84.5mm Filters review
A few months ago I received a testing kit of the new 84.5mm Filters. The kit included a light and medium ND neutral density filter, a light purple and a strong orange colour graduated filter for review. Because I prefer to keep my images as close to reality as possible and most of the time don’t really like the effects that colour filters introduce, I will mainly focus on the graduated neutral density filters.
I would also like to point out here that this review has been written based on real-life testing. In my opinion only field tests count as lab test often don’t match real life experiences.
Packaging and built quality
The filters are nicely packed in plastic envelopes and fitted between a paper card that further protects the filter. The filters give a highly finished look and the material looks clean devoid of any impurities or imperfections. The filters are sturdy, well constructed and have a much firmer look and feel than Cokin filters.
All filters are clearly labeled which makes it easy to identify the strength and type of the filter you are using.
Size and strength
The filters are 84.5 x 100mm in size, 1.5 mm thick and all fit the standard Cokin P type holder. The filters are also compatible with filter holders of other brands like HiTech or LEE. 84.5mm Filters advices not to use the filters on lenses wider than 24mm on a fullframe camera or 18mm on an APS-C camera because this could cause vignetting. However I succeeded in using the filters on my 16mm wide angle lens mounted on a fullframe camera without any vignetting when just handholding the filters in front of the lens.
The filters come in different strengths: “light”, “medium” and “hard”, and with a hard or soft transition. I was curious to find out how those values would respond to stops. With the use of a digital spot meter I measured that the “light ND filter” holds back 1 stop of light and the “medium ND filter” 11/3 stop of light. Combining the light and medium ND filters would then hold back approximately 21/3 stops of light. I have not had the chance to test a “strong ND filter”, so at this point I cannot confirm how much light it filters.
The Cokin filters used to be known for their colour artifacts and combining more than 1 filter often resulted in a pink/purple colour cast. The colourcast was not always easy to correct; making the filters quite useless for photographers wanting to keep their images neutral.
When testing the 84.5mm graduated ND filters I found them to be colour neutral. I could not detect any visible colourcast even when combining multiple filters.
Left image without filters. Middle image with light and medium ND filter. Right image with light purple graduated filter and light and medium ND filter.
The filters are made of organic glass and should be highly scratch resistant. Unfortunately I noticed a few thin scratches even without using the filters in an abnormal way. Like with all other types and brands of filters I would therefore advice to handle the filters with care.
The organic glass is sturdy and flexible making it unlikely that the filters would break or shatter.
Colour graduated filters
I already pointed out that I prefer to keep my images as close to reality as possible and that I do not like the effects that colour filters introduce, so my testing of the colour filters is limited.
In my opinion the effect of the strong orange filter is much too profound and makes the images look unnatural and overcooked. The effects of the light purple colour filter however are much more subtle and I successfully applied the filter to enhance a beautiful sunset. I also used that filter upside down to make the purple colour of a lavender field stand out even more.
Left image without filters. Right image with a light colour graduated filter used upside down to enhance the purple colour on the lavender field.
Advice for 84.5mm Filters
One thing I really missed when testing the filters was a decent filter holder. I purchased a Cokin P-type filter holder, but these are made of cheap plastic and do not work very fluently. I would advice 84.5mm Filters to start working on a filter holder of their own as the Cokin P-type holders are just not up to the job.
HiTech produces an 85mm aluminium filter holder which forms an excellent alternative for the Cokin holder. Yet, in that case you force your clients to partly buy equipment from your competitors.
Furthermore when introducing the filters to my clients I noticed that a lot of them use wide angle lenses and are therefore looking for filters at least 100x100mm in size. This might hold back photographers in purchasing an 84.5 mm filter set. 84.5mm Filters has however told me that they have plans making larger sized filters, so that might become less of an issue soon.
Finally I would advice 84.5mm Filters to start selling filter sets consisting of, for example, 3 graduated ND filters of different strengths, a filter holder and an adapter ring. Amateur photographers looking for filters often don’t know what filters and accessories they need to get a fully working set. Offering complete sets would make this easier for them.
In my opinion 84.5mm Filters succeeded in building a decent product which offers good quality for a more than reasonable price. The filters are well built, nicely packaged and do not introduce any noticeable colour casts. Filters are indispensible in landscape photography and with both Lee and HiTech becoming extremely expensive; I think the 84.5mm filters will certainly become an attractive alternative for both amateur and more advanced photographers.
If 84.5mm Filters could start working on their own filter holder and larger sized filters, I believe even semi-professional and professional photographers might be interested in purchasing their products.