Over the past couple of years, there has been a wave of super wide-angle telephoto lenses released on the market. Ideal for huge landscapes, vast night skies, or anything your wide-angle imagination conjures up. They offer big views, exceptional sharpness, and a whole realm of creative possibilities. My personal favorite is the Tamron 15-30mm, but, regardless of the brand, with super wides, their big beautiful front element projects out a distance from the lens body. This means that you can’t use traditional threaded filters that screw on the front of the lens. A couple of manufacturers have realized this, and designed adapters that let you use 150mm square filters, enabling you to add your favorite filters to these lenses.
I picked up a filter adapter and holder set from Haida that is custom fit to my Tamron 15-30mm, pairing it up with my two favorite filters, a circular polarizer and a 10 stop neutral density filter, nicknamed the “Big Stopper“. One of the difficulties in writing product reviews is you can point out all the features you like or don’t like from the start, however it’s sometimes difficult to gauge a product’s durability in the early stages. Although I wrote down my first observations after a few shoots with it, I decided to sit on this review for a while to see how the set really held up. After all, it sits atop what has become one of my favorite and most often used lenses, ever. That lens deserves only the best in my mind…I admit I spoil it.
First Impressions…Pretty Good!
The design is rather smart, there is a threaded sleeve that slides down the lens body to rest against the lens hood and screw into the filter holder itself, snugly holding it in place against the outside of the lens hood. This allows you to nestle the filter right up against the front of the lens, eliminating most ghosting and flare.
Overall, the Haida adapter is very easy to put on. It appears to be built like a tank, seemingly a great add-on to my favorite lens. It has a similar design in many respects to the Lee and Nisi holders also available for this lens. The biggest physical difference is the front opening of the holder. On the Haida and Nisi , it is round, versus the square opening of the Lee. As with the other brands, the Haida also has a foam gasket all the way around the front that is snug to the filter to prevent any light leak. I like that they include three sets of these gaskets for replacements, and two more pins for when I drop them in the swamp.
6 months Later…Not as Happy
Let me start with a disclaimer. I am rough on gear. For me, the equipment must survive and work wherever I need to go for the shots I envision. All gear is a tool, and while a carpenter takes care of his hammer, they don’t refrain from taking it to any job and getting it scratched up in the process of hammering in nails.
With that out of the way, let’s say the Haida adapter and I have had a rocky relationship. On one hand, maybe my use falls into the “extreme” range, I accept that. On the other, there are some design and longevity issues that concern me with this product.
Foremost, is the adapter’s construction. While all the parts seemed to be machined well, and fit together snugly, there is one part of the design that consistently causes me problems. I don’t even know what to call them, but the little metal triangles holding the adapter tight to the lens cause no end of frustration. My first impression of “built like a tank” has faded, as the lightweight aluminum it is machined from has a tendency to bend a little each time you screw the adapter ring into the filter holder. While not an issue at first, each time you put on the adapter, these triangles bend a little more. Eventually, as they bend out of shape, they create an issue where the lens hood will project too far forward, preventing any filters from being placed into the first slot of the holder. Bending them back into place works for a while, but, each time you do so, the metal fatigues a little more, making it easier to bend out of place. The issue occurs more quickly each time after you fix it. Eventually, those little triangles will break off, rendering the adapter useless.
Because you have to use the second slot if you can’t bend them back into place in the field, you now have a gap between the filter and hood allowing light leak. This light leak can result in all kinds of odd things to appear in your images if sunlight strikes the back of the filter, flare happens or ghosting, or even banding in your photos. The round design of the filter adapter is more prone to these issues, versus similar square designs, as more of the glass is exposed to stray light outside of the opening. Being forced to use the second slot increases the gap between filter and lens, exaggerating this problem even more.
While I appreciate the extra gaskets and pins included, I expected to have these spares last a while longer. I have already had to change the gasket twice. I suspect in part because the problem above causes the filter to strike the edge of the gasket when you use the first slot. Replacing the gasket isn’t difficult, just finicky as you have to carefully line it up with the narrow bands of metal it rests upon, without getting it stuck to itself or you. The pins I have had more success with, not having lost any yet. They are a must to have in place, it is easy to accidentally knock the filter holder loose and drop it if it is not secured with a pin. The pins are designed well, long and thick enough that you can spin them into place even when using gloves.
As for the filters themselves, I have nothing but good things to say about both my circular polarizer and “Big Stopper”. The glass is remarkably tolerant of abuse, I even dropped one by accident onto hard ground and it came away unscathed. They have very little color cast, are surprisingly scratch resistant, and cause no loss of sharpness that I can detect. The metal case they come in absorbs impact well, I feel completely comfortable throwing them in a backpack and hitting the trail.
So, Is It Any Good?
After six months, I am still using the filter adapter and filters. Knowing its quirks and concerns, I am careful not to over-tighten the adapter when I install it. I hope that extends its life. The filters themselves are haze and scratch free, looking as good as the day they came out of the box. I’m happy with the images produced using them, ultimately the best compliment I can give a product.
One of the biggest advantages to the Haida set is it came in at roughly half the price as the Lee for a holder, adapter, and two filters. I can’t speak to the quality of the Lee as being that much better, or that the Haida is that much worse, to warrant the difference. But, there are some issues to be aware of when considering the Haida set for yourself. With the easily bent triangles, I know that it is only a matter of time before my adapter fails me. If I do replace the adapter, I would certainly keep using the filters themselves as they have more than exceeded my expectations.
Overall, knowing the issues I have laid out here, for an average user who will see low to moderate use of the adapter and holder, it is a good choice that is a bit gentler on the budget. For more extreme users like myself, you may encounter some longevity issues. I would not hesitate to buy any Haida filters, just be gentle with the filter holder and adapter, keeping in mind the issues I had.
Update: 6 Months and 1 Day Later, RIP Haida Holder
Remember that thing I said a few paragraphs ago, “Eventually those little triangles will break off, rendering the adapter useless.” Apparently, that tempted fate just a little too much. Not 12 hours after I finished writing this article, one of those triangles broke while I was out on a shoot at a waterfall. With the expected result of making the thing useless. I have contacted Haida and sincerely hope they respond with an improved design. I’ll let you know if they do.
Meanwhile, I ordered the LEE Filters SW150 Mark II Filter System Holder for Wide Angle Lenses, and an adapter for the Tamron 15-30mm. I’m hoping my first impressions on this one are right, it has some nice design improvements over the Haida, but at a higher overall price. Expect my review in a few months after I “break it in”, meanwhile please feel free to shoot me any questions as I test it.
- Canon 5D Mark III
- Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens
- Gitzo GT3543LS Systematic Carbon Fiber Tripod (Long)
- Haida 150 x 150mm Circular Polarizer Filter
- Haida 150 Filter Holder Kit for Tamron 15-30mm Lens
- LEE Filters SW150 Mark II Filter System Holder for Wide Angle Lenses
- LEE Filters SW150 Mark II Lens Adapter for Tamron SP 15-30mm f/2.8 Di VC USD Lens