The filter market is currently booming and everyone is trying to get a piece of the pie. You might have heard of Benro from their good quality tripods. They have recently released their filter systems along with their filters. I have tested their current 100mm filter holder (The FH100) and a bunch of their 100x100 and 100x150 graduated filters. Benro also has a 75x75 and 150x150 system.
Benro’s filters are delivered in hard strong plastic cases. In these cases are soft cloth pouches that contain the filters. Basically, the filters have zero room to move inside the hard plastic case. From a travel photographer’s perspective this is interesting because they can be used to travel around with . You can basically just throw them in your suitcase and I am confident these will protect your filters very well. Carrying a bunch of glass in your suitcase this way can save weight in your hand luggage when travelling in airplanes. When you normally carry the filters around you would just use the soft clothing pouches which offer good protection as well.
From left to right: Paper box, plastic hard case, soft cloth pouch.
The FH100 system
The FH100 system can take 3 filters and a CPL. The filter system it self is different than what you normally see. The difference lies mainly in how you attach the front part (in which you put the filters) to the ring on the lens. A lot of filter systems use a technique in which you pull a little pin out and quickly attach the front part to the ring on the lens. Benro does it differently. With the Benro system the front part has 2 screws on it that you have to loosen. Then you attach the front part to the ring on the lens, and tighten the screws. This has advantages and disadvantages. I can already hear you thinking ‘what a hassle’ and that’s exactly what I was thinking at first. I am used to quickly removing the front part.
With Benro you have to loosen 2 screws to get it removed.
It takes some time to get used to but once you get used to it, it works fine. The advantage of this technique is that you can tighten the screws a lot which attaches the front part extremely tight to your lens with zero chance to wiggle and to get loose. It gives you a very ‘safe’ feeling that your filters are impossible to drop in any way. Another advantage is that you can have the front part attached to the ring very tight and put it in your bag like that. Whenever you need to attach the system, you can just screw it on your lens as a whole because the 2 screws hold the 2 parts firmly in place. The 2 parts feel strong and are both made out of aluminum. No plastic to find here.
The FH100 system mounted on the Sony Zeiss 16-35 f4 *Tessar. The 2 blue screws are firmly holding the 2 parts in place.
The FH100 system has a little foam layer on it for the first filters slot, which is meant for the Full ND filter. This is because Benro’s full ND filters do not have a foam layer on them. Does this mean you can’t use filters with a foam layer on the system? No, you can still use filters from other brands that have a foam layer on them, you just have to put them in the first slot with the foam layer pointing to the outside. Regarding foam layers, these are usually used to prevent light leaks. However, there is still light leaks on the top and bottom sometimes, especially when using the full ND filters. Benro has what they call a ‘filter tent’ as a solution for this. This a cheap accessory that you can use the prevent light leaks in case they occur.
Benro's 'filter tent' to prevent light leaks.
With the FH100 system it is possible to use a 82mm CPL. Benro sells them but told me some other brands will work too, as long as they’re thin. You basically screw them in the ring that you attach to the lens. This works, but isn’t always very smooth. Because the CPL has 2 parts with 1 rotating part, it’s not that easy to screw the CPL in the ring, especially if you have short nails and when it’s cold outside, or when you’re using gloves. A solution to this would be using a filter clamp. This is a little tool that makes it easier to remove filters. The advantage of the system is that you can use the CPL without the filter system too by just screwing it onto your lens. Once the CPL is attached, the way to rotate it with the openings on the ring on the top and bottom works very well. The polarisation of the Benro CPL works how it should and I found that the amount of polarisation was great. For those who don’t know what a CPL is used for: I mainly use it to control reflections in water or to get better colour separation in mainly forests. It can also be used to get stronger blue tints in the sky, but the angle you shoot compared to the sun is important in this aspect.
Example (f the before/after doesn't show correctly, please click here):
The ND Filters
All of the filters I’ve tested were glass including the graduated ones (these were the ‘Master’ system). Benro told me they would also release a resin filter line that would be cheaper. Glass filters have the advantage that they don’t scratch that easily. They are more durable if you treat them well. I say that because if you drop a piece of glass on the ground it will shatter in most cases. That’s the main disadvantage of glass. Dropping a filter usually means it’s broken beyond repair. That said, I did drop my Benro 10 stop filter one time and fortunately it didn’t break.