Choosing the best filter holder will make using camera filters a pleasure, not a chore. And don’t think that the days of traditional filters are numbered with the popularity of Photoshop, as there are some filters that can produce effects that are impossible to replicate digitally.
If you’re looking to pick the best filter holder, then you’ve already decided that you want to build up a collection of square filters instead of circular options that screw directly onto your lens. That’s a good move as while circular filters do have some benefits, they can be limiting. For starters, if you have a couple of lenses with different sized filter threads, you will have to double up on filters if you want to achieve the same effect with different lenses. Neutral Density Graduated (or ND grads for short) just don’t work as a circular filter as you need the flexibility to be able to move the gradient up and down the frame depending on the scene.
• Read more: The best neutral density filters in 2020
Choosing a filter holder means you just need to buy one set of filters, while they’re perfect for ND Grads. Don’t worry if you’ve got lenses with different thread sizes either – you can buy adapter rings (while some filter holders supply popular thread sizes with the holder) that slot into the rear of the filter thread, so you can easily swap between lenses out in the field.
When you start looking for the best filter holder, you’ll notice that they come in a variety of different sizes. That means that if you’re using a small mirrorless system for example, you can use small filters (and a more compact filter holder), rather than something that’ll be too large (not forgetting the extra expense).
We’ve concentrated our search on filter holders for 100mm (4-inch) wide filters, as this is the most widely used size of filter used by photographers, and is perfect for those using a DSLR or high-end mirrorless camera. If you’re going to be using ultra wide-angle lenses (wider than 16mm in full-frame terms), you might want to take a look at the dedicated wide-angle filter systems that are designed to avoid vignetting at extreme wide angle focal lengths.
With all that in mind, here’s our list of the best filter holder systems you can buy right now.
Best filter holders for photography
LEE Filters set the standard for premium filter holders, but 25 years later and some stiff competition has seen LEE Filters develop a completely new filter holder for its 100mm range of filters. The LEE100 Holder has been designed to be backwards compatible with legacy LEE Filters for the LEE100 system (though there’s a new new polarizer adapter ring), but there are many improvements. There’s now a multi-function locking dial that not only securely locks the holder in place, but also locks the angle of the filter holder to protect your composition. You can also easily reconfigure the filter holder to have up to three slots for your filters. A refined system loved by pros, but lacks some of the clever touches on rival brands.
UK-based Formatt-Hitech’s Firecrest holder is the company’s top-of-the-range filter holder and is a nicely designed piece of kit. Constructed from aluminium, it’s not the lightest holder going, but it’s certainly well made and features two plastic filter slots on the front. A couple of nice touches are the inclusion of a 82mm multi-coated polarizing filter that attaches to a rotating ring and is positioned closest to the lens, while there’s also clever set of top and bottom covers that are designed to eliminate light leakage when shooting long exposures. Also bundled in the kit are 67, 72, 77 and 82mm adapter rings (smaller adapter rings are sold separately) and you’ve got a great value, quality system to get you started.
• Read more: Five tips for using macro lenses
NiSi is another relative newcomer to filters, with the company first established in China in 2005. There’s now a range of over 100 filters (though, as well as 100mm filters, it also produces circular filters and smaller filters for the likes of Sony’s RX100 series of compacts). The new V6 Holder sports what NiSi calls aviation-grade aluminum construction, along with three plastic filter slots. This is another filter holder that accommodates a circular polarizer (included), while there are three step-up rings supplied along with the 82mm adapter ring. A great value system that is hard to argue with for the price.
While most filter systems require you to slide the filters into the holder, the FH100M2 from Benro does things a little differently with a geared vertical positioning system. This sees the holder supplied with a 100x100mm square frame and a 100x150mm frame (for ND grads). Once the frame is slotted into the holder, you can wind it up and down in small, precise increments using an adjustment knob which engages with a toothed ridge on the filter frame. There’s also space for a 95mm circular polarizing filter, which along with the first-rate design and materials used, make this an excellent system to buy into.
Smaller than the LEE100 system and replacing the Seven5 system, the LEE85 system is aimed at those looking for a more compact filter solution for mirrorless cameras without compromising on quality. The LEE85 system is available in four different kits, but the Discover Kit is a good starter option containing the filter holder, three adapter rings (58, 67 and 72mm – other sizes are available), a 0.6 Medium ND Grad, as well as a LEE85 system pouch.
LEE Filters has re-imagined both its ND and ND Grad filters for the LEE85 system and they now feature a ‘grip tab’ on the top of the filter, allowing you to quickly see what filters are being used, while also making it that bit easier to remove from the filter mount. As we’ve come to expect with LEE Filters, filters slide smoothly into the filter guides on the holder and are held snugly in place, while changing the filter configuration to accommodate 1, 2 or 3 filters is a hassle-free and quick process.
While Cokin might have established itself at the cheap and cheerful end of the filter market, the new EVO filter holder is designed to appeal to more serious photographers and work seamlessly with the company’s high-end Nuances filter range. Three sizes are available, with the Z Series (L) filter holder accommodating 100mm filters. The aluminum design incorporates a non-abrasive foam that blocks light and keeps physical contact between the filter and the filter holder, while there’s a detachable plate to mount a 105mm screw-on circular polarizing filter. Overall, the EVO Z Series Filter Holder (L) is a very competent holder, but doesn’t stand out from the crowd.
The Kase K9 filter holder kit is a nicely engineered piece of kit. Featuring an aluminum construction, the K9 can accommodate three 100mm-wide filters that are 2mm thick, but the system can easily be reconfigured to support 1.1mm thick filters instead. Either way, there’s also space for a 90mm circular polarizer filter, but the difference here compared to rivals is that it's magnetic, making it a breeze to snap the filter in to place when you need it. The polarizer is also easy to control thanks to the geared filter ring, allowing for easy rotation that’s independent from the rest of the filters.
H&Y has ripped up the filter holder rulebook and done things a little differently: Instead of sliding your filters into the holder, you place your filter in a magnetic filter frame (either 100x100mm or 100x150mm filter frames are available) and then simply offer it up to the filter holder and it’ll snap into place. This snap-on, snap-off approach can really speed things up out in the field, while you can place them on top of each other as well. Don’t worry about ND grads either – these can be easily moved up and down to suit the composition. A really clever idea that works well.
While the Benro FH100M2 filter holder is designed to appeal to enthusiast and pros, the FG100 and its range of resin filters is aimed at newer users looking to invest in their first filter system. Unlike the advanced FH100M2 with its filter frames and geared mechanism, the FG100 is a much more stripped down affair. Quality is good though, with filters sliding nicely into the slots, while the level of friction is just right for the filters to remain firmly in position without feeling stiff. A little unremarkable perhaps, but the Benro FG100 is a good option for those looking to try filters for the first time.
Cokin’s been making filters and filter holders since 1972 and its affordable prices have meant that it’s been a firm favorite with new users and students alike. Cokin offers a range of different filter holder sizes (and supporting filters) for those on a budget, but we’re going to focus our attention on the Z Series that accommodates 100mm width filters. It’s a little less basic than the A and P Series of filter holders, but it’s still a pretty stripped back piece of kit. One nice touch is the filter configuration. On the front are two filter slots and a space for a polarizer on the front, while there’s also a slot on the back as well. You won’t want to be using four filters stacked together, but the filter holder can be mounted in reverse to use a single filter on the front and cut down the risk of vignetting.
US brand PolarPro has built up a bit of a reputation for its high-end drone and action camera accessories, and has now turned its attention to cameras. The new Summit system is based around the Core. It’s a beautifully machined filter holder, but then it should be for the price. There’s space for a circular polarizer and two slots for other filters, but because Summit filters feature their own metal frame, the Core won’t accept other brands. On the plus side, the metal frame does make them more durable and that bit easier to handle. You can if you wish buy a Summit kit that includes the Core, lens hood, polarizer, two thread plates (77 & 82mm), as well as an ND and ND grad for $699 / £729, or build the system up as you wish (though filters are limited for now). An expensive investment, but there’s no denying the quality.
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