Shooting with Nikon 14-24 and Haida filter system in Spain

Gueirua beach, Santa Marina shot with Nikon D800, Nikkor 14-24 F2.8 lens, Haida filter system with Haida ND 3.0 and Haida GND 0.6 soft
Some time ago I was reviewing the Haida system for my Nikon 14-24 lens. A wonderful lens, but so heavy and bulky that is uncomfortable to carry it around in the bag for a whole day, therefore I leave it at home more frequent than not during my shooting trips. For this trip in Spain, I decided that my shoulders need to roughen up and Carmen needs a wider lens than her 20mm prime, therefore I was using the 14-24mm quite intensively; as a result Haida system came into play a lot. This time in real shooting conditions: sunrises, sunsets, close by the water, in growing tides and rough waves.

San Juan de Gaztelugatze, Bakio  shot with Nikon D800, Nikkor 14-24 F2.8 lens, Haida filter system with Haida ND 3.0 and Haida GND 0.6 soft
So how my conclusions evolved ? First of all using this kind of filter system is a bit awkward for me because I have small hands, so handling a 150mm square filter without leaving fingerprints all over it can be quite some challenge. But my years of practice piano and violin helped:-) Obviously this is not something Haida specific, but more of a challenge for 150mm filters in general. The system behaved very well in the field. Just to remember what we are talking about,the system consists of 3 pieces:
– the holder itself with 2 spaces for filters (if I mount the third slot for filters, the holder will start appearing into the image especially when shooting at 14 or 15 mm or when focusing closer then infinite)
– a lens adapter that gets installed on the built-in shader of the lens
– a locking ring, that needs to be inserted from the rear of the lens and that gets screwed with the lens adapter, to lock the system on the lens

I kept the adapter locked on the lens all the time. Last time I was mentioning the fact that the lens cap does not fit well anymore on the lens if the Haida adapter is mounted. I solved this issue by simply taping the petals of the builtin shader with some paper band-aid, so that the lens cap fits a bit tighter; the problem was easily solved. The filters holder can be put in/ taken out very easy on the lens as well, but please note that two hands are needed for this (you need to make sure the whole holder slides in the adapter correctly), to make sure it is mounted correctly). A small heads up is about the fact that this part has a designated position for putting it in or taking it out, marked with a white dot on the lens adapter. However there are two other similar position that can be used instead. So if you are rotating your filters through such an extra position, make sure you gently press against the lens so that it doesn’t partly sleep out and leave room for light leakage. It happened to me once or twice and since then I learned my lesson. Also in a very specific condition, with very strong sun on the side, the white dot on the holder was not very visible anymore, so probably I will mark it in a more obvious way. These were small comments that don’t take anything from the quality of the product, but I think they are good to know practical information, in order to avoid some mishaps. The  strong metal build of the holder was very helpful when I dropped the front element on a  few times on a shingle beach (without filters). Only few minor scratches, still perfectly usable. Its good to have sturdy equipment that you don’t have to worry about.

Castro de las Gaviotas, Naves shot with Nikon D800, Nikkor 14-24 F2.8 lens, Haida filter system with Haida ND 3.0 and Haida GND 0.6 soft
Regarding the compatibility with other brands, on top of the Haida ND 10 stops and a Haida GND 0.6 , I used as well a Lee little stopper (ND 1.8) and a Lee ND 0.9. Despite the fact that Lee filters are compatible with Haida holder, it is quite a challenge to insert and especially to remove the little stopper due to its gasket that make it a bit too thick for the holder. I tried this with water up to my knees and  strong waves coming and splashing every few seconds and it was not a fun experience.  So my advice is to stick with Haida filters or at least avoid other filters with gaskets.
About the quality of the filters, i will start by saying that i haven’t tested many of the brands in the market. When I started with long exposure photography, there were only very few players and it was difficult to get hold of good quality ND filters. Nowadays, the competition increased (Haida being one of the relatively new players in the market) which is more the ideal for the photographer that have plenty of options. In my 100mm system, I am using Lee filters for quite some time and few Hitech ones from previous generation. The Haida filters are up there with Lee in terms of quality and way much better than the ones from  Hitech (thats a bit unfair for Hitech as they improved a lot their line lately). I am not a pixel peeper so I am just looking for the overall good quality of the image. There is no point in zooming to 400% and analyzing every single pixel of your shot as the chances of having it printed in a huge billboard are extremely thin. Anyway, bellow is a with/without comparison, zoomed at 150% to see how the Haida filters are behaving in terms of sharpens (both cases featured a Haida ND 3.0  and a Haida GND 0.6 soft edge. You can notice a very minimal loss of sharpness when using filters, but since the causes for loosing sharpness in a long exposure shot are multiple (not so sturdy tripod, wind, photographer touching the tripod, cars and other people passing close by, touching slightly the zoom or focus ring while mounting the filters), it is very difficult to quantify how much is due to filters and how much is due to something else.

Detail of image shot in Bilbao, featuring Guggenheim museum. First image is without filters, the second one with. Zoom 150% in Photoshop

Detail of image shot in Naves Asturias, featuring Castro de las Gaviotas. First image is without filters, the second one with. Zoom 150% in Photoshop
As I mentioned in the previous review, the Haida ND 3.0 is producing a very slight blue tint. Personally I found it extremely easy to get rid of it, either in Camera Raw or using Match Color filter in Photoshop (using a non long exposed image as source). The filter is a bit more than 10 stops (somewhere between 10 and 11 stops) so I normally compensate slightly when calculating the exposure time (if lets say the math tells me that I should expose 45 seconds, I will just round it up to 1 whole minute) . Other time I just like my image to be slightly underexposed, so then exposing for an exact 10 stops ND filter achieves the effect.

As a final conclusion about the Haida system and filters is that they are  very good pieces of gear that allows me to get the best out of my 14-24 lens. They are not perfect, but is there any photo equipment that is ever perfect? Some things that I like can be something that another fellow photographer might hate. They have minor shortcomings (or things that can be slightly better in my view) but getting to know them well lets you minimize or even remove the effect. And because I plan to use my 14-24 lens more (on a trip in Brittany in a bit more than a month time) I decided to increase this system with some new Haida filters (ND 3.6, ND 1.8 and GND 0.9). And who knows, maybe give a try to Haida 100mm system when the time will come to replace some of my well trusted Lee filters.

Playa del Silencio, Castaneros, shot with Nikon D800, Nikkor 14-24 F2.8 lens, Haida filter system with Haida GND 0.6 soft and Lee ND 0.9


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