I’ve long been a square filter user when it comes to wide-angle lenses. But when it came to my new Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 lens for my Sony kit, I now had a second option — rear filters. I was lucky enough to have B&H send me both for a comparison.
The NiSi Filter System v5
So where does my trusty NiSi Filter System — a system I’ve been familiar with dating back to 2014 — land on my list?
I first bought a NiSi 150×150 filter system in 2014, for my Tamron 15-30mm f/2.8 lens for Nikon. I loved the results I got, despite the bulk that was required. Fast-forward to the Olympus M.Zuiko 7-14mm f/2.8 PRO lens, and I got a NiSi v4 filter holder, adapted for the Olympus. And it worked like a charm.
So it would make sense that the v5 for my Sigma 14-24mm f/2.8 would work equally as well, right?
Well, not quite.
Changing for the worse?
With my v4 filter holder, I could easily line up the filter and screw it in. It was easy. But with the v5, I’m now required to turn and lock the filter holder as it’s been screwed in. It’s an extra step, and it’s clunky.
When you’re outside in freezing temperatures, that extra step can make things a bit more difficult. I couldn’t get a good grip with my gloves, meaning that I had to expose my hands. Even then, it was somewhat difficult to lock the filter holder into place, though I did eventually get it working.
What’s more, it seems like the holder is actually slightly larger in size, meaning my 150×150 square filters just barely cover any light coming in. It means you have to be a little more precise.
There’s also a weird finish on the v5 holder, making it very prone to scratches. These seem to be easily wiped away with a wet cloth, but it makes me scratch my head a bit.
Despite my troubles with installation, the photographic results were just as I expected — absolutely gorgeous. I was able to smooth out the waves on the beach and make the water smooth at our city’s famous “Blue Bridge.”
Needless to say, the NiSi system came through for me again, though it did provide some challenges I wasn’t expecting.
The Haida Rear Filter System
I was excited about the possibility for rear filters for my wide-angle lens, mainly because it meant that traveling and hiking through the woods wouldn’t have a ton of extra weight attached to filters. The Haida filters come in a clear plastic box, and take up very little space in my backpack. They’re also super light.
Still, I had concerns, mainly in windy conditions. If I was changing a filter on the beach, would I get a bunch of sand in the back of my lens or on my camera’s sensor?
The Haida system was very, very easy to install. Still, you have to be careful to not scratch or get fingerprint smudges on the small filter you’re inserting. Haida has a small tab that you can hold the filter by, but it doesn’t give you much space to work with.
Still, installing the filter was flipping the switch on the lens, angling the filter, dropping it into place and then flipping the back switch back so that the filter stayed in place. It was easy, though I did have to take off my gloves to do it.
I was very pleased with the results of the Haida system too. I didn’t experience any light leaks or any weird effects that can often occur with cheaper filters.
The major difference: Color
What I noticed immediately in-camera were the differences in color. The NiSi — which had glass that I’ve used for years now — seemed to have a greenish tint to it. For those of you who use Sony, you know that Sony’s colors tend to lean toward green anyway, so this amplified that further.
On the other side, the Haida was a bit more red, and more true to color. I compared this to the Gobe filters for my Sigma 24-70mm, and found that the Haida was nearly identical to those, while the NiSi was off by quite a bit. Without the comparison, though, I don’t think I would have noticed the color cast in the NiSi filters.
You can see the difference below, with a photo taken at the same settings — f/8, ISO 1000, 15s — with a 10-stop filter on each.
Which did I go with?
Ultimately, it came down to what was more realistic for my purposes. Both filters performed relatively well, even with the discoloration from the NiSi.
With the Haida, I would have to potentially drop in my filter prior to walking to the beach if it was windy out. And with the NiSi, it was somewhat difficult to install on my lens, and I now knew that I would have to make color adjustments while editing.
So for me, it came down to one thing — portability. As I’ve traveled more and more (ahem, except for 2020), taking heavy filters has been a challenge and one that causes me to sometimes leave them behind. So with the Haida, this concern is out of the way, and it’ll actually encourage me to use them more.
So I went with the Haida.
Oddly enough, just before publication of this article, the NiSi v5 for the Sigma 14-24mm disappeared from most retailers. Maybe my complaints about usability were issues that other users were having, or maybe they’re just out of stock. Either way I find it odd that this product would just disappear from the market.
While I still will definitely use the NiSi v4 system for my Olympus kit, for the Sony, I’m trying to stay portable when it comes to any extras (larger lenses = not as much room in my bags). That, coupled with the fact that the filters are very light, make it a no-brainer for my situation. Plus the fact that they’re quite a bit cheaper doesn’t hurt!
Stay tuned for part two, where I discuss options for my Sigma 24-70mm, including the Gobe filter system.