Any company attempting to make filters quicker, more convenient and easier to use has Damien Demolder’s vote, as he rounds up the latest magnetic systems.
The ancient Greeks discovered magnetism 600 years before the birth of Christ when they noticed that the naturally magnetised lodestone attracted iron, and by the 12th century the Chinese were using lodestone needles to navigate their way around their part of the world – and some parts belonging to others.
Since then, magnets and the theory of magnetism have been used to further civilisation in an incredibly broad range of areas, from televisions, to computers, bank cards, alternative medicine, APS film and colourful holiday mementos to stick on the fridge. It seems absurd then that photographers have had to wait until 2020 for Sigma to invent the magnetic lens cap, and almost as long for filter manufacturers to introduce a screw-free way to connect their products to a lens and to each other.
I believe H&Y was the first company to introduce filters that connected to a holder using magnets, and now suddenly everyone has had the idea. We’ve reviewed the Kase Wolverine and Revolution Magnetic Circular systems already, so now it’s time to look at some other manufacturers using the technology, if in slightly different ways.
The idea of using magnets in filter systems is to make attaching and un-attaching them quicker and easier. Sitting at your kitchen table screwing filters on and off the lens might seem simple and straightforward, but when you are up a hill on a windy day, or desperately trying to capture the moment before the sun disappears into the sea and the tide goes out, marrying the thread of a filter to the thread of a lens can feel like the last thing you want to do – and it will take at least twice as long to get the filter to bite as it did in the kitchen.
This collection of magnetic and push-on systems aims to take at least some of that stress away, and by doing so to encourage us to use our filters on those occasions when we mightn’t be bothered to go through an awkward, fiddly process.
Velium MagRota VND Basic Kit
Price: $361 / approx. £300
For 67-95mm threads
Velium MagRota VND Basic Kit contents (82mm):
- 82mm MagRota holder
- Magnetic cover
- Adapter rings for 67mm, 72mm and 77mm
- 2-part 2-5 stop VND comprising polariser and VND element
Velium is new on the scene here and has produced a MagRota system that it intends to aim at still and video shooters. The system employs a MagRota holder that screws directly into the lens. These come in sizes from 82mm to 95mm, and the 82mm unit comes with adapter rings to allow it to fit on lenses with threads from 67mm.
Once in position, the holder can accept a series of ultra-thin filters that connect magnetically and which clip into place to prevent accidental rotation. When a filter needs to be rotated, the holder has a pair of large cut-outs that give us access to a knurled ring into which the filters are mounted, so we can turn them easily. The ring locks into place when we want filters to remain still.
In the interests of keeping the filters very thin and light, Velium gives us the variable neutral density filter in two parts – a fixed polariser and a polariser that rotates within it. These have to be mounted in the right order, and while the instructions make this sound complicated, actually doing it is straightforward.
Further filters connect directly to the last and hold together securely but offer a finger-nail space to pull them apart. The company offers quite a wide range of variable neutral density, IR-cut fixed NDs, blue or gold streak filters, black mists and a circular ND grad.
Velium MagRota VND Basic Kit Rating:
Ease of use: 4/5
Colour: Quite warm
K&F Concept Nano Series
- Price: From £46
- For 49-82mm threads
K&F Concept Nano Series Kit contents:
- Magnetic adapter ring
- Magnetic filter
- Magnetic cap (not with variable NDs)
K&F Concept’s Nano series of magnetic filters is certainly the simplest of the group, and the least complicated in terms of fixing and switching. Each circular filter comes with its own magnetic ring that screws into the lens and the filters just snap on to it. The firm offers a range of polarisers, neutral density and black mist filters in this range, which is aimed at stills and video photographers. The variable ND has hard stops to prevent cross polarisation.
Switching filters simply involves lifting the existing filter off the ring and attaching a different one. The attachment rings are extremely thin as are the filters themselves, so combining the two doesn’t add very much to the front of a lens and means they will work well with wide angle lenses without blocking the view in the corners of the frame.
The strength of the magnets, and the fact that the filters fit inside the ring a little, means they feel fixed securely in place and won’t just drop off or get caught in the wind. Filters are also very easy to lift off the rings so swopping them out is quick and easy.
Filters can also be stacked as each fits inside the last and will hold as securely as if attached to the original ring. However, as the filters turn with little resistance within each other it can be hard to control those that we do need to turn – such as the circular polariser and the variable neutral density filter. That is the price of the simplicity of the system. When no filter is attached there’s a magnetic cap to cover the lens so you can keep the ring on all the time.
K&F Concept Nano Series Rating:
Ease of use: 4/5
Colour: Touch warm
NiSi Swift VND Kit 1-9 stops
Price: £184.90 – £274.90
For 67-95mm threads
NiSi Swift VND Kit 1-9 stops contents:
- 1-5 stop VND
- 4 stop ND (to make 1-9 VND)
The NiSi Swift series is not a magnetic system but it follows the same idea – just with push-on filters that connect with mechanical force rather than attraction. The basis of the system is a 1-5 stop variable neutral density filter that screws into the front of your lens. These filters come in sizes between 67mm and 95mm, and can be supplemented with other filters that are designed to push-fit on to them.
The 1-9 stop VND kit comes with a 4-stop ND, which converts the base 1-5 stop VND to a 5-9 stop filter. Then further filters can be push-fitted onto that – such as one of two strengths of Black Mist filter. The filters feel secure once pushed on, but you need to ensure they are fitted evenly all the way round, and you may need to remove your gloves to pull them apart afterwards. Step-up rings are available for smaller threaded lenses, and the adapters have a heavily knurled edge to make undoing them a lot easier if they get stuck.
If you don’t want to use the variable ND as your base connection to the lens, an adapter ring comes with the kit so that the Mist or fixed ND filters can be used on their own. While the kit is nicely made and the rotating VND parts feel very nice indeed, it’s all on the verge of being a bit fiddly. But having a 1-9 VND in such a small and lightweight package might make all that worthwhile.
NiSi Swift VND Kit 1-9 stops Rating:
Ease of use: 3/5
Colour: Quite pink
Kase Armour Entry Kit
Price: $599 / £530
Kase Armour Entry Kit contents:
- 2x adapter rings (77mm + 88mm)
- 2x step rings (67mm + 72mm)
- Magnetic filter holder
- Magnetic CPL
- Magnetic ND64
- 100mm magnetic 0.9 ND grad
- Big red push on plastic back cap
- Black rubber magnetic cap that clamps to adapter ring
The Kase Armour system is easily the most solidly built of the kits on test here, and that which benefits from the finer engineering. Ulike the others on test here, it works with both round and square filters. The set comprises an adapter ring for the front of your lens and a holder that connects to the ring magnetically. The aperture of the holder is wide, so the same holder will do for lenses with front threads between 67mm and 95mm.
The holder I used contained a circular polariser loaded from the rear that marries with the red knurled dial on the side of the holder so that it can be turned easily once in position. The front of the holder allows a second round magnetic filter to be held in place, and shown here is the ND64. The front of the holder offers guides for users to mount 100mm rectangular filters, a clamp to hold them in place and plenty of flexibility for shifting graduated filters into positions up and down the frame.
While the whole system feels really very nicely made, Kase has employed the strength of magnet that scrap dealers use for lifting cars into the crusher, so those without strong fingers may find it really hard to remove adapter rings when the kit isn’t attached to a lens. A neat catch on the rear ensures more than magnetism will keep the holder attached the ring.
The company offers mostly fixed-power and graduated neutral density filters and polarising filters in round magnetic form, and NDs in 100mm format with the option of magnetic frames. I also found that 100mm filters with magnetic frames from other brands will also work with the Armour holder, and Kase sells its own magnetic frames for regular 100mm filters.
Kase Armour Entry Kit Rating:
Ease of use: 4/5
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