Cokin NX Series Filter Holder review

Cokin’s NX Series Filter Holder is built to last and has features that should appeal to discerning photographers

Cokin NX Series Filter Holder review
(Image: © Angela Nicholson/Digital Camera World)

Digital Camera World Verdict

Cokin has manufactured filters since the 1970s but for most of its history it has been regarded as the choice of amateur rather than professional photographers. The NX Series Filter Holder, however, is designed to appeal to professional and dedicated enthusiast photographers. While it requires the filters to be mounted in frames which are very fiddly to fit, they improve the handling, making the filters easier to use and less likely to get covered in fingerprints. Conveniently, with the correct frames in place, the NX Series Filter Holder can be used with any 2mm-thick 100mm filters as well as Cokin’s excellent Nuances Extreme range.

Pros

  • +

    Low profile and robust build

  • +

    Frames make filters easier to handle

  • +

    Suitable for use with wide-angle lenses

Cons

  • -

    Requires filter frames

  • -

    NX filter frames are very fiddly to fit

  • -

    Tricky to remove the polarizer

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Cokin offers three series of filter holders, the Creative and Evo holders which are available in a range of sizes and the newer NX Series Filter Holder which is designed for use with 100mm-type square and rectangular filters from a range of brands including Cokin. 

What sets the NX Holder apart from most other filter holders is that the filters need to be mounted in an aluminum frame before they can be used. Cokin makes these frames to fit 100x100mm square filters and rectangular graduated filters (opens in new tab). In an odd quirk, Cokin’s graduated 100mm filters are 143.5x100mm whereas most competitors’ filters are 150x100mm. Consequently, Cokin makes two sizes of rectangular filter frame and one square frame, so it’s important to ensure you have the correct size. Cokin sells the frames separately and as part of a kit.

The holder is made of aluminum and is able to accept a Cokin circular polarizing filter (CPL) (opens in new tab) and up to two square or rectangular filters in their frames. Before it can be mounted on a lens, an adapter ring must be screwed onto the lens’ filter thread. The low profile of the holder and the filter frames mean that the system is suitable for use with focal lengths as short as 16mm.

Cokin NX Series Filter kits

Cokin NX Series Filter Holder review

(Image credit: Angela Nicholson/Digital Camera World)

As well as selling the Nuances Extreme filters and filter frames individually, Cokin offers a selection of five kits with them and the holder, these are:

The Starter Kit (£219/$219.99) with the holder, a circular polarizer in a pouch, a 100x100mm frame, a 100x143.5mm frame, three adapter rings (72mm, 77mm and 82mm), an adapter ring cap and a filter system wallet. 

The Long Exposure Kit (£279/$279.99), which adds a Nuances Extreme (10-stop) 1024ND filter to the Starter Kit.

The Landscape Kit (£360/$379.99), which adds Nuances Extreme ND1024 and GND8 Soft filters to the Starter Kit. 

The Expert Kit (£540/$569.99), which adds three graduated ND8 filters (Soft, Reverse and Hard) and the 1024ND filter to the Starter Kit. 

The Professional Kit (£689.99/$699.99), Cokin’s largest kit, includes seven filters, with three Nuances Extreme NDs (8, 64 and 1024), Soft, Hard and Reverse Nuances Extreme graduated 8NDs in addition to the CPL.

Build and handling

(Image credit: Angela Nicholson/Digital Camera World)

As I mentioned, the NX Series Holder is made from aluminum and while it’s lightweight, it feels strong and looks well-made. Most filter holders have slots for accommodating the filters but the NX Filter Holder has two rows of four ball bearings on either side. These ball bearings fit into slots in the filter frames so that the filters slide smoothly into place.

Before you use a filter, it needs to be mounted in one of Cokin’s filter frames. This is not something you want to do out in the field. It’s also something really only want to do once, so it’s well-worth ensuring that you have a frame for every filter that you’re likely to use.

The filter is held in the frame by a small aluminum tab which must be removed to allow the filter to be slipped in. The tab is secured on the frame by two tiny screws and though they are easy to remove, refitting them is a frustratingly fiddly job. I lost a screw or two in the process, but thankfully, Cokin provides a couple of spares with the frames.

The accessory case comes with some of the kits, or can be bought separately (Image credit: Angela Nicholson/Digital Camera World)

The Starter Kit comes with 72mm, 77mm and 82mm adaptor rings, but you can buy the frame and adaptors separately (Image credit: Angela Nicholson/Digital Camera World)

Once an adapter ring has been mounted on the lens filter thread, the holder can be clipped onto the adapter. It’s held by two metal tabs, one of which is sprung to allow it to be pulled back while the holder is aligned on the adapter before the clip is released. It keeps the holder securely on the lens.

With the holder on the lens it’s time to mount a filter. If you want to use a polarizing filter, this should be mounted first as it pushes neatly into dedicate circular area in the holder and sits close to the lens. A small metal cog in the Filter Holder engages with teeth in the CPL filter’s frame so that it can be rotated easily while you look in the camera’s viewfinder.

Now you’re ready to slide a framed filter into the holder. I found it helpful to touch the end of the filter frame onto the top of the holder and then slide it onto the row of ball bearings closest to the lens. This avoids any misalignment or straddling the two rows of ball bearings. If you want to insert a second filter, rest its frame against the first filter’s frame and then slide it into position.

Performance

(Image credit: Angela Nicholson/Digital Camera World)

As soon as you start using the NX Series Filter System any frustration with mounting the filter frames is forgotten because they make the filters much easier to handle. The broad tab at the top makes an ideal holding point so you can adjust the filter position or remove it easily with less chance of covering it in fingerprints than with many other filters.

I used the holder with both Cokin Nuances Extreme filters and filters from Lee Filters, and aside from the difference in the length of the graduated filters from the two brands, there’s no difference in how they slip into the filter. They push in easily and are held securely yet are easy to adjust if necessary. 

Cokin NX Series Filter Holder review

(Image credit: Angela Nicholson/Digital Camera World)

Cokin claims that the NX Series Filter Holder is suitable for use with lenses of focal lengths as short as 16mm. I found no reason to question this and although there was slight vignetting in some images that I shot with the Canon RF 14-35mm F4 L IS USM (opens in new tab) at 14mm on the full-frame Canon R5 (opens in new tab), it wasn’t problematic.

The Cokin NX-Series CPL (opens in new tab) works very well with the holder as the cog mechanism makes it easy to adjust the rotating precisely, plus there’s no danger of touching any of the filters in the process. The only slight hiccup is that it’s awkward to remove the CPL from the frame, you either have to hook it out with fingernail or poke it through from the back after the holder has been removed from the lens.

In a nice touch, the filter holder has a light seal that does a good job of excluding light when an ND filter is fitted for a long exposure during the day.

Verdict

(Image credit: Angela Nicholson/Digital Camera World)

While circular filters, especially those with a magnetic mount, are quicker and easier to use, a holder is required for proper use of graduated filter. The Cokin NX Series Filter Holder makes a great choice, having delightful build quality and holding the filters securely.

There are only really two issues that count against the NX Series Holder, the fiddly screws for mounting the filter frames and the awkward way in which the polarizing filter has to be removed. Neither of these is insurmountable. With patience, good light, a decent precision screwdriver, and a clear table, the filters can be mounted in their frames ahead of their first use, and it doesn’t take long to work out a way of removing the polarizing filter. After using the NX filter system, these points seem a small price to pay for the performance.

Read more: 

• Best filter holders (opens in new tab)
Best ND grad filters (opens in new tab)
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Best polarizing filters (opens in new tab)
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Best neutral density (ND) filters (opens in new tab)
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Best variable ND filters (opens in new tab)
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Best lens protection filters (opens in new tab)
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Best light pollution filters (opens in new tab)
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Camera filters explained (opens in new tab) 

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Angela has been testing camera gear from all the major manufacturers since January 2004 and has been Amateur Photographer’s Technical Editor and Head of Testing for Future Publishing’s photography portfolio (Digital Camera Magazine (opens in new tab)PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine (opens in new tab)N-Photo (opens in new tab)Practical Photoshop (opens in new tab)Photography Week (opens in new tab) and Professional Photography magazines, as well as the Digital Camera World and TechRadar websites).