Matt Parry investigates a potentially revolutionary new filter system for landscape photographers
At the Photography Show in early 2019, H&Y Filters showcased their innovative K-Series system to a UK audience. Like many others, I was intrigued by what this relatively unknown brand had to offer. Were they just another one of a growing number of filter manufacturers in a competitive, crowded market? Or did they truly offer something different to landscape photographers?
I decided to take a closer look to find out.
K-Series Holder & CPL
At the heart of this system is possibly the most versatile holder currently available. The K-series holder builds on some of the clever innovations seen by the likes of Kase, Nisi, Benro and Haida – the 95mm circular polariser, one of the most useful filters in the sense that its effect can’t easily be replicated using software, sits within the holder itself and therefore behind the square / rectangular filters.
But unlike most of their competitors (Haida use a similar drop in system in their holder), this is accessed using a drop-in slot, making it one of the easiest and most practical systems around, as it allows the polariser to be removed or swapped out without having to remove the front filters. Not only that, instead of the excellent 95mm circular polariser that comes with the holder, H&Y offer a range of ND circular polarisers and NDs (currently ND 8, 32 and 64 CPLs and ND 1,000, 4,000 and 65,000).
The circular polarisers all work from a dial on the top corner of the filter, which is easy to use even with thick gloves on. If you don’t want to use a filter in this slot, then there is a cover which prevents any light leak.
The holder sensibly comes packaged with four adapter rings (67, 72, 77, 82mm) which means many of your lenses will be covered straight out of the box without further investment. Other step-up rings are available to purchase seperately – I picked up a 52mm to work with some of my film SLR lenses.
It is hard to find fault with this holder, but if I would change anything, it would be the way it attaches to the adapter ring. Unlike the simplicity of the Benro, Nisi or Lee holders, the H&Y holder has to slide onto the ring and small wheeled screws on the back fix it on. While this keeps the holder streamlined, I find it a bit fiddly to put on and take off.
Onto the front filters. The K-series holder works with 100 x 100mm square and 100 x 150mm rectangular filters but again, unlike their competitors, this is a fully magnetic system that doesn’t rely on slots. The magnetic frames on the filters make them easier to handle, reducing the liklihood of fingerprints, as well as helping to keep the holder streamlined and removing the limitation of how many filters you can stack.
You might well be sceptical about how practical or safe a magnetic system is in practice, but it really does work very well. The filters are easy to adjust, and a screw on the holder’s side bar can lock them into place. While the magnets are strong, there is a risk that you knock them off accidently but it would need more than a gentle knock to do so.
Despite all the benefits of the system, anyone investing in high-end filters should primarily be concerned with the optical quality of the filters. Once again, this is an area in which this system excels. Notably, the 100 x 150mm Graduated Neutral Density filters are made from Corning Gorilla Glass III which offers superior optical performance compared to SCHOTT glass (which most other glass filter systems are made from).
I found all their filters to be optically superb with no discernable colour cast or reduction in image quality but for a comparison against other systems I recommend taking a look at on-landscape who conducted a detailed and thorough review of the optical quality of 15 filter systems (spoiler: H&Y came out top).
Build quality is also an important consideration and once again this is a stand-out feature. In addition to enhancing optical performance, the Corning Gorilla Glass III makes them virtually unbreakable and hard to scratch. That is of course according to H&Y’s tests (some of which I’ve seen first hand) as I doubt any real-world users would be brave enough to try it out ourselves, at least on purpose.
Adapting existing systems
Filter systems are not cheap and many photographers invest heavily and so may be unwilling or unable to change. As a long time user of Lee Filters, I spent many years and a fair amount of cash accumulating their kit. I like the results I have achieved from these filters and don’t want to part with them. The good news is that I don’t have to!
If you own Lee, Nisi or Formatt Hitech filters, or 100 x 100mm and 100 x 150mm by 2mm filters from any brand, you can buy kits that can incorporate them into the H&Y magnetic system. This is very straightforward to do and everything you need, including a screwdriver, comes in the packs.
The frames are essentially four magnetic strips that clip work with any 2mm thick filter. The holder adapters work by unscrewing the drop-in slots and replacing them with the enclosed magnetic plates and side bars. Simple!
Is the H&Y system for you?
If you are considering investing in a new filter system, H&Y is a fantastic option. The innovation and thought that has been applied to the design and build of this system, coupled with the optical quality of their filters, should make them a serious contender for a place in your kit bag.
The system is good value and while you will potentially be paying a slight premium for some of the graduated filters, you are essentially investing in the optical quality and durability of the glass.
If you are not looking for a full system overhaul but, like me, you want to keep most of your existing filters and switch to a better system holder, or perhaps just want to adapt your existing holder and filters to an innovative magnetic system, then this too becomes a very simple and affordable option.
Who’s it for? Landscape & architectural photographers looking for an innovative, high quality and easy-to-use filter system.
Why should you care? Because filter systems are an important part of a landscape photographer’s kit and there are a lot of great options to choose from.
What do we think? H&Y have created an innovative, versatile system that has something to offer photographers either looking to adapt their existing filters or invest in a new magnetic holder paired with robust, optically superb filters.
Matt Parry is an award-winning travel photographer whose images and articles have featured in leading travel and photography publications. He has presented videos, led workshops, and given talks on travel and cityscape photography. To date, Matt has visited 60 countries across six continents. Follow his travels by visiting @mattparryphotography on Instagram or mattparryphoto.com.