Before I start this small review, I have a confession: I rarely use filters. I only use filters that generate an effect that can not be easily replicated with other techniques, such as bracketing. That basically means that I never use graduated ND-filters and that my filter-pouch has three 95mm filters and a set of step-up rings. The filters are a circular polarizer, a 6-stop ND and a 10-stop ND filter. The problem with my approach is mostly that the step-up rings are a hassle and often get stuck to the lens or the filters and it means a lot of screwing that can be quite cumbersome, especially in cold temperatures with gloves. Furthermore, due to a wide range of filter threads on my lenses, I sometimes need two step-up rings to get all the way to 95mm.
The main reason for my challenges is that I use medium-format systems (Hasselblad H and X) with a wide range of size in filter threads. My most used lenses, the Hasselblad HCD 28, 35 and 35-90 all have 95mm threads, but I also have lenses for this system with 77mm and 67mm threads. My Hasselblad X-system has lenses with threads from 62 to 77mm. Now, I could perfectly well work with two different filter-systems for the two different cameras, but the challenge is my Hasselblad H-system with mostly 95mm threads. Most current filter systems go up to 82mm and if you need something larger than that, you will have to buy huge filter holders and systems made for 150mm (or even larger) filters. I sometimes hike long distances and weight and size is always and issue. So, the larger filter-systems have been a total no-no for me.
The last years, magnetic filters have been all the buzz, and I must admit that I have considered changing my whole system towards a more modern magnetic set-up. However, until now, I haven’t found any system that fulfills my needs. Specifically, my Hasselblad H-system with many 95mm threaded lenses has been the challenge.
The complete B.Way Professional filter system for lenses with 67-82mm filter threads.
When B.Way contacted me a while back, asking me if I could be willing to test out a new filter system for them, my answer was the usual: Does it fit to lenses with a 95mm filter threads? The new system I originally was asked to test (their Professional filter holder) only goes up to 82mm, but they instantly presented another magnetic system for me (the Active filter set) that was made for 95mm threads. They kindly sent me both systems to test out. This could be a perfect solution for me. Two small magnetic filter systems, one for my H-camera and one for my X-camera.
First few words about B.Way: This is a Chinese company that has made filters and other photographic solutions for quite a while, but only for their domestic market. They are now planning to address the international market and have a Kickstarter campaign for the new Professional system. Prices for the international market is not ready yet, but from build quality, packaging and service, they seem to be aiming at the higher end of the market.
Let us have a closer look at the Professional system first. This system consists of a set of adapter rings (67-82mm) that goes on the lens, a small magnetic filter holder (smaller than most regular filter-holders made for square 100mm filters), a 6-stop and a 10-stop solid ND-filter, a graduated ND-filter and a circular polarizer. All filters are magnetic and snaps easily to the front of the filterholder. The whole system comes in a nice, small pouch. The build quality seems very good. The rings, filter holder and filters are made of aluminum, I could have wished for brass, but they seem to be of high quality and I have so far not had any problems with them sticking to my lens. The filters have high-quality German Schott B270 glass. What I like most about this system, is the build- and glass quality and the size. The small pouch accommodates the whole system, takes up almost no space and fits neatly in my bag. Furthermore, it is very easy to use with the magnetic filters just clicking into place on the holder. You can stack several filters magnetically, at least three, without any issues. The filters sits nicely in the holder and doesn’t fall off, even if they are stacked and you turn your camera upside-down. I have an adapter ring for each of my X-system lenses that remain permanently mounted to the lens, so gone is the screwing with gloves and stuck step-up rings. The only thing you need to be aware of with this system is that the movement of the graduated ND-filter in the filter holder is somewhat restricted because the filter is small and fits inside the filter holder. As mentioned, I do not use ND-grads but if you are all into them, that could be an issue. I got a very soft ND grad from them, so it basically takes down the exposure in the upper half of the frame with a very soft transition zone, but with limited range of movement up and down. The filters are very close to the front element of the lens, meaning that it does not vignette. Even on my widest lens, the Hasselblad XCD 21mm (which corresponds to a 16-17mm lens on a full-frame camera) with two stacked filters, there is no vignette.
The Professional system filter-holder mounted on the Hasselblad xcd 21mm. There is no vignetting and the magnetic filters do not fall off by accident. Notice the small pouch that fits the whole system.
The Active filter system comes with a set of step-up rings from various smaller diameters to 95mm, a 95mm screw-on UV-filter that goes on the step-up rings (if you don’t have a 95mm filter thread) and four 95mm magnetic filters that snap on the 95mm UV filter: a circular polarizer, a 6-stop ND and a 10-stop ND as well as a circular soft ND-grad that is graduated about half of the diameter. This system is perfect to use with my Hasselblad H-system as I mostly use my 95mm-threaded lenses and if I get my hands on a couple of more of the 95mm magnetic UV-filter to mount on my most used lenses, I basically have a complete system that just snaps into place without any screwing. Perfect! The build-quality and glass is the same as their Active-system. The filter pouch for this system is the same small size as the Professional counterpart, but this one is in full-grain leather. Very nice.
The B.Way active filter system for lenses with 95mm filter threads (or smaller with use of step-up rings) fits perfectly to my Hasselblad H-system, here with the hcd 28mm and the magnetic CPL mounted.
I have just started to use both these systems and have only made a few exposures with them. I can however confirm that they both work very well so far, and I have had no issues with either. For me, magnetic systems are a huge step up from the older screw-in filters and slot-systems. Sharpness is not compromised at all and there is no color cast, so the glass seems to deliver what it promises.
All in all I am very happy with the two B.Way systems. I now carry the Pro system in my bag with the smaller Hasselblad X and the Active system is always found with my larger Hasselblad H-system. They both take up very little room in my camera bags, are built to last and have excellent optical quality. If you can live with the limited range of movement of the graduated ND-filter (as I can) these systems come highly recommended.
I have not been paid to do this review, but B.Way sent me the filter-systems free of charge, with the option of keeping them upon completion of my tests if I wanted to.
You can read more about these systems on B.Way’s homepage http://bway-uk.net or visit their Kickstarter campaign here: https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/magnetic-filter/professional-magnetic-photography-camera-lens-filter/?ref=kicktraq