Reviewing the H&Y Magnetic Filter System

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🇳🇱 For a Dutch version of this review, check out: DeGreef&Partner


Introduction

As a landscape photographer, using filters is pretty much a must when you need to control lighting conditions in a scene or extend exposure time during the day or even during sunset. When I first started using filters, the Lee system was pretty much the only system available. However, it did come with some major flaws in both image quality and ease of use. Having used the Lee filter holder for quite some time now, I have always struggled using its slide-in slots. Especially during conditions when you need to adjust swiftly to sudden changes in the scene, the Lee holder always proved to be quite inconvenient and slow to use, occasionally causing me to miss getting the shot that I wanted. In the past couple of years, a growing number of filter manufacturers have started to release new, innovative systems. One of these systems that immediately caught my attention, was H&Y’s magnetic filter holder. So, I decided to take a closer look to find out what the ‘hype’ was all about.


What I tested

For this review I’ve tested the following:

- H&Y K-Series Magnetic Filter holder + CPOL MRC Drop-in

- H&Y K-Series MRC ND1000 (10-stop) 95mm drop-in filter

- H&Y K-Series Square ND64 (6-stop) 100mm magnetic filter 

- H&Y K-Series Magnetic Filter Frames 100x100mm 


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K-series Magnetic Filter Holder

The H&Y filter holder comes packaged complete with four step-up rings (67, 72, 77, 82 mm) and its own sturdy pouch. This means you are pretty much assured you can use the filter holder on all of your main lenses straight out of the box. Additional size adapter rings are available to purchase separately. The kit also comes with a drop-in circular polarizer.

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The filter holder in use

For this review I decided to thoroughly put the H&Y filter system to the test and opted to head out to the coastal areas in the Dutch province of Zeeland. The edited images from my shoots can be found further on in this review.

The first thing I noticed when using the H&Y magnetic filter system is the quality of the materials used, which is excellent: both the filter holder and the rings are made from sturdy but still lightweight aluminum. As with most other filter systems, the H&Y filter holder comes with a 2-piece mounting system. When mounting the system, you first need to fit an adapter ring to your lens according to the size of the filter thread. Next, the holder has to slide onto the ring and a couple of small wheeled screws on the back are used fix it on.

This is quite different from the method other systems use to attach the holder, and I must admit this can be a bit fiddly to put on and take off at first. However, once you get used to it you can clearly see the benefit of this new system: this mechanism ensures that your filters are securely mounted and the holder will never fall off during normal usage. Another advantage is that the filter holder pretty much stays in place and will not needlessly ‘spin’ around the filter ring. Finally, the flat design means that everything is "as close as possible" to the front lens of your objective, pretty much eliminating any possibility of vignetting.  


Two different types of filters

One of the biggest innovations of the H&Y filter system is the means by which you can mount your filters. There’s actually two ways to use filters, making it one of the easiest and most practical systems around.

- Slot-in filter slot

This slot is accessed through the top of the filter holder and allows for drop-in filters, such as the included polariser, to be placed or swapped out without having to remove the front filters. There is no thread involved so placing a filter is as easy as a quick ‘drop and snap’. Adjusting of the polariser can be done from a dial on the top corner of the filter, which is easy to use even with gloves on. If you don’t want to use a filter in this slot, then there is a also a slot cover which prevents any light leak. Currently, H&Y offer a wide range of ND circular polarisers and NDs (ND8, 32 and 64 CPLs and ND1,000, 4,000 and 65,000).

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- Magnetic filter slot

The H&Y K-series holder also works with 100x100mm square and 100x150mm rectangular filters. This is where the magic truly happens. Unlike competitors, this holder doesn’t rely on inserting filters into slots one at a time. Instead it uses magnets instead to mount the ND and GND filters. When first using this system, you immediately start to notice its convenience of this ‘snap-on’ method and how this greatly speeds up your workflow. Another advantage of the magnetic system is the ability to easily stack multiple filters together. During my first couple of shoots, I must admit I was a bit cautious using the magnetic system as I was not completely sure whether the magnets would stick, but it really does work very well. The magnets are strong to the point you won’t be afraid the filters will fall of the holder. One thing to note is that, much like any other magnet, the frames have two sides that corresponds to the polarity of the magnets. H&Y has thought of this and has cleverly marked one side of the filter with a star, so you do not get confused in which orientation to place the filter. Additionally, you’re provided with an extra securing screw at the holder’s side, so you’ll be able to lock the first filter into place. When mounting a filter you do need to be sure the screw is not beneath the filter, something that happened to me a couple of times. Also, the screw is a bit small to my taste, especially when you need to adjust when wearing gloves.

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Adapting your current filters

ND (grad) filters are not cheap and many photographers may be unwilling to invest in a completely new system because of this reason. Luckily, H&Y does offer the option to use your current filters with the magnetic filter holder. This is made possible by simply adding magnetic filter frames to your existing filters. These frames are sold separately and are suitable for pretty much any 100x100mm and 100x150mm filters with a maximum thickness of 2mm.

The process of installing the frames to your filters quite easy and only requires a few minutes of assembly. The H&Y Magnetic Filter Frames are supplied in four parts that are assembled around your filter by means of pre-installed strips of sticky tape. The first step is to install the top section on the top edge of your filter. Once that’s done, you clip-on the two side strips. This step can be a bit fiddly as it takes some force to push the hooks into the end sections. The final step is to install on the bottom section.

One important thing to note is that, since the magnetic filter holder itself is already fitted with a foam padding to prevent light leaks, you do have to remove the foam strip from the filter itself (if there is any present). Otherwise there’s a possibility your filters will not fit properly and you may encounter light leaks as a result.  

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Filter construction and materials

All H&Y filters come with their own filter pouch and cleaning cloth. The drop-in H&Y filters are made of Schott B270 glass and are with a special coating to ensure water/oil/scratch resistance. This coating also means the filters are much easier to clean and this is definitely one of the first things you notice in daily usage.

The square magnetic filters are also made of Schott B270 glass and come with their own pre-installed and labeled magnetic frame. Since you’re holding the filter by the magnetic frame rather than the filter itself, filters are much easier to handle and less likely get fingerprints all over. The frames also offer some additional protection on the edges of the filter, meaning your expensive filter is better protected should it drop to the ground.

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Optical performance

This is one area where the H&Y ND filters definitely excel compared to various other brands. When comparing the H&Y ND64 and ND1000 filters to my Lee Little and Big Stoppers, I immediately noticed the H&Y filters have no discernable color cast, but more importantly, also don’t suffer from any vignetting. One could argue that color cast nowadays is something can be easily corrected in post when shooting RAW. However it can be a time consuming process and I prefer to have the colors in my images matching the white balance I set in camera. Furthermore, correcting vignetting is definitely not an easy process and almost always leads to loss of image quality and introduction of noise.And while some like the ‘vignette look’ in their images, I prefer to have the option to add it in processing rather than it to be something I cannot fully correct.

The following images clearly demonstrate the difference in color cast and vignetting between the H&Y filters and traditional Lee filters. Each set of images was shot with the exact same camera settings (both exposure and white balance). The Lee Big and Little stopper both show an obvious 'blue' color cast and suffer from serious vignetting, whilst the H&Y filters are completely color neutral and also show zero vignetting:


Conclusion

Testing the innovative H&Y K-series filter system was an absolute joy. The magnetic filter system is definitely one of the most practical and intuitive systems I’ve used. Both the slot-in filter slot and the magnetic holder provide for a faster, easier and more convenient way of removing and reattaching filters. What’s more, the magnetic frames themselves offer better protection for your filters and help prevent damage and fingerprint marks. The filters offer class leading performance in image quality, with the Schott B270 glass being virtually free of color cast and vignetting. The H&Y system might not be cheap, but let’s face it, neither are most other systems currently on the market. Thanks to the separately available filter frames, you can still use your current 100mm filters, easing the transition from your current system.In the end I believe investing in a proper quality filter system is well worth it and can save you a ton of money in the long run.


What I Liked:

- K-series kit comes complete with adapter rings, circular polarizer and pouch

- Innovative ‘double’ system, both slot-in and magnetic mount filters can be used

- Sturdy design and materials

- Ease of use – fast switching of filters

- High quality filters with Schott B270 glass

- Filter frames provide extra protection to glass filters

- Backwards compatible with other 100mm format filters through separate filter frames


What can be improved:

- The locking screw for the magnetic filters is a bit small for my taste and can be a bit tricky to use.

- Both the filter holder and the filters come in separate pouches. H&Y does have the option to buy a more convenient carrying bag, but it has to be bought separately.

- Separate filter frames are quite costly.


This review was made possible by:

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