Nisi as a Brand
For those of you that don’t know Nisi: Nisi is a camera filter brand based in Zhuhai, China. They are mainly known for their 6k Cinema filters with impressive coating. For a while now, they have been focusing on smaller filters for the (professional) photography industry. I have been following them for about a year and they keep improving their products and bringing out new versions. It’s interesting that they are really trying to conquer the market (as the Chinese are known for) not only by improving their filters on a short timespan, but also by rapidly creating holders for all kinds of interesting lenses.
Some of you know that I’ve been using some Nisi products for a while already. I received an early review pack some months back and have been testing their filters without really writing about them. I always like to test new products and filters are no exception. At that time I received the holder (V3, current newest version is V5), a 3 stop Graduated ND filter and an 8-stop ND filter. I was really impressed by how great everything looked. And by ‘looked’ I mean the packaging! Everything was well taken care of, with nice clean packaging that included leather pouches to put the filters in.
As I was trying everything I really liked the holder. There surely was some room for improvements on minor aspects but the general feel was great. The great thing about the Nisi holder is that they give you a bunch of adapter rings with it so that you can fit it on basically every lens. They also give you the CPL with it (yes, you don’t have to buy a Nisi CPL separately) that you can mount in the holder, and rotate with small wheels. The regular filters are mounted in front of the CPL. The 8 stop filter I received at that time had a warm colour shift, which I considered normal as a lot of full ND (think of Lee and Hitech that generally have a colder tint, and Haida having a warmer tint) filters have either a warm or cold colour shift on them. As long as it’s easily correctable in post it is usually not really a problem.
Then there was the 3 stop IR GND filter. I wasn’t happy with that one. It had a major colour shift that was hard to correct in post. Some of my photographer friends (with a good reputation) had tried the Nisi GND filters as well and they didn’t have this problem. It seemed that I had received a filter from a so called ‘bad batch’. This happens from time to time. Consistency always seems to be an issue with these filter brands. At that time I felt I didn’t really had the material to write something about Nisi, mainly because I had a ‘bad’ filter which was clearly a mistake. I still kept on using the 8 stop filter along with the holder along with the CPL.
Visiting Nisi in Hong Kong
As I am very familiar with Asia and China in general, I know Zhuhai, the hometown of Nisi. I’ve been there a couple of times and it’s very close to Hong Kong, which is basically my second home (lived there for a while). I went back to Hong Kong last month and decided to get in touch with Nisi. Nisi also has a distributor in Hong Kong that is closely connected to the HQ in Zhuhai. I told them about my experience with Nisi and about my ‘bad filter.’ They immediately acknowledged the problem and invited me to come over at the distributor’s office in Hong Kong. There, Peter Wong of the 'Rainbow Store - Camera' in Hong Kong welcomed me. He showed me the progress of Nisi and I was surprised how much they improved in such a short time span. They currently have so many holders, and much more planned. Their glass has also greatly improved with different and improved coating, much less reflective and most importantly: almost a neutral colour which means almost no colour shifts. This all sounded good but of course I had to see this for myself. Peter gave me some new products for testing which included the new 15 Stop IR Full ND, the 4 stop (1.2) IR Graduated ND and the new holder along with the new CPL along with some other goodies.
What’s cool to see about the new products, especially the new (V5) holder, is that they really listen to their testers and improve their holders with the comments they get. I commented on the V3 holder that it was a bit wobbly. The V5 has a new design, is stronger, less wobbly, but there’s still some minor things I would like to be fixed. There’s already a new holder V6 incoming though, so they keep improving super fast.
I was obviously eager to test the new 15 stops filter as I had never even used a 15 stop filter before. The next day I went out to the harbour in Hong Kong as there were some nice clouds. Perfect to test out the 15 stops filter. Where as the 10 stops filters are generally not dark enough for very long exposures during broad daylight, this filter is perfect for daytime long exposures. Fine Art Black & White Architecture photographers will have a blast with this thing. There were 2 interesting things with this filter that I noticed at first: firstly, I could still perfectly see the image through live view on the monitor of my A7RII. That’s obviously great as I could still compose images without having to remove the filter first. Second, after doing my first long exposure I was surprised to see a very neutral colour without changing the white balance. This filter, although 15 stops, has almost ZERO colour shift. I had never seen that before. Definitely impressive. Here’s a shot straight out of the camera with no corrections or editing (you can even see the sensor dust :) ):
Check the white balance as it hasn’t changed, and the colour is basically the same without any warmer or cooler shift. It’s great to be able to do such long exposure times during daytime. Here's a BW Edit of the HK skyline image by my friend Martijn Kort:
Here’s a (processed) 6 minute (!) exposure during daytime:
Obviously, this filter gets tricky during sunsets as there is less light. People would have to decide for themselves if this filter is useful for them. But for people that are interested in extremely long exposure, this filter does it’s job and it does it well.
What can I currently say about Nisi? I really like what they’re doing. I am a Sony Global ambassador, almost exclusively using Sony’s cameras because I love Sony as an innovative camera brand that keeps pushing themselves and others along with them. I feel Nisi is doing the same. They’re rapidly getting popular in the filter market and I am sure there’s a good future for them in the current market. People are always skeptical about Chinese brands, but I can assure you the current quality of the Nisi products is currently great. Especially compared to about six months ago. That might also explain why there are some bad reviews about Nisi out there. I also had a few negative experiences with Nisi with the first review kit. But right now I am very impressed with the new glass and the products that come with it.
Nisi GND 1.2 (4 stops) + Nisi CPL
Filters in my bag
I currently have a mixed bag of filters that I use which consists of Haida, Ray Masters (who are also really improving and have lower priced filters that are of great quality) and Nisi. I hope to do a full filter comparison soon that includes all major filter brands (including Hitech, Lee, Ray Masters, Nisi and even Benro).
PS: Feel free to ask me any questions regarding filters. I'll do my best to answer everything.
Links to buy the Nisi filters:
Nisi on EBAY (Free shipping worldwide)
Nisi Holder Kit (includes adapter rings & CPL)
100x100 ND3200 (15 stops) filter