Haida 100mm Filter System
One of the biggest challenges in landscape photography is managing the light in your scene. It is for this reason that most landscape photographers choose to do the bulk of their shooting during the golden hours or blue hour when the light is beautiful and the contrast is manageable. Contrast is tough to manage on bright days and in certain scenes with harsh lighting, but there are a few ways to work around this. In this article I am going to look at the usefulness of using neutral density graduated filters. These filters have been around for a long time, most landscape photographers will have a set of them in their camera bag. However not all filters are created equal.
Lets start with my filter use history. My first foray into the use of graduated filters was, like many photographers, with the Lee resin kit. At the time I thought that they were the best thing since sliced bread, but looking back at it now they were overpriced, poor quality, easily damaged and had a detrimental effect on the sharpness of my images, not to mention the colour cast of the 10 stop filter. So not so great afterall. I perservered with them for a number of years, simply because there was nothing much better on the market.
Since then filter technology has gone through the roof and now high quality optical glass filters with no colour cast and multi layered high tech coatings are considered the standard for good quality filters.
So what exactly is a grad filter?
Essentially it is a rectangular, optically correct piece glass with a gradient from dark to light. It is called “neutral” because the dark part of the filter should not add a colour cast to the scene. This is not always true of low quality filters, but high quality filters like Haida leave no colour cast on the final image. The reason behind using an ND filter is to hold light back so that the part of the scene that is brightest (usually the sky) does not overexpose. This effect creates a pleasing image with a nice balance of light between the foreground and sky.
If you were to expose the scene without using an ND grad filter, very often, the foreground would be well exposed while the sky may simply be overexposed or, if you were to expose for the sky, the foreground would be very dark.
The other main advantage of using ND filters is that they allow you to increase exposure times, allowing the photographer to create a sense of movement through the use of a slow shutter, or completely smooth out a body of water through the use of a very long exposure.
Introducing the Haida 100mm Pro system
Ok, so now that we all understand what a grad filter is and why we might use one, lets take a look at the 100mm Pro system from Haida.
The first thing you’ll notice about Haida filter system is its build quality. As a whole, it feels well-built and solid. In particular, the graduated ND filter is made of glass, and it feels very high in quality. The pro system holder incorporates a circular polarising filter which can be used in conjunction with other ND filters and rotated induvidualy to suit the scene you are shooting
The holder attches to the lens via an adapter ring sized to suit your lens thread. The polariser housing then screws on, followed by the filter holder itself. The polariser is rotated by turning a ring which runs the full circumference of the housing. Compared with other similar systems i've tried it is far simpler and less fiddly. It's also less prone to allowing sand or grit into the mechanism as I have seen with other brands holders. The holder can accept 2 filters and comes with extra guides should you prefer to have 3 filter slots. Overall the system is very light and compact and takes up far less room in your bag than other similar systems. Another great feature is that the holder has a built in gasket to prevent light leaking in behind the filters which is fantastic if you shoot a lot of very long exposures as I do. The whole system comes packaged in a neat little cordura pouch and is easily tucked away in your kit bag.
The filters themselves are without a doubt the best part of the system. I am yet to find a fault with Haidas filters. Lets start with the polariser. It is an 82mm diameter and as mentioned earlier attaches within the holder system for ease of use with your grads. It has a nano pro coating and is ultra thin. I have never been a big user of c-pl filters because I really only seen a benefit from their use in certain situations like shooting waterfalls and found them difficult to use effectively on ultra wide angle lenses. This filter has changed my views on that and I now find myself using the c-pl in more situations than before to incease or decrease the amount of reflection I am getting in seascapes.
I have a variety of Haida grad filters for use in different situations, my favourite being the 1.2 soft grad. Haida filters all come very neatly packaged in a nicely padded metal box to protect them, which does a great job but is a little impractical in the field if you like to carry more than a couple of filters. I would like to see Haida come up with a hard, protective case capable of carrying 6 or so filters.
Water resistance. All of the Nano pro range of filters have a protective Nano coating which sounds fancy but is an excellent feature that has a lot of benefits to the photographer. The coating repels water and fingerprints or smudges and is easliy cleaned with a good microfibre cloth. I love that I can get splashed when shooting seascapes, give the filter a quick clean and i'm back shooting. Previously if a filter was splashed it was often a case of put the filter away and find another way to shoot.
Low reflectionThe other great benefit that I see from Haidas remarkable coatings are the lack of reflection and ghosting. It used to be such a big problem when shooting into the sun but it's just a non issue now.
Scratch resistance. I've been using haida gear for quite a while now, primarily in the sandy, salty environment that a seascape guy like me shoots in and I am yet to scratch a filter. One or two of my most used filters have some slight marks where the filter slides into the holder, but that is to be expected. Seriously impressive stuff. The coatings on Haidas Nano Pro range are the best in the business. Cannot rate them highly enough.
The other impressive feature of Haidas filters is the total lack of colour cast even using a 10 stop solid filter in conjunction with a grad filter I have zero colour cast issues. Clarity and sharpness also appears to be unaffected.
So I guess that if you have read this far you will understand that I am indeed a big fan of Haida's filter offerings. In fact I can not speak highly enough of them. If you would like any further information on Haida products, please don't hesitate to contact me or visit haidaphoto.com
The Haida Pro filter system comes extremely well packaged. It is a quality piece of kit.
150mm filters are also available.
The complete filter holder setup. Adapter ring at front, C-PL on left and Holder assembly on the right
The Haida system comes extremely well packaged. Its a high quality system.
This image as shot with no filter. The sky has blown out and detail has been lost. very little blurring of the water
In this image you can see that detail in the sky has been retained and there is some blurring of the water, thanks to the .4 second exposure, , giving it a nice softness.
With over 2 minutes of exposure time in this image the water has been completely smoothed out and the exposure is balanced across the scene.
Haida 10 stop Nd +Haida C-PL
Motukeike Beach, New Zealand.
Haida 1.2 soft grad
Lighthouse Beach, Port Macquarie
Haida 0.9 soft grad
Whararikki Beach, New Zealand