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Blog @ Reviews

KENKO PRO1D+ INSTANT ACTION C-PL

Updated: Jun 22, 2021






Intro:

Filters… everyone likes to use any type of filters. For example, when your annoying boss calls up to you phone – this can never be good, right? So, you filter them out. And when your partner asks you to wash the dishes because today “it is your turn!” then you, again, filter them! I can go on and on with the examples, but the reality is that with all of the noise and the sights in our lives, in any type of interaction, we sometimes truly need to filter out some of the exposure and keep the rest.


And why do I actually tell this to you in a photography article? It is because Kenko (the professional optics manufacturer from Japan) has created a new type of filter for photographers and videographers. The heck, what is it that puts the Kenko’s innovative new lens filters away from the other manufacturers? Well, it is the magnets!



Kenko PRO1D+ INSTANT ACTION C-PL Filter:

The filter is comprised of two separate parts – the filter, surrounded by a metal ring, and another smaller ring that is magnetic. Kenko got into their drawing boards and crafted a wonderful idea to solve some of the most burning frustrations that many (if not all of the pro and enthusiast) photographers face almost every day. First issue is the annoying action of screwing a filter onto the lens’ front side. This screwing action takes some time to craft. This also brings me to the second issue that is derived from the first problem – dropping the filter, mistakenly, onto the ground in case your hands are cold or sweaty. Third issue, and to my opinion is the most important among all of the reasons, is that when there is a very brief moment of photo opportunity (like a rare bird close to you or some amazing show on the road) you will need to take your time until the filter is finally connected well to the lens. When you finish screwing it to the lens you find that the photo opportunity is gone! To be honest, happened to me many times.


The new filter series of Kenko, the PRO1D+ INSTANT ACTION SERIES, comes to eliminate all of the aforementioned issues with regular lens filters. Today I check the C-PL version on the series and want to see whether there is a real reason to go on with the new series, or to stay with the old fashion type – the screw type. I also, of course, want to see the quality or the filter. After all, when we submit our photos to our clients, they are not going to know whether we took the photos with a screw filter or a magnetic filter, right? They want to see an amazing quality for their business.


Who it is for, Methods, Tools:

As an important side note, this article comes to give my impressions for professional and enthusiast photographers, and it does not come to answer the basic training on why using a C-PL filter in the first place. I am sure that beginner photographers can still use the information given herein, and there is quite enough material on the internet to teach you regarding the reasoning of using such a filter.


Quality-wise, I found no issues with any of the cameras used to do the tests. I used specially modified Sony a7, Nikon D810, Fuji Xh1 and Xt4. I used Tokina lenses that matched the mounts of each camera, without adapters. I reckon that those are representing enough number of sensors to depict the quality we, photographers, are after. There is a unified effect of polarization all across the image circle. Looking at the histograms, I found out that once I used the filter as it should be used, the light was reduced between 1/3 and 1 whole stop. I could write for you the camera settings, but to be honest, this would be irrelevant as in such a filter, as you all know, the settings are usually staying as they are both before and after the tweak of the C-PL.


To make a thorough examination, I have used the filter both outdoors and indoors (studio). For the indoor examples, I sought after reflective surfaces while doing some product photography shots. This will be seen here on the review later. Let’s see how the modified sensor reacts to the C-PL filter.



For those of you who happen to read this on mobile phones (and perhaps some tablets), the set up of the photos is going to be different to what the PC viewers see. For the mobile users I would like to advise that photos that come one after the other will usually show the composition in the first image when it was shot WITHOUT the filter on the lens, and the following image will show the composition WITH the filter effect.


On Modified Camera:


The shots on the left and below were taken using a modified camera, hence the colours are not “natural”. To note, this specific camera normally captures about three to four additional stops of light compared to the stock cameras in the market. The ‘Reference’ image (always on the left hand side one, if two images are next to one another) shows the scene when this was taken without the C-PL filter on. The ‘Active’ shot shows the scene once I have attached the filter onto the lens and used it as one should use. As can be seen here, the amount of light that’s been cut and the better contrast create an immense difference in the same composition. Where the overexposed watery and greenery parts detract from the entire shot (on the Reference shot), the issue is not prevalent at all after applying the action of the C-PL to the scene.


The ‘Reference’ shot was taken while only the magnetic ring adapter (that is part of the Kenko PRO1D+ INSTANT ACTION package) was attached to the lens. The adapter magnetic ring does not have any optic in it. The ‘Active’ shot was taken when the magnetic C-PL filter was attached to the magnetic ring and swivelled to the maximum effect to cut the reflection of the water. The photos taken in a time different of about 5 seconds from one another.


Still with the modified camera (that is able to capture more light than the stock cameras in the market), moving to another area in the outdoor environment and changing the photography angle, I composed another shot. To me, the contrast between the river and those beautiful blooming sticks in the foreground is crucial in order to get the idea of a pastoral place. I wanted to get creative with the sticks, hence kept them in the Bokeh. Once that I tried to take the shot through the non-modified cameras, the composition turned so differently.


So, I came back to the modified full frame. I recomposed and fixed the height and took the shot. The sticks looked so bright that they totally lost all of the details. The lower part of the shot simply mixed up with the river behind, and I was truly unhappy with that. Some fast seconds afterward, once the magnetic Kenko PRO1D+ INSTANT ACTION C-PL was on the lens I took a new shot. Now, I could actually see some colour difference and tone between the blurry sticks and the focused background, and I loved the result.


The sun was just behind the background’s bush, a bit in an angle. The filter now blurred out the harsh shadow of the bush upon the river and made the entire composition genuinely relaxed and peaceful. The place where I shot this, the lovely and pastoral township called Matakana in Northern New Zealand’s North Island, is depicted much better to the world through the C-PL effect. Yes, even without having the “natural” colours” of the greenery.





Adding More Cameras to the Equation:


Control harsh reflections on the water or smooth surfaces

Moving on to another location. This time I have attached both Fuji (left hand side in the below image) and modified Sony (right hand side) onto a long Arcaswiss adapter that, in turn, I mounted on a Miliboo tripod. The set up is shown below. The Fujifilm used Tokina atx-m 33mm f/1.4 lens for Fuji X mount and the Sony used Tokina atx-m 85mm f/1.8 (lens reviews for those lenses will be posted separately). The Tokina 33mm has smaller filter diameter (naturally, as this is manufactured for APS-C sensors), and hence I used enlarging filter adapters to reach the 72mm diameter of the Kenko PRO1D+ INSTANT ACTION filter size. The enlarging adapters do not have any optics in it, and they do not create any vignette whatsoever to the resultant shots. They merely allow smaller diameter lenses to use larger filters on them.





I also used another camera, D810. This has been used as a proper stock full frame higher pixel count sensor. Just to cover most possibilities. (Left hand side always shows the shots without the filter)



Nikon D810




Fuji X-T4




Sony (modified sensor!)




Those are three different sensors, having different characteristics both in size and pixel counts. They also have different technologies implanted into them, let alone being differently RGGB layered. While those may not be reflecting each and every camera available in the market, they are indeed reflecting and representing myriad of cameras currently used on the new and older markets. I could also add a Medium Format unit to the equation, however, I have the feeling that people who have already advanced to Medium Format gear are already familiar with the benefits of such filter. So, no medium format was used this time.


The results of the filter, as shown above, depict the capability of the optics of the Kenko PRO1D+ INSTANT ACTION C-PL. Through the full format D810 the filter has lowered the light gain by about 2/3 or a stop. The details that were overexposed are shown in the sky. The fact that there was no harsh sun has let me examine the filter whether it creates better contrast even in such lighting environment. The answer to the question was shown as a bit darker shot, however, not underexposed! When I say “not underexposed” I actually mean that the images may be a bit darker when they are “baked” in the camera, but that does not mean that I could not recover the colours successfully in post-processing, and there was no image noise introduced either! That is brilliant!


Same verdict comes through the more technology-infused sensor of the Fuji X-T4, currently (, on the date this review is written) this camera serves as the real APS-C flagship, probably above any other manufacturer – not only a flagship of Fujifilm products. The sensor of the Fuji X-T4 also has different array of RGGB. While I am not usually take this camera for nature shots, the results are wonderful. Similar to the Nikon D810 beforehand, the Fuji’s results in those very same compositions yielded better details of the problematic areas – the sky and the water reflection. One difference that I notice is that the overall light gain has only lowered by 1/3 of a stop when the filter was used on the Fuji. Recovery of the green in the water is well noticed thanks to the filter. Again, I did not manipulate the images, and have let the camera do the White Balance for the matter of the examination.


Lastly, the modified Sony full frame that I used in the previous section shows also here how much light the modification of the sensor has gained, compared to the former two cameras. Here, the filter shows an absolute benefit for me, as a photographer. Due to the elevated capability to gain more light than “regular” (stock) cameras, the modified camera needs special knowledge and skill to gain good pictures. Above you can see the vast overexposed real estate in those images.


My true issues were with the sky. The left-hand side makes me sick just to look at it. No filter used there, of course. I lost so much detail in there. Following to putting the filter on the lens the details have been revealed and the clouds formed in better contrast. Notice also that the water gained added details. That’s what we want! If one needs another instance regarding the filter capability to gain details and preserve look, take a look below at the image’s paddle.






Same good verdict can be said and written regarding windows. Use the filter to eliminate those awful reflection in your real estate and architecture works. See below (I cropped the shots to zoom in only on the real deal):


Reflections that cause to overexposures and loss of details are not only seen on the sand, greenery, water or windows, of course. Portraiture, for example, is another genre that suffers a lot from it. Getting a make-up artist can always help, but just imagine that your client does not want to pay for the joy of a make-up artist, and you are doomed to do the job yourself, trying to eliminate those unsightly light spots over their faces.


This C-PL makes a great job in this. Below is my student Madeleine, who was happy to volunteer to showcase the reflection control capability of the filter. I took the shots with the modified camera. Remember that this gains A LOT of light that “regular” cameras do not do. I reckon that I already explained this before…





If we already called up Madeleine through this review, perhaps for me this is the time to thanks her for her will to do so. Madeleine is a new Kiwi (Kiwi = a New Zealander) and is truly skyrocketing on the way to gain good photography results in her works. I have seen her works along the way and I am very happy with her advancement. Yes, she is still in her very early stages in photography. A true beginner. But she already knows how skills and right tools can create better shots.


I took her to north Auckland in one of my sessions there and landed at a surfers township, and asked her about this Kenko magnetic filter product. Take a look at the video:






Indoor (studio environment)


One of the misunderstandings by many is that a C-PL filter can ‘work’ only when the sun light is shed on the objects. For some reason the C-PL gets a lot of exposure (pun intended!) on the internet when it is connected to outdoors.


So, just to demystify things over here, I can tell that the filter works even in an indoor environment – and it works well! Now, please do not judge me for picking the objects below. Those are merely examples to showcase the filter’s work under the strobe lights. Composition was chosen randomly, and the focus here is not on the products/objects but on the effect of the filter.


As a professional photographer and photography tutor, I put a lot of emphasis on how to create photography through skills, rather than relying on technology. Post processing MAY help, but when you overexpose part of your image – then there is almost no way back from it, and even post processing could not reveal what has been lost.


Taking shots in an indoor environment allows me to decide the amount of light that is shed onto the object. I control it, and it always being kept the same. This is opposite to shooting outdoors where the sun dictates your exposure. Hence, here, indoors, in a studio environment, the quality of filters are revealed (to my opinion) even better than the outdoors. Take a look at the images below, and the difference between the ‘Reference’ and the ‘Active’ shots. Take a close look at the reflection that the reflective objects in both types of images. The Kenko PRO1D+ INSTANT ACTION C-PL makes such a great job here. Reflections are the worst enemy for any product photographer, and those are brilliantly taken care of using the filter.







The major difference in controlling the reflections can be seen on the caps, the glasses, the fabric, and the backdrop behind. Remember that the issue here is not the composition or getting the perfect exposure. The issue is just to measure the control of the reflection. Using the filter as shown in the ‘Active’ images above, together with elevation of the studio lighting will create well contrasted objects without the nasty reflections that many professionals tend to spend a lot of time to eliminate using the post-processing software. Time saver. Contrast enhancer. Pleasure!




What Do I Think of It?


Kenko’s marketing department is writing that the filter enhances the colour contrast and controls reflections. Usually, I tend to be sceptic regarding marketing stuff. Yes, the C-PL filter, in essence, needs to do this, but I already used some other filters that have not really made the work quite well.


Now, I know that you know that I am Kenko’s Ambassador. On the other hand, and my students and clients can attest about it, if something in reality is not as it is proudly marketed by ANY COMPANY, I will be one of the first people to notify this to both the manufacturer and the entire world. That’s why I need to check each and every item before I even recommend it to anyone. No matter whether I am an Ambassador of the company or not. As you saw in other reviews, I also reviewed and recommended products from other manufacturers that I have had no affiliation at all. I do not recommend blindingly.


Having put this at rest, I AM very happy to advise that this Kenko PRO1D+ INSTANT ACTION C-PL does its work as advertised! The effect over the entire image circle is unified, meaning that there is no difference in colourisation or tonality in different parts of the image following the use of the product. That’s exactly what you expect of prime products.



The contrast does show up better in each image taken, as you can appreciate from the test shots above. The loss of about one whole stop of light MAY affect your photography in case that you use slower lenses. I have checked the magnetic filter on Tokina opera 50mm f/1.4 (on the Nikon D810), Tokina atx-m FE 85mm f/1.8 (Sony), Tokina atx-m 33mm f/1.4 (Fuji), and the results were similarly great. Those lenses are very fast ones, so the loss of light stop could be compensated relatively easily. Should you use some slower apertures, like f/5.6, I’d be more cautious.


You would not want to raise the ISO to compensate too much, after all. Yet, cameras these days are producing such images with higher ISO that can definitely compete with cameras that were produced, say, ten years ago. So, if you have relatively a newish camera (roughly 2014 onwards), then you are all set to use some higher levels of ISO. To my friends and readers that use older Medium Format backs of PhaseOne or Mamiya/Leaf, you would probably need to be cautious with the ISO. But you already know that, right?!


To avoid exposure issues that may create grainy images (noisy images), then yes - you can always slow down your shutter speed; however, in images of moving objects the effect of "smudged" objects can be shown. If showing movement of the objects is what you are after, then using the ISO compensation is out of question and hence the image will be as exposed as if you used wider apertures. Otherwise, go to the ISO, and compensate there. Simple exposure triangle math.



Objective View:

I would like to incorporate some more objective data into the salad. When I took the shots I indeed saw the changes in the bluish-purplish set of spectrum. As an artist and a professional photographer who is not limited to only stock cameras, a few of my cameras can gather bandwidths of light that may interfere in some situations with general photography. Thus, in some situations when I am with that specially modified gear, I need to prevent those bandwidths altogether. For me it looks like the filter does indeed give a wonderful effect to control this spectrum of light bandwidths. This makes a lot of sense when one would like to eliminate the UV (or near-UV) spectrum and to bring some more clarity to the composition. After all, that’s why we use filters, don’t we?!


I asked Kenko officials to supply me with the actual light transmittance details related to this specific filter. I also asked for the other filters in the system (those will be dealt with in other, future articles). The graph below shows the results made by Kenko’s engineers. For those who are not familiar with the graph, and need some more explanation regarding how to read it, I’ll explain.



The Y part (the vertical part) shows the percentage of the light transition. The X bar (the horizontal part) shows the spectrum of light, depicted by the wavelength numbers. As we know, the light is part of the electromagnetic radiation. Hence, each colour that is either seen or unseen by human eyes has its own numerical placement on the stretch of light. The numbers are measured by a unit of NanoMetre (abbreviated “nm”).


We all know that the rainbow starts with purple and finishes with red. Likewise in the below graph, the left-hand side of the X bar shows all of the purple and then blue colours in the light spectrum. Now, we combine both X and Y parts together at each point and we get the exact light transmission that passes through the filter onto the camera sensor.


For example, the 380nm that is shown on the X bar, is UV purple. The transmission of this light using this filter is close to zero. As we go up in the numbers on the X bar, we see some sharp rise of light transmission up until the 432nm, which is just the border between the purple and the blueish areas. From there, a plateau (well, more or less) of around 45% light transmission is kept all along the rest of the spectrum, and then rising up a bit at the near InfraRed area on the right-hand side.



Checking the Data:

Since most of the stock cameras are unable to “see” the extreme UV waves, I decided to use those specially ordered modified cameras that I have, just to verify the transmittance data. The sensor of one of the cameras was modified so it can get the entire spectrum of colours, both seen and unseen (meaning, visible and invisible light). The photos above show the radical and quite effective function of this filter between full transmission of light to full effect of the filter. The above results correspond very well with the graph supplied by Kenko. The light transmission is INDEED lowered down substantially when the compositions were shot without the filter on. The plateau transmission in most of the wavelengths fits the fact that the visible light colours are not hidden but only had lower intensity. I would not expect any other results from a true professional grade filter. This corresponds brilliantly and I am quite happy with this!



Important Characteristics of the Filter

Here in New Zealand at the time that I conduct the tests and write this review (May-June 2021) it is Autumn time. The days that I went out to test shoot were partly cloudy and in a different location it was even sunny (lucky us, Kiwis!!). Autumn and clouds in New Zealand may mean rain. A lot of rain. So indeed. I got my cameras and lenses wet, let alone the filter got some good share of the water from the sky. Despite this, a simple shake of the camera gear took away the water bubbles that were on the filter. But the best part is that since the whole idea of the filter is the strong magnet that holds it onto the lens, I took the filter off, shook it up for 2 seconds, and returned it to the lens. That's how long it took for me before I could use it to take the next shots. Once again, well done for Kenko for standing for their word.




And... Action!

Now, the idea of having a filter that is built out of two separate units did make me a bit annoyed in the beginning. When I got the filter, only then I understood how easy mounting the filter on the lens is. You simply screw, only once (!!) the very thin magnetic attachment onto the lens. Now that the lens basically became magnetic, the whole action of changing filters for that lens is shortened to basically less than five seconds. No screwing the filter, no issues with the threads. All solved.


You take the filter (which its frame is obviously having some iron as a component) and connect it to the already mounted attachment. When you’d like to change the filter to a different filter, no problem; simply detach the filter that is mounted and replace it with a different magnetic filter. Funny that even to say the previous sentence it takes longer than the operation! Absolutely fast and easy. The unit that I have in my hands came with both the magnetic attachment and the filter, as it should be!


Should I recommend this new product to other photographers? Heck yes! I see no reason of continuing using the traditional screw filters when you get the ease to replace filters so fast and that easily. As technology advances, methods of photography are also becoming more tech-related. This is the future in lens filters, and I genuinely reckon that Kenko thought of a great product here. Kenko markets the product where you get both the magnetic attachment ring AND the filter ring both in the same package!





To sum up

I do LOVE the idea of this product. The ease of use, the fact that finally there won’t be any issues with screwing too hard onto the lens and then battling with the release of the filter off of it gives this filter system a 5 out of 5 stars regarding usability, ease of use, quality, and the use while it is rainy outside.


Regarding the other types of filters in the PRO1D+ INSTANT ACTION series, well, stay tuned.







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About Collins Ryàn - L'artiste:

An artist, professional photographer, photography tutor, author, and Kiwi! Collins Ryàn taught photography both in New Zealand and to overseas students. He is giving services in product photography, portraiture, commercial, architecture, real estate, and constantly runs professional courses and 1:1 workshops in Astrophotography, portraiture, landscape, basic and advanced levels, and more. Collins Ryàn - L'artiste is a known global brand Ambassador for multiple renowned international camera and gear companies.


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Go to the main page of this website www.collinsryan.photography


Visit me in my Facebook page: www.facebook.com/ArtisteRyan and feel free to leave me a message. I teach photography to all levels of proficiency, and I do this both in person and online, both locally in New Zealand and to international photographers.





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All Rights Reserved to Collins Ryàn - L'artiste, Auckland, New Zealand, 2021

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