I should start this review by stating I am not affiliated with anyone and all filters here have been bought using my own money.
I have been using Cokin filters since I first got into photography. They are relatively inexpensive and easy to get hold of but more recently I have been wanting more. The problem with Cokin is that they give a magenta colour cast that intensifies as you stack the filters. My normal workflow in the field is to use a polariser, a 3 stop ND filter and then a GND (1 stop or 2 stop) depending on the situation. I only use a 1 or 2 stop GND as it is all I have, so sometimes I have to wait for the light to become dimmer.
If you know that the filters will cast Magenta then you can deal with it, either in post or work with it for the scene. The above image from Italy was taken one December evening on the banks of the Tiber.
The problem comes when you don’t want a magenta cast and you especially don’t want to sit for hours in photoshop. One way of getting around this is to take multiple exposures and blend them in photoshop instead of using filters, but to be honest I prefer to get it right in camera if I can. The more time out shooting the better in my opinion.
I use the NiSi pro v5 holder as I like the polariser being internal to the system, and even on my widest compatible lens, it does not cause vignetting. My Cokin z-Pro system unfortunately showed the filter holder/heavy vignetting at the widest angles (24mm) so I opted to change…plus the cokin polariser is crazy expensive for some reason.
I had been looking to upgrade to Lee as a step up, and from all accounts they certainly are from Cokin, although they apparently still provide a green colour cast according to the many online reviews I had read. The next thought was the go full NiSi, but at £129 a filter, that was out of my current price range to replace some of my most used filters.
After some extensive online sleuthing I came across a company called 84.5mm. So called because that is the size of the Cokin p-system, I decided to buy some of their “Ultra” filters (for the 100mm system) ready for my trip back home to Australia over Easter.
I’m not going to lie, their website is pretty 1990s and when I bought my filters I was a little worried I had just been scammed, however I have been updated all along the way with emails telling me my order was being processed and sent. I also came across an old post by photographer James Grant, here which helped to convince me that these guys are legit.
They arrived very quickly by post considering they came from the Slovak Republic so 10/10 for fast postage to me, and their communication was good. Although they didn’t give me a tracking number so I had a brief panic where I didn’t know if I had just been scammed or not. I wasn’t and hats off to them for a speedy service!
Due to time constraints and also weather, I haven’t been able to actually use them yet so I thought I would do a quick review from the studio, and then I will update this post once I have managed to use them in a real world scenario. All images were shot against a white background and were window and tungsten bulb lit (hence the gradation not attributed to the GNDs). I kept all settings the same between each comparison.
First up was the 3 Stop ND filter option from both. Straight off the mark you can see that these are not the same ND strengths. To be honest I don’t have a clue which one is actually 3 stops, but the Cokin branded is clearly stonger by almost a full stop. When I darken the 84.5mm branded filter to match you can clearly start to see a magenta colour cast (-20 to fix using Lightroom compared to -10 for Cokin). Disappointing to be honest as I bought these on the recommendation that there was no cast.
Next we have the GND 2 Stop filters from both companies. Once again the Cokin is stronger by almost a stop. And better on the colour casting according to Lightroom. (Cokin takes out -1 of magenta from the Cokin and -11 on the 84.5mm) Which is no real biggie I guess, but still fairly disappointing.
Thirdly I stacked them, as this is how I will mostly be using them. When stacked you can really see the differences. The Cokin filters are way way darker and have less of a colour cast than the 84.5mm. The Cokin comes in at -12 of magenta taken out whilst the stacked 84.5mm comes out at a whopping -38. It is also a 1.2 stops lighter than Cokins offering.
Now for a few caveats: Firstly what I have shown you kept the settings the same and just compared the filters under the same tungsten light white balance setting. However, when I also compensated for the extra light afforded to me by the 84.5mm filters, I still saw a huge discrepancy in the magenta cast.
Additionally these are not real world settings and so I will have to update this when the whether gives me something good to play with.
Although I have a 1 stop GND from Cokin I did not have an 84.5mm equivlanet filter, so this hasn’t been compared, and on the flip side, I have both a 3 stop GND and 3 Stop reverse GND from 84.5mm (but not cokin). These both show some major bias towards the magentas too though
You can probably tell which is which here.
84.5mm claim their coating methods are produced by hand, which also might explain why the 3 stop GND does not appear to be straight unlike the the Reverse Grad.
So initial verdict is that I’m not overly impressed by the 84.5mm filters. However for their price, I can’t really complain. I paid £150 for 4 filters ( Reverse 3 Stop GND, 3 Stop Hard GND, 2 stop Med GND and a 3 stop ND) Which had I tried to buy NiSi would have set me back almost 4 times that price. Additionally the Cokin filters are becoming scratched due to years of usage so for the moment, and until I can save up to buy a nice set of NiSi filters I’ll have to stick with what I have. Frustratingly it appears that my original aim to counter the Magenta cast has backfired and I have made it worse.
I will update this review once I get out with them…who knows, maybe I’ll love them in the field. Anything is possible….I guess.