After having introduced the Elite system in my blog post on 21st March I did not as hoped get the chance for a proper play with the new system the following weekend. Indeed, I am still waiting!
However, it might be worth sharing a few initial thoughts until I do get a chance to test it properly. With a two week school holiday starting last night the chances of me getting the time anytime soon have evaporated!
Build quality is good, it feels robust in the hand and will be more than capable of taking everyday knocks and bumps. Fitting (screwing) the polariser or ten-stop ND filter into the central part of the holder was slightly tricky until I realised there are two knurled lugs with need to be held whilst screwing the filter in to stop the inner thread rotating. Initially a little fiddly I quickly got the hang of it although I think I will fail miserably at the task with gloves on so it might be a little more problematic in really cold weather. That said the arrangement does seal the holder and filter nicely and I had no irritating internal reflections to deal with. It is not an arrangement for speedy removal of these circular filters though, at least not for me, but in reality how often do we need to “urgently” remove a filter?
The polariser worked well, and with the usual caveats about not using polarisers on extreme wide angle lenses, I found that being able to clip the filter holder on and off very quickly meant that I used it more than I might have done with a traditional screw-in filter attached directly to the lens. I left the adapter ring on the front of the lens, the polariser was screwed into the holder and when not in use I dropped it in my jacket pocket. As my reader will know I do not do technical reviews, there are plenty of those here on t’web, but assess kit from a practical perspective; how usable have I found it. On this count the polariser worked well, combined with ND graduated filters nicely and from a practicality perspective scored well. The image files look good to me and I will definitely be using this combination on my travels.
The 10 stop ND filter works well too and as expected from the reviews I was not unhappy with the colour rendition of this filter. Definitely a warmer colour cast compared to my Lee Big Stopper but I was happy to leave Auto White Balance set and tweak during RAW conversion. Popping the filter holder off to set up and focus the composition was easy and it was then simply a matter of popping it on before taking the shot; no gently easing it down and hoping the gaskets line up with the holder as with the square filter. A very pleasant user experience.
There is a “but” coming however. You sensed that I’m sure! The slightly problematic moment came when I decided to try to tame the extremely bright upper part of the frame with a soft ND grad. Not easy when the ten-stop ND filter is attached – and if you unscrew the ND filter to line up the graduated filter you need to remove the graduated to replace the screw-in filter. Perhaps I have missed something obvious here (and if I have please tell me) but it was frustrating to say the least. On the day I went out it was very sunny, in fact I had to work around harsh sunlight for most of the afternoon, and I was ably to see, dimly, on the Fuji’s live-screen view and line the graduated filter up reasonably well but not with confidence. On another day when the sun was perhaps not quite as bright I strongly suspect I might have had even bigger problems.
So with that in mind, and bearing in mind this was a quick test on an afternoon when I was mainly using the X100T to take street photographs so not using the filters extensively, how was my initial impression shaped by using the filters? Well, still very positive; it is well-made, well-priced and functions as it should. The niggle about lining up graduated filters when using the ten-stop screw-in filter may or may not be a deal breaker, only time will tell, but as an affordable and efficient entry to the world of filter systems it was a solid purchase.
I had a query this week regarding vignetting with this system on a 12mm Samyang lens. I’ve just quickly put the Samyang on a Fuji X-T1 body to check. So long as the filter holder is ABSOLUTELY square then there is no vignetting visible in the viewfinder. When the filter holder is turned even slightly off-true then there is a little bit of vignetting but I sense that it would be very easily corrected in post. Looking at the RAW files on the computer there is a tiny amount of corner vignetting visible, more so with the lens wide open than stopped down but it is nothing to be majorly concerned about in my view – if needs be I might frame a fraction wider than I need and crop in later. Caveat: I’ve not properly tested this “in the field”; this was a “quick and dirty” visual inspection stood in my front garden pointing the camera at a bright blue sky
If I was taking the Samyang 12mm out for “serious” landscape work I’d take the Lee 100mm filters to use with it. HOWEVER if you want to travel light then based on this very quick and very subjective and un-scientific test the SRB kit should work well I think. I will certainly not have a problem carrying and using the Samyang/SRB filter combination for urban work when I’m travelling with just what I can fit in my pockets or a very small bag; I use a Fujinon 23mm f2 prime for urban shooting on the Fuji X-T1 with the 12mm in my pocket “just in case”.