I’ve used a number of filter systems (both the square system & screw in type) since getting into photography and I’ve always come up with more cons to using filters than pros. Vignetting, colour casts, light leaks, added bulk in the bag & not having the patience for slowing down to use filters on a scene very often were my main roadblocks. It always seemed just out of reach to have the best of all worlds and for that reason I kept it simple and stuck with a couple of screw in filters for many years. This however has led to me lamenting the occasional missed creative opportunity and I was so glad to recently trial KASE filters 100mm magnetic Armour system which claimed to solve all of my concerns.
WHAT IS IT?
Below is an image of the KASE Armour filter kit. The whole system is super simple and fully magnetic aside from initially screwing the system onto your lens. You can use their magnetic 95mm circular polarizer + any strength 95mm magnetic circular neutral density (ND) filter housed in the holder itself limiting any light leaks. You can then further add 100mm or 100x150mm filters onto the front, Graduated Neutral Density (GND) filters for example, which attach via the magnetic alloy frames.
Here are some behind the scenes images of the filter kit in use:
And here is an example of a finished image produced using the KASE 100mm magnetic Armour system showing two different effects:
Creatively any shutter speed can be available by using different strength ND filters, while adding polarization can cut glare from water or other reflective surfaces and deepen blues in skies. Adding a GND allows you to more fully capture the dynamic range of the scene if you have a brighter sky for example. A soft edged GND works better in the mountains, while both a soft and hard edged GND’s work well on the coast or elsewhere. Overall the results aren’t easily or at all repeatable in post processing so your images will have a different look.
I currently use a polarizer, a 6-stop ND, a 10-stop ND and a 2-stop soft GND with the Armour filter system and I should emphasize I only use them if the scene calls for it – more often than not that is just a polarizer on its own. Knowing your filters and what they do mean you’ll know when and where to use them and their various combinations to best effect.
NOW FOR THE PRO’S & CON’S
- No vignetting on ultra wide angle lenses down to 14mm (the 95mm size of the circular magnetic filters avoids this even when stacking filters). Huge plus.
- Stack-ability of filters/expanded creative options – stack a polarizer, and an ND filter in the holder and then further add a magnetic graduated filter or two to the front if the scene would benefit from it. The polarizer is easily rotated once in the holder with a side dial, and the graduated filter can easily be moved up or down to align the transition line with your composition.
- Speed – set up and tear down is very quick with the magnetic nature of the system. You can even leave the filter ring attached and use the provided cap for protection between shooting locations to make it even quicker.
- Robust – the system appears strong and durable. The magnetics are scary strong and the holder has recessed slots for the circular filters for added protection and ease of alignment. Further, for the 100mm or 100mmx150mm filters that you have there is an included outer metal alloy frame for the glass which serves as the magnet but also appears to provide a level of protection as well.
- No, or minimal colour cast – I haven’t noticed any colour cast in the RAW files probably because it is minor if it is there and easily corrected during post processing. This is something that isn’t so easily corrected in some other filters despite their claims otherwise. It is especially noticeable when you edit a lot of unfiltered images and then work on a filtered image. The colour shifts or transmission of certain colours is hard to fix. Not so with these KASE filters.
- Versatility – Just buy the magnetic adapter rings/stepping rings and use the same filters (including your existing 100mm or 100x150mm filters) on all of your lenses.
- No noticeable loss of sharpness or contrast.
- Enjoyment – due to all of the above. The added inspiration to be out shooting knowing you have a lot more creative options and trust with this particular filter system. I’m excited to use these more when the ice on our waterways starts unfreezing here in the Canadian Rockies!
- Bulk – The system is lightweight but as with all filter holders it takes up a certain amount of space which is unavoidable. If you do multi day backpacking trips with your camera gear I would buy the KASE wolverine magnetic screw on filters instead. Saves on space which is so important on a longer photography adventure. Likewise, if you are doing long day hiking trips chances are you will also want to save on the space and prioritize extra layers, food & safety equipment so having fewer and smaller filters might be better for those days. In an ideal world you would have both systems and use them interchangeably!
- This is a minor note but if you are looking to add magnetic adapter rings to your kit like I did (for my Sony 200-600mm lens which has a 95mm thread) take care and ask questions about which adapter rings will work with the new Armour system. I bought the 95mm KASE magnetic adapter ring off a major photo sales website thinking it would work with this system but it did not, it was meant for an older KASE system. It was not clear on the website. You should always ask as this is a brand new system and preferably talk to KASE directly (** I’ve been informed this size adapter ring for the new system is currently in development and should be available soon).
The KASE 100mm magnetic Armour filter system is a kit that shows that they have listened to what photographers want and have delivered. I haven’t used their past systems but can see from specs and reviews that they have been innovative and proactive to arrive at a product like this. A great sign for what is to come for the company and one which has recaptured my interest in using filters more readily again after previous filter frustrations with other brands.
Buy it if you want more creative options in your landscape photography and also value having one of the best options available on the market. Consider the KASE wolverine magnetic screw on filters as well or instead if your photography revolves around a more heavily hiking focused approach where space in your bag is more of a factor.