Cokin NX-Series filter system At a glance:
- 100mm filter holder kit
- Fits lens threads up to 95mm
- Holder accepts up to three filters
- Professional kit includes seven filters
Once upon a time, Cokin was practically the only game in town when it came to square filters. Its A and P systems provided photographers with a mind-boggling array of special effects in the 1980s and ‘90s, many of which were, in retrospect, of questionable taste. But with the increasing popularity of ultra-long exposures in landscape photography, the market shifted toward high-end systems based around circular polariser (CPL), neutral density (ND), and graduated neutral density (GND) filters.
Cokin has never gone away, though, with its EVO holders and premium Nuances Extreme filters aiming to maintain a foothold in this competitive market. Now, with its latest NX-Series holder, the firm has gone back to first principles and come up with an innovative new design. It aims to work with 16-35mm wideangle zooms without any vignetting, while minimising any light leaks that could degrade image quality.
To help achieve these goals, Cokin has decided to house ND and GND filters in metal frames, which both maximises their usable area and protects them against accidental drops. Strikingly, the firm has also done away with conventional screw threads and slots for attaching the filters to the holder. Instead, they’re all held in place via a unique system of small sprung ball bearings. The result is an elegant system which is impressively quick and easy to use.
Cokin NX-Series Professional Kit
At £690, this is the most comprehensive NX-Series kit. It contains the filter holder along with adapter rings for 82mm, 77mm and 72mm lenses, plus a matched cap. Seven filters are included: a CPL; 3-stop, 6-stop and 10-stop NDs; and hard, soft and reverse 3-stop GNDs.
Everything fits into the supplied case, which boasts a shoulder strap and detachable rain cover.
Cokin NX-Series: Other kits and pricing
Aside from the Professional Kit, Cokin offers the NX-Series filter holder in the following kits:
- Starter Kit (£219.99): This includes the filter holder, polarising filter, carrying wallet, three adapter rings (72, 77 and 82 mm), and an adapter ring cap. It also comes with one 100x100mm frame and one 100×143.5mm frame (which fits Cokin’s Nuances Extreme GND filters, but not those from other brands).
- Long Exposure Kit (£269.99): Includes the same filter holder components, but in place of the empty frames, it has a Nuances Extreme 10-stop ND filter mounted in a frame ready to use.
- Landscape Kit (£359.99): Includes everything from the Long Exposure kit and adds a soft-graduated 3-stop neutral density filter (S-GND8).
- Expert Kit (£539.99): Takes the Landscape Kit and adds a reverse-graduated R-GND8 and hard-graduated H-GND8 filters.
Cokin NX-Series filter system: How it works
While the NX-Series design uses a similar set of components to other square filter holders, Cokin has carefully reconsidered how everything should fit together, to reduce the front-to-back profile and minimise vignetting. So while it uses the same screw-in lens adapter rings as the existing Z-Pro 100mm holder, which are available in sizes from 49mm all the way up to 95mm, everything else has changed.
The filter holder itself is a pared-back aluminium affair that’s lightweight yet rigid. It attaches to the lens adapter rings via a sprung silver clip on one side, while a small, geared wheel on the other is used to rotate the polariser. Felt light seals are positioned at both the top and bottom.
The polariser itself is an unusually generous 92mm in diameter and absorbs only a single stop of light. It simply snaps into place from the front of the holder with a little firm pressure, which allows it to be placed close to the lens’s front element.
When it comes to fitting ND and GND filters, the usual plastic slots have disappeared from the holder completely. Instead, the filter frames have grooved edges that allow them to slide into place against an arrangement of four ball bearings on each side. This takes a little getting used to, but after some practice works very well.
As usual, when you’re using an ND filter, it’s supposed to go closest to the camera. Unfortunately, there’s no clear way of knowing from behind the camera when you’ve got it centred, which is a little disappointing. You’d have thought that Cokin could have engineered a subtle click-stop into this design.
Also, while the light seal sits tightly against the metal frame, there’s a thin but visible gap to the filter glass itself. This is probably more of a theoretical problem than a practical one, though, and you’re unlikely to get problematic light leakage unless the sun is directly overhead.
Graduated filters then slot into place in front of the ND. The metal frames stack together very neatly, and sliding the grad filter up and down to adjust the transition is particularly smooth. One minor quirk is that Cokin’s GNDs are slightly smaller than usual, at 143.5mm rather than 150mm in height, but they still do the job perfectly well.
Cokin Nuances Extreme filters
Cokin’s simplest Starter Kit includes a matched polariser for darkening skies and controlling reflections, with the more expensive kits adding selected filters from its premium Nuances Extreme range. These are made from shock resistant tempered mineral glass, with a nano metallic alloy coating promising neutral colours.
The Pro kit I had for review includes three ND filters that allow you to experiment with long exposures, for example to smooth flowing water or make moving subjects disappear. Their 3-stop, 6-stop and 10-stop densities provide plenty of creative control.
In addition, three 3-stop graduated NDs allow you to balance bright skies against darker foregrounds. You get a soft grad for general use, a hard grad for use with straight, flat horizons or ultra-wide lenses, and a reverse grad for sunsets.
Cokin NX-Series filter system: Framing filters
If you already own a set of 100mm filters, you’ll need to fit them into frames. This is a very easy; they simply drop into place, and are secured using a screw-on tab. Just don’t think for a moment you might swap them around in the field; you’ll really need to buy frames for all your filters and fit them at home.
Frames are available in three sizes: 100x100mm for NDs, 100×143.5mm for Cokin GNDs, and 100x150mm for GNDs from other brands. They’re designed to hold 2mm-thick glass filters, which are pretty much standard, and cost £17.99 each.
Cokin NX-Series filter system in practical use
The real test of any filter system is how well it works when you’re out shooting, and here the Cokin NX-Series kit acquits itself well, slotting together quickly and easily. Everything fits very neatly into the supplied case, which has sufficient space to hold six filters along with the adapter rings and front cap. There’s a convenient pocket for the holder on the front, while the polariser has its own separate protective pouch. The case has a shoulder strap and belt loops, but I was disappointed to find that it doesn’t have Molle-type attachments for fixing it to the outside of a camera bag.
I saw no perceptible loss in sharpness and detail when using the filters on the 24MP full-frame Sony Alpha 7 II. In addition, they gave no problematic additional flare or ghosting when shooting with the sun directly in the frame. This is aided by the fact that the filters are very easy to clean, with fingerprints simply wiping away with a microfibre cloth.
I also tested for possible vignetting using both the Sony FE 16-35mm F4 ZA OSS zoom and the even wider Laowa 15mm F2 Zero-D prime. Impressively, neither showed the slightest hint of vignetting when the holder was set to any angle with a full complement of filters fitted.
Both the polariser and the neutral density filters are extremely neutral, adding no perceptible colour cast in normal use. Shooting a colour test chart under controlled lighting revealed a tiny warm shift from the polariser, but it was cancelled out by a fractional cool cast from the NDs. The ND filters all perfectly match their specified densities, too, so you can use shutter-speed calculator apps with confidence.
Perhaps the only practical disadvantage that the polariser is rather awkward to remove in the field. You first have to remove the ND and GND filters, then either prise it out from the front (which is pretty much impossible if you’re wearing gloves), or remove the holder and press it out from the back. In this respect it’s not as neat as the Kase K9 system, in which the polariser clips magnetically onto the lens rings.
Cokin NX-Series filter system: Our Verdict
There’s plenty of competition when it comes to high-quality 100mm filters systems, but Cokin has made a very strong case for itself with its new NX-Series holder and kits. It’s quick and easy to use, won’t vignette with lenses as wide as 15mm at least, and the Nuances Extreme filters are of high quality. My only real criticism is that the polariser isn’t as easy to swap in and out as with some other systems.
At £690, the Master Kit may look pricey. But with seven filters included, it represents excellent value for money. Compared to the Kase K9 Master Kit, for example, you get an extra filter for £100 less. It’s also surprisingly rare to get a reverse grad in this kind of kit, perhaps because they’re considered less useful than conventional hard or soft grads.
All-in-all, I’ve enjoyed using the Cokin NX-Series and been pleased by the images it helped me produce. For serious landscape photographers looking to invest in a high-quality 100mm filter setup, the Professional Kit is a fine choice that should cover most shooting scenarios. But it’s also worth looking at the other kits to determine which best fits your needs and budget.