Filters are an essential tool in landscape photography. There are different types for different situations; for exposure correction or for an intentional artistic effect.
Filters have been in my bag for many years now and are still as essential as ever. I generally use them to get the image right in camera; on location; to minimize post production and to correct or balance the light of the scene. Also, the effects of some filters, like dark neutral density filters, are designed to prolong exposure time in order to record movement in water or sky which is impossible to reproduce using software.
This review came about as there is a new player on the UK filter market, they have kindly sent me their system and a few filters to review. This is from my point of view and by no means a technical review. I have had experience with many other brands out there including Lee, Format hitech, Nisi, B&W and so have a good knowledge to speak from.
Kase sent me the following:
· Kase K6 filter holder kit including polarizing filter/ K100-x filter system
· Wolverine 100x150mm 1.2 reverse graduated ND(neutral density) filter
· Wolverine 100x150mm 1.2 Centre graduated ND(neutral density) filter
· Kase square filterpackage(carry case)
It must pointed out that their range of filters is extensive, this is only a taste of what they manufacture. On first impression, the packaging and presentation is one of professionalism and quality. Each filter is separately boxed and within that it is presented in a leather type stitched protective case. Inside the case it's wrapped in delicate tissue paper. Very nice indeed. The filter system and carry case are similarly packaged with much attention to detail.
Most filters on the market today are made of either resin or glass. I’ve used both and there are pros and cons for each, I prefer a glass filter over the resin type as they seem more durable, scratch resistant and easier to clean. The obvious disadvantage if you drop one is that it will shatter and they don’t come cheap!
Enter the new Kase Wolverine range of filters!!
Kase have developed a process that makes the molecular structure of the glass more compact making it stronger, in fact twice as strong yet keeping the light transmittance the same as normal optical glass. Below is a link to a youtube video which demonstrates the strength of them, I thought the drop test on rocks is especially impressive, I hasten to add I will not be trying this!
Kase also claim the Wolverine range to have ultra low colour cast, super waterproof making them easier to wipe clean, anti- UV and IR coating helping produce a much clearer image and scratch resistant.
Sounds great so far!
Kase /K6 Filter Holder kit K100-X filter system
This comprises of:
· K100-X filter holder
· geared adapter rings 77-86mm & 82-86mm
· step rings 67-82mm and 72-82mm
· 86mm sky eye X-CPL polarizing filter
· extra slots that can make the 2 filter
holder into a 3 filter holder
· Screw driver to do this and spare light sealing gasket
The holder is quite a sophisticated system made from high quality, anodized, aluminiumto reduce reflections. A locking screw secures the holder onto the lens mount to prevent accidental drops. The clever bit is how the polarizing filter fits. It fits behind the filter holder and can be turned using one finger on a geared ring on the holder itself. Usually, if you are using a square slot in filter system the polarizer is generally the last filter on the holder or if using a screw type, spaces the holder even further away from the lens increasing the risk of vignetting. Very clever! I like that a lot!
Wolverine 100x150mm 1.2 reverse graduated ND filter
I recently took a trip to Anglesey to do a bit of photography so I had the opportunity to put the Kase wolverine ND reverse grad through it's paces.
The scene below was a sunrise shoot at Penmon lighthouse. The top screen shot is an image taken without any filtration; and the one below; with the Kase Wolverine ND reverse grad. I also included a screen shot of both pictures as imported into lightroom.
To show that this an unbiased comparison they are both of the same scene; both RAW files; the same ISO; and with the same shutter speeds to allow for the same effect in the water. There were also no additional adjustments in lightroom.
I've included a screenshot of the picture in the photo editing software lightroom to show the histogram enabling us to compare the pictures digitally. If you are not familiar with histograms; what you are seeing, is a graph with tonal range across the bottom from white to black; and up the side, a count of how many pixels are used per colour. This gives a quick visualization of the picture in digitally.
Reading the histogram; the tonal range. If there is a peak going off the scale either end; there will be no detail in these areas of the picture. In the top picture you can clearly see the highlights at the white end of the scale are blown out. Then in the bottom image they are not and hold some colour value. You will also notice how shallow the peaks are in the top histogram clearly showing that there are fewer pixels recording each colour therefore lacking contrast.
Typically in a sunrise or sunset scene there are naturally very dark shadows and very bright highlights. This is a real challenge for a camera with digital sensor or film; it is has a limited range of light that it can record in one exposure. Typically, a sunrise or sunset goes far beyond that range resulting in blown highlights or no detail in the shadows.
This is where the filtration comes in. By having a filter like the wolverine ND reverse grad, if used correctly, this problem can be overcome; resulting in a photograph that has detail in the shadows; bright but not blown highlights, and overall, just looking natural and balanced.
The filter is darkest at the transition from dark to clear and gradually getting lighter to the top. This is very useful on a sunrise/sunset shoot as the darkest part can be placed at the brightest part of the scene such as at the horizon. The filter gets lighter towards the top of the filter therefore not darkening the top of the scene too much and is clear at the bottom half letting the foreground be properly exposed. Notice how the foreground rocks in the filtered picture have more detail and are lighter yet the sky retains colour and contrast without blown highlights. The Kase wolverine reverse ND grad does this remarkably well as you can see.
The biggest issue I've had with filters in the past is the way they render the colours. Kase claim their Neutral density filters are truly neutral. As you can see by comparing the two pictures side by side; the filtered version has no colour cast; and the colours look true to the original. No problems here!
Shooting at the coast is problematic with the constant sea spray in the air and so frustratingto have to continually wipe clean the filter. This filter I found very easy to clean; a few wipes, with a clean lens cloth, was all that was necessary.
To summarize; a great filter, hard to break, scratch resistant, easy to clean, render colours true therefore very neutral. Very impressed!
Penmon lighthouse without filtration
Penmon lighthouse using the Kase Wolverine ND Reverse Graduated filter 1.2
Wolverine 100x150mm 1.2 Centre graduated ND filter
A centre graduated filter is something I’ve never used or even seen before. I’m pretty sure this is another unique development from Kase. The idea is similar to that of the reverse graduated filter. However, the dark middle section graduates outboth to the top and bottom of the filter becoming clear. The obvious application for this would be in a scene with a low sun therefore placing the dark section over the brightest area helping hold back the intensity of the light but allowing proper exposure of the upper sky, lower sky and the ground. Great idea!
Kase square filter package
What can I say, it's a nice bag, t will holds up to 6 filters both 100x100mm and 100mmx150mm. One section inside is sectioned in five slots to store your filters safely and separately. There is also a separate slot with rubber cushioning which I imagine is for the Kase dark ND filters that must have rubber gasket on them but I haven't seen them yet so I'm guessing there. I also like the single clasp so can be opened with one hand and the fact it can store the holder in the front pocket.