Product review: Sirui filters prove analog still beats digital
While digital methods have supplanted many analog techniques of the past, some things are still best left analog. One is the use of filters on a camera lens.
There are digital filters designed to mimic analog polarizing and graduated neutral density filters, but they never quite get it right. And there’s no digital substitute for a protective UV-reducing filter or 10-stop neutral density (ND) filter. Sirui has a new product line of filters that includes a screw-in UV, circular polarizer, and 10-stop ND. The most intriguing addition is a holder for 100mm-square and rectangular glass filters and a round circular polarizer.
The filters are manufactured from German Schott Plate Glass B270, one of the clearest glass products available. Each is treated with multi-layer anti-reflective coatings. The UV filter has a 22-layer anti-reflective coating that provides light transmission of nearly 100 percent, with an additional six layers of protective coatings that result in a waterproof, oil-resistant, scratch-resistant, and anti-static surface.
The filter rings are manufactured from aluminum that Sirui designates scientific-grade and finished with an anti-reflective matte black coating. Each is packaged with a thin protective film that’s peeled off before use and comes with a protective padded case.
If you’ve ever experienced vignetting when using screw-in filters on ultra-wide-angle lenses, you’ll appreciate the extremely thin Sirui line. Filters in the UV filter line, available in 10 sizes from 40.5mm to 82mm, are only 2mm thick. At 3.88mm, the Sirui circular polarizer is not only about half the thickness of the Manfrotto Pro I use, but it’s also about half the price. The Sirui circular polarizer is available for lenses with 67mm, 77mm, and 82mm filter threads. The 10-stop ND is only 2.8mm thick. Sirui provided samples of all of these filters for evaluation, and I experienced no vignetting when shooting at 17mm.
Without exception, I was pleased with the screw-in filters’ quality. Mounting and removing them from lenses was quick. I found no visible color shifts using these filters, even the 10-stop ND, although I measured shifts of a few hundred degrees Kelvin with all but the UV filter when testing under controlled conditions in the studio.
While the screw-in filters are of general interest, I’m even more excited about the Sirui Filter Holder 100mm and its associated filters. The main body of the filter holder is manufactured from the same aluminum as the screw-in filter frames and finished in the same matte black. The holder fits directly onto 82mm-diameter lenses, and Sirui provides adapter rings for 67mm, 72mm, and 77mm filter diameter lenses, and adapters for 55mm, 58mm, and 62mm lenses. You can use the 82mm circular polarizing filter provided in the filter holder kit in conjunction with the slide-in filters. The holder is designed such that you can rotate the polarizer independently from the filters.
You can also rotate the filter holder itself. There are click stops every nine degrees, providing positive locks once your desired orientation is reached. Another nice touch is the ease with which you can remove the adapter ring holder from the filter holder and use the polarizing filter without additional filters if you’d like.
Three separate slots in the filter holder can seat Sirui or other manufacturers’ 100mm filters from 1.7mm to 2.3mm in thickness. At present, the Sirui line of 100mm filters is limited to four ND filters (3-, 4-, 6-, and 10-stop) and four soft graduated ND filters (2-, 3-, 4-, and 5-stop). MSRP for the filter holder is $170 including the adapter rings and 82mm circular polarizer. The ND filters are $200 each, and the ND grads are $180 apiece. They’re all manufactured from the same Schott B270 glass with anti-reflective multi-coating and extra layers of protection applied.
Those additional protective layers are interesting. Dust is easily blown off, and fingerprints wipe away with a microfiber cloth. And expect to get fingerprints on them because the 100mm filters fit firmly in their protective padded cases, so it takes an effort to remove them. This is the only negative I found in the Sirui line. Of course, additional filters such as hard grads would be nice, and maybe some colored grads, etc.
As with the screw-in filters, I found no visible color shifts when using the 100mm filters. With my 17-35mm Nikkor lens set to 17mm, I saw vignetting at the corners when using the circular polarizer in the filter holder.
If you’re a landscape photographer using plastic slide-in grad filters, you’ll notice an increase in sharpness and light transmission as well as an increase in clarity with the 100mm Sirui filters. With high-quality components and aggressive pricing, Sirui filters and the filter holder deserve a close look.
Stan Sholik is a commercial and advertising photographer in Santa Ana, California, specializing in still life and macro photography.