While many reviews look at how sharp a lens can be, for this review, we’ll be looking at a filter that does the opposite. Haida's NanoPro Mist filter is actually designed to add a soft glow, while still keeping fine details. Now, before you think about the JCPenney portrait studio shots of the past decades, this filter is subtler. Haida’s NanoPro Mist filter is instead designed to diffuse the highlights and soften the overall contrast, bringing the filmic characteristic of halation to digital. Does it live up to the task?
Before we get into the specifics of this filter, let’s talk about what a mist filter is intended for. While there are a variety of diffusing filters, all can create some diffusion, halation, and contrast reduction in the image. In this case, the NanoPro Mist Black filter is intended to lower contrast and offer a bit of spill around the highlights, giving a pleasing warmth to the image, all without overly reducing sharpness or excessively brightening shadows.
While these filters have been around for quite a while, they’re starting to find a new footing in the digital 4K+ era. Today’s lenses are razor-sharp, highly corrected, and can look very clearly digital. The mist-style filters, originally favored for fashion and beauty applications, can now offer a subtle way to reduce that artificial feel, without requiring any change to your lens choice or extensive post-processing.
Haida makes a wide range of filters, with interesting designs like their magnetic attachment system or drop-in filter kits. This filter, however, is a traditional screw-in design. The tested version was 82mm, in 1/4 strength, although 1/8 strength is also available.
The filter itself comes in a convenient, square-format plastic storage case. The foam inserts feel reasonably protective, and this could be a great way to store and transport the filter if you don’t already have a filter storage solution. The mounting ring is quite low profile, which should help avoid vignetting on wider lenses. The ring is also knurled, although only on two separate quarters of the circumference. The areas where it isn’t knurled are quite slippery, so be careful mounting and un-mounting it.
When looking at the filter with raking light, you can actually see the namesake mist. It looks like superfine speckles across the glass, which both explain the name and method of action. Each one of those tiny specks catches some light, diffusing and spreading it around, giving the characteristic glow to the highlights. In this case, the black specs lead to less light bleeding into the shadows and preventing them from brightening to the same extent as a regular mist or white mist filter.
This filter is easy to use. Looking to soften up the contrast, add a warm glow to a scene, or just find that you like the look it imparts? Screw the filter in and get to shooting. In my testing, I didn’t find any meaningful impact on exposure or AF performance, although both of these may vary depending on the shooting situation.
I tested the filter on both still images and video on a Nikon Z 7, with a 24-70 f/2.8 lens.
One interesting characteristic I observed in testing is how the effect seemed more noticeable at longer focal lengths than at wide ones. At 70mm, the glow was definitely noticeable, while at 24mm it was more subtle. You might want to take that into consideration when choosing the strength of the filter. Haida’s version is available in both 1/4 and 1/8, as well as a variety of filter sizes, from 52mm to 82mm.
Like with most filters, I’d suggest buying the largest size you need and adapting it for smaller lenses. While the expense may be greater upfront, it saves on having to get three versions of a filter for each, instead of requiring only an adapter ring.
The 1/4 strength filter is definitely more situational than the 1/8 strength version. At 1/8, I’d imagine you could use it in most scenarios without it standing out, as well as on most focal lengths. The 1/4, however, is a more significant change to the image and maybe better used when shooting specific subjects that would benefit from it. I found it to be very noticeable, so make sure you want that look for the shot.
When it comes to sharpness, I didn’t find any issues. The images still showed fine detail, albeit with lower contrast. Other image quality characteristics weren’t noticeably impacted, although like with any filter, you may end up with a change in lens flare thanks to the additional air-to-glass transition. Interestingly, lens flare itself can take on a different look from the interaction with the filter, although this will depend on where in the lens the flare is coming from.
Who’s This For?
Nowadays, many filter effects can be done in a post, but I think this is one of the filters that are just easier to get right in camera. Being able to see the effect helps when choosing lighting, saves time over changing in the post and isn’t a very expensive piece of kit. The one downside to that is that you’re locked into the look, so again, consider going with a light touch when using this filter.
I particularly like the spread around the highlights and the warmer feel this lends. I think it goes a long way to softening the sometimes harsh look of modern lenses, without seeming like a parody of the filmic look. If you’re looking for a unique tool to add to your next portrait, low-light, or video shoot, consider adding Haida’s NanoPro Mist filter to your set of filters. The reviewed filter is available here, while Haida’s NanoPro lineup can be viewed here.
What I Liked
- Retains image quality while still creating the desired effect
- Quality construction and useful included case
- Competitive price, especially for larger diameters
What Could Be Improved
- As this filter is unlikely to be stacked, I’d actually prefer a thicker mounting ring