This test and review was conducted and written by Matt Holland, a full-time creative from Berkshire, UK with a passion for all things outdoors. You can read more about his work here, or visit his website below.
Buy your 84.5mm filters here, and use the code MIH15D for 15% Discount!
Who are 84.5mm?
84.5mm is a company engaged in the development and manufacturing of professional photographic and cinematographic filters. The company is located in the world famous spa town of Piestany* (Central Europe, EU). Founded in 2011 by a group of enthusiastic outdoor and studio photographers who have joined forces with experienced chemists, engineers, manufacturing specialists and professionals in the field of international business/marketing.
*Piestany is in Slovakia
The idea of 84.5mm brand was established in 2008, followed by three long years of development, research, laboratory experiments and fine-tuning best production technologies. In 2010, we can say that we managed to create the perfect production technology and a series of filters with exceptional quality that will delight even the most demanding professionals and not only due to its reasonable price.
The brand name represents a standard 84.5mm width of our best selling filters, which are of course fully compatible with commercially available conventional photographic filter holders of square type. The product portfolio of optical filters offered currently is not final and still dozens of new models are being developed which are about to occur in the market very soon. Our long term goal is to produce new attractive models every year that will inspire hundreds of amateur and professional photographers around the world and to move the tendency of modern photography to higher levels. (In addition to the great qualities and features of our product, we also strive to maintain constant quality and favourable price.) Our philosophy is based also on keeping the constant high quality of our products and favourable price for our customers.
Graduated Filter 0.9 (3 stop) ND Testing – Ultimate line 100mm:
Graduated Neutral density (GND) filters are filters designed to reduce exposure of the upper (darkened) part of the filter, used to reduce highlights/overexposure of the upper part of image/sky. A graduated filter is graduated along the length of the resin or glass and fades approx half way down. These come as soft or hard edge or even reversed to fit for different needs.
I opted for the soft edge filter as this is the best for my working conditions with uneven horizons, e.g. forests and mountains.
Immediate reaction to the filter when I opened it was how green it looked when I peered through and I was worried to say the least on whether this would cause green casting when shooting.
I’m glad to say it doesn’t and all of my photos taken in this test are using the auto WB on the Nikon D500 and you will see the camera hasn’t struggled to correct the colours whilst shooting.
NO colour correcting in post production, as it should be!
This is incredibly helpful and saves a lot of time and avoids any photos getting ruined by green or magenta casting which is so common for cheaper filters.
That said, these aren’t cheap, but they’re not expensive either. The 100mm filter costs €59.95 and at the time of writing this review is approximately £50. Now compared to its competitors, the three most popular in the UK being Formatt Hitech, Lee and Nisi this comes in about half the price. Yes you can pick up cheaper filters such as Zomei or Cokin which range from £10-30 but you will notice colour fading or loss of contrast.
Now of course price isn’t everything but certainly helps if you are on a tight budget so if you are new to filters but don’t have the budget then you must seriously consider these filters. For the cost and what you get on return, they are simply brilliant.
Below is a filter test between the 84.5 grad and a cheap £30 filter off Amazon to compare.
Nikon D500 with 16-80mm f/2.8 @ 19mm
No post production
The first image on the left is the 84.5 grad, as you can see. No issues with colour casting and a good exposure, no bright highlights blown out and no harsh blacks in the shadows.
The second image is with the £30 filter. You can notice the magenta casting alone the top edge of the photo and the highlights are also slightly blown out. To avoid the highlights being blown out I have adjusted the exposure to 1/60th second which shows the cheaper filter is likely not a 3 stop grad but more 2.6 stop grad but the main concern is the colour casting as this requires more work in post production compared to recovering highlights or shadows.
One thing a lot of photographers will worry about is damaging their precious and expensive filters. The thought along of dropping your filters will make your heart stop but getting a scratch on the front or water marks can ruin your day. So far I’ve found the 84.5 filters to be tough and have taken some knocks whilst out on expedition, the outdoors and my office or even putting them in my bag.
Yes I am a clumsy photographer.
84.5 filters are made of a glass which makes them even better considering the price but this glass is scratch resistant and can be cleaned with lens cleaner or a specialized cleaner, you can also clean the filters in water up liquid but you should only do this with distilled water not your basic tap water.
All the filters are also made by hand and you get a lovely signature of the person who inspected your filter to be fit for purpose which is reassuring.
Back to damaging the filters. The filters themselves have some bend in them which would make you think they are plastic, but because of this and the scratch resistance they are tough and can be thrown around or take a knock. There is no need to wrap your filters in bubble wrap to never use them in fear of breakages.
If you want to learn more about what the filters are made of, click here.
The filters fit into a variety of holders. For the review I used my Formatt Hitech Firecrest 100mm holder and had no issues with the filter sliding in or out. It felt secure but not so stiff it was difficult to manoeuvre. This was the same with the classic style Hitech holder and I’m putting myself out on a limb here but this would be much the same on a Nisi or Lee holder.
When the filter arrives with you, it is in a basic plastic wrap in which the filter is housed inside a card which is there to protect the filter (seen above.) This card also features some lovely photography from the brilliant James Grant.
How long do the filters take to arrive? They are dispatched within 2 days after receipt and will typically take 5 working days, of course this varies on the shipping you selected: 1st class + insurance, 1st class or 2nd class. None of which are outlandishly expensive with the insurance 1st class being 6.50.
In all, I was super impressed with the filter. Considering cost, post production required and usability, the filter gets full marks from me and I would recommend them as a serious alternative to the major brands in the UK.
I’ve been that impressed I placed an order for their X-Stopper 10 stop ND which I will share my results in the future.
You can see more sample images from the 84.5mm Ultimate Line Graduated Neutral Density filter below: