A few weeks ago Phil and I were lucky enough to be in contact with Haida Filter in China, a company that makes filters and holder kits, with regard to testing and reviewing a few of their filters. Naturally we were more than happy to and so a few days later a box arrived from China with some smaller boxes inside. I had the Start Kit, a 0.9 soft grad and a 3.0ND and Phil had the 100mm holder, CPL, adapter rings, 0.9 soft grad, 0.6 and 0.9 NDs.
On opening the first thing that struck us was the quality of the packaging. Each box is a lovely gloss white with beautiful pictures on to illustrate what’s inside and what the contents do. On opening each box though, we were both blown away. Each filter comes in it’s own padded tin. Other filters come in a pouch or just wrapped in tissue with no real protection. Everything oozes quality. The holder is aero grade aluminium; the adapter rings have a wavy shape machined on the outside for easy grip with attaching to the lens; the CPL holder has a knurled knob on the side for easy turning when it’s fitted as it’s behind the slot in filters; the filters themselves are beautiful to hold, with a silky feel to them. All filters in the Haida range have a Nano coating for anti reflection and protection. It also makes them waterproof. I tested this out by running them under a tap – water just runs off! The benefits of this in the field are already apparent. If rain gets on the filter it will be easy to keep droplet free! The filter pouch is made of a tough textile outer with a soft padded insert with enough space for 6 filters. The inner is easily removed as it’s fixed with Velcro.
Attaching the filter holder to the lens is easy as is expected. Simply screw the adapter ring to the lens and then the polariser and holder ring screws to it. The polariser screws in next. The thread is quite deep so there’s no chance of it coming off accidentally. The actual filter holder attaches with a bayonet type set up, so although not as quick as some holders, is very secure. There’s a thumbscrew on the side so the holder can be tightened and fixed in position – a nice little touch. The filters slide in very smoothly, I would guess due to the Nano coating. There’s a foam gasket at the back of the holder to prevent light leakage when using NDs. If wanted there are spare screws and an extra slot that can be added to the holder for stacking more filters.
Using the filters and Holder
As you would expect from the quality feel of the Haida kit, using it is a joy. Simple and quick to fit the holder to the lens, the nano coated filters slide into the slot like a perfectly machined engine component slides into it’s corresponding part. There’s enough resistance to hold it firmly but, if needed, it can be moved with a sturdy but gentle push. The thumbscrew that holds the holder in place is actually very useful when aligning the grad line. It means there’s no unwanted movement when fine adjustments to the filter are made and cuts out rattling and vibration when windy. There’s very minimum vignetting on my Tokina 11-16 at 11mm. At 12mm there’s none at all. The CPL is easy and light to adjust accurately due to the knurled lever, with good colour rendition and reflection removal. It also has the nano coating making it non reflective and water repellent. I was very impressed from the first outing.
The filters themselves are perfectly neutral with no colour cast whatsoever, with incredible clarity. The graduation on the 0.9 soft grad is very soft. I thought this would be an issue since I normally use hard and medium grads, but it turns out to be very useful when land features are above the grad line and also when setting the grad at an angle for the best control of the light entering the camera. Because it’s so soft there’s no grad line and as a bonus there’s no need to keep moving the filter if you adjust the composition slightly.
The ND I was given to try was their version of the 10 stop. I don’t do much long exposure photography but have a go once in a while when the mood takes me. I’ve used a couple of 10 stop filters in the past, B&W and the Lee Big Stopper. Both have a colour cast; the B&W has quite a warm tone to it, which can be rather nice, and the Lee has (famously) a blue cast which can be corrected in post processing. The Haida though has no colour cast at all even when used along with the grad so stacking the filters is no problem, unlike other makes. The clarity is superb meaning your images will be perfectly sharp (tripod and wind permitting).
The filter pouch that comes in the starter kit is great too. Nothing too fancy, no buckles, just a zip and Velcro, and enough slots for up to 6 filters. There’s a pocket on the front to put the holder and rings, so all the kit fits in one nicely sized receptacle. It fits in the side pocket on my Osprey rucksack that I carry my gear in, like my hashed up Lee pouch does, so it’s always handy when I need to do a quick filter change.
Getting the images on the big screen showed up just how good the filters are. Compared to my usual Lee filters, the sharpness was what struck me. I’m pretty sure my Lee’s are blemish free as they aren’t very old (Less than 6 months) but the Haida’s are on another level. I’m not sure if it is the optical quality glass or the nano coating but whatever it is, it’s fantastic! The neutrality makes processing the RAW so easy. There’s no need to do any colour correction. The detail retained in the shadows due to the graduation means no need for localised shadow correction and it’s the same for the highlights; a universal correction is enough.
Would I recommend the Haida filters and set up? Without a doubt. No colour cast, beautifully engineered, stunning clarity and that nano coating… Awesome!