering the costs for replacement. Finally, depending on how I positioned my gear from the sun, I was getting major light reflection, The only remedy I was able to come up with was to cover the whole set up with an extra large black T-shirt tying the collar around the filters, effective also for light leakage but not practical.
As effective as it is, I had to be very careful not to mess up the composition and the manual focus.
So far, Formatt Hitech has been my first choice, despite the price and some flaws that I managed to work around. The quality of the product is undeniably excellent. I actually thought that it was the best out there, until Kase happened.
By the quality of the packaging I could tell that Kase is not messing around. The filter holder and each filter come in a solid protective box, the kind smart phones are packed in, nothing is loose, and each filter comes in a nice magnet lock "leather" pouch lined with felt.
The set that works for me, 10nd, 6nd, 3nd and 3nd grad.
OUT OF THE BOX
Every piece is super light and feels rock solid, which is their selling point, and I really like it.. The K9 set comes with the filter holder, a 82mm and 77mm adapter rings, and two step up rings for 72/82mm and 67/82mm, a magnetic polarized filter and two sets of filter slots, 2mm preinstalled and 1.1mm for the slim version, the one I chose.
Knowing my troubles with light leakage and reflection from my actual gear, I was very happy to see that Kase thought about placing foam directly on the filter holder, perfect when using a grad filter in the first slot because it does not come with foam unlike the other filters. It may get a little harder to slip them in the first slot because of it but I rather have that then an unusable exposure.
The red wheel to rotate the polarized filter while using square filters is just an awesome feature, and the screw lock for the adapter ring is viable and firm, unlike spring locks.
IN THE FIELD
Let's get to the point. Kase products are excellent. Easy to use, solid, light and smart.
The adapter ring screws in very easily and the filter holder slips in right away, no hustle. The magnetic polarized filter synced with a little wheel is a genius idea because I can still use it with my ND filters on, furthermore, without adding any vignetting while shooting with my 16mm lens, quite remarkable and it opens a door to more creativity.
As expected, there is no color cast, no loss of clarity or details. everything you want from professional gear.
Easy fit for the magnetic polarized filter.
Grad filter in the first slot is secure by the foam on the filter holder.
Kase came up with an excellent product line that will satisfy the most demanding photographer and it will inspire the enthusiast. After a few sessions, I am totally impressed and ready to get rid of my older gear without any second thought. The only negative point that I have is not really one. Unfortunately, Kase does not have an adapter ring for my tilt-shift 17mm lens (yet...?) and it is my to go lens for architecture, I don't see myself not using my favorite lens anymore, and because of that I have to keep my Formatt Hitech set. Other than that, I'm all in!
Canon 5D mkIV, 16mm f8 iso400 30sec, Kase ND 3 stops grad.
Canon 5D mkIV, ts-e 24mm, f8 iso100 4sec, 6nd+3nd grad.
Canon 5D mkIV, 16mm f8 iso100 300sec, 10nd+6nd.
Canon 5D mkIV, ts-e 24mm, f11 iso100 250sec, 10nd+6nd.