Ergonomics may not be something that is directly discussed in the workshops and classes you’ve attended on landscape photography but as one progresses further into the craft, one will realize that equipment that allow you to adjust and adapt promptly to sudden changes in the scene are crucial in getting the shot that you want.
One of the more tedious parts of setting up for a shot is mounting your filters on a filter holder. It can go from a simple screw-in of a circular filter to two, three, maybe even four layers of glass to achieve a certain effect on your photograph. Often, removing, adjusting, or changing your filters take as long as mounting them and sometimes, especially in extreme environments, a matter of a few seconds really make a difference.
A 3-minute long exposure photo with a stack of 4 filters (CPL, 10-stop, 2 0.6 GNDs)
If you’re the kind of photographer who really takes care of their gear, a filter holder can last at least 5 years without really any need for some kind of maintenance. In fact, I’m pretty sure that the first filter holder I got 8 years ago is still functional and is being used by the guy who bought it from me. So really, the only valid reason to get a new filter holder is when something with better durability and/or design comes out and it usually has to be significant for it to be compelling. The last time I decided to change filter holders was when the Benro FH100 came out, one of the first filter holders with a dedicated slot for the Circular Polarizer on the filter holder. It was a breakthrough because before that, you’d have to screw in a CPL on to your lens then the adapter ring to mount your filter holder. That significantly lessened the hassle of mounting filters and I’ve been using that system for the last 3 or 4 years. I really never saw a reason to change into another filter holder until I saw the H&Y K series Magnetic filter holder. Here are the things that really got my attention.
The filter holder generally has the same 2-piece mounting system that has been common for the past decade or so. The adapter ring that goes on the filter thread of your lens, and the filter holder itself. The only significant difference here is the very thin yet very durable adapter ring.
H&Y Filter Holder Adapter ring
The mounting screws are similar to the ones on the Benro FH100 where the screws grasp a good chunk of the adapter ring like upper and lower teeth instead of the kind from the older holder designs that only involve one screw applying questionable friction from one side. This mechanism actually gives you the feeling that your filters are securely mounted and the holder will never fall off unless the entire camera or the entire tripod falls to the ground.
Holding the camera by the filter holder, the mounting doesn’t fail
The CPL slot may very well be the only part of this setup that is brand-exclusive since the slot is very specific to the specifications that H&Y made for this filter system. The CPL filter is a drop-in filter on the very first (and only) slot of the holder. There is no thread involved so the amount of time to mount the filter decreased from 3-5 seconds to just a mere snap.
CPL control gear
The dedicated CPL has a gear on the top-left corner that allows for easy access to rotating the filter without having to rotate the entire setup. There are also variants of the CPL that are combinations of CPL and various types of ND.
Glass filters in Magnetic frame
Glass filters have pretty much wiped out the popularity of resin filters because glass filters have generally proven to be more color neutral. The down-side of this, of course, is that while they are not as prone to scratches as the resin filters, they have more affinity to breaking even with just one standing-height drop. There are glass filters that are said to be shock-proof but they come with a bigger price tag. The H&Y K series filter holder makes use of hard plastic filter frames that require a few minutes of assembly but provide for some additional protection on the rims of the filter. So in case your filters fall to the ground with the sides taking impact, they have better chances of surviving. Do note that the installation of the frames may get a bit tedious but rest assured that you would only have to do it once.
This is the highlight of this filter system. For all other filter holders, filters would have to be inserted into slots one at a time. I personally follow a pattern that puts the densest filter (mostly a 10-stop) on the slot nearest the lens to give the AF a better chance at focusing when the field gets too dark. For all other filter holders, that would mean that the rectangular GND would be in front and changing the filter on the first or second slot would mean having to remove all other filters and that’s precisely what takes time.
Mounting the first layer on the side rails The H&Y K series filter holder uses magnets to mount the ND and GND filters (in their individual frames) much faster. You can either attach them one by one by simply putting the filter on the front most surface between the guide rails then latching each one on top of the other, or assemble your stack of filters on-hand before latching them all with the same motion. The side rails that affix to the first layer has ridges that give a better grip on the frame and a screw on the side allows you to tighten or loosen the side rails. The ridges also give you a bit of a tactile feedback for when you slide your filters up and down for certain positions of your GND.
Multiple filters stacked
It is important to note that much like any other magnet, the frames have two sides marked by a star, or the absence of one, that corresponds to polarity of the magnets. Of course only the non-starred surface would latch on to the starred surface which means that basically all the stars should be facing the same direction.
Markings on the frames signifying polarity
Personally I have tried leaving a total of 6 glass filters stacked together on the holder with my camera on a tripod for over an hour just to see if the filters would even slide down but they did not. An experienced landscape photographer will generally never use that many layers of filters so that means that your 3-4 filter setup is generally safe and can be securely held by the magnets.
The best part of changing into this system is the fact that my old filters can be used with the magnetic frames (except the CPL, of course). None of the filters I am using in this setup are H&Y (most are Firecrest) and the magnetic frames have a snug fit on all of them. The diameter of the plastic on the frames are fairly thin which lessens and tendency for light to reflect between the layers of glass and create a flare. The magnets speak for themselves in assuring that they won’t make room for any light leak.
Firecrest and Benro Filters on the H&Y Filter Holder
All things considered, the added protection, compatibility, and the ergonomic system make the cost of this holder system worth it. While there’s generally nothing wrong with the old ways of mounting filters, but for about 50 dollars more (compared to Benro and Nisi), you get a quicker and more comfortable way of doing it.
What I Liked:
- Added Protection for your glass filters
- Sturdy mounting design
- No more too-tight or too-loose slots
- Slot-in CPL with control gear
- Quick mounting with magnets
- Compatible with other 100mm format filters