Every once in a while I get a request for review that makes me raise an eyebrow a bit. The Freewell Magnetic VND filter system was one of those requests.
As someone who regularly uses magnets for my photography (with the MagMod system), the thought of using magnetic filters intrigued me. And after taking a closer look at them … needless to say, I like what I saw.
To be honest, when I was first asked to review the Freewell system, I didn’t have high expectations. I had used variable ND filters in the past, and always found them to be made cheaply. Mind you … I wasn’t spending a ton on them, either, but I had talked to several photographers that had similar experiences.
The kit included a VND 2-5 stop and CPL combo, a VND 6-9 stop and ND32/CPL combo, as well as a VND base and mist base. This made for 20 different combinations how I could use the filters.
Right out of the box, I was impressed. The setup came in a nice, padded zipper case that made them easy to transport around. The case was large enough, too, that I could fit my other filters in with ease. No more hunting for them amongst my cluttered backpack.
In terms of the filters themselves, they appeared to be very well-made. They felt strong and the system also looked pretty easy to use. The video below gives you a quick look at what to expect. Simply put, no more taking the time to unscrew and screw on new filters when you’re in a hurry … which is a huge benefit.
In the field
Long story short, I was pleasantly surprised at how the Freewell filters performed. I used them for a couple long exposure shots. And while my shooting conditions weren’t perfect, the filters did what I wanted them to do — reduce glare with the CPL, and allow me to capture longer exposures with sunlight present, thanks to the VND.
Up until recently, I never really used circular polarizers. But I am so happy I discovered them. My long exposures have never looked better, letting me minimize reflections in things like water. With the Freewell CPL, it does darken the image about half a stop from what I saw (even without the base VND attached). But this was very easy to adjust in post-processing to match my “before” shot in terms of exposure.
Picture quality and color accuracy
For me, filters can be make or break when it comes to picture quality. With the Freewell system, I found no issues with picture quality. All my images were sharp and didn’t experience issues with things like haze.
When it came to color accuracy, I was pleasantly surprised. Filters can really make a difference when it comes to colors. But comparing colors with and without the filters … I found no issues here at all. Colors were spot-on with what I was seeing before I placed the filters on my camera.
The VND Mist Filter
Freewell also sent me a VND Mist Base Filter, which I could then use at the base of the system, attaching VNDs or the CPL atop it. I’m not particularly a fan of special effects filters; the VND Mist really just seemed to take out some of the contrast and bring a slightly softer look to the image. I can see where, in certain situations, it might be useful — for example, with a busy night scene with lots of lights.
A few notables
The filters do attract fingerprints a bit more than I would like, and I found myself using the included lens cloth more than I would my go-to Urth filters. Still, it’s much better than my old Vu filters that I first bought when getting into photography. This should not be a deal breaker, simply put.
The only other thing to note is that I found the VND and CPL almost too easy to turn, meaning it might change the setting it’s on if you were to bump it. I wish there was just a tad bit more friction present here to avoid an accidental turn.
Will it replace my current filter system?
Needless to say, the Freewell Magnetic VND filters have found a permanent spot in my bag. They’re incredibly easy to use and transport around, and the case that comes with them is a nice addition.