Nisi Filters: Am I sold or am I bought?


Earlier this year I was contacted by Nisi regarding a trial of their filters. I already use the Lee system of filter holders but many of the filters were starting to get a little banged up so I was due for a replacement set. The issues I had hoped to address with the new Nisi filters were all in relation to shortcomings I had found with the Lee system and my general setup.

  1. The distinct cast of the big stopper (Lee 10 stop ND) and to a lesser extent, the little stopper(Lee 6 stop ND).
  2. The need for a 105mm polariser and adapter to be place in front of the filter stack resulting in vignette. As a result, I had never used this combination and was instead screwing the adapter rings to the thread of my existing CPL. This creates quite an unsteady setup with vignetting up to about 18mm .
  3. Durability issues with resin filters (Lee do have glass filters as well but I have gone cheap in the past and bought a few resin filters!)
  4. I have a filter pouch that sits on a waist belt made by lower pro. If the material in the filter pouch starts to get dirty or wet, then it’s goodbye to clean filter use. Slotting the filters back into dirty material just smears the filters even more.
  5. Shooting directly into light means I usually have to take off my filters. The Lee filters and my polariser seem to create too much flare and artefacts.
  6. Cost is always an issue when deciding on a setup.

Some of you that are of sceptical minds may be wondering if I have been ‘bought out’ by Nisi and mind controlled into writing a review that espouses their greatness. After all, you may have noticed a bunch of positive reviews all of a sudden appearing on photographer sites regarding Nisi filters?  I must admit that I was in a suspicious mindset when contacted by them about this free ‘trial’. Though I may get in trouble with Nisi, I will speak my mind freely about the positives and negatives of the filter setup.

north20curlnovember080449-2-xl

North Curl Curl Rocks : Taken with a Nisi CPL and 3 stop soft GND

It’s always exciting to receive new gear in the mail and so it was with great anticipation that I opened up the package. I won’t bore you with the details of the packaging other than to say that I had no issues with it whatsoever. Sturdy leather pouches for the filters and a filter pouch and adaptor pouch which were  functional . I received a V5 filter holder set up with a 67,72, 77mm adaptor rings, an ‘in- filter holder’ polariser (more on that later) , a 3 stop soft edged GND, a 3 stop reverse edged GND and a 10 stop ND filter. The following are my thoughts and mental comparisons to my current setup regarding each individual part of the kit.

observatory20hillnovember070428-l

Sydney Harbor Bridge taken from Observatory Hill with Nisi CPL an 3 stop soft GND

Adapter rings and holder: (Neutral – disadvantage)

The holder itself feels solidly created and on the whole, more sturdy than its Lee counterpart. It sits level with the front element of the lens and thus far out to 16mm I have not noticed any vignetting. Also, with the polariser set up you can still stack three filters without vignetting. This is a clear advantage.

The need for adapter rings is not new to filter holder setups but Nisi have opted to go with an 82mm standard ring with step down rings provided within the kit.  I found these a little fiddly to insert into the main ring and this was in a warm , unchallenging seaside environment . I can imagine it would be tricky in a cold and wet environment when I can barely operate buttons on a remote let alone fiddle around with stepdown rings.  One option would be to leave the step down rings attached to the front of all lenses on your kit but this still means extra maneuvers while setting up compared to my current system. With the Lee system, the filter holder clips directly onto the ring. In the Nisi system, the filter holder is clipped on to the main 82mm ring which then has to be fitted to an adapter ring for lenses smaller than 82mm. The other area of concern I had was the small locking mechanism that clips the holder onto the ring. I haven’t had any episodes where the holder has fallen off but I can imagine the nasty sound of breaking filters should that accidentally happen with a hard surface below. This is a disadvantage in the field for Nisi but an advantage in cost given that the three rings ship with the holder.

Circular Polariser setup (Neutral – advantage)

This is Nisi’s real innovation which I think is advantageous in some settings and possibly inconvenient in others. The thin circular polariser sits within the 82mm ring and is adjustable with a knob on its side. This means that you do not have to place a large 105mm polariser in front of the filter stack and it means there are no vignetting issues. It also give you the ability to stack three filters in addition to the polariser. A clear advantage.

Another positive is that the polariser provided appears to act far less as an ‘pseudo-ND’ filter than other polarisers. For me this is an advantage as I have been removing polarisers in the past when in low light settings attempting to obtain shortish shutter speeds for dynamic wave motion. One might argue that it might not polarise fully but I’ve found that it does its job in a seascape setting to allow ‘see through’ to rocks below the surface.

The disadvantage boils down to when you are not using your gear as a dedicated tripod set up landscape shoot. With my previous setup using a screw on circular polariser, I could convert that to a handheld shot without any adjustment apart from removing the filter holder. My practice on stowaway would be to place the lens cap over the CPL attached to the lens. While I could still shoot with the filter ring attached for hand held shots, the speed at which you rotate the CPL is limited by the small knob. Currently there is also no cover provided for stowing this setup with protection for the CPL attachment. If Nisi could consider a cover for this setup, it would be a clear win for me in all situations.

The filters themselves: (clear advantage…..so far)

On first inspection it appears that the Nisi filters had a magenta cast to the naked eye. This was of concern but fortunately this has not been replicated in the field. The bottom line is that the GNDs have little if any cast whatsoever . The 10 stop ND filter has an ever so slight warming effect.  The CPL does not appear to alter the temperature of any given scene. The filters have been easy to clean with Kim wipes and thus far I have not noticed any scratches. It is important to note that Lee filters of the same size (100mm) fit well into the Nisi filter meaning that you can still use your old filters. I have found that some of the filters fit very tightly into the designated slots which is generally a good thing but with my concerns about the integrity of the attachment to the ring, I am concerned that one day I will end up pushing the entire holder off the camera with that dreaded sound of smashed glass. The three stop reverse GND is the major culprit where I feel I almost need a hammer to squeeze it . Thankfully, these days I very rarely use this type of filter.

The following images demonstrate various filter setups with Lee and Nisi and the associated cast (or lack of). Images were lightroom imports which have had a very basic sharpening algorithm applied. All images were shot in auto white balance and manual mode. You can see that the Nisi filters all had next to no cast whatsoever which gives this a nice advantage over the Lee ND counterparts. 

Lee big stopper comparison

Lee ‘Big Stopper’ : 10 stops worth of blue/cyan cast. Thankfully this isn’t hard to correct in post it is still an inconvenience

Lee 6 stopSeptember121554

Lee ‘Little Stopper’ : 6 stops and much less blue cast than the big stopper

Nisi no filter.jpg

Left : Nisi CPL alone. Centre: Nisi CPL, 3 stop soft GND. Right: Nisi CPL, 3 stop soft GND ,10 stop ND (slight cooling with GND, slight warming with 10 stop ND)

Nisi 10 stop and 3 stop reverse test.jpg

Left : Nisi CPL alone. Right Nisi CPL , 3 stop reverse GND, 10 stop ND.

The filter pouch: (probable advantage)

This is a solid leather lined pouch that spaces the filters apart such that they have no contact with any cloth surface whatsoever. There are plastic slot in modules that allow the 100x100mm ND filters to be reached from the top of the pouch while the 100x150mm filters fill the entire height of the pouch. I found the button to be a little flimsy and place this pouch within my larger waist pouch which holds other accessories such as Kim wipes and remotes. Because of the loose button mechanism, I would not be game to hook this directly on to my waist belt. In terms of travel, it’s an advantage since I can pack these into checked baggage without worrying about damage. With my previous cloth pouch, I would need to carry them on board.

Cost Factor:

I’ve written this from the point of view of an Australian consumer buying locally, though I am sure if you did a bit of hunting you might be able to find more competitive prices (especially for Lee) overseas. The following table describes the money I would need to set aside if I were to start from scratch. The major savings appear to be in the setup of the system with the Lee system requiring individual purchases of adapter rings and a very costly 105mm CPL. They also have a separate system for the Nikon 14-24 and 150mm filters which which you can look up from the two stores listed below.

Nisilee

So overall, how did the acquisition of the Nisi setup address my six issues?

  1. Tick : Major improvement in cast
  2. Tick: I can now shoot happily with a CPL and a stack of 3 filters without vignetting. I just wish I could stow this setup away as it is but with protection for the CPL.
  3. I will have to report on filter durability after extended and more challenging use
  4. Tick : I like the modular setup of the filter holder provided. You just need a system to remember where you are placing your square vs rectangular filters.
  5. So far so good, especially for the polariser alone. This needs further testing.
  6. Nisi comes out on top for my particular set up. It appears that the filter prices are similar to Lee while there are savings on the setup.

To conclude with, this is a video comparison I have made comparing the Lee and Nisi setups . I have tried to remain as impartial as possible and let you decide on which works for you!

And finally, some of the edited images from the above RAW examples using the new setup:

north20curlnovember080520bw-l

North Curl Curl tidal pool : Nisi CPL, 3 stop reverse GND, 10 stop ND

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O’Sullivans Beach: Nisi CPL, 3 stop soft GND

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Posted on December 3, 2015, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 45 Comments.

  1. Really interesting read – and would love to hear a follow up after you’ve used the Nisi a bit more in the field too (including the small clip on the filter holder… I haven’t, touch wood, heard that crack of glass filter yet). I only upgraded to Lee at the start of the year (wharr quite an investment) but have been really impressed, and positive to hear that they would fit in the Nisi holder at a squeeze – particularly at 10-12mm (APS-C body) I notice vignetting with the Lee holder even with a WA ring, so the prospect of losing that is positive. I’m planning getting a new lens in the new year – and of course, a different filter diameter so will need a third ring), and could be a consideration to try the Nisi holder.

    For your set up, is it a case of as Lee breaks or needs replacing, Nisi will take its place?

    • Thanks Marty – for me, now that I have the Nisi , I actually prefer it because of the polariser setup. As you can see from the video, my dodgy polarising setup with the Lee was a bit tenuous though I never went ahead with the costly 105mm polariser option.

  2. Hi Dylan,

    Thanks for the review.
    I’d hear some positive feedback on the system & it seems relatively good value for money too.

    I like the look of the Nisi system, especially the provision of a CPL in the kit and the way it works.
    Both Hitech (which I use) and Lee charge ridiculous money for their CPL and also separate adaptor rings.
    I like that Nisi include the adaptor rings, but wonder about the 62mm size. For me I’d prefer 82mm included instead for my Tamron SP 24-70mm f2.8 lens. Oh well.

    The Nisi system obviously works with Lee, but do you know if it works with Hitech-Formatt?

    Cheers,
    Vic.

  3. Hi Dylan

    Thanks for the review.
    I’d hear some positive feedback on the system & it seems relatively good value for money too.

    I like the look of the Nisi system, especially the provision of a CPL in the kit and the way it works.
    Both Hitech (which I use) and Lee charge ridiculous money for their CPL and also separate adaptor rings.
    I like that Nisi include the adaptor rings, but wonder about the 62mm size. For me I’d prefer 82mm included instead for my Tamron SP 24-70mm f2.8 lens. Oh well.

    The Nisi system obviously works with Lee, but do you know if it works with Hitech-Formatt?

    Cheers,
    Vic.

  4. Dimitris Eleftheriou

    Hi Dylan and happy NY,
    Firstly I would like to thank you for a very enlighting, at least for a “rookie” like me, review. I would appreciate if you could share any updates, after spending more “working hours” with the Nisi holder set. I’ve never used a filter system before, except my CPL, and I am torn between the Nisi, Lee & Hitech holders & filters, so any recommendation/advice would be more than welcome!
    Cheers,
    Dimitris

    • Hi Dimitris, see our latest post for the update – I think they work just fine in terms of durability and my first impressions have otherwise been confirmed, I had a minor issue with the CPL not turning on the holder but with a good clean, it’s OK again.

  5. Hi Dylan and happy NY, Firstly I would like to thank you for a very enlighting, at least for a “rookie” like me, review. I would appreciate if you could share any updates, after spending more “working hours” with the Nisi holder set. I’ve never used a filter system before, except my CPL, and I am torn between the Nisi, Lee & Hitech holders & filters, so any recommendation/advice would be more than welcome!
    Cheers,
    Dimitris

    • Hi Dimitris , a few months down the track and I’m only using the Nisi filters now. I’m liking the CPL setup (though I have never tried the Lee one but it seems bulky and very expensive) and the quality, cast free nature of the Nisi filters. If you’re starting from scratch, I’d go Nisi even if for nothing more than the reduced cost of various adapter rings and the CPL .

  6. Hi Dylan! I just saw your video on YouTube and was intrigued that nisi filters work with the lee holder! I’ve always wanted the nisi 10-stop because of its low color cast. Did you manage to test the light sealing of the foam on the l nisi filter when used with the Lee adapter? Do you think there’d be any issues?

    Cheers
    Calvin

  7. Interesting… I’ve seen these popping up a bit now.

    My question is (as a fairly invested Lee user) do you see any reasons to switch to the nisi setup? Ie do you find the results in performance significant enough that you would warrant a change (if your lees weren’t due for replacement anyway)

    Tim

    • Hi Tim , I Think if you’re happy with Lee, the main things to evaluate about a wholesale change would be 1: Do you like the CPL system of the Nisi vs the Lee ( I do) 2: Is the cast a deal breaker for you for the denser ND filters . The other filters are at least at parity though with a few months of use under the belt now, I seem to have noticed less wear and tear on the Nisi filters (that’s conjecture though)

    • One more thing to add , try to find reviews that are a little down the track. As one of the ‘ambassadors’ for the Australian arm, I’ve been seeing reviews pop up literally after the first use or even just on opening the packet. I’m not sure if these are as informative as they could be but I have to say that even with months of use, I’m personally finding them a great set and prefer them over my old Lee set up now (I don’t use them at all).

  8. Hey Dylan,

    What’s the size of the NiSi v5 CPL? Amazon seems to state that it’s 86mm but that seems strange to me as it screws onto the 82mm adapter ring.

    One more thing; I’ve read somewhere else that with the v5 you’re not restricted to using only the supplied CPL. How true is that? I’ve already bought an expensive 82mm B+W KSM HTC MRC-NANO CPL, and it would be really nice if that fit just nicely into the NiSi v5 system.

    Something tells me that it’s probably not possible due to the construction of the v5, but could you verify if it would?

  9. Hello Dylan,

    I’m eyeing a NiSi v5 system coming from LEE as the CPL system that NiSi looks fairly nifty. It would allow me to not only use the filters on a bunch of different lenses with different thread sizes, but also as a simple CPL adapter.

    I’m currently in possession of a 82mm B+W KSM XS-PRO HTC MRC-NANO CPL, and would really like to use that with the NiSi v5. Do you know if that would work, based on your experience with the system? Amazon seems to suggest that the NiSi v5 contains a 86mm CPL filter, strangely.

    Also, how do you find the fit of your resin 100 x 150mm resin GNDs in the NiSi v5? Do you find it particularly tight fitting like others have said about the v3, and will they result in scratches on the resin?

    Please excuse me if this comes up as a double post; I thought I had posted the previous but it never seemed to make its way onto the site.

    Ashley

    • Hi Ashley – I’ll try to answer your questions. The 82mm circular polariser probably wont work with the V5 – I’ve tried screwing the adapter over the top of the kenko CPLS I have and it doesn’t work at all well. The 86mm size is because it sits within the holder itself (if you watch the video). The resin and glass fits into the the system snugly and yes it does cause scratches after a while, however, I can live with that as it is only in the tracks themselves and not in any area that will ever affect an image. Hope that helps!

      • Hey Dylan,

        Thanks for replying. Yeap, I guess the habits of instant messaging got the better of me there. Feel free to remove the earlier post at your discretion!

        I’m in a bit of dilemma in deciding between the LEE holder that I own and the nifty NiSi (pun?). Having watched your video for what must be the third or fourth time, here are some other questions that popped:

        In your video, you mentioned how:
        – the NiSi v5 has a questionably small catch for latching onto the adapter ring,
        – it’s really tight to get filters in, especially with the LEE ones and
        – thus you were a little worried about pushing the entire filter holder off while trying to get the filters in

        Are those still valid concerns at the moment after having used the v5 for quite some time now?

        You also talked about:
        – your original setup with the 77mm CPL + 77mm LEE adapter ring + LEE filter holder tended to cause some vignetting at ~18mm

        Does the NiSi v5 not vignette as severely?

        Lastly, my largest reluctance to getting the NiSi (especially after reading your reply) is that my expensive 82mm B+W will no longer play nice with the setup — that’s kind of saddening as it really delivers. In your opinion, does the NiSi CPL produce similar (or better) results over the other CPLs that you’ve used?

        Ashley

        P.S. My apologies for the barrage. I guess I’m feeling the pinch after spending so much already on camera gear!

      • I reckon I can help you there! So far, no incidents with pushing the setup off , so that little catch is actually quite strong. Also, the Lee filters are slightly thicker than the Nisi hence if you start stacking, I would place the filters in the first and third slots. Nisi v5 hardly vignettes at all and not the type of vignetting that is a hard edge if you know what I mean. I think the Nisi CPL performs as well as the kenko and hoya filters I had been using in the past. the B+W setup will still have a role say if you are just shooting a rainforest scene or waterfalls – it’s still easier to use a screw on CPL direct rather than place the whole Nisi setup on. The Nisi CPL also doesn’t seem to ‘darken’ as much hence is good in low light as you don’t have to start jacking up iso to compensate for the CPL’s darkening of the frame.

    • ps. I may be able to help you out on price very soon – email us directly dm@everlookphotography.com and I’ll see what I can do!

  10. Hi,Thanks for the review.
    Does the Lee filter holder, fit/attach to the NiSi adapter ring (a CPL solution for Lee users)?

  11. Thanks for the review.
    does the Lee filter holder, fit/attach to the NiSi adapter ring (a CPL solution for Lee users)?

  12. Hi Dylan

    I have a Lee big stopper 100mm. Im interested in the Nisi system. Would I have any problem using the big stopper in the Nisi 100mm set up? My concern is that if their might be light leaks if the the fit isn’t tight enough of doesn’t quite fit properly.

    • Hi Chris, if anything you will find the Nisi filter fit very tightly into the Lee holder. There shouldn’t be any light leak as the padding is pretty much the same but I haven’t actually tested it per se. I know the Lee 6 stopper does just fine in the Nisi set up so you may be able to extrapolate from that?

  13. Thanks for the review.
    I currently uses Lee filters for 100mm and tried Nisi 150mm. Here are my findings:
    If you use Canon 16-35 F4 L which is 77mm barrel diameter, using a Lee holder with 2 slots, 105mm Landscape CPL, 0 vignette is what you will get. However, if the lens is the F2.8 version, vignettes start at about 18mm.
    From my experience with with Nisi 150mm, the slots are very tight and difficult to make adjustments when using the GND and RGND. The same factor makes removal of filters very difficult, and slow down things.
    Other than that, Nisi is fine.

    Happy shooting.

  14. I like your review, I’m a amateur and was wondering will I be able to use this system on a Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 lens? for I not sure about the size here on the setup and filters. Thank you

  15. Hi, I have the NISI advance set and was quite happy with the results shooting into the light, when fitted to my Canon EF 16-35 f4 with a 77mm adaptor ring. I have recently sold that lens and bought the EF 16-35 f2.8 Mk111 which has an 82mm thread so the holder screws straight on, which is great now that NISI sell the CPL cover, I can leave it attached permanently. The Problem is I am now noticing flare and reflections with just the polariser and a definite iris shape flare right in the centre of the photo/scene if I use the 3 stop graduated filter as well or 6 stop ND. I do still have the UV filter attached (which I did with the f4 lens). You mentioned you had flare problems with the LEE setup, did you get better results with the NISI. Could it because I’m using the 82mm end of the filter holder more light is getting onto the lens?, the more pieces of flat glass I use the worse the effect is. I did get a little bit of vignetting on the f4 lens at 16, which I don’t get now. Any ideas or fixes?

    • Hi Keith – I have noticed a bit of light leak coming in when shooting with the sun sidelighting scenes (also with Lee though to a lesser extent). I’ve only noticed this on a few occasions shooting with the 16-35 F4 and work around it by using a neck warmer around the filter and lens set up. I’m not sure how widespread a problem it is though. I can’t comment on the F2.8 III thought I wish I could because I’d love to have that lens! I don’t tend to have problems shooting directly into light though?

      • Hi, thanks for getting back to me, the couple of times its happened was when the sun was high, as I was down in a valley. So as you have said I was thinking about at putting a cloth, which I carry over the top of the filter holder to try and block the light coming in from the top. I haven’t shot with this lens directly into the sun with the filters on but will test it to see what happens. With a screw in CPL shooting at f22 you get a fantastic sunburst effect. Regards Keith.

  16. I like most of what I can discern on the Nisi System, but I have heard of problems removing the polarizer from the adapter ring – unlike most filter set-ups, the polarizer is kind-of slotted into the adapter. What have been your experiences; and any trick if they become stuck?

    • Hi Norm – I’ve been using the same filter set up for a year and the CPL has occasionally been a little jammed (never stuck needing to pry it out) – this tends to happen when shooting at beaches with sand flying around – a good rinse afterward and things have been back to normal. The CPL screws into a thread onto the adapter ring itself . My only criticism is that the rotating mechanism can also get a little stuck with sand and grit so you if you’re in those environments, you’d just have to keep the set up clean

  17. Hi Dylan – my concerns about switching to the NISI system centre around durability issues with scratching and the v5 holder apparently dropping a GND ( according to another reviewer who was promoting the NISI system) . He stated that the holder was tight in cold weather ,but filters fitted loosely and ultimatelyone fell out of the holder and smashed in warm climates. I also notice that late January there is an updated V5 holder due to be released, Has this holder addressed any of the concerns raised by your self with the CPL mechanism and issues with inserting filters regards Dave

    • Hi Dave – the cold weather concerns I agree with – I found it difficult to remove filters (addressed in my video review on youtube) – I worked with these in 40 degree celsius temps and nothing has fallen out so I can’t substantiate that claim. As for filter scratches – have a look on the youtube video (dylan toh is my username) at what they look like after a year of wear and tear so you can decide for yourself if that’s acceptable. Getting the new holder tomorrow and will use it on a backpacking trip coming up!

  18. Came to notice this thread exactly in time.I am very new to this ND filter area and currently testing with LEE system.My only concern is inability to use CPL near the lens. Nisi V5 and latest firecrest enhanced systems easily addressed this issue but left with some ifs/buts. While searching for their pitfalls,I accidentally end up with a new brand from US area.
    http://www.winecountry.camera/holder/
    I think some of these issues are well thought of at practical level and came up with a nice retro stuff art filler holder. Absolutely nailed it!
    Quoting cost is understandable though. I post here mainly to get the latest V5 Pro review results. Off course a follow up of Wine country would be interesting for many… Cheers, Hary

    • hi Hari – it pains me to say that I think you should avoid the V5 pro holder. Though the construction is solid, it has a problem of not being able to easily remove an ND once it’s in place meaning that you have to take the holder off to remove the ND – not practical in the field. I would stick to the normal V5. I have no experience with winecountry holders!

  19. Hi I have been looking into the V5 pro holder now feeling confused about it I have the Lee holder. I would only be buying it as it is cheaper to buy that kit than buy the CPL on its on for the Lee holder.

    • Hi Angela, after using it for a while, I think it is actually better than the original V5 in that it has less light leak. The only drawback is if you frequently change strength of ND filters it can be finicky

  20. I have just bought a nisi 15 stop and tried it on the lee adapter kit, people told me it fits. And it does, but I seem to get some light leak. The nisi edge padding on the reverse side of the filter isn’t as wide as on lee filters and as such doesn’t go right to the edge on the lee adapter. This is a real pain cos I guess now I am forced to also buy the nisi adapter ring and filter holder – making the whole exercise so much more expensive. Disappointing!

    • Hi Susan , before you go buy the Nisi kit, I would check a few things – with the very dense ND filters, even on Nisi’s own setup, the light leak sources are pronounced. I cover the whole filter setup with a beanie or neck warmer and I make sure the eye piece is covered up. you could potentially save yourself a lot of money if this works for you (and as mentioned, it still happens for me even using Nisi filters in the Nisi system unless I cover it up)

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