Quickie Review: NiSi Square Filter System + NiSi 8ND x Circular Polariser

Many would have thought having Photoshop or Lightroom in their arsenal of post editing software would be enough to enhance their photos after the fact. The thing is there are a lot of things that can be done at the point of shoot including getting rid of reflection, making the skies go deeper blue, the foliage a bit more green and allow things underneath the surface of the water to be seen. All these can’t be solved with software and those who likes to shoot landscape will normally use filters to help achieve better results.

Here’s a short introduction to filters. Filters as the name suggests, is a porous device (and in this case, plastic or glass lens) that either add or take away certain elements into the frame of the picture. There are a lot of filters but I will only concentrate on 3 main filters that we would use for landscape photography.

  1. Circular Polariser (CPL) – This is normally used to cut glare and reflection. It is like putting on sunglasses so that one need not squint. The benefit of having a CPL is that it also removes reflection so that objects that is behind say a car window pane can be seen.
  2. Neutral Density (ND) – Neutral Density is somewhat similar to the CPL but it doesn’t really cut the glare/reflection. Its main job is to lower down the intensity of the light to allow the lens to make use of wider aperture to get shallow depth of field effect on their photos. The second use is to allow the camera to drag the shutter speed further so as to introduce a more silky effect from a moving cloud or a waterfall in bright daylight.
  3. Graduated ND (GND)- No this filter is not more learned just because it graduated. Essentially it means the top part of the filter is darken and can either gradually (soft grad) or abruptly (hard edged) transit to fully transparent. What it does is to cut down the amount of light so as to achieve a balanced exposure value between the brighter parts of the frame in relation to the darker parts of the frame. For example, during sunset or sunrise, the intensity of the sun may tricked the camera metering system to under exposed hence losing details in the darker parts of the frame. The GND will cut down the light from the sun so that details can be obtained.

Apart from CPL, GND and ND has varying degree of light stopping power but we will leave it for another day.

For filters there are the screw on type filter and then the slot in filters. For CPL which is a screw on type of filter, the front element of the filter must be able to move so as to cut the glare from the moving sun. As the sun moves, the angle in which the light hits the camera sensor will be different and the CPL must move to counteract the reflection. For GND it is moved only when the camera changes orientation and the ND filter doesn’t need to move at all. GND and ND are typically slot in filters.

NiSi Square Filter System with Built-In CPL

NisiV3

Imagine having to stack these three types of filters and we will have a problem. Normally the slot in filters has to be positioned in front of the camera lens but with the CPL filter installed, it would mean taking out the filters first with the holder, turn the CPL correctly to cut the glare and reflection then reposition the filters again. It would mean constant adjustments when one shifts the camera position.

In the end in most my landscape shots I will not use the CPL, hence there will be reflection, glare, less contrast and less deeper blues and greens in my landscape photos.

The NiSi Square filter system actually solves this problem. The CPL is screwed unto a movable platform which is part of the filter holder system and then the square filters are slotted in front of the CPL. The beauty of this system is that I do not need to take out the square filters and I can just rotate the CPL using a small wheel located at the side of the filter holder. There are two wheels so that no matter what the orientation of the filter holder, the CPL can be rotated without touching the orientation of the slot in filters.

The CPL itself can be taken out of the holder system.
I fixed the CPL to the adapter with the filter holder taken off from the adapter. The adapter is screwed into the lens as normal lens filter method. Once I slot in my square filters, I can then place the holder with the filters in front of the adaptor.
Now the filter holder is installed into the adapter. You can see that the CPL filter is just behind the square filter. Both filters can move in different directions independently without affecting each other – that’s the beauty of the design of this particular filter holder system by NiSi.
One of the two wheels on the adapter you can access to the CPL without taking off the filter holder. That means the filters holds its orientation – important for GND filters – and yet the CPL can change direction to cut the glare.

So now I can have all the benefits of the CPL along with the slot in filters. With the CPL, it actually creates another layer of filter so it cuts down light too hence I can drag the shutter speed even longer for the silky smooth water effect. The solution is simply elegant.

Here is one of the result of using the new holder system

The water around the rocks is actually very choppy and so the ripples can be seen but using the CPL with the ND filter, the water is smoothen out. The longer the shutter speed, the smoother the water and that would mean cutting off more light.

The system is quite versatile in a sense I can leave the adapter on the Tokina 11-16mm f2.8 lens if I wish and then use the CPL during the day like any other CPL filters and then fix the filter holder towards the end of the day. But what if you do not want to bring square filters along?

NiSi ND8 + CPL

ND8 & CPL. Now that’s something unique. And the profile of the CPL is pretty thin so vignetting is not evident until 11mm or 17mm for full frame. Even so, it is just a wee bit darker at the corners. Pretty impressive.

The solution is this unique ND8 with CPL combination. That means you have two filters fused into one and is much more convenient to bring out than a square filter set with a CPL. Because of the super bright summer sun in Korea, the presence of the ND8 do allow me to use f2.8 for some shots and hence was quite versatile. Only when I need to have a pretty good depth of field using f5.6 and above do I take it down. Then again with ISO performance this good, I can just push the ISO up to compensate the slower shutter speed anyways so can just leave the filter on. Of course to maximise the image quality, best to use the lowest ISO possible with the tripod.

The reflection is nullified with the CPL.

Price

The 100mm CPL filter with holder system costs SGD218 (USD158)

ND8 & CPL

  • 52mm – SGD64.90
  • 58mm – SGD66.90
  • 67mm – SGD68.90
  • 72mm – SGD72.90
  • 77mm – SGD82.90
  • 82mm – SGD99.90
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