NOTE: As of Nov. 22, 2019. Since this blog post was first published I have tested and reviewed another similar filter holder from PolaPro. After reading this post (which I still stand by) please also read the newer one here: https://schultzphoto.com/2019/11/21/update-the-ultimate-filter-holder-setup-11-22-2019/
As many of you have read over the years, I’m a big proponent of “getting it right in the camera”. “IT” is the exposure. When the exposure range is outside of the dynamic range of the camera’s sensor, I’d prefer to get the exposure the best I can in the camera, on one frame, rather than shoot over & under exposures and combine them in photoshop and/or lightroom (HDR). And one cannot use HDR very effectively when the subject is moving. In order to get it right in the camera, it’s necessary to use graduated neutral density filters (GND’s, aka: split ND’s). For the longest time I’ve used Singh Ray filters, which I still consider some of the very best filters there are. Recently, in the pursuit of even better quality/clarity/sharpness, I have been testing some new GND filters. And while testing those filters, I also began to search hard for a better filter holder. I FOUND IT !!
For many years I have been using a LEE filter holder with my Singh-Ray Filters. And it works quite well, though somewhat expensive. But as I got into doing more and more experimental landscape work with long exposures, and wanted to use more filters, that filter holder has its limitations. When the conditions are right and I am interested in making a special type of image, there are times when I want to use three types of filters at the same time — I want to use:
* A circular polarizer CPL— to bring out contrast between the sky and mountains and/or to eliminate reflections in water
* A GND— to equal out the exposure between the foreground and the background
* An ND (Solid Neutral Density) in order to “turn the sun off” and increase the length of exposure significantly. Like, for instance to do a 3 or 5 minute exposure in daylight. Either to create silky water, or have the clouds appear to have movement in them, etc. Such as 5, 10, and 15-stop ND filters.
This was shot on my Canon 5D Mark III camera with a 24-105mm f/4 lens at 28mm f/22 for 75 seconds at ISO 100
In order to use those 3 filters at the same time, it is an absolute pain in the neck and an exercise in patience to use the LEE filter holder. One must screw the holder onto a circular polarizer, then add a GND (while you can still see through the viewfinder) and then gently slide in an ND filter behind the GND but NOT move the GND at the same time. Too much time and effort and not very precise. Until now. Thanks to one of my clients who told me about this new holder, I now own and use what I consider to be the ULTIMATE FILTER HOLDER for the serious landscape photographer. It’s from “Wine Country Camera”. Yes, very odd name but one heckuva filter holder. They have thought of everything to make it easy for the serious landscape photographer to create images quickly and more perfectly. What their holder is, and how it is so much better, is best left to them on their site… (and it’s all true!) See link below.
To be fair, I have tested another new filter holder, that of Breakthrough Photography. Their new magnetic filter holder. While this is a really nice holder that has some great uses and new integrations, it does not satisfy the need I have when I need to use all three types of filters because of light-leak from the square ND filter. I have also read in detail the new filter holder of NISI and while I have not tried it, it seems I’ll have the same issues as I have with Breakthrough.
What is GREAT about the Wine Country Camera holder, besides all three filters can be used at once, is that it is so fast and precise to use and there is absolutely NO light-leak, guaranteed, when using an ND filter. Likewise it is VERY easy to put in the ND filter after adjusting the GND just where it’s needed. And because of their brake system for the GND filters, the filters cannot be accidentally shifted. Of course no solution is perfect, it does have a couple drawbacks— size, price, etc. Here are the pros and cons as I see it, of the 3 filter holders that I have used:
What about filters? What kind are you using now and what filter holder? I’m glad you asked. I have tested Singh-Ray, Breakthrough, Blackstone and NISI. I am happy with all of these. For sharpness and the idea of not being easily scratched, I prefer glass GND and ND filters— Breakthrough, Blackstone and NISI all have great results from using quality Schott glass made in Germany. BUT, they are heavy and they can break, unlike the Singh-Ray resin.
As for what filters and holders I use, I now have two different kits for GND filters and I do have screw on CPL filters for when I just need that filter. Here is what I use now:
Serious Landscape Photography:
* I have screw-on circular polarizers made by both Singh-Ray and BreakThrough when only using a polarizer and no other filters.
* I use the wine country camera holder and use:
* Their Blackstone CPL
* Breakthrough’s glass GND’s & NISI’s glass GND’s — I am using NISI because I like their “medium” transition filters as apposed to “soft” or “hard” from other manufacturers
* I use one Singh-Ray 5-stop square ND (because it’s good and I have had it a long time) and now use Breakthrough’s glass square full ND’s — 10, 15 stop.
Backpacking or on Iditarod when I need to travel light and when not anticipating using ND’s for extra-long exposures.
* I have screw-on circular polarizers made by both Singh-Ray and Breakthrough when only using a polarizer and no other filters.
* I use the LEE or Breakthrough filter holder with Singh-Ray resin GND’s in order to be lightweight and compact.
Here is where you can read more about all the filters and holders and order yours today:
I recently published a review on the wine country camera filter holder in the Alaska Society of Outdoor and Nature Photographers newsletter the Viewfinder. you can reas that here
Breakthrough Filters— http://breakthrough.photography?rfsn=1496441.1847a
Singh-Ray Filters — Use code: schultz10 for 10% off: http://singh-ray.com/
Lee Filter Holder: Click here