Gear Review: NiSi Filters

NiSi Filters in Action

A little while ago I was contacted by NiSi Filters and invited to test their filter system. Since I'm always interested in trying and comparing various products I was really excited but also a bit skeptic. I've been using LEE Filters for many years now and honestly I haven't ever thought about using something else, even though LEE are known for their blue colorcast. I'm not sure if my skepticism was due to the fact I might find something better than what I have become a fan of or if it was because of the fact I didn't know much about NiSi from before. 

Within short time of the initial contact I was headed towards the post office to pick up my package from NiSi. The products I was given was: 

  • NiSi V5 100m Sysmte Filter Holder Kit + Filter Pouch
  • 77mm CPL
  • NiSi Nano IR ND1000 (10 stop) 100x100mm
  • Reverse IR GND8(.09) 100x150mm 

To be quite honest I haven't used a 10-stop ND filter in a while but I found this a great excuse to get back to the roots and go out play with minute long shutter speeds. 

Even though I've been overall very satisfied with my LEE Filter system, I was particularly curious on how NiSi had handled a few issues or limitations I had experienced with my current system. These included: 

  • Colorcast on 10 stop ND filter
  • Combining the use of square filters and a CPL

First Impressions

As I'm writing this I've been using the NiSi system for about 3 weeks. In this period I've been carrying both the LEE and NiSi system with me, even when hiking, so the question now is which one will I keep bringing with me? 

Packaging 

Holder System

I still can't decide whether or whether not I like the NiSi Filter Holder. It has one of the greatest functions I've ever seen in a holder, which I'll come back to in a bit, but it also seems just a little less solid than the LEE holder. That being said, I still haven't made a bad experience with the holder and it does seem to be more solid than what I originally felt when getting it some weeks ago. 

NiSi V5 100mm Holder System

The biggest advantage with the NiSi Filter Holder is the little wheel that lets you adjust the circular polariser when using square filters. This is something I've been missing with my LEE system and I've never been able to use both a polariser and Grad Filter without vignetting on 16mm. The only option would have been to purchase a extra large CPL, buying an adapter and then stacking it on the outside of the square filters. 

You can place the CPL on the inside of the holder and easily tighten it by pressing the two wheels while twisting it around. When the CPL is tightened you can use the wheels to turn the CPL without having to take all the other filters off. This is for me the biggest advantage of the NiSi system. 

The are two slightly negative aspect I can mention about the holder, which is not particularly important in the big picture, but the slots to place the filters within are slightly too tight. On a couple occasions I've had to press, or pull, so hard that I've slightly changed the cameras position - which is a slight disadvantage when wanting to stack multiple images. I'm curious to see if it gets better once the system has been used more.  

Secondly the leather pouch/box the filter holder is in, is very big. Even though it looks beautiful and has a very smart magnet lid, it takes a lot of space in the backpack. When you carry around as much equipment as I often do space becomes limited. Since the CPL is placed in this box I still need to bring it with me.

NiSi Nano IR ND1000 (10 stop) 100x100mm

For those who are familiar with Lee's Big Stopper, you know of it's heavy blue colorcast. This was one of the aspects I was most excited to compare with the NiSi filters. 

cabin by the lake sunrise - taken with a 10 stop nisi filter

cabin by the lake sunrise - taken with a 10 stop nisi filter

To my surprise, the NiSi's 10 Stop ND Filter was more or less neutral and I didn't see any signs of a colorcast. I've never used such a neutral filter and I was positively surprised when I saw the result. 

Its quality also seems to be good and admittedly I prefer it's pouch rather than LEE's metal boxes. I am curious to see, though, what happens with the pouch when I'm shooting by the sea and the filter is placed there with dirt on it.

Would I recommend the NiSi 10 Stop? Without a doubt, yes.  

Reverse GND

During the last year I've used a Reverse Graduated Neutral Density Filter from Singh-Ray, which has been of incredible quality and a filter that I had no intentions of changing out. When receiving the NiSi Reverse GND I had no expectations of it being as good as the more expensive Singh-Ray, but I was wrong. 

The Reverse GND feels solid, and just like the 10 stop, it doesn't have the slightest hint of a colorcast. I did, however, find its transition to be slightly harder than the Singh-Ray but this is not a problem as this is a filter that I won't use unless the horizon is mostly even. 

NiSi Reverse Graduated filter

NiSi Reverse Graduated filter

Placing it in the filter holder slot seemed to be the only challenge but it's getting better the more I use it.

I find this to be a great alternative to more expensive filters and the quality is just as good. 

Would I recommend it? Yes.

Circular Polariser

As I mentioned above, the biggest advantage with the NiSi system is its integration between the holder and a CPL. Combining a CPL with a ND or GND filter has never been this easy. 

Since I wish to mention both the pros and cons it should be noted that if you only wish to use the CPL you still need to have the filter kit holder on - and you wont be able to use a lens cap. 

Early morning in the woods - nisi cpl used

Early morning in the woods - nisi cpl used

When comparing my trustworthy (and much thicker) B&W CPL with the NiSi CPL I found NiSi to be slightly better at removing glare and unwanted reflections. Also it gave slightly more contrast, or "pop" as many refer to it, which is often desired when photographing woods or waterfalls. 

Even though it is slim and doesn't look nearly as solid as brands I've been using before it is of good quality and the results are impressive. 

Would I recommend it? Yes.

Summary

While I have only been using NiSi filters for some weeks now my impression is surprisingly positive. The filter quality seems to be good and they appear to be much more solid than I originally thought. It still remains to see if I'll have the same opinion in another couple of months but as for now, I can and will recommend the NiSi Filters. 

Taking long exposures without even the slightest hint of a colorcast is honestly really nice. It saves me a lot of time in post production and gives a nice, clean result. 

Note that this is my first impression. I will do another post in a month or two.

More pictures taken with the NiSi Filters