We’ve all been there. We have the desire to capture a long exposure, only to forget our ND filters at home. Or we want to quickly switch back and forth from using an ND filter to not using one during a combined photo and video shoot, only to miss that perfect moment because we’re switching or taking off our filters.
Enter the Alter Rapid Filter System, and these problems are a thing of the past.
In what seems like a simple device, the Alter RFS has quickly become a staple in my camera bag, whether I’m working with clients or traveling across the country.
I had the chance to use the Alter RFS on a recent trip to Raleigh, NC, and quickly realized the potential the device has. It works flawlessly with my filter step-up ring I use frequently with my Olympus 12-100mm f/4 PRO lens. It also works with filters on its own, lens caps and white balance discs.
First impressions and setup
When I first saw the Alter RFS at WPPI, I was impressed with its potential. As someone who frequently photographs long exposures, the ability to photograph with and without a filter — without changing my gear — was enticing.
The Alter RFS uses a magnetic system that makes it easy to engage or disengage the filter. The fact that you can change the position of the hinge, and tighten/loosen it as you wish, makes sure you can make all the adjustments necessary to make sure it will work for your kit.
When I first tried to hook up the Alter RFS, I will say, I was a bit confused. While the directions were well drawn-out, I wasn’t clear which ring was needed to attach to my lens. After a bit of experimentation, I figured out that the outer ring goes around the filter mount, while the interior ring gets screwed into the lens. While using my step-up ring, I quickly realized it was easiest to attach the Alter RFS to the step-up ring instead of my lens first, to ensure a secure fit. From there I attached the entire setup on to my lens.
If you’re using a step-up ring especially, I’d recommend not tightening too much, as I certainly have experienced a stuck step-up ring in the past. Once you start to receive pressure when screwing on your lens, back off — it’s tight enough.
I tried setting it up in advance of my trip, which I definitely recommend doing. Once I got used to the initial setup, I was able to take it off and put it back on in mere seconds.
For still photographers, there’s one big thing this will do for you, other than let you quickly switch back and forth between, say, an ND filter. I know for me personally, I’ve had multiple instances where I have to pre-focus my camera without an ND filter on, and then carefully screw it on, being careful not to bump the lens’ focus.
This gets rid of that tedious work, allowing you to just flip up the filter with the Alter RFS, grab your focus, and push it back down. It allows me to be flexible with my setup, especially being someone who doesn’t usually think beforehand in terms of what exactly he’ll be shooting with.
Finally, as someone who occasionally shoots video, this allows me to capture both video and still without changing my filter setup. One thing to note — if you’re shooting video, you’ll most likely want the hinge to open to the side, instead of on top, in order to not block any recording accessories like a microphone or fill light.
As mentioned above, the Alter RFS is compatible with various filter sizes, lens caps, step-up rings and white balance discs. It’s not compatible with lens hoods, but Alter has stated that, due to an integrated light shield, you’ll experience zero light leak. While a lens hood is something I use pretty much every time I photograph, it’s something I’m used to not using with filters.
There’s also an Alter RFS+ system being developed, which comes with a built-in step-up ring.
The Alter RFS takes a simple idea — the ability to switch filters in and out — and applies it to a device that really hits the mark. The system is a staple in my camera bag now, and I’m excited to use it for my landscapes, outdoor event coverage and videography. It allows me to have more flexibility when using a filter and lets me change my setup on-the-fly by just lifting the filter up or to the side.
Click here to learn more about the Alter RFS and to back them on Kickstarter. The Alter RFS will retail for $79, while the Kickstarter campaign gives you at least 15% off depending on the options you select.
Thanks to Jannine Guyeskey for the photos!