Upgrading my filters – Kase Armour System – A review by Landscape Photographer Nick Gallacher
Like many hobbyist photographers, I started out using entry level resin filters and basic holders, just to get a feel for how to use them, and to see and experiment with the various effects they could produce.
As my skill level and confidence improved, I began to start thinking seriously about upgrading my filters and holder. The kit I had was good to learn on, but it was a bit cumbersome to attach to my lens, and also the resin filters I had gave quite a noticeable magenta colour cast, particularly when stacked, so these things combined were beginning to lean me towards biting the bullet and getting better replacements, but which ones should I go for?
After doing lots of research online, reading various reviews and speaking to friends who were also keen photographers, the name Kase kept cropping up again and again – and I learned that they had a brand new innovative magnetic system for attaching the filter holder and filters to the lens, which I found very intriguing! After some further research, I learned that this was called the Kase Armour Kit, and the positive reviews I read about it were off the chart, notably, from well-established and very competent award-winning photographers. Which was very encouraging.
By now, I was pretty firmly set on getting the Kase Armour Kit, but as anyone into photography will know, it can be an expensive hobby and everything I wanted to upgrade (detailed below) came in at a total cost of £595 – which is the cost of a decent cropped sensor lens, so anybody also considering Kase will want to know, just as I did, whether spending this kind of cash is worth it, and if all the reviews lived up to the expectation – so I decided to write my own review that would hopefully let people in a similar position to the one I was in make an informed choice and decide whether to also take the plunge.
- Kase Armour Holder Kit – 100mm System (Holder, Adaptor Ring, Step up rings, Circular Polarising Filter [CPL] and Frames) (£269.00)
- Additional Kase Armour Magnetic Frame 150 x 100 x 2 (£40.00)
- Kase Wolverine 100 x 150mm Soft Grad ND 0.6 Filter (2 Stops) (£143.00)
- Kase Wolverine 100 x 150mm Soft Grad ND 0.9 Filter (3 Stops) (£143.00)
- Total Cost: £595.00
Here are my own thoughts on both the Kase Armour Kit, and the Kase Wolverine Glass filters, broken down into component parts.
Right out the gates, the packaging looks and feels very classy and professional, with well packed components and a lovely feel to the whole thing. Straight away, you just know that this is premium gear. A great start!
Step Up Rings and Magnetic Adapter Ring
The kit comes supplied with 77-95mm and 82-95mm magnetic adaptor rings, and also a 67-77mm step up ring. The step-up ring (if you need it) is firstly screwed on to the end of your lens, then the magnetic adapter ring is attached to the step up ring, this then creates the magnetic “base” that you attach the magnetic holder to.
So for example, if you had a 67mm lens, you would attach the (supplied) 67-77mm step up ring, then the (supplied) 77-95mm magnetic adapter ring, then the magnetic holder itself.
If you had an 82mm lens, you would attach the (supplied) 82-95mm magnetic adapter ring (because a step-up ring is not required this time), then the magnetic holder itself.
Kase have advised that more magnetic adapter rings will be released in due course (including a 67mm one) which will remove the need for the step up rings, but it’s really not that big an issue – indeed, you can pre-screw the step-up ring into the magnetic adapter ring and keep it like this until such time as you need it, should you wish to do so.
The kit also comes supplied with a plastic lens cover, which fits tightly over the step-up ring and magnetic adapter ring, meaning you can leave them both on your camera, and just whip off the lens cover when ready for use. The lens cap is robust and a snug fit but comes in bright red which seems an unusual choice of colour! I personally would have preferred it to be black, but it’s not in any way a deal breaker, and most importantly, it protects your precious glass very well.
Kase Armour Magnetic Filter Holder
Now on to the fun stuff! I absolutely guarantee you, that the first time you attach the magnetic holder you will be grinning ear to ear! The magnetic connection is extremely solid, and the magnetic adapter ring all but pulls it from your hand with a very satisfying snap of attachment. No more loosening screw attachments, balancing or fiddling about to make a secure connection – it just snaps on and boom! – ready for use – Fantastic! If you have any reservations about the strength of connection you need not worry at all, it really is rock solid.
The holder also has a release catch at the top, which enables you to remove it from the adapter ring easily – you need to give it a little tug to “break” the magnetic connection, but it is fluid and very easy to do.
The holder really is a class act – it can take two magnetic 95mm circular filters (one at the rear of the holder, the other at the front), and up to two 100 x 150mm or 100 x 100mm filters in magnetic cases.
The common theme here is that everything is magnetic and designed to be set up extremely quickly – and conversely dismantled just as quickly, which is what makes this stand out from competitors.
The holder is designed so that the 95mm CPL filter (also supplied in the kit) is fitted at the rear – and again this connects very easily, there is no need to screw it on – it just snaps into place with a satisfying click. The CPL can be rotated using a dial on the side of the holder, which is an inspired piece of engineering and makes it very quick and easy to fit and adjust with minimal effort.
The connection of both 95mm circular slots is snug and will not give any light leak – either using the CPL at the rear on its own, or in conjunction with a circular ND filter mounted at the front. There is a little indent on the holder to allow you to prise the circular filters from the holder after use, which is really well thought out.
All in all, the holder is a really excellent bit of kit – very well designed and engineered. It works extremely well and is quick and easy to use. I love how everything just snaps and clicks into place.
Kase Armour Magnetic Filter Frames and ArmourMagnetic Circular 95mm Filters
The kit comes with one 100 x 150mm magnetic frame, and one 100 x 100mm magnetic frame. The idea here is that you put your glass filters into the magnetic frames (a bit like “bumpers” all around them) which then gives you the magnetic capability to attach them to the filter holder.
The frames come with a precision screwdriver – you need to loosen two tiny screws and then slip the filter in, then tighten the screws again to secure the frame onto the filter. It’s a little fiddly, but easy enough to fit and once they are on that’s it done and you don’t need to take them off again – you simply keep the frames on the filters, in your filter pouch. This adds additional protection to the filters themselves too which is a nice bonus.
I don’t have 100 x 100mm filters, so I needed to purchase an additional 100 x 150mm frame at £40.00 for my second 100 x 150mm filter (the kit only comes with one as standard and I needed two) – but this will be entirely down to personal choice and individual requirements.
I imagined that the filter would slip into the rebate of the frame, but this is actually not possible due to the way the frame is built – so the filter only “goes into” the frame by a couple of millimetres, before being tightened in when you re-tighten the screws.
I was initially a little concerned at this and contacted Kase directly to query whether this was normal. The guys at Kase were extremely helpful and reassuring and explained that this was quite normal and part of the actual frame design. This provided me with comfort and having now used them in the field with no issues, and after a “drop test” at home I can confirm that the frames stay on with no problems at all.
Once the frames are on the filters, these too just snap on to the magnetic filter holder. Again, the connection here is very solid and there is no chance they will drop off. For additional security, there is a screw connection on the side of the holder which can be hand tightened to provide additional tightness of attachment.
Filters can be stacked to a maximum of two and can be moved independently of each other. Yet again, attachment is very quick and fluid – no more fiddling and checking they are mounted in correct slots, they just snap on to the holder with a resounding click.
Kase Wolverine Glass Filters
The filters I upgraded to were Wolverine ND 0.6 (2 stop) and ND 0.9 (3 stop) soft grads, which are a perfect fit for the magnetic frames and holder (indeed the magnetic frames are built with using Wolverine filters in mind – but other brand filters of the same dimensions can also be used, providing that they are no more than 2mm thick)
I had previously been using resin filters, so the difference in quality to me was massive – much clearer, and with no visible colour cast. I tend to favour stormy skies for dramatic landscape compositions and the clarity and definition using these filters was just excellent – I noticed a huge improvement from the kit I previously had.
Being glass, they are also far easier to clean and/or wipe than resin filters, and raindrops can be easily and quickly removed using a microfibre cloth. They are also far less prone to scratching – especially as they have an additional layer of protection when fitted into the magnetic frames.
I absolutely love this kit – it is just so well designed and easy to use. It is abundantly clear that actual photographers had a lot of input into the conception and design of the Armour Kit, and the magnetic connectivity across the board is truly inspired – very much one of those “I can’t believe this hasn’t been thought of before!” revelations.
The magnetic connections are all strong, and I mean really strong – there is no chance either the filters or the filter holder can be knocked off – or at least not without considerable force, and once attached it will certainly stay there until physically removed.
The set-up speed is also just excellent – So, once you have attached the magnetic adapter ring to your lens (using the step-up ring too if needed), you can get the holder, CPL and one or two filters up and ready for use in a matter of seconds, with no fiddling or faffing about – and this is where and why this kit really does shine – it’s solidly built, easy to use and can be set up extremely quickly – all of which are traits that lend themselves very well to photography, when capturing that fleeting moment of lovely light requires quick and confident actions – which this kit provides in spades.
I mentioned at the start of this review that it was a relatively big financial outlay – but having taken the plunge and used this kit, I can confidently say that it is definitely worth it. Now I have seen the magnetic capability in action, I really can’t see me using anything else in future. Likewise, the Wolverine filters are significantly and noticeably far better than resin filters – the whole package is brilliant!
It’s innovative, modern, and very well thought out – providing ease of use in the field and excellent photographic results. I would wholeheartedly recommend the Kase Armour Kit to anyone who is also considering either changing or upgrading their existing equipment – this is one of those rare occasions where the actual product really does live up to the hype.
Thanks for reading this review – if you have any questions or queries, please feel free to contact me via the “Contact Me” tab on my website and I’ll be happy to assist where I can: