For the past 3 years I've used Lee Filter's 100mm system on my lenses. When I purchased the Nikon 14-24mm, I needed a special filter system to work with the lens. After comparing 8 filter systems, it seemed that Haida Filters offered a good filter holder for a reasonable price. The Haida filter holder for the 14-24mm is currently $136, a bargain compared to many other brands. This includes their universal filter holder and the adapter ring for your specific lens. Haida also makes filter holders for most other wide angle lenses, including the Tamron 15-30mm and Rokinon 14mm. As photographers know all too well, sometimes saving some cash means sacrificing a lot of quality.
As I was looking into the Haida system, it was hard to find quality information or reviews in English. The main goal of this review is to explore the Haida system and provide as much information as possible.
*Throughout the review I link to galleries where you can scroll through the comparison images. I've enabled downloading for the full-res files, so you can verify them for yourself. The download icon will be visible at the top of the images for desktop browsers. For mobile users, scroll up. You will see an arrow in the upper right. Click the arrow, then 'Download'.
Since I plan to mainly use my 14-24mm for waterfalls, I decided to get the Polarizer and 6 Stop ND. With my new filters ready to go, I was excited to finally capture some long exposures with my wide-angle lens.
The Haida Polarizer removed distracting glare from this image
The first thing I noticed is how much larger these filters are compared to my 100mm system. The filters are nearly the size of my head! If you've never seen a 150mm system before, this is something to consider. You may find your current pack is too small to fit your filters and holder. Thankfully I had my Mindshift pack on me for this hike, plenty of space! Using the rotating waistbelt feature, I was able to safely attach my filter system in the middle of the creek!
With my polarizer attached, I began to photograph the creek I was walking in. By rotating the filter holder, I was able to dial in the polarizer and remove the glare. Since my shutter speed was still a bit too fast, I added the Haida 6 Stop ND Filter. This slowed the exposure down to 2 seconds, allowing me to show the movement of the water.
Occasionally some water would splash onto the filter, but a quick wipe with my microfiber cloth fixed the problem. Thankfully the Haida filters have a good coating that repels moisture and makes it easy to clean. As long as you have a microfiber cloth with you, the filters should be very easy to clean in the field. The glass filters are also scratch-resistant, according to Haida. I've used the filters for a few months now, and I haven't noticed any scratches yet. I did have one minor problem when using the filter system though.
If you are using a polarizer, you need to rotate the filter holder around to find the best polarization angle. You will see two arrows on the different pieces of the filter holder. When the two arrows are aligned, the filter holder can be removed from the adapter ring. I had to be careful as I rotated the holder around, occasionally the two arrows would align and the filter holder would want to come off. Of course, if you are only using ND's or Grad ND's you don't need to worry, as you probably won't be constantly rotating the holder around. If you are using the polarizer, just make sure to pay attention.
Blackwater Falls - using the Haida Polarizer and 6 Stop ND
I'll admit, it can take me a long time to figure simple things out. Thankfully the Haida setup is so easy, even I had no trouble attaching it to my 14-24mm. Upon opening the box for the first time, I had it installed on my lens in less than 10 minutes. Having seen and used a few other 150mm systems, the Haida is very simple to install. Just take off the lens (if it was on the camera), fit the Front Adapter Ring around the lens hood petals, turn the lens upside down and slide up the Rear Adapter ring. Screw the two together. Then you can attach the Universal Holder and tighten it down. Ready to go!
Watch the video below to see how the Haida is installed. Once you have done this process a few times, it is very quick and easy to do in the field. I normally leave my Haida system attached to my lens though.
Haida Installation Video
First, I want to explain how the Haida filters are different than most others. Most ND filters have a foam gasket attached, this helps to prevent light leaks. The Haida ND filters, by default, do not have the foam gasket applied. Haida does include the foam inside the package though, so you can always add it yourself. Don't do it yet though!
An example of the foam gasket on an ND Filter
The Haida 150mm Filter Holder has a foam gasket attached to it. This allows the filters to be used "naked". I tried using another brand's 150mm ND filter, with a foam-gasket already attached, but it did not fit into the first filter slot. The combination of the foam on the holder and foam on the filter was simply too wide.
Therefore, you will probably not be able to use another brand's filter in the first slot of the Haida system. They will fit perfectly in the second / third slot though.
**UPDATE: I was recently informed that you can use another filter brand on the Haida. Simply turn the filter around, so that the foam gasket faces outwards, and the filter will slide right in!
If you plan to use Haida filters in another brand's filter holder, you may want to apply the foam gasket. This should reduce the chance of light leaks.
Notice the foam in the first filter slot
With all that being said, the image below was taken with the Haida 6 Stop ND and a Progrey 10 Stop ND using the Haida filter holder. I had the "naked" 6 Stop placed in the first slot, so it would utilize the filter holder's foam. The 10 Stop, with the foam gasket attached, was in the second slot. Even after 7 minutes, there were no visible light leaks. The foam covering on the Haida filter holder appears to do it's job! Granted, you should always make sure to keep your viewfinder blocked and the camera covered during a long exposure.
The next test was designed to capture a light leak. The camera was positioned so that light should leak in through the filter holder on a bright, sunny day. I made no effort to block any potential light leaks; this test was purely meant to see how well the foam gasket worked. Click here to see those comparison images.
The Before / After comparison below clearly shows a light leak across the center of the image. The sun was directly overhead, and it's possible the light leaked in between the two ND filters. It is not surprising to see a light leak in these circumstances. It is crucial to keep your filter setup in the shade, to prevent light leaks. This blog post shows a good way to block light from entering your setup.
All things considered, the Haida performs exceptionally well! Even with the filters exposed in broad daylight, there was minimal light leakage. If I would have made even a modest effort to block the light from hitting the filters, the images would have turned out great! Compare this to the Lee Filters 100mm Holder. If you don't keep it completely covered, your image will be ruined by light leaks. Click here to see an example of the Lee Filters 100mm light leaks. Granted, that's not Lee's 150mm system, which may perform better. I just wanted to show how bad light leaks can be and how well the Haida performs in bad conditions.
I highly recommend developing your own light-blocking solution, regardless of which filters or filter holder you use. Whether you use a black scarf, gaffers tape, a shirt or hat, or even using your body to block the direct sunlight. No matter which brand you choose, light leaks are always a concern. For more information on preventing light leaks, read my Long Exposure Tutorial.
The review wouldn't be complete without a look at how the filters impact image sharpness. Honestly, I was unable to see any difference in real world tests. Even in the extreme corners of the images. So I decided to focus on some small text, which should clearly show a loss of sharpness. The lens was at 24mm and f/2.8. The calendar was about 2 feet away. I cropped in very heavily to show any loss of sharpness. As you will see, each image looks virtually identical. Click here to view the sharpness test images.
Remember, you can always download the full-res photos for every photo in this review; just go to my Haida Gallery. The download icon will be visible at the top of the images on desktop browsers. For mobile users, scroll up. You will see an arrow in the upper right. Click the arrow, then 'Download'.
I realize many people will say color cast is a non-issue, especially when shooting in RAW. I disagree. Having used Lee Filters for 3 years, it was incredibly annoying to deal with in post-processing. Especially since I like to stack ND filters, giving me 16+ stops. The color cast was always a pain to remove. Click here to see a comparison of the Lee Filters color cast.
Recently, I found a reliable way to measure the color cast and easily remove it, for any filter. Read my blog post for more information on this process.
I'm happy to report that there is very little color cast or vignette on the 6 Stop ND and Polarizer. For this test, I made sure the White Balance was exactly the same and took 2 photos for each set. One without the filter, one with the filter attached. The Haida Filters have a very minor warm cast.
The histograms were checked for consistency and to take sure each image was the exact same exposure. It turns out my 6 Stop ND is actually 6 and 1/3 Stop. The Polarizer reduces light by 1 and 2/3 Stops. Keep in mind, every single ND filter has slightly different densities. You should always make sure to test your filters as soon as you get them, so you know the exact density and can calculate the correct shutter speed. Read my blog post for more information on this process.
I don't have the Haida 10 Stop ND, but from what I've seen it appears to also be mostly color neutral. The lack of a color cast on the Haida filters is fantastic! This makes editing long exposure images much easier and quicker.
In my opinion, this test alone puts the Haida filters near the top of the list. So many ND filters out there have bad color casts which can be a pain to remove in post-processing. The nearly neutral Haida filters will make life a lot easier for me. No more spending 20 minutes fine-tuning the colors in Adobe Camera RAW and Photoshop. Not to mention the fact they are roughly half the cost of other filter brands!
I know what you're probably thinking, why would you want a polarizer for a wide angle lens? If you are photographing the sky while using a polarizer on a wide angle lens, you will have uneven coverage and the image will look funny. I use a polarizer when I do any kind of waterfall photography. It removes glare and reflections from water, rocks, and vegetation. Frankly, I'm surprised the polarizer works at such a wide angle.
I am very impressed with Haida's 150mm Polarizer. The filter easily repels moisture. While photographing waterfalls in West Virginia, the polarizer was continuously getting covered in mist and water droplets. I actually checked with Haida, and they said the glass is uncoated. I was surprised to hear that, as the uncoated glass allowed me to quickly and easily wipe off the water with my microfiber cloth, without any streaking or splotches. I originally would have thought they had a great multi-coating on them. I've noticed my Lee Filters aren't nearly as easy to clean in the field.
The polarizer has a very slight warm color cast. Adding the polarizer will also increase the exposure time by roughly 1 and 2/3 Stops. This helps to slow down the shutter speed when photographing waterfalls, without having to stop down to f/22. If need be, you can always add a 3 or 6 Stop ND to slow the shutter speed down further. I recommend using a shutter speed somewhere between 1/4 and 1 second long for waterfalls.
The Haida system is well marked and easy to setup. I actually like how Haida labeled each part of the filter holder, it certainly made things easier when I first installed it. The aluminum material seems pretty tough. I've already banged it around quite bit on my hikes down to waterfalls and I don't see any wear yet.
By default, the filter holder comes with 2 filter slots. This is plenty for me. If you need a 3rd slot, Haida does include extra brackets with the filter holder. They also include an extra thumbscrew and extra screws for the filter slots. If you happen to lose a piece, you should be covered! Installation of the 3rd slot is very easy, you'll just need a small Phillips Head screwdriver.
The filter holder is comprised of three pieces, the Universal Holder, the Front Adapter Ring, and the Rear Adapter Ring. The Front Adapter Ring fits around the lens hood petals and has a thread on the bottom for the Rear Adapter Ring. The Rear Adapter Ring slides up from the bottom of the lens and screws into the Front Adapter Ring. The Rear Adapter Ring has the "Fasten / Release" directions printed on it. Finally, the Universal Holder can be rotated around the lens and taken off if needed. It's nice that they have the "Put In / Take Out" guide so you know exactly where to rotate the filter holder. The thumbscrew needs to be loosened to rotate the filter holder around the lens; just be careful not to leave it on the Take Out point, or the filter holder may fall accidentally.
Haida also has a nice lens cap holder. This allows you to keep the lens cap on with the entire filter system attached. It's a nice (and crucial) detail to keeping your lens protected.
I've used three different filter brands and Haida's filter case is my favorite, by far. Normally, I am always struggling to get the filters out of their case without getting them dirty or covered in fingerprints. With pouches, you sometimes have a tight fit and the filter can be a pain to pull out. Pouches also don't offer much in the way of protection. Haida's aluminum case keeps the filters safe and there seems to be enough padding inside to absorb some impact. It is also very easy to grab the filter from the case. I can open the Haida case, tilt it over and catch the filter between my fingers easily. This may not be as important as the other aspects of the review, but it's a big one for me.
As I mentioned earlier in the review, the Haida 150mm Filter Holder actually has foam on the holder itself. If you plan to use another brand of filters with the Haida holder, you may have problems. The foam takes up a bit of space in the first slot, which isn't an issue for the "naked" Haida filters. However, most other filter brands have a foam gasket attached to the filters by default. Remember, just flip the ND filter around, so the foam gasket faces outwards, and you can slide it easily into the first slot.
For more information on the filter holder, including a list of supported lenses, head over to Haida's website.
If you have already invested in a 100mm system, or circular filters, you probably aren't thrilled at the thought of spending hundreds of dollars for new filters for one lens. As I was deciding which filter brand to go with, price was a major factor. I already spent close to $1,000 for my Lee Filters 100mm system. I did not want to spend that much again. Haida was the only reasonably priced system on the market, easily half the cost of most other brands. The chart below shows a price breakdown for a few 150mm choices. I don't have any Grad ND's included because I rarely use them.
The "Basic Setup Cost" column shows the price of the filter holder. Some brands, like Lee and Vu, require you to purchase a Filter Holder and Adapter Ring separately. The Adapter Ring depends on which lens you have, while the Filter Holder is universal. For the Haida system, you get everything you need in one package; just make sure to select your specific lens.
Overall, I'm very satisfied with the Haida 150mm System. I know some people will have hesitations about buying a "cheap Chinese" filter over a more well-known brand like Lee, but I can honestly say the Haida filters perform better than the Lee Filters. Haida is one of the most affordable options on the market, usually half the price of other brands. As we saw today, the Haida filters are almost color-neutral! The build quality of the filter holder is also surprisingly good. It does a good job preventing light leaks, comes with a lens cap holder, and has an easy setup. Frankly, I haven't had any real problems with the filter holder yet. My biggest gripe with the system is that you have to take the lens off to attach the Haida system.
Bottom line, if you need a 150mm filter system and you don't want to spend $1,000+, Haida is the way to go! The Haida filters cost roughly half the price of the well-known brands, and perform at a high level! The Haida 150mm Filter System is a great choice for waterfall and landscape photographers especially. To see if your there is a Haida mount for your lens, visit this webpage.
To see all of the photos from the review, click here. Remember, you can download the images if you want to get a closer look. I recommend using the arrow keys to scroll through the images, otherwise part of the image will be obscured by the thumbnails at the bottom.
In August, I will be embarking on another photography roadtrip. I will keep this review updated if I find any problems with the filters or holder, as well as uploading new images taken with the filters.
I tried to make this review as informative as possible. If you have any questions about the filter system, please leave a comment below. I'd be glad to answer any questions you may have.