Ten years ago I decided to start using filters for my landscape photography again. In those days the best choice was Hitech or Lee, and I chose the latter. I was very content with those filters and I shot many beautiful landscapes with it. But ten years left some serious traces of use. It was time to replace the filters… I chose Kase filters.
Once, long time ago, when digital was still science fiction, I already had a filter system from Cokin. As far as I know it was the first of its kind and I used it for a couple of year before it got lost into oblivion. It took more than twenty years before I made the decision for a filter system again. This time I did not wanted Cokin because of its ugly color cast. I wanted the best of the best and chose Lee filters.
I used the Lee filters for almost ten years and I loved it. I owned a Big Stopper, the Little Stopper, a set of soft neutral density gradient filters made of resin and the Lee Landscape Polarizer. During the time I used Lee filters, a lot of other manufacturers introduced their share of filter systems and many of them offered better quality than the Lee filters I used. But if you know the shortcomings of your system, you can anticipate and make a work around. Especially the Big Stopper suffers from a serious color cast, something that is almost absent in the new generation neutral density filters of many other brands.
When I was contacted by Haida filters, and received a set of filters for a review, I found out in real live how much better the filters had become since the time I started with Lee. The Haida 10 stop neutral density filter was really neutral, and no serious color cast was visible. But the Haida system had some other downsides, like a lot of reflections, and a polarizer that became unreachable when the filter holder was placed. So I kept on using the Lee filters and its gargantuan Landscape Polarizer.
In 2018 I decided to exchange the Lee Foundation filter holder for the LucrOit filter holder, which had a much safer connection to the lens. The Lee filter holder was prone to fall off, something I experienced once and damaged the corner of a gradient filter. LucrOit also offered a ring for the Landscape polarizer, which made it possible to keep on using all the filters I owned. It made it possible to gradually replace all Lee filters, which showed signs or wear after all those years of use.
At last the inevitable happened: a gradient filter got scratched and I needed to replace it. After all those years it finally was time to take a look around for another filter. Although I loved using the Lee filters, I wanted something else, something that was very good, very robust, and of made of glass instead of resin. I looked at filters from LucrOit, NiSi, Benro, and a bunch of other brands, but I ended up with the Kase Wolverine 3 stops medium gradient ND filter.
I spend a lot of time with this wonderful filter, and became convinced I wanted to replace all my Lee filters one by one. When I looked at the Kase polarizer filter I was in for a surprise: it was a magnetically locked in the adapter ring. And after I informed with a couple of friends that already used Kase, I decided to exchange not only my filters, but also the LucrOit filter holder for the Kase K100-slimline system. During my Winter at Lofoten photo tour I had a perfect chance I test the Kase system under challenging conditions.
Why this long introduction? I want to make clear there was a good reason for changing the filter system. I was happy with the Lee filters, and I am convinced I could go on photographing with it for many years to come, if it wasn’t for the traces of use. I did not change the filters because they were bad, but because it was necessary. Nevertheless, now I have the Kase filters it has become clear that the Lee filters were a kind of vintage. The Wolverine glass of Kase is far superior to the resin material used by Lee and the filters produce a much sharper image.
The Kase K100 Slimline Filter Holder
The filter holder is compact and from light weight material. It is fitted standard with two slots for 2mm thick filters. It possible to change it for three filter slots. Because Kase also has filters with 1.1 mm thickness, a set of 1.1 mm slots are included. However, it is not possible to combine the 2mm and 1.1 mm thick filters.
The filter holder is held in place by two tabs on one side, and with a screw on the other side. The tabs are quite small, to you have to make sure the holder is placed correctly. The holder cannot be rotated when tightened. You have to loosen the screw just a little a bit – something like 1/8 of a turn. Unless you loosen the screw too much, the holder stays in place perfectly.
Everyone who used really dark ND filters like a 6 or 10 stops ND, knows about the foam on the filter to prevent light leaks. Kase has placed the foam on the filter holder itself, instead of the ND filter. So there is no foam on any of the Kase filters. If you want to use ND filters of other brands, you will have to remove the foam, or use the filter backwards. I find the only problem the amount of pressure I have to use to place or remove a ND filter in the first slot. I think it is because of the foam.
The K100-Slimline holder kit is available in a package, together with a polarizer, 82mm and 77mm adapter ring, and two step up rings from 67mm and 72mm. This way you get everything you need to start with filters in one package.
The Kase Wolverine Filters
The filters of Kase are made of a very high quality glass called Wolverine. The most remarkable thing about these filters is their hardness and scratch resistance. It is said these filters can take a fall on rocks without problems. I did not try this of course but it gives a good feeling when standing on a rocky beach while working with filters, knowing it won’t break that easily if you let one fall. A few demo films can be found on the website of Kase, demonstrating the strength of these filters.
For the replacement of my Lee filter set I chose the Kase Wolverine ND64, ND1000 and a set of different GND filters. And the polarization filter of course, that comes standard with the K100-slimline filter holder kit.
All filters come in a nice pouch lined with felt. Unfortunately the pouch does not indicate which filter it contains. But every filter has a line of text which mentions the type of filter.
The Wolverine ND64 and ND1000 Filters
These filters are available in the standard 100x100mm size, but also in 100x150mm. I chose the bigger filters because it is easier to place or remove it from the holder. The foam lining on the K100-slimline holder makes any foam on the filter itself unnecessary.
The filters are very well build. They have a rounded corner, thus eliminating the sharp edges that are the most vulnerable.
One of the demands I had for a new filter system was the absence of any color cast, especially with the 10 stops ND filter. There are only a few brands that come close to a perfect neutral density. Most filters still show a slight color cast. From all the tests I read the Kase ND1000 came out the best, with absolutely no color cast whatsoever. I don’t have any way of testing this, except in a non scientific comparison from my trip at Lofoten.
Both images (without filter 1/10sec, ISO100 and f/11; with filter 120 sec, ISO100 and f/11), are shown without any post processing, straight from the camera. The white balance was set on 5000K for both images. As you can see there is no visible color cast at all. For a more scientific test I would like to refer to https://www.onlandscape.co.uk/2017/07/nd-filters/
The Wolverine GND Filters
Just like the ND filters, these 100x150mm gradual neutral density filters are made from the Wolverine glass that can take a fall on rocks. The corners are rounded also, making it a great premium looking set of filters. I have chosen the hard 0.6GND, the medium 0.6GND and the soft 0.9GND for my set. And I recently added a reverse 0.6GND. The notification is also written on the bottom of the glass.
The absence of any color cast is also important for these filters, especially when you tend to use these filters stacked. Although I found the Lee resin filters very good, these filters still produce a noticeable color cast. I was surprised to see no color cast at all when I used the Wolverine filters for the first time. I made a simple comparison on a famous beach at Lofoten, with and without the medium 0.9GND filter. These images have been processed in Lightroom, but both with the exact same settings.
Both images have the same white balance of 5000K, set in the camera itself. This comparison is not scientific at all, but it shows no visible difference in color for the naked eye.
The Polarization Filter
Although I always liked the Lee Landscape Polarization filter, I noticed a growing dislike for the huge size. The filter is placed in front of the filter holder and makes the use of a filter holder mandatory. That is why I once decided to change the Lee Foundation holder for the LucrOit, which has a significant lower risk of falling off.
Fortunately the polarization filter of Kase is placed directly on the adapter ring. This makes the filter much smaller and you don’t have to install the filter holder if you only want to use the polarizer.
The best thing about the Kase Polarizer is the magnetic mount. The filter is held in place in the adapter ring by a powerful magnet. The polarizer itself cannot rotate, but the rotation is built into the adapter rings. It makes the construction of the polarization filter much simpler, and placing the filter is easy and quick thanks to the magnet. It makes the use of the filter very friendly.
When the filter holder is in place, with filters installed, you still can rotate the adapter ring which contains the magnetic polarization filter. This is done by a wheel on the side of the filter holder. It rotates very smooth and easy.
What I Like
- Compact filter holder, light weight
- Filter holder locks securely onto the adapter rings
- Foam lining on the filter holder instead of the ND filters itself
- Magnetic polarization filter makes placing and removing very easy and user friendly
- Polarization filter can be used without the need of the filter holder
- Rotation build into the adapter rings instead of the polarization filter
- Smooth rotation of the polarization filter with a simple but well build wheel, even with other filters installed
- High quality filter glass with rounded edges
- No visible color cast with the ND or GND filter
- No vigneting at 16mm focal length on full frame cameras
- Glass can fall onto rocks without breaking or scratches (not tested by me)
- ND1000 and ND64 filters also available in 100x150mm for good handling
- Filters also available in 1.1mm thickness, which reduces weight
- Filter holder comes with a set of different slots
What I Didn't Like
- Placing of filters into the first slot somewhat difficult (due to foam lining on the filter holder)
- Tabs of the filter holder somewhat small; you have to make sure the filer holder is places correctly
- No mentioning of type of filter on the filter pouch itself
- The 2mm filters cannot be used together with 1.1mm filters
I always loved my Lee filters. And a few years back I had a change to try out Haida filters with not much satisfaction. But now I have Kase and I love the filters and the filter system. I am very impressed with the absence of any color cast and the magnetic polarization filter. During the week at Lofoten I used it constantly under the worst weather situations I have ever experienced. The filters are very easy to use, and the quality is perfect. The participants of my Winter at Lofoten tour were also impressed and one of them has already decided to exchange his filters for the Kase system.
There are only a few things I would like to change. The fitting of a filter in the first slot is very tight. This should be made easier. The tabs on the K100-slimline holder are very small. Making these a little bit larger wil improve installing the holder. But I cannot think of another improvement.
There is a little voice in the back of my mind that keep reminding me these filters are very tough, surviving a fall on rocks. It feel reassuring, but I hope I will never have to find out. Bottom line, I can really recommend these wonderful Kase filters. They’re well worth it.