Benro FH100M2 Filter System Review review by Richard Young
Filters have always been an essential part of my landscape photography. I really enjoy the process of using them; the creative element they add to my landscape work and the reduction in post-production by capturing what I want in-camera. Over the years I have owned a number of different brands of filters systems and I often use all the leading brand’s products when people bring them along to our workshops, giving me the chance to compare them in terms of both usability and optical quality.
The last two years I have been an ambassador for Benro filters, using the original MarkI filter holder (FH100) along with the Benro Master Series Filters. I have been very impressed with the high optical quality of the Master Series filters and their true to life colour balance. The original MarkI holder worked fine – but had little to set it apart from some of the other leading brands. Hence, I was really excited when Benro launched the MarkII version (FH100M2). When I saw the first images of the new MarkII holder I started questioning some of the new features, wondering if the system may end up being little bulky and over engineered compared to other simple filter holders. Then at the start of this year I received one of the first MarkII holders.
Once I had it in my hands all of my original concerns rapidly disappeared and did it look amazing! Shooting for the first time, I was astounded at the ease and speed I could setup up the system. Instantly I fell in love with the new holder and its unique design. The main feature that sets the new MarkII holder apart from its predecessor (and other leading brands) are the plastic “filter frames”, which make handing of filters much easier and allow for the precise adjustment of graduated filters via a special gear knob.
Benro FH100M2 Filter HolderThe new FH100 MarkII Filter Holder is designed to allow the use of up to 3 square filters and an ultra-thin 82mm CPL (Circular Polariser Filter) simultaneously. Furthermore it does so without creating vignetting on lenses up to 16mm (full-frame equivalent). The holder also boasts an attractive design featuring the classic Benro colours. It has been made from CNC machining and aircraft-grade aluminium for optimum quality, durability and weight. The holder features a unique gear adjustment knob which can be positioned to line up with all of the three filter slots, allowing for easy and precise up/down adjustment of graduated filters. I couldn’t appreciate just how helpful this was until I used it for the first time - no more forcing tight graduated filters up and down resulting in a jolted camera thus spoiling your composition. A rotating 82mm CPL ring built into the middle of the holder allows for the use of a ultra thin CPL filter. This can be easily rotated from the back of the camera for the desired effect. The holder supplies 2 wide angle rings for 77mm and 82mm lenses and additional stepping rings are available separately to make it compatible with any lens size. Moreover you are provided with one 100x100mm filter frame and another 100x150mm filter frame - additional filter frames are available separately.
Filter FramesThe filter frames are what truly sets the new Benro system apart for the other filter holders on the market. These frames are designed to securely hold glass filters in the holder whilst allowing for adjustments of graduate filters with the gear knob. These plastic frame are available in two sizes: 150mmx100mm (for graduated ND filters) and 100x100mm (for solid ND filters). Whilst they have been designed for use with Benro filters, they will take any 100mm filter from the other leading brands. This compatibility makes the switch to the Benro system very easy for those inclined. Being primarily designed to hold the filers within the holder offers another huge benefit - now you no longer need to touch the glass of the filter once it has been put in the frame for the first time. This aids in preventing getting fingerprints and dirt all over the glass. The filters too are much easier to hold and offer great “edge protection” to the glass filter to protect them from being smashed. The frames will also not “push through” the filter shot in the holder, meaning they cannot fall out the bottom of the holder. I have seen this resulting in smashed filters with other makes of filter holders.
Filter BagBenro have also designed a new filter case for the FH100 MarkII Holder. The case fits the MarkII holder along with 3 ND filters, 5 Graduated filters and a CPL. It is a really well designed case and offers plenty of protection for glass filters whilst shooting or traveling. The only thing missing is a strap for it - I have some Peak Design lugs on mine allowing me to switch over the strap from my camera. With a strap it offers a well organised and functional shoulder bag to work out with ease. I have also labelled the top of all my filter frames with a white marker pen so I can easily see what’s inside the bag.
Benro Master Series Glass FiltersThe Benro Master Series filters are made from high quality German Schott Glass offering superior performance and high light transmission. The filters are been coated with 100% natural, anti-glare coating to reduce reflections and prevent any colour shift. Moreover, they have a special WMC (waterproof multi-layered coating) and anti-scratch protection, this helps keep the filters clean when water beads build up on the surface. Each Master Series filter is tested by hand before it leaves the factory to ensure it meets the optical qualities required to be called a Master Series Filter.
Graduated FiltersThe 150x100mm Master Graduate Filters range is available in three different types of graduations: Hard, Soft and Reverse. These are also all available in different strengths (please see below). I have now been using this set of filters for two years and their smooth transitions allow for beautiful compensation exposure of bright skies and deeply complex horizons. The reverse grad is a favourite of mine, it is the perfect sunset filter. The dark band in the middle slowly tapering off towards the top to allow for a lusciously even and natural looking exposure when shooting into the sun at sunset/sunrise. Please note: - Reverse grads come in 2 and 3 stops - Hard grads come in 2, 3 and 4 stops - Soft grads come in 2, 3 and 4 stops
ND FiltersThe 100x100mm Master ND Filters are available in 4, 6 and 10 stop variations and offer some of the best natural colour balance of any ND filters I have used. Gone are the days of horrible blue or magenta colour cast in image that can be found with some other brands of ND filters. The colours gained when using the filters are true to life even when taking Long Exposures. This is thanks to the Anti-IR coating on the glass, stopping reflections and colour cast.
82mm Ultra-thin CPLDesigned for the Benro FH100M2 holder, this special CPL filter is designed to screw into the rotating ring built into the holder. The CPL is a landscape polarising filter with a slight warming effect like a number of other leading polarising filters. I have used some bad polarising filters in the past that have very little effect in removing strong reflections but this CPL holds excellent strength. This really helps to bring sun draped and dull landscapes alive with colour.
I feel the new Benro MK2 Holder and Master Series Filters offer the best filter system currently on the market, both in terms of optical quality and design. Pricing of the system is extremely competitive to other leading brands which do not offer as many features or the same performance as the Benro.
Below are some before/after sample shots using the master series filters and links for further information on use of filters for landscape photography and specifically the Benro system.