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Manfrotto filters and the XUME system

Manfrotto is a brand long associated with quality tripods, supports and lighting accessories, but did you know they also produce an essential range of screw-in filters? Not only that, but they have also recently launched an innovative new filter system called XUME. This quick release system revolutionizes they way in which we attach and detach filters. It is so useful and effective that you will wonder why no one thought of the idea before…

 The Manfrotto Filter range:

To be perfectly honest, there are only a handful of filter types still relevant and useful in this digital era. In my view, the essential, must-have filters are Protect, UV Polarising, Neutral Density (ND) and graduated Neutral Density filters. Manfrotto produce all of these accept graduated filters – a filter type not suited to a circular, screw-in design. Their filters are exceptional quality, constructed with a metal rim to enhance strength, durability and maximize long life. In fact, each filter is reassuringly supplied with a 3-year warranty. Each filter type is available in all the popular filter diameters – 52mm, 58mm, 62mm, 67mm, 72mm, 77mm and 82mm, so compatibility wont be an issue unless you are using a specialist lens type. Manfrotto supply a neat, reusable protective case with all of their filters, to ensure they are safe when not attached to your lens. Manfrotto have developed a filter range with the quality conscious photographer in mind – filters with elaborate multi-coatings that minimize reflections and maximize the transmission of light. They are water and scratch repellent too, yet remain affordable – what more can we ask for?

Lets take a quick overview of Manfrotto’s filter range – what each filter does and why you might want to invest in them.

UV & Protect:

These are similar, yet different filter types. UV filters are clear and designed to block UV light from entering the lens and by doing so reduce haziness and colour casts. However, they are most popular among photographers for protecting the valuable and delicate front element of the lens from getting dirty, smeared or scratched. After all, it’s a lot cheaper to replace a filter than it is a lens! Protect filters are designed to only do that. Again they are clear, and intended to be left on the front of the lens almost at all times to help ensure your lens’s optics remain absolutely pristine. Whether you opt for a UV or Protect filter, they are a wise investment. Personally speaking, I keep Manfrotto Protect filters permanently attached to all the lenses in my system – only removing them when I’m using a different filter type instead. I recommend you do the same thing.

Atlantic puffin {Fratercula arctica} in flight in summer, backlit, Skomer Island, Pembrokeshire, UK. May 2016.

I keep Protect filters permanently fixed to my macro and telephoto lenses. The filter keeps my lenses clean and, crucially, protects the front element from getting scratched or damaged. Being clear filters, they are relatively inexpensive, yet one could save you the cost of a hefty repair bill!

Common darter dragonfly {Sympetrum striolatum} resting on reed, dew covered, Vealand, Devon, UK. August 2015.

When I’m shooting close-ups and potentially pushing my lens through branches, brambles and wet grasses to get a clear shot of the subject, it is reassuring to know that the front of my valuable lens is protected by a Protect or UV filter.

Polariser:

Manfrotto produce their circular polarizing filter in three ranges – Essential, Advanced and Professional – to cater for different needs and budgets. So, what does a polariser do? They are unlike any other filter. They block polarising light from entering the lens in order to reduce surface glare, reflections and restore natural colour saturation. Their effect is most obvious when you photograph non-metallic surfaces like water and clear skies. They can really help give your shots punch and colour impact – I’d never go on a shoot without one tucked away in my camera backpack. Their effect is impossible to mimic using Photoshop wizardry – you need to filter the light at the time you trigger the shutter if you wish to regulate the effect of polarised light-waves. They can really bring blue skies to life – particularly if you take photos at a 90degree angle to the sun.

The filter is constructed from a thin piece of polarising material sandwiched between two pieces of optical glass. You rotate the front ring of the filter within its mount to vary the filter’s effect – as you do so, you will see reflections come and go and colour intensity strengthen and fade. Just rotate the filter until you achieve the effect you want – it really is that simple. Manfrotto’s slim-line filter design helps reduce the risk of any vignetting – a common problem associated with filter’s with a deeper mount. Polarisers are useful for a wide and varied range of subjects, but particularly for landscapes, architecture, water, and woodland interiors. I’ve always been a big fan of using a polariser – they have the ability to transform an ordinary scene into an extraordinary one.

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These two images were taken just moments apart, yet they look entirely different, don’t they? The first was shot without a polarising filter, and looks dull and lifeless. For the subsequent image I attached a polarising filter – via a XUME adapter – and rotated the filter until I achieved the effect and colour I desired.

Neutral Density:

This is one of my favourite filter types. They have the ability to artificially prolong shutter speeds to generate creatively long exposure times. Manfrotto produce them in three different and highly useful densities – an ND8, ND64 and an ND500. The ND8 absorbs 3 stops of light. In other words, if you original unfiltered exposure time was ¼-sec, with the filter in place shutter length is extended to 2-seconds. This shift in exposure can make a big difference to the look and feel of any movement within the scene – like running water. The ND64 is equivalent to 6-stops of light, so its effect on motion is more obvious and extreme. The Manfrotto ND500 has a 9-stop density, so it has the potential to create lengthy exposure times of several minutes when used in combination with a small aperture and low ISO speed (typical settings for landscape photographers). An exposure of this length can prove highly creative. Moving people will appear ghostly or even disappear in urban scenes, drifting cloud will be rendered like brushstrokes, and moving water will be recorded smooth and glass-like in your photos. NDs are fun filters to use and they can produce images oozing with mood, intrigue and mystery. TTL metering will normally compensate for the filters density. A good sturdy tripod is essential though when using ND filters and capturing long exposures. If budget allows, invest in all three densities – each is suited to different subjects, lighting conditions and effects. If you can only buy one, though, I’d recommend the ND64 – 6-stops is a particularly creative density in my opinion.

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ND filters will transform the look of any scene containing movement – for example, moving people, running water, cloud or swaying crops. This comparison – with and without a Manfrotto ND64 – should help illustrate how filtration remains an essential and influential creative tool in this digital era.

Porth Nanven, The Cot Valley, at sunset, beach and the Brisons, nr St Just, West Cornwall, UK. February 2017.

Extreme NDs have a reputation for producing strong, sometimes ugly colour casts. However, I’ve found Manfrotto’s range of ND’s to be impressively neutral, so rest assured – you will capture colour faithfully, regardless of the ND you are using. This image was captured using the Manfrotto ND500.

Manfrotto ND-9618

Manfrotto produce ND filters in three useful densities. Their ND8 absorbs 3-stops of light, the ND64 has a density equivalent to 6-stops and their extreme ND500 will lengthen exposure time by 9-stops. Each density has the potentially to be hugely creative, influencing the look and mood of your shots.

XUME:

So what exactly is XUME? It is a new and innovative filter system developed by Manfrotto that will revolutionize the way photographers and videographers attach screw-in filters. The magnetic quick release XUME adapters are brilliantly simple. Just attach a XUME adapter onto the lens and one to the filter to enable you to quickly snap filters on and off the lens. The magnetic adapter rings hold the filter in place securely – don’t worry; there is no risk of filters falling off or getting damaged. Why do I like this design? Well, it is just so quick and easy to use. Just leave the XUME adapters permanently fixed to both your lenses and circular filters and you can instantly attach and remove filters without the faff and frustration of having to carefully align them with the lens’s filter thread. XUME is unquestionably the fastest and easiest way to attach photo filters. It is the perfect solution for when you want to switch filter type quickly. For example, maybe you’ve been using a polariser, but want to employ a creatively long exposure using a Manfrotto ND500 instead. Now, thanks to the magnetic connection of the XUME adapters, you can change filter type instantly, allowing you to react and adapt to changing light or creative approach without any hassle or time wasting. The ease and effectiveness of the system will have you wondering why no one thought of the idea before!

The XUME system is particularly well suited to photographers regularly on the move, travel photography and videography. However, it is a system with widespread appeal. If I’m being honest, I was slightly skeptical about the idea of the system before I tried it. Was this just another gimmick? Would the magnets be strong and effective enough? Would the system really be useful enough to justify the investment? Within seconds of handling and using the quick release adapters, I could recognize its quality and usefulness. But don’t believe me – try it for yourself.

Manfrotto produce XUME adapters in all the popular filter threads – once they are attached to the lenses and filters in your system, you are all set-up and ready to go.

Thanks to the speed and efficiency of the XUME adapters, you can quickly filter and enhance a scene. In this instance, the XUME system allowed me to quickly attach a Manfrotto ND 500 to transform this coastal shot.

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The adapters are impressively slim, so they do not significantly increase the risk of vignetting. The magnetics are completely safe to use with your digital camera. There are no moving parts and nothing to align once the adapters are attached – you can just instantly couple your filters to your lens; no more need for tedious and fiddly screwing/unscrewing.

You can also buy a dedicated XUME lens cap – this attaches in the same way, using magnets. It attaches so securely that you never need worry about losing a lens cap again – or it falling off in your camera bag while you’re on the move, potentially exposing the lens to damage.

Ross HoddinottOther articles by author

Ross Hoddinott is one of the UK’s leading natural history and landscape photographers. He is the author of eight photography books and a multi-award winner. Ross has been working as a full time professional since 1997, supplying imagery and undertaking commissions for a wide range of publications and clients. Based in the South West of England, Ross is best known for his intimate close-up images of nature, and for evocative landscape photographs. He is a member of the 2020VISION photo team, an Ambassador for Nikon UK (2013-15) and one of Manfrotto’s Ambassadors.