Review: Kase Filters - Wolverine series -
August 17, 2017
For quite some time I have been searching for a filter set to replace my old set of Stealth Gear filters. I was not satisfied with the filters. They strongly affected the color of the pictures, when stacking multiple filters. During the past two years I have tried several (leading) brands of filters, but did not find exactly what I was looking for. ...until I learned about the Wolverine series from Kase Filter Systems.
Every brand and material of filters has its own pros and cons. Some brands have very handy filter holders, but offer lower quality filters or not the selection of filters I would like to use. Other brands have very high quality filters, but their filter holders are a disaster to work with. And then the choice between glass or resin filters. High quality glass filters offer better sharpness and (in most cases) affect the colors less, but break into 1000 pieces when dropped. And then we should not forget the pricing. I don't mind paying a bit extra for quality products, but then I want to be satisfied with every aspect of the product.
Important features I was looking for;
Low loss of sharpness
50/50 devided gradient filters
Filter holder should be easy to attach and detach
The filter holder should allow you to still operate the polarize filter with the 100mm filters in place
I want to use the filters for many year, so they should be strong and not scratch up easily
And all of this for a reasonable price
Kase Filter Systems - Wolverine Series
When I found out about the Wolverine series from the brand Kase, it seemed like that they took all the good features from the different brands, and combined them. This convinced me and I bought the "Master kit", which sells for 899,- Euro. This kit holds the following equipment;
1x K100II filterholder 100mm
1x adapter ring 77mm with thread for 82mm Kase round filters
1x adapter ring 82mm with thread for 82mm Kase round filters
1x 82mm Sky Eye X-CPL Pola filter
1x Wolverine Soft Grad GND 0.9 100x150mm
1x Wolverine Soft Grad GND 1.2 100x150mm
1x Wolverine R-GND 0.9 100x150mm
1x Wolverine ND64 100x100mm ND filter
1x Wolverine ND1000 100x100mm ND filter
1x Circular filter wrench
1x Kase glass whipe
I received the filter set mid-June, just in time for my Lofoten summer tour. Lofoten is one of the best areas in Europe for landscape photography and filters are unmissable in such a tour. For several weeks I used the filters almost daily and really put them to the test. Here are my findings.
The filter holder is made out of ultra-light aircraft aluminum and has a solid feel to it. With an adaptor ring, the holder can be screwed straight onto the lens (in the same way you would screw on a circular filter). Because it is screwed on, it is basically impossible that the filter holder suddenly falls off the lens (which is a problem with some other brands). The holders comes with a 77mm and a 82mm adapter ring, which fit many of the professional lenses. Adapter rings in other sizes are also available, but have to be ordered separately.
With a knob on the backside of the holder, the holder can be loosened so that it can turn 360 degrees around. By tightening the knob, the holder can be places in any preferred position.
You can chose to either use the holder with or without the polarizing filter. This filter can be attached onto the adapter ring and fits into the filter holder. With most other brands, the polarizing filter is not adjustable as soon as the squire filters are in place. The brand Benro has a filter holder where it is possible to operate the polarizing filter even with the squire filters in place. But I found it hard to operate and needed to use my nails to turn the filter, which becomes difficult during the cold Norwegian winters. Luckily, Kase has taken it a step further. On the bottom of the holder you find a small wheel, which makes is possible to still spin the polarizing filter without having to remove other filters, having to turn the whole holder or having to loosen up anything. It is always fully operational. Even with thick gloves on, you will be able to turn the polarizing filter. This is a big advantage to other brands.
With a small wheel on the bottom of the holder, the polarizing filter can easily be operated.
The holder is delivered with two filter slots. The third slot comes with the holder and can be screwed into place very easily. Not everyone likes to stack filters because it affects the quality of the pictures. It reduces the sharpness and creates vignetting. However, I want to fully test the equipment and want to have the possibility to stack the filters for longer exposures. Therefore I added the 3rd slot. It comes with a small screwdriver and it took me just 2-3 minutes to add it.
They advertise that the holder is not visible in the shots. I shot with a full frame body in combination with a 17mm lens and can see the filter holder just in the corners. It is just a tiny tiny bit and it is completely gone as soon as you apply the lens correction in Photoshop or Lightroom, or you can clone it away very easily. But still I think this should not happen with this price filter system.
This ultra-thin filter is made from German Schott Glass B270. This is high quality optical glass for maximum sharpness. The glass is only 1.6mm thick and sits in a 3.2mm thick frame. The exposure is lowered by one stop by this filter, which is one stop less than my Kenko polarize filter. The fact that it lets through more light, is a big plus for me. When traveling, I often shoot landscapes from the hand with the 100-400mm during short stops. If I would like to use a polarize filter in those situations, it is important that it doesn't lower the shutter speed too much.
Even though it is a very light piece of equipment, it is a very powerful one. It takes away the reflection, brings out the colors much better and the images are as sharp as they can be. In many situations the pictures with the polarizing filter look sharper than the pictures without.
Both images are un-edited crops out of the RAW files. As you can see, the polarizing filter is a strong tool to remove any unwanted reflections and bring out the colors.
Glass graduated ND filters
The master kit comes with two soft graduated filters; a 0.9 (3 stops) and a 1.2 (4 stops). The size of the filters is 100x150mm and 2mm thick. The gradient runs over about 1/4 of the filter length (almost 4 centimeters) and is as smooth as it can get. In the field I noticed that this gradient works perfect when photographing at the water. The reflection of the light on the water gets softened perfectly. But when I shot some mountain landscapes, I noticed that the gradient runs over a too long distance. The foreground gets darkened too much when the darkest part of the filter covered the lightest part of the shot. A filter with a harder gradient would have been better in that situation. My old filters have a gradient of 2cm and suited better for this particular situation.
The gradient runs through the middle of the filters. Some other brands have the gradient starting much higher, which doesn't leave much space on the top of the filter. This limits the composition possibilities. You will not be able to take a wide angle shot with the horizon all the way on the bottom of the picture. Because the darkened part on the filter will be too short. Luckily the Kase filters have enough space on both sides of the gradient, so they don't limit the composition possibilities.
When shooting against the light, a 3 or 4 stop graduated filter often is not enough. By stacking the two filters you end up with 7 stops, which should do the trick in most situations. Here it went wrong with my old filters. The sky would turn purple as soon as I used two squire filters. Luckily these Wolverine filters don't change the color. In the field I could not notice any color change when stacking the filters. Therefore I made a test setup at home with a piece of white paper. I set the white balance to 3600K and made a shot without filters, a shot with the 1.2 soft graduated filter, a shot with the 1.2 and the 0.9 graduated filters stacked and to really put the filters to the test, I added a ND64 filter for the last shot. All pictures I overexposed with one full stop.
As you can see, there is no change in the color. These are cuts from the RAW files.
No editing was applied on any of these images.
To give you an idea how my pictures turned out when I stacked the Stealth Gear filters, here is a shot where I combined a polarizing filter, a ND4 and a GND4.
A purple color appeared when I stacked the Stealth Gear filters.
Additionally to these two graduated filters, they have added a reverse graduated ND0.9 (3 stops) filter. In some situations the brightest part of the shot is not in the top, but more in the middle. For instance, if the sun is low at the horizon and breaks through the clouds. With a regular graduated filter, the darkest part of the filter will cover the clouds instead of the sun. With the reverse graduated filter you are able to put the darkest part of the filter on the sun, while the clouds will be darkened less. A handy filter for those who often photograph at the coast or other areas with a straight horizon.
The Wolverine Reverse-GND 0.9 filter. The darkest part is in the middle of the gradient
Glass ND filters
The two glass ND filters, ND64 (6 stops) and ND1000 (10 stops), are 100x100mm and 2mm thick. These filters are perfect to get long exposure shots. Even with a lot of light available, you will be able to take very long exposures. This is great for getting a completely smooth water surface at the beach for instance. But I would have liked to have another ND filter. One at around 3 stops. A filter like this would be of better use for photographing waterfalls and streams. I don’t like to slow down the shutter speed too much then, or else all the lines, details and contrast in the water disappears. Depending on the situation, I like to use a shutter speed somewhere between 1/4s and 4s. The ND64 filter is in many situations too dark to be able to photograph with these shutter speeds without having to push the iso up.
When you have photographed with the big stopper of the brand Lee, you are probably used to pushing the Kelvin on your camera to the max and adding more warmth during the processing on your computer, to be able to get closer to the actual colors you photographed. Luckily, these Wolverine filters are color neutral. The pictures end up a tiny bit bluer with the 10 stops filter, but that is too be expected with any ND filter of this caliber. To compensate for that, you need to push the Kelvin a bit up. About 600 degrees does the job. I’m very happy to see that there are no purple tones appearing when using these filters. Even when I stack the filters, the colors stay true.
A light blue tint appeared when testing the ND1000 filter against a white piece of paper.
This can easily be fixed by increasing the Kelvin in the camera by 600 degrees.
The filter bag is handcrafted out of strong leather and comes with a carrying strap. It has two compartments. The front compartment is for the filter holder and is easily opened and closed by a magnetic lock. The main compartment opens with a metal "push lock" and can carry five 100mm filters. For each filter there is a separate slot. This prevents the filters to scratch up during transport. Additionally, there are two other compartments in the main compartment. One for storing circular filters, such as the polarize filter and one for some small additional gear (screwdriver, wipes and such).
A handcrafted leather bag for storing the filter holder, the polarizing filter and up to five squire filters.
To be honest, I'm not sure if I like the bag or not. It for sure keeps your filters safe and it is very strong. But on the other hand, you can only take up to five squire filters with you. I'm very happy with the quality of the Wolverine filters. So I will buy some hard gradient- and less strong ND filters. That means that I need to make a choice which filters I'm going to bring, since I can only pack five. Hopefully they will produce a bag which can hold more filters, so that I don't need to buy a bag from another brand.
This is a very helpful piece of equipment! Anyone who owns a circular filter, should own one of these. It happens too often that people screw on circular filters too tight and have to fight to get them loose again. And when pressing too hard, you often end up cracking the glass in the filter. With this wrench you can easily grab the circular filter and apply the same amount of pressure around the filter. This reduces the risk of cracking the glass and loosens up the filters effectively.
One topic I have not talked about, is how the filters affect the sharpness of the pictures. There is a big difference between these glass filters and my old resin filters. These glass filters affect the sharpness much less. Or I can better say, they don't affect the sharpness. I'm really surprised to see how sharp the pictures turn out, even with four filters in place. To test the sharpness, I photographed the bark of a tree with several filter combinations. Yes I know, this is not exactly a typical thing to photograph with these filters, but there is a lot of detail in the shot. So a good way to see how the sharpness is affected by the filters.
Click on the picture above to see it large. These are un-edited crops from the RAW files. The first three pictures are taken on iso 100 and the last picture on iso 1000. I didn't have a remote control with me, so I couldn't use a longer shutter time than 30 seconds. All four pictures are taken on f9.
One of the main features they promote the Wolverine series with, is that these glass filters are the toughest ones on the market. They should survive a drop of at least 120 centimeters, they can support a tremendous amount of weight and the filters are scratch and shock resistant. There are several videos on YouTube showing people trying to break these filters and not manage to do it. Lucky me, means I don't have to start throwing with my filters to see if this is actually true!
These features are of course very welcome, but the image quality is of higher importance. ...or else you end up with a set of shitty filters which you cannot even destroy. ;-) And here I think Kase is making one mistake. The image quality is absolutely amazing, but they seem to forget to advertise with it. A shame!
The Kase Wolverine series Master kit costs 899,- Euro. This is a lot of money. But you get a set of high quality products. The best is to compare their price to the price of the competition. These are the prices of the other leading brands.
Benro landscape pro kit: 899,- Euro (includes exactly the same amount of equipment as Kase)
Nisi filter kit Advanced: 709,29 Euro (includes exactly the same amount of equipment as Kase)
Lee deluxe kit: 699,- Euro (only includes four squire filters, one extra filter costs 139,- Euro, which pushes the price up to 838,- Euro)
Hitech Master kit: 879,- Euro (does not include the holder, which costs 159,- Euro and pushes the total up to 1038,- Euro)
As you see, the Kase Wolverine series Master kit is exactly the same price as the Benro Landscape Pro kit. They are both more expensive than the Nisi and Lee filter kits, but cheaper than the Hitech Master kit. I think that the pricing is about right where it should be. It is a lot of money, but it outcompetes the competition on several grounds. I rather invest a bit more and get the equipment I'm happy to work with, than saving some money and ending up with equipment I never use because I'm not happy with it.
My verdict of the Kase Filter Systems, Wolverine Master kit
Overall I'm very happy with this set of filters. The image quality absolutely impressed me and even surprised me a bit. Because most of the advertising was done on how strong these filters are, I was a bit afraid that they had forgotten about the image quality. But luckily they have done an impressive job with this. The colors stay true, even when stacking multiple filters. But there were also some things which could be improved. So here is my pros and cons list:
Filter holder is screwed on to the lens and can't accidentally fall off
The polarizer remains easy to operate even with squire filters in place
Thin polarizer which stops down the image with only 1 stop
Color neutral filters. Even when stacking multiple filters, the colors stay true in the pictures
The sharpness of the pictures are far superior to my resin filters
The gradient runs through the middle of the filter, which doesn't limit the composition possibilities
Strong build filter bag, which protects the filters very well
Extremely strong glass filters
A wrench for removing circular filters comes with the filter kit
On 17mm on a full frame body, the filter holder is slightly visible in the corners of the picture
Both ND filters are strong (6 and 10 stops). A less dark ND filter (3 stops or so) would be useful
Filter bag can only hold up to five filters
One thing which I wanted to add to the list of "cons", is the number of types of filters available in the Wolverine series. Until just shortly, these five squire filters in the master kit, were their only filters in the Wolverine series. But luckily they have started to expend the series and now have
nine different filters available. The Wolverine series is new on the market and still needs to grow. ...which I expect them to do quite fast. These filters are absolutely amazing!
Here are some shots I took with the Kase - Wolverine series filters.
For the shot above I used the polarizing filter in combination with the GND1.2 and the GND0.9 filters.
For the shot above I used the polarizing filter in combination with the ND64 and GND1.2 filters.
For the shot above I used the polarizing filter in combination with the ND64, GND1.2 and the GND0.9 filters.
For the shot above I used the polarizing filter in combination with the GND1.2 and the GND0.9 filters.