100mm Filters Ultimate Line Review

In mid 2012 I picked up a partnership with 84.5mm camera filters (www.84dot5mm.com), which are Cokin P size width filters and concluded my review which you can find here. Since then they have released their professional line series which included a reverse grad, the difference with these filters were they were longer and much more usable than before and I found them a perfect accompaniment to the Nex 7.  They were great for being compact enough where a Lee 100mm filter system fell down as too bulky. I couldn’t get the kit into my Crumpler bag for when I wanted to go really light, but with these I could.

However, I always knew that a 100mm filter set was needed as well and was pleased when they informed me they were planning to launch a series. Now I own the Sony A7R, which has slightly larger lenses and when mounted to standard Canon lenses a Cokin P Size filter is definitely too thin and you can see the edges, so the 100mm filters come back into their own.

There will now be a new brand, 100mm Filters Ultimate Line and are due to be released Q2 of 2014. However, some European dealers already have stock but will be available direct from the filter company soon. The price point will be 50 euro or £45 GBP for the Ultimate Line Filters. They are sized at 150mmx100mm (same size as Lee).

For info on their line up and what filters/accessories you can buy see below image:

84.5m and 100mm Filters Portfolio

84.5m and 100mm Filters Portfolio

 

84.5mm and 100mm Filters Portfolio

84.5mm and 100mm Filters Portfolio

 

I was sent a 0.6 soft graduated ND, 0.9 hard graduated ND and a 0.9 reverse grad in the ultimate line version and have been using my copies since last September and a lot of my recent images are taken using them. I have to note that the examples I have are protypes and not the final product, as always my review is as honest as possible despite me being sponsored by the company as at the end of the day it’s your money I could essentially be spending.

Right about now, you may be asking what are filters used for? Well, they’re used to hold a bright sky to create an even exposure. Cameras, despite their sometimes extraordinary costs aren’t actually able to capture the full dynamic range of a scene our eyes can see. This often means you either end up with a perfectly exposed sky with a dark foreground or more often than not an exposed foreground but over exposed sky. Skies often look washed out, white and no detail in them. There are times when a camera can expose correctly for both, when there isn’t a great dynamic range e.g. with blue skies and snow.

During the golden hours of sunset and sunrise the dynamic range is more often than not outside of the dynamic range a camera can see and are therefore filters are most useful then. You of course don’t have to use filters should you not wish as exposure blending on the computer can get around this. However, if you’re like me you will want to see and capture the image in camera to be assured you have got it right. There are advantages and disadvantages to both methods.

There are different types of graduated filters. All of them start their graduation from the middle of the filter with the bottom being clear. The parts that are graduated reduce the stops of light coming into the camera which reduces exposure and helps balance it. There are different strengths of filters generally 1,2,3 and 4 stops (or 0.3,0.6,0.9 and 1.2 filters respectively). A soft edged graduated filter has a feathered graduated transition starting fairly light getting darker towards the top towards its maximum strength, these are best suited for scenes with an uneven horizon where you don’t want to make it obvious a filter was used when it clips the horizon. Next is the hard graduated filters, these filters have a hard transition and are of an even exposure reduction from bottom to top and are better suited to flat horizons like the coast. Finally, there is the reverse grad, this is almost like a hard grad and has become one of the most useful filters for landscape photographers as they are very good for sunsets and sunrises. They are hard edged and darkest at the bottom and graduate lighter as they go up, this means they are great for holding the brightest part of the sky near the horizon slowly fading out meaning you get an even exposure rather than having the top part of the sky under exposed. Generally speaking a 0.9 (3 stop) is best here so if there is one to buy this is it.

At present the only people who make reverse grads are Hitech filters, Singh-Ray and now 100mm. I will do a full review on the reverse grad at some point as I’ve been lucky enough to use all three for testing but in summary Hitech is great and almost the industry standard but have a tendency to colour cast if stacked with another filter, the Singh-Rays are expensive but can cast a blue cast (I think this is mainly on Canon sensors as I was unable to replicate)  then we have the new boys, the 100mm filters which in summary do not seem to cast when stacked and have a great price point.

To see images of different filter types etc head over to my review of the 84.5mm filters linked above.

100mm Filters Ultimate Line Review

Onto the actual review, the filters will come packaged similar to the 84.5mm filters in a plastic sleeve and in a cardboard insert. I highly recommend getting a filter pouch to help protect them and make easier access. They are constructed of organic glass, which in reality is resin and apparently the exact same resin used by Lee Filters. They are meant to be scratch resistant and I think it’s important that resistant and not proof is paid attention to. I have used them for 6 months now and the 0.6 especially has picked up quite a few scratches and while optically doesn’t affect the final image it will induce flare a lot easier. I wouldn’t say they’re any worse than the Hitechs I have previously used, in fact better but care must be taken with them which can be hard in the field.

By virtue, neutral density filters need to be colour neutral and I’m pleased to say the 100mm filters are netural. I don’t have to correct the colour of any of my skies and I’m very pleased with the results. I don’t often stack my filters but sometimes you need to e.g. when shooting a coastal scene you may want to hold the sky and slow the water. Even with a Hitech solid ND filter with a 100mm graduated filter stacked on top they do not seem to cast. I have also stacked the 0.9 reverse and 0.6 soft grad filters by 100mm at times where I wasn’t able to fully hold the sky with just the reverse and these also seems to be no colour cast. This is a big plus for 100mm filters as other brands such as Hitech and Cokin will cast when stacked.

Lens flare by the filters seems to be kept to a minimum, as always adding a filter greatly increases the amount of flare as opposed to just shooting with the lens but they perform well. Flare is only really a problem when shooting into the sun.

Optical quality also seems to be great with no noticable reduction in image quality, even when being used with the 36mp A7R.

Construction is good, as you’d expect really. They perhaps feel a little less thin and more flexible than Lee filters but about on par with Hitech. The only thing I can note (bear in mind prototype) if they have a slight curvature to them rather than being uniformly straight, this doesn’t seem to have any impact and fit in the holders just fine but may impact flare as the bend may refract the light as it passes through.

 

Currently there will be the following filters availiable:

0.3 to 0.9 soft edged graduated filters

0.3 to 0.9 hard edged graduated filters

0.3 to 0.9 reverse graduated filters

I hope in the future they release 100mm solid ND’s and a Big Stopper equivilent.

Image samples:

100mm Filters Ultimate Line 0.9 Reverse Grad

Wolfscote Hill Sunset - Peak District Landscape Photography

Wolfscote Hill Sunset – Peak District Landscape Photography

 

100mm Filters Ultimate Line 0.6 Soft Edged Grad + 0.6 Hitech ND

Aphrodites Rock Sunset - Cyprus Landscape Photography

Aphrodites Rock Sunset – Cyprus Landscape Photography

100mm Filters Ultimate Line 0.6 Soft Edged Grad

Alport Pool - Peak District Landscape Photography

Alport Pool – Peak District Landscape Photography

100mm Filters Ultimate Line 0.9 Hard Edged Grad

Alport Castles Panoramic - Peak District Landscape Photography

Alport Castles Panoramic – Peak District Landscape Photography

 

100mm Filters Ultimate Line 0.9 Reversed Grad

Troodos Sunset - Cyprus Landscape Photography

Troodos Sunset – Cyprus Landscape Photography

 

100mm Filters Ultimate Line 0.9 Reversed Grad

Parkhouse Hill Sunset - Peak District Landscape Photography

Parkhouse Hill Sunset – Peak District Landscape Photography

100mm Filters Ultimate Line 0.9 Reversed Grad

Black Rocks Sunrise - Peak District Landscape Photography

Black Rocks Sunrise – Peak District Landscape Photography

100mm Filters Ultimate Line 0.9 Reversed Grad

Chatsworth Weir Sunrise - Peak District Landscape Photography

Chatsworth Weir Sunrise – Peak District Landscape Photography

100mm Filters Ultimate Line 0.9 Reversed Grad

Wildboarclough Barn Sunrise - Peak District Landscape Photography

Wildboarclough Barn Sunrise – Peak District Landscape Photography

 

 

Sorry for the below pictures with the filter looking a little unclear, it was purely just dirt on the filters but it shows you them in use using the Lee Filter system:

100mm Ultimate Line Filters Review

100mm Ultimate Line Filters

100mm Ultimate Line Filters

100mm Ultimate Line Filters

Conclusion:

I would be happy to endorse and carry a full set of 100mm filters in my bag. In fact, I was happy enough to take them on a commission with me to Cyprus and had no issues with them.  They perform as I would expect and are at a great price point. In my opinion Lee have always been the best and are the industry standard but high prices and stock shortages may be enough to put some people off. 100mm step in, in my opinion in a great place to put themselves above Hitech, Cokin and Sing-Ray. They are capable of producing high quality products that don’t cast at a lower price point. Hitech had this gap before but if 100mm play their cards right they could be the choice for most on a tighter budget and also the fact they release a full size reverse grad better than Hi-Techs could easily become their best seller!

 

 

 

 

 

By | 2016-11-02T23:14:32+00:00 April 7th, 2014|Landscape Photography, Reviews|1 Comment

One Comment

  1. Francis.R July 10, 2014 at 5:41 pm - Reply

    Hello James. Thanks for the reviews, the previous one helped to me to buy a reverse gnd and I can confirm that they have no casts. Even more some days ago I bought another one, not from the ultimate line because I use it to my Sony R1, that has a 67mm diameter lens.

    But sometimes I needed the graduation upside so I inverted the gnd (to skies I refer) so the darker part would be at the top and the softer in the rest. The problem is that to reduce the noise I’d need that there was a clearer part as a more common gnd. My question is… Which one has more use: soft or hard gradations? I’ve seen the work of Joe Cornish and I see that him use mostly hard grads even with hills or trees with from compact digitals to 4×5 film and the final photo don’t show an evident use of the hard gnd. But he uses another brand and I’ll appreciate your opinion relative to 84.5 gnds.

    Regards from Perú, thanks in advance and nice photographs by the way.

    Post-Data: Besides Is there a box that I could buy to storage the professional line gnds?

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