by Gerard Blacklock
- Meet Kase Armour
- The Kit
- Kase Armour Filter System Components
- The Kase Armour Filter holder system Pros and Cons Summary
- Sample Shots taken with the Kase Armour Filter Holder System and Filters
I have been using the Kase K9 filter system for a few years now which has been an excellent system with high quality filters, you can read my initial thoughts on this system here. During 2021 the Kase Armour kit was released and in early 2022 I decided to upgrade to this filter system and give it a go. I have been using the Armour kit for over 4 months now and these are my thoughts on the system. All the sample images are taken from the Kase system using a variety of the Kase filters, there are also some product shots, these are taken recently so forgive the dings, dust and scratches on them 🙂 and there is also a short video (located in the summary and also here) showing how the system works, sometimes video is worth a thousand words.
If you want to skip the gaff and get to the bullet point summary of the pros and cons click here .
The Kase Magnetic Armour filter system is an evolved unique lens filter system that takes a different approach in the way filters are affixed to the camera lens. Filter systems have developed over the years however the concept of how the filters are attached and used has been pretty much stagnant.
The traditional means of securing a filter to the lens has been via some form of adapter (usually a lens adapter with a holder) fitted with slots which are used to house one or more square or rectangle filters that can be slid in and adjusted in height to accommodate the horizon position.
Recent offerings from NISI, Lee and previous versions from Kase (K9 for example) have integrated the polariser into the holder making for much more convenient adjustment of the polariser position. This has been the status quo for a number of years and has been successful.
When I originally started with filters it was with a circular polariser fitted to the lens followed by an adapter followed by slot filters, this resulted in vignetting at wide angles and a very inconvenient means to adjust the polariser position, but those were the dark ages 🙂
Meet Kase Armour
Enter the Kase Armour Magnetic system – this system takes another evolutionary step forward in the way filters are attached and used.
There are a few key aspects that have evolved with the Armour kit:
- The first is a very noticeable change in the holder with the lack of any slots, the square/rectangular filters are now attached via a magnetic frame.
- The second is the inclusion of 2 circular positions in the filter holder, both magnetic of course.
- The third is everything is pretty well magnetic now 🙂 the only mechanically fastened item is the adapter ring which is secured via a threaded ring onto the lens everything forward of that is magnetic.
The addition of these features give several benefits, the key ones as I see them are;
- Improved convenience in the attaching of filters
- Improved means of attaching the filter holder to the camera
- Ability to use 4 filters with no or minimal vignetting (2 x 95mm circular and 2 or more square filters)
- The use of frames on the square filters provides additional protection
Like any system there are compromises and for this evolved system they come in the form of increased complexity and also weight. The magnet feature, whilst a benefit, it is also introduces a new problem, it can be easy to fumble putting the circular filters on or taking them off. Hence with cold hands in a suboptimal conditions the possibility of dropping a filter is increased. Its worth noting here that the K9 holder uses a magnetic CPL as well, so if your familiar with that you will have had some practice. I had similar thoughts about the K9 in terms of it being a bit fiddly and not so robust, however once you use it for a awhile and become familiar the fiddly side of things becomes a non-event. I have found the same with the Armour kit, once you get used to putting on and taking off the filters, particularly the circular ones the chance of dropping is minimised. I have not dropped one yet with my clumsy big fingers 🙂
Read on to get into the detail and look at some specifics 🙂
Note: The term square filters is interchangeable with rectangular it seems – basically a 100x150mm filter or a 100x100mm filter is referred to as square, I use the both terms to make it further confusing 🙂
0.9x Gradual Filter, 1.2x Gradual Filter and Double Grad (0.9x Hard and Gradual)
The kit and optional extras that I chose to buy are as follows; keeping in mind that this was based on what I already had as part of the K9 kit and also few other wolverine filters.:
Kase Magnetic Armour Filter Holder Entry Level Kit
- Kase Armour Magnetic geared Filter Holder.
- Kase Armour Magnetic Adapter Ring 77mm , BI03 (also comes with 82mm)
- Kase Armour Magnetic Circular Polariser, 95mm, BG23
- Kase Armour Magnetic Circular ND64, 95mm BG23
- Kase Wolverine K100 0.9 Gradual Grey Soft/Gradual 100x150mm 1.1mm Slim Glass filter
- Kase Armour Magnetic Square Frame for 1.1mm 100x150mm filters
- Various step up rings
- Plastic cap and soft carry bag.
- Kase Armour Magnetic Circular N1000, 95mm, BG23
- Kase Wolverine K100 0.9 Double Filter (Soft/Gradual + Hard) 100x150mm 1.1mm Slim Glass filter
- Qty 3 Kase Armour Magnetic Square Frame for 1.1mm 100x150mm filters
I already had a few Kase filters from my previous kit, the key one that I have carried across is the 1.2x gradual filter. I find this one very useful and tend to use it more than the 0.9x gradual filter.
Kase Armour Filter System Components
A word of warning, magnets are like USB-A connections – you always try the wrong way first to realise you have aligned north with north then flip it over to get the right polarity 🙂 Further to this, ya gotta keep them separated, even in the filter holder bag the damn things are trying to get together 😉 these magnets are strong!
Note: Typically you attach the logo side of magnetic items to the holder, hence if in doubt put those labels together – see holder section for exceptions.
Lets start from lens side and work forward 🙂
Like all front lens filter systems there is an adapter ring, this is basically a threaded ring which allows the holder to be mounted on the lens, there are lots of lens sizes hence the need use of an adapter and step rings (where required), the Kase entry kit comes with a 77mm and 82mm adapter and also two step up rings, 67mm→ 82mm and 72→82mm. The step rings can be used with the 82mm adapter, be sure to factor in additional adapters/rings for lens selection.
The adapter ring is magnetic (or more correctly it has a magnetic ring integrated into it) and its pretty hard to mess this up, its got a thread which is used to secure it to the front of the lens.
This is where all the magic happens – the filter holder attaches to the adapter ring on your lens and allows you to fit a variety of filters to it. Its secured to the adapter ring via magnetic force. At this point its again worthwhile noting that these magnets are f-off strong, do not get any body parts caught between the holder and the lens adapter ring ‘cause its going to hurt.
The holder has four guides and a safety retainer on the rear side, this is the side that attaches to the adapter ring. The four guides help you align the holder onto ring and provide a visual representation of the correct position. They also prevent the holder from sliding. Magnetic force is great in the normal/perpendicular direction, however no so good in the transverse direction. The safety retainer is a spring loaded slide latch which I think was included to provide an extra level of safety/ for the holder, the manual refers to this as the buckle (note; they needs some improved engrish translation on their manual imo, its worse than my engineering engrish).
I have found this safety retainer is actually more useful in guiding the holder into position. I basically align the holder onto adapter ring using this retainer latch, I attach this corner at an angle first before letting the magnets blast it in place 🙂 if you bring the holder in parallel to the ring its hard to get it aligned before it snaps into place and it usually does so with quite some force – it typically ends up in the right position in any case, but me personally, I like to be gentle 🙂
Its near impossible to get the holder the wrong way around – basically if you try and put it on backwards the magnet polarity pushes it away, this combined with the fact it does not fit between the holder edges means its darn near impossible 🙂
The holder has a rotating ring into the middle, this ring is very thin and allows a 95mm circular filter to be fitted to either the front or rear sides or both, remember to put the logo side on the filter onto the holder to ensure you have the magnetic polarity the right way around 🙂 unless its the circular polariser on the front side, then this one is the other way round.. oh and if you put the 95mm ND’s on the rear side they go with the logo on the visible side… confused ? The best thing is get a system going and not mix it up, I always put the CPL on the rear side which is logo side in and the ND’s on the front side which are then logo in as well, easy to remember :). Some people also recommend that the CPL is the first filter onto the lens to minimise reflections, however in all honesty I have never seen any noticeable differences with CPL on the outside, inside, middle or whatever..
The ring is geared to the red anodised wheel on the side of the holder, this is kind of common to the K9 filter holder, however its better since the rotating ring part is integral to the holder rather than the adapter ring – not to mention the key benefit of two filters being able to be used.
The mechanism works pretty well and smooth, I have had no problems with foreign objects or dirt getting in there, however I have not had it in extreme conditions,
Its worth noting that on the forward side the 95mm filter sits recessed below the surface of the holder by a couple of thou however on the rear side the filter sits proud by the same amount, on the rear side this is accommodated by the lens adapter ring which is stepped – not a issue, more of a question from me as to why, would it not have been better just to recess both the same? Anyway, it has no impact on the fit, form or function of the holder.
On the forward side of the holder there are two guides which help you align the square filters in place, on one of these guides is also a locking screw, you can tighten this up to lock the filter in place, I found this useful when carrying my camera with the filters in place to a new composition location. It would take a fair amount of force to knock the filter out of the holder with just the magnets holding it, but I think this is a good safety inclusion.
As mentioned, the square filters are held in by magnetic force, there are magnets installed on both LH and RH sides of the filter, these seem to be about 50mm long.
You can stack as many filters as you want on the front 🙂 however only the first two are captured by the locking screw and I suspect the design intent was for only 2 square filters to be fitted. I actually cannot see why you would want any more than two, ie the max combo I have used is the 95mm circ polariser in the rear position, 95mm ND64 in the front position and then two graduated square filters on the front of the holder.
Its also worthwhile remembering that when you want to adjust the angle of your square filters its best to rotate the holder in the direction to tighten the adapter ring on the lens, this will avoid it being loosened and falling off, that’s not fun. Note, rotate the filter holder clockwise when looking at the lens front element to tighten.
The holder is a bit of engineering marvel, its amazing how such precision machining has filtered down to consumer products, the black hard anodising works well and in my experience with other Kase filters the only way it comes off or wears is when you drop it onto hard stuff :). It appears to be made from two machined bodies which are secured together via the rear guides and screws, the assembly is quite heavy.
As way of comparison to the K9 filter holder:
|Filter Holder (Bare)
|Filter Holder with adapter ring (77mm) and CPL
I note that the supplied manual does have some ‘Pay Attention’ items, they kind of raised more questions for me than anything else, but I think above everything else, just use your common sense, ie avoid getting things like sand in the filter.
They suggest not using at high altitude, in strong wind, direct sunlight, moist, sandy and windy environments and using in sea water is prohibited. That rules a lot of places out for me, but I digress, I’m sure their intentions are good.
The filter frames are essentially 4 sides with the long sides fitted with magnets and spacers (spacers needed if your using 1.1mm filters instead of the 2mm ones), each section is secured to the next via a very small torx screw.
Each frame kit is supplied with 2 long edges, 2 short edges, 6 screws (2 spares), torx screwdriver, instruction manual and 4 spacers (for 1.1mm filters). Only the long sides have slots for the filters/spacers, the short edges are only to stop them sliding out. The long edges have three magnetic strips assembled within them.
The frames are a bit fiddly to assemble, particularly with the spacers for the 1.1mm filters, its a bit a juggling act to hold the spacers in place whilst its tightened up. I suggest two tweaks when assembling these frames with the filters;
• Use a very small dab of silicone sealant on the spacers to hold them in place, this also stops them from rattling.
• Use Loctite 222 or equiv. Low strength thread locker on the screws. These screws are going into drilled/tapped aluminium, this is OK when regular assembly/disassembly is not required, which is the case with the Kase filters. ie you should only do a few times in the life of the filter I would imagine. Being very small diameter screws with fine threads it will be easy to strip a hole, hence a tiny bit of thread locker to avoid having to tighten them up or loosening is my recommendation. Note, I had to tighten one mine after a few uses.
These frames can be used with other 100x150mm 2mm filters, hence its great way to utilise those existing filters you might have which were never quite interchangeable between the 2mm slots of say Lee, Kase and Nisi.
I actually put one of my older Lee resin filters into one of the frames – these Lee filters are a bit thicker so it took a bit of rework, but it fits and works well, however the Kase wolverine filters are a lot better than the Lee filters I have so it was more for proof of concept then any real use.
There are a few key benefits to the frame system
- Protection of the filter, it probably improves the drop-ability of it. However of more interest to me was the fact you can put the filter on a flat surface and it sits on the frame rather than the glass. The frame will also improve the survivability of the filter when in the bag, ever stacked it heading to a shoot and fallen on your bag ? Yep, I have 🙂
- Can use just about any brand of 2mm filters
- Frame fits both 1.1mm filters and 2mm filters.
- Keeps grubby fingers off the glass 🙂
- Increased weight and bulk – the bulk is more of concern since you can only fit so many filters in the case.
Whilst this review is not really addressing these filters, its important to note that these filters are very good, exceptional clarity, super easy to clean and very robust.
The following is the promotional list of advantages that Kase advertise:
- Half the Weight of other Brand of Filters or Similar Size
- ShockResistant, Kase Wolverine optical glass
- High Toughness
- High Definition,
- Super Waterproof
- Ultralow Colour Skew
- IR-CUT Infrared Cut-Off Coating
- Scratch Resistant, Mould Proof & Antibacterial.
I’m yet to drop one, but I have given mine a good work out and whilst a resin filter is going to win vs a rock I cannot see any reasons (after using wolverine 1.1mm filters for over 2 years) to question the durability or robustness of these filters.
The way the water from wave splashes or rain just beads off these filters and the fact you can just use a commercial microfibre cloth to wipe them down and be back in the action is a winner in every corner for me.
Kase also have double graduated filter which I have also been trying out, it is a combination of a 0.9x gradual grey filter on the top 1/3rd and a 0.9x hard filter on the bottom 1/3rd. I have found this filter combination particularly useful, it does have limitations on very wide angle lens (ie less than 16mm) particularly if you are capturing a large (greater than 2/3rds) portion of sky or foreground, however for the majority of typical 1/3rd sky compositions at 16mm and onwards it suffices and the convenience of being able to swap between hard and soft in a single filter is certainly advantageous.
The combination of 4 shots below shows the double grad extents at 16mm. From the left, no filter, double grad positioned centrally on the lens (hard grad on top and soft/gradual on the bottom), 1/3rd for sky and 2/3rds for sky.
The Kase Armour Filter holder system Pros and Cons Summary
Pros (in order of importance for me)
- Very convenient and fast system to use.
- Can use two 95mm circular filters within the holder – perfect for those regularly hitting the ND and the CPL.
- Can use just about any 1.1mm or 2mm filter
- Robust design
- Zero or minimal vignetting
- No foam gaskets – filter fitup is excellent and no noticeable light leakage
- CPL mechanism is contained within the holder
Cons (in order of importance for me)
- Increase in weight and bulk. Its not heading on any significant hikes with me.
- Fiddly/Complex – magnetic system introduces increased chance of filter fumble.
- Prone to dirt/sand/foreign object ingress, this will cause havoc if caught between magnetic mating surfaces.
- Cost (its a pretty expensive kit)
There is a lot to like about this system and over the last few months I have become much more familiar with it and developed a method to using it, its a slight departure from the way I use the K9 holder system and probably the most notable item is the care that I have to take when using 95mm circular filters particularly when its cold, you need to be careful when taking them off or on so they are not dropped, particularly if you get the polarity wrong when putting them on. I have had plenty of practice of this now hence a lesser concern but something to be mindful of as you get used to the magnetic system. I have also gotten used to using a ND1000 or ND64 circular within the actual holder, no more foam gaskets or light leakage!
The convenience of the attachment of square filters and also the holder via the magnetic strips means its a bunch easier and quicker to get your filters on and off and that’s what it all comes down to. Very rarely do I just stick with just one filter or a combination of filters, its often swapping filters depending on the light and the desired effect. For example, I will often go from say just a graduated filter to a polariser with ND64 and graduated filter and then swap out the ND64 for the ND1000 as the light increases (typical sunrise shoot).
Make sure you check out my video to see how easy it to swap filters, you can also check out one of my favourite spots in Sydney, go easy on the video, first attempt and I did it pretty much all in one take.
The square filter locking screw is something that has become second nature to use, once I have finished a particularly composition and need to relocate to the next rockshelf (or make a speedy retreat) its a half turn to lock the filter and I can carry the camera/tripod like a viking slay axe without worrying about the holder or filters dropping off.
The holder safety retainer contributes to this also, however the magnets holding it on are super strong and even hitting a renegade photographer is not gonna dislodge it – so slay away I say 🙂 In all seriousness, I regularly lock the filter screw and put the tripod/camera over my shoulder and wander off to the next spot with no problems.
There is not much to add on the filter side of things, the circular filters are the same quality as that of the CPL supplied with the K9 kit and the wolverine square filters are some of the best in the game. The double grad brings a extra level of filter convenience albeit with some limitations on lens wider than 16mm.
The build quality of the system is excellent and its certainly a robust designed and manufactured kit. It is all machined 6000 series aluminum with a hard anodised finish which is surely going to last a lifetime unless your shooting inside a sand blast booth. The spring loaded safety retainer needs a bit of dry lubricant since mine started to get a bit stuck occasionally and I suspect the rotating ring within the holder will also benefit from the same down the track. The mechanism is nice and smooth now and has been for the 4 months I have used it, but as with any mechanism, regular maintenance of cleaning and lubricating is important. What I would like to see in the information leaflet is a bit more on this maintenance side of things and this is a common gripe I have with many products, sometimes giving the end user some good maintenance information can make a world of difference, ie even a source or spec for the lubricant that should be used would be useful. That said , you gotta remember I come from a industry where ongoing maintenance is everything 🙂
If you are looking at the Kase Armour kit or just Kase filter holder systems or Kase filters in general, I hope this has given you some additional information and perspective, feel free to get in contact if you have any questions or comments.
Be sure to check out the local authorised distributor for Kase:
Kudos Cameras (Peter): https://www.kudoscameras.com.au/kase-camera-filters
you can always find this review at: blog.avernus.com.au
and to hit up Kase global, you can find them here:
Box images – everyone loves box images right?
Carry Case – this is actually a really good bag – much improved form the K9 filter bag and looks better, although it is bigger 🙂
Gallery of all other images here:
Sample Shots taken with the Kase Armour Filter Holder System and Filters
La Perouse, Sydney NSW – The Castle
Kase Armour with CPL + 0.9 Gradual Grey Filter.
24-70mm @ 28mm f/10 1/5s, ISO 100 (3 images stitched)
24-70mm f2.8 @ 29mm f/10 1.6s, ISO 100
Thelma Point, Royal National Park, Sydney NSW
Kase Armour with CPL + 0.9 Double Gradual Grey Filter (Hard).
16-35mm f/4 @ 16mm f/16, 1s, ISO 100
Milsons Point, Sydney NSW
Kase Armour with ND1000 + 1.2 Gradual Grey Filter.
24-70mm @ 24mm f/8 109s, ISO 100 (3 images stitched)
Cape Banks, Sydney, NSW
Crown Casino, Barangaroo, Sydney NSW
Vantson Baths, Sandringham, Sydney NSW
16-35mm f/4 @ 16mm f/16 71s, ISO 50
Sydney Park, Sydney, NSW
16-35mm f/4 @ 16mm f/14 1.6s, ISO 100