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.
The most important thing for me when using a full ND filter is the color tint. Full ND filters from other brands often have a warm or cool color tone compared to the same shot without a filter. The Benro 10 stopper performs very well regarding keeping the colours neutral. There is a very slight magenta tint but in most situations this is barely noticeable. It really depends on the light. Also, it is equal across the whole filter so it is very easily corrected. I found out that it is exactly +13 on the Green-Magenta tint slider in Lightroom. So move the slider -13 and you’re all set.
In this example you see that the result with the 10-stop filter has a slight magenta tint. (f the before/after doesn't show correctly, please click here)
In this example I corrected the 10-stop filter by moving the Green-Magenta tint slider -13. The colours are now identical. Note that these images are straight out of camera and no colour correction was applied.
this is another example. This is with the 10 stop stacked with a 4 stop Graduated and the CPL. No corrections were made in postproduction. (f the before/after doesn't show correctly, please click here)
As can be seen the colour on the Benro 10-stop filter looks almost neutral and is better than most of the 10-stop filters on the market today.
The Graduated filters are of similar quality which not much complaints here. I mainly used the 4 stop Soft Graduated ND filter which performed well. I like the transition of the gradient that is very smooth and doesn’t start too low on the filter which means most of the surface of the 100x150mm is generally used.
Benro GND16 (4 stops) soft filter.
- Not your ‘usual system’ as a lot of other brands use. Takes some time to get used to.
- Attach the whole filter system in 1 time by screwing it on the lens.
- The 2 parts connect very tight because of the 2 screws so your filters are very safe.
- Removing the 2 parts from each other with the 2 screws isn’t as fast as other systems.
- The Benro HD CPL is good quality, polarisation is very well controlled.
- Possibility of using a CPL combined with other filters.
- Attaching the CPL isn’t very smooth, especially when you have short nails or when you’re using gloves in the cold. A solution to this is using a filter clamp.
- Once the CPL is attached, turning it is easy and smooth.
- All glass (the MASTER system).
- Full ND filters are closed to neutral with a very light magenta shift across the whole filter, which is easily resolved by using -13 on the green-purple shift in post.
- Graduated ND filters have a good smooth transition.
The Benro filter system is another contender on the filter market. Benro is known for their good quality tripods and their filters continue their quality standard in that regard. Their full ND filters are very good compared to other brands regarding neutrality of colours. Their slight magenta tint is nothing compared to colour tints I see from the more established brands. It looks like neutral colour is going to be the new standard and established brands are gradually falling behind to new brands like Benro and Nisi (that I reviewed a while ago, and is also very neutral with their newest IR ND line up). Competition is a good thing and it keeps everyone innovating. Benro and Nisi are currently my favourite filter brands in my bag.