NiSi V5 100mm filter system – Review
I know what you are going to say; earlier in the year, I preached on about why you do not need to use filters, and now here I am writing a review about some new filters. What is going on I hear you shout from the back.
Let me explain. While I personally feel that some filters are completely pointless and a waste of money (especially UV / Protection filters), there are some filters out there that do indeed provide a meaningful purpose. ND (Neutral Density) filters, Graduated ND filters and polarising filters are all, in my view, worth having in your bag, especially if you do landscapes. Now I know there will be some people who say that the effects most of these filters provide can be replicated in post; ND filters can be replicated by taking several of the same shot and stacking them in Photoshop, while graduated filters can be replicated by using the cunningly named graduated filter option. These tools are perfectly acceptable to use, but the more adjustments you make to an image, the more noise you can inadvertently introduce. Being able to make some of those adjustments in a more analogue way helps maintain the quality, and frankly it is more satisfying to see something closer to the real image straight out of camera.
There are loads of different filter sets, ranging from a few quid to a few hundred quid. The NiSi filters fall into the “few hundred quid” category, and while that may seem expensive, I stand by my views on chucking cheap plastic in front of carefully designed expensive glass!
Let us first look at the V5 holder. At around £120, it is one of the most expensive holders out there. The Lee holder is approximately half the price, however when you factor in everything you get with the NiSi V5 holder, its value for money starts to shine through. With the Lee Foundation holder, you need to buy the appropriate sized adaptor ring separately, and they are not cheap. If you want a circular polariser, you will need to get the additional polariser adaptor and the polarising filter, and they are even less cheap! What started out at half the price of the NiSi system has now become almost double the price!
What you will notice straight away is that the system comes in its own classy leather coated box, a lovely touch! The next thing you will notice is that unlike many other holders, everything is made from CNC’d aluminium and feels beautifully made; no cheap plastic here. The holder is held in place with a spring loaded latch, which does initially look a little on the weedy side but once the holder is in place it is not going to go anywhere. The holder has slots for three filters, as opposed to the Lee Foundation holder, which only has two but can be expanded, albeit for more money.
The NiSi comes fully supplied with rings for the most common sizes of lens. There is the main ring that the filter holder attaches to, which is 82mm and will fit onto the most common wide angle landscape lenses. There are also three separate rings supplied in the kit, which allow you to mount the main ring to lenses with a 67mm, 72mm or 77mm thread. It is a slightly different system from the norm, having a main ring and then additional adaptors for that, but all makes sense when you screw in the supplied circular polarising filter! Oh, did I forget to mention the V5 system comes complete with a circular polariser at no extra cost?
The circular polariser screws into the main ring, which has two little scroll wheels that spin the polariser around. It is a slightly slower method of adjusting the polarising effect, but it is really not that much of an issue. What I do like is it keeps the polariser nice and close to the lens, so vignetting is virtually non-existent, even with a 16mm lens on a full frame body. The filter holder then clips over the top in a nice neat package. The polariser can be fitted or removed depending on your mood, although have some cloths handy as it can be a little tricky at first and you are likely to get some fingerprints on it.
The filters themselves, as with the holder, appear at first glance to be more expensive than other filters on the market. One thing that quickly becomes apparent though is that all the filters NiSi supply are glass, not resin like some other filters. This keeps optical quality as high as possible; which is essential. Special coatings on the filters help repel water, reduce streaks and prevent scratches. The ND filters are foam backed, creating a full light seal with no leakage. Each filter even comes in its own individual leather pouch with a magnetic flap to keep them scratch free.
There are a great choice of IR NDs, soft edge graduated NDs, hard edge graduated NDs, and reverse graduated NDs in varying strengths, all glass and all with the Nano coating.
The filters fit quite snugly in the holder slots; tight enough that they won’t fall out, but not so tight that they are a struggle to insert and remove. Other non-NiSi filters also fit (providing they are the 100mm system) but I have noticed filters such as Lee are a hair thicker than the NiSi ones, and do feel a little tighter in the holder. This is easily resolved by winding the mounting screws back just a small amount.
Something that was pointed out by another user is that the NiSi filters, when compared to Lee filters of the same strength, are just not quite as dark. To be honest, I do not think it will ever be a real issue, and it is hard to say whether NiSi are lighter than their quoted intensity or whether others are darker than their quoted intensity. If they provide the effect you want, and your exposure is correct, it is a very small detail and you would never notice.
Image quality is exactly as you would expect, in the fact that you cannot tell you even have a filter fitted (aside from the obvious exposure difference!). White balance is unaffected; these filters are 100% neutral with no colour cast, and detail remains as high as without them fitted. I have not experienced any vignetting from the system, or from the filters themselves, which is common with some cheaper alternatives.
Overall, I think this is a fantastic system and while initially it seems a lot of money, by the time you have spec’d up other filter systems to the same level, the cost of the NiSi system is much easier to justify. You really do get what you pay for, and that is a very quality product manufactured to a high standard. That quality can be seen throughout the range, even down to the leather-coated pouches; it is little details like that, that make the difference!
If you are interested in purchasing a NiSi system or filters, check out www.philnortonphotography.co.uk. His service is second to none and he is happy to offer advice on what will suit your needs best, to make sure you get exactly what you want!
“It has to get 5 stars. I cannot find any areas that need improving; it is a fantastically well-made system, with proper thought put into it. The range of filters do exactly what you need of them, and to a really high standard. The details are what make it stand out from the rest, and I just love the retro, classy leather cases!”