When shooting landscapes, a drop-in filter set is always in my bag. While screw-in filters are fine when you only need a to use them one at a time, they quickly become cumbersome when you need to stack them. Polarizers, with their rotating glass, are especially frustrating when paired with other screw-in filters. Since I love to mix polarizing, neutral-density and graduated neutral-density filters, a drop-in filter solution is much more elegant. The main problem with the systems on the market is that several expensive components are required before you even begin purchasing filters. The PhotoRepublik 4X4 Filter Kit takes the frustration out of putting a kit together, including everything you need in a single inexpensive and well-packaged kit.
How does a drop-in filter system work? Essentially it works as a few small sleeves into which you can slip square or rectangular filters. The primary advantage of drop-in filters is that graduated neutral-density filters can be slid up and down to line up perfectly with your horizon line. In addition, filters can be quickly added and removed, without tediously unscrewing them from the front lens thread. The larger 4X4 and 4X6 filters ensure that you only need to buy one set of filters. You can mount the filter holder to your lenses with a variety of stepping rings for different sizes. One thing that sets the PhotoRepublik kit apart from other systems is that adapters from 52 mm to 86 mm are included in the kit. In similar systems each of these adapters can run $35 to $90.
Another unexpected addition to this kit is the inclusion of a compatible circular polarizer. With many other systems you can expect to pay several hundred dollars for a large polarizer and additional holder. Having this included in the kit allows you to capitalize on my favourite landscape combination: neutral-density filters with a circular polarizer. There is even a dial on the filter holder, allowing photographers to rotate this filter until the desired result is achieved. Unfortunately, I did find mounting the filter into the system to be a bit fiddly, so this is not a filter I would want to swap in and out regularly. However, this is a fault common to many higher-priced systems.
The entire kit comes in a single, attractive faux-leather pouch. It is quite rigid, with the fragile polarizer right in the middle, where it is least likely to be damaged or warped. The truly impressive thing about this kit is the price. For under $300, the kit includes the filter holder, polarizer, step rings and a case. Most comparable drop-in holder kits cost at least double that. Once you have a 4X4 filter holder system, there are many manufacturers producing excellent filters in that format, including Lee, Cokin, Tiffen, Formatt-Hitech and PhotoRepublik. If you’re interested in experimenting with drop-in filters, the PhotoRepublik 4X4 Filter Kit is a great way to get started. Check it out at thecamerastore.com.