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Thread started 16 Apr 2012 (Monday) 09:49
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Cokin Z-Pro Filter holder review and modification for wide angle lenses

 
mattmorgan44
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Apr 16, 2012 09:49 |  #1

Hi guys and girls,

This may interest those with the Cokin Z-Pro system or those looking into filter holders.

If you can't be bothered reading, skip to"Using a screw in polariser and two filters" :lol:

After reading countless posts asking for advice on which filter system one should purchase (usually between Lee and Cokin) I decided to write what I have learned after going through that process myself.

I have been trying to aquire a filter set over the past few weeks and the research was doing my head in. I wanted a filter that I could use a circular polariser with and up to two neutral density filters without vignetting with my wide angle lens. The options are few and far between with the most reccommend kit, by Lee, being near impossible to find in stock.

After a lot of research I decided to try the readily available Cokin Z-Pro filter holder. I also wanted to compare Lee filters with Singh-Ray so I purchased a Lee soft grad set, a Singh-Ray 3 stop hard grad and a Singh-Ray 3 stop reverse grad filter.

First impressions with the Z-Pro holder were excellent. I assume Cokin has re-designed the Z-Pro holder because after reading many (older) reviews complaining about the quality, sturdiness and rotating mechanism I can say the quality is very good. The adapter attaches to the lens easily and it sits in the holder very tight holding the system in place. There are three pins that keep the adaptor in place and they are by no means a design flaw. They work very well to keep the adaptor centered and the adaptor ring slides very smoothly while you rotate filters.

The holder as assembled from the factory has three filter slots. However only the two farthest from the lens can be used with ND Grad filters; the first is designed to hold a drop in circular polariser. The front slots held both Lee and Singh-Ray filters and are a perfect fit for both.


Vignetting

On the weekend I packed the Z-Pro holder with ND filters and head for the beach. I wanted to use my B+W screw on circular polariser and experiment with one or two ND Grads. After setting up the kit I immediately noticed strong vignetting with the polariser and two filters in place. I was expecting some vignetting, but not this much. Even worse, as I rotated the filters the edges of the holder covered the corners of the frame! I tried the holder with only one filter in place and still got vignetting and of course the holder still covered the corners of the frame when rotated. The only option was to remove the screw-in circular polarising filter. Without the polariser, the vignetting reduced greatly, especially with only one filter in place, and the holder no longer covered part of the frame. This is quite acceptable for many situations. However in some cases I would want a polariser along with GND's.

When I got home I removed the screws from the Z-Pro system and took the front clips off (This alone should prevent the extreme "vignetting" when rotating the filters). This got me thinking and I tried a few more arangements until I figured a way that would allow the filters to be held much closer to the lens. It turns out I am not the first person to think of this 'reverse design', however I couldn't find anywhere that shows how to do it so I will show you what I did below. The below arrangement allows me to use two filters and a screw in circular polariser without extra vignetting. As drop in circular polarisers are very expensive I am sure there are many people that would appreciate being able to use their screw on polariser with two more filters.

Before I figured out this reverse design I had finally found two shops that had Lee equipment in stock, one had the foundation kit and the other had the wide angle adaptors. PM me if you would like their details. My thinking was Lee's wide angle adaptors will help with the vignetting. I am unsure now whether the Lee or Cokin system will be better for wide angle problems. Once the Lee system arrives I will be able to thoroughly compare both and can post back if there is any interest.


Lee vs Singh-Ray

I have not had much time to compare filters however both appear to have extremely little color cast. There is a very small difference in color between the two but I would not be able to tell the difference in photos. The Singh-Ray filters are more expensive. The Singh-Ray filters come with very nice leather pouches. The lee filters come wrapped in a nice, but less convenient microfibre type cloth. I find the Lee '10 Filter holder' to be the most convenient and safe way to transport multiple filters. It is excellent. After being exposed to salt on the beach I found the Lee filters were somewhat easier to clean than Singh-Ray. Lee do not make the ingenious reverse grad filter. If I were to buy a complete set knowing what I do now, I would buy Lee filters exclusively with the exception of the reverse grad from Singh-Ray.


Using a screw in polariser and two filters

For those that skipped to here, below is a modification to the Cokin Z-Pro system to allow the use of a circular polariser and two filters with a vast improvement in vignetting. It may even be better in that regard than the Lee system. There is one major problem when using the reverse arrangement with a screw-in circular polariser. Once you attach the Z-Pro system to your lens you can not rotate the circular polariser independantly from the filters. I found a (very crude) way to get around this problem shown in the next post.

I used the following: The card (credit card type card) is make-shift until I go to the hardware store - you may think of something better. For the first wide angle arrangement, you do not need anything other than the Z-Pro holder and adaptor ring.

IMAGE: http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5328/6937855170_8b3d64d9be_b.jpg


With the factory arrangement, the adaptor ring slides into the back of the Z-Pro Holder

IMAGE: http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5331/7083930573_82340e2672_b.jpg


I attached it to a B+W Kaesemman MRC Xs-Pro (SLIM but with front thread) Circular Polariser, and had minimal vignetting

IMAGE: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7042/7083930797_d163d3babe_b.jpg


This is the configuration. You swap the adaptor ring clamp to the front side of the holder. In the image below you can see the adaptor ring clamp (which has a greater curve than the filter slot clamps) is moved from the bottom to the top of the holder and reversed.

IMAGE: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7205/6937855718_925c866225_b.jpg


Adaptor ring is now on the front side of the holder (Right side below)

IMAGE: http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5238/7083931067_825f753030_b.jpg


You can see how close the screw-in polariser is now to the filter holders, reducing vignetting

IMAGE: http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5334/6937856128_c6b88eec47_b.jpg


This is how much closer you are able to place a filter to your lens! I am waiting for the Lee kit to see which is closer. It seems the Z-Pro may be closer after the modification. Look at the distance from the red ring to the filter for easy comparison. The problem now is you can not turn the circular polariser independently of the filters. My next post shows a crude, make-shift way to overcome that problem.

IMAGE: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7180/7083931457_5153562528_b.jpg


P.s If you arrange your Z-Pro system this way you may want to shave down the two pins at the bottom of the holder as they are very close to the filter even when retracted. I sanded mine back and glued them to prevent them from scratching filters.

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mattmorgan44
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Apr 16, 2012 09:51 |  #2

This method will probably be unacceptable to many, but it works for me for the time being. Drop in circular polarisers (105mm) are very expensive. Many photographers already have screw-in circular polarisers so this should be helpful to some. As you can see, after you place the adaptor in front of the Z-Pro holder, you can not fit your fingers in the gap to rotate the circular polariser independent of the filter (trust me I've tried!).

IMAGE: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7046/7083931691_11f0c4f82f_b.jpg


Cut a strip off an old credit card type card. I'm sure there are better options than a card - this was just the first thing that came to mind.

IMAGE: http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5115/6937856754_61314978af_b.jpg


Next you need to attach the whole modified Z-Pro system to your lens and with a pencil draw on the back of the adaptor around the circular polariser and the Cokin holder - draw around the back of the Cokin adaptor so that you can then take it off and know the surface area that is visible from the rear of the Z-Pro holder. The smaller the diameter of your lens thread, the larger the surface area you will have to work with. My 77mm thread doesn't leave a lot of room but it's enough. Any bigger and it may not work.

Now bend the card (you can use a rular or flat head screw driver for accuracy) as shown below. Note the card surface that is glued to the adaptor ring must stay within your pencil markings or it will hit the polariser or holder. I first used Loctite professional liquid glue and it did not hold. I then used Loctite super glue gel control and it is very rigid. With loctite it either works very well or not at all.

Glue the card to the adaptor ring as shown.

IMAGE: http://farm6.staticflickr.com/5326/7083932061_415ef39d0e_b.jpg


Now put the adaptor ring back in front of the Z-Pro holder and screw the whole system to your circular polariser.

IMAGE: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7080/7083932241_3a175a28fb_b.jpg


You now have two options:

1. Rotating your Z-Pro holder and or filters will rotate your screw-in circular polariser. You can rotate the polariser to your desired location and then press down on the card tab you made with your thumb while you make any changes in your filter rotation. Pressing on the card with your thumb will hold the polariser dead still while you make filter adjustments.

This is what I have been doing and it is very easy. Or..

2. You can rotate the filters to where you would like them, and then hold the filter holder in place while you spin the circular polariser with the card tab. This works well also however the card is likely to break lose from the glue with the leverage action.

IMAGE: http://farm8.staticflickr.com/7039/6937857466_539b9412eb_b.jpg


So there you have it. It works better than it looks :lol: It may seem confusing but if you try it step by step you will find it is very simple. If you are stuck on a step let me know. I will be recieving the Lee kit soon and will compare systems then. If you have any ideas for a replacement for the credit type card please let me know! If I haven't explained something well let me know.

If you have any additional information regarding Lee or Cokin or any other filter systems please share. It is hard to know which systems are best for wide angle lenses at a reasonable price point. Post any opinions, questions and comments,

Matt

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penduboy
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Apr 16, 2012 15:13 |  #3

Thanks Matt for putting all this information together with illustrations. I am sure there are lots of people in the same boat as you are....and they will definitely benefit from your post.

I myself ordered a cokin z-pro holder kit which came with a holder and nice carrying case and three resin filters...although I haven't used the system yet...I also ordered couple of 77mm adapter rings. I will try your method and see if I can make some use of it.

I also have a BW CPL same as yours....I am planning to buy a 10 stop ND filter but still debating between a screw on or sheet type...do you have any preference.

Thanks once again and I really appreciate your efforts for putting this together.

Regards, Pendu


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mattmorgan44
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Apr 16, 2012 22:45 |  #4

Thank you for your kind words. I am sure you will like the Z-Pro holder its a good bit of kit!

I was also looking for a 10-stop ND filter and I decided on a 4x4" sheet. I was after the big stopper but as Lee equipment is hard to come by I ordered the Hitech Pro Stopper 10 to try out. Apparently is has been re-designed and now has a gasket to prevent light leakage like the big stopper. There is a review on it here:

http://blog.robertstra​chan.com …4/hitech-pro-stop-review/ (external link)

I decided on the 4x4" sheet as it won't add any extra distance from the lens to the filters like the screw on type would. It will also allow me to use it with the screw in polariser if necessary. If you think you may end up leaving the Z-Pro kit at home, the screw on type may be more convenient. However if I am taking a shot with the 10-stop filter I would probably like the option of other filters and a polariser as well.

If you use the wide angle method described in my first post you will need to add a spacer in the first available slot in order to fit a 10-Stop filter with a gasket.

Hope this helps,

Matt


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argyle
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Apr 17, 2012 17:38 as a reply to  @ mattmorgan44's post |  #5

Sure seems like an awful lot of work...and a good reason to have a Lee holder on a waiting list. ;)


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mattmorgan44
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Apr 17, 2012 19:24 |  #6

argyle wrote in post #14282904 (external link)
Sure seems like an awful lot of work...and a good reason to have a Lee holder on a waiting list. ;)

Which part? The first 'reverse arrangement' will take you no more than 2 minutes. And the second probably 5 minutes once you have a card and glue ready. Loctite sets in 2 seconds and dries in 30 seconds. It just looks like a lot because I posted so many pictures. Some people will appreciate it I'm sure because Lee kits can take a long time to arrive.

Also while using a circular polarizer I think this may sit just as close to the lens as Lee's kit. Can anyone post a close up picture of the Lee kit attached to thier lens and a filter on it?

I do have one on order anyway so I can compare then.


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aximrocks
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Apr 24, 2012 08:07 as a reply to  @ mattmorgan44's post |  #7

I use adhesive putty to attach filter to the lens. it works very well and cheap too.


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Jamooche
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May 14, 2012 14:35 |  #8

Thank you for this fantastic post! I just upgraded from APS-C to full frame and will need to get larger filters. Cokin Ps are now too small. I think I might do exactly what you have done. I am also interested in the new Hitech filter holder which seems pretty thin too:

http://www.2filter.com​/prices/Hitech/Hitech4​x4.html (external link)


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May 14, 2012 15:08 |  #9

My Lees have all come in individual pouches, not wrapped in cloth.

That does seem like quite a lot of trouble to go through... Maybe the situation is different over here in the UK, but the foundation kit is readily available.


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May 14, 2012 15:18 |  #10

Very cool, thank for posting this! I have dont a similar modification for holding thicker filters closer to the lens front element with the Cokin setup myself. Its a nice platform for modding to your needs!


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May 16, 2012 18:41 |  #11

Great post! Thank you for sharing


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May 20, 2012 10:25 |  #12

mattmorgan44 wrote in post #14274285 (external link)
- SNIP -

So there you have it. It works better than it looks :lol: It may seem confusing but if you try it step by step you will find it is very simple. If you are stuck on a step let me know. I will be recieving the Lee kit soon and will compare systems then. If you have any ideas for a replacement for the credit type card please let me know! If I haven't explained something well let me know.

If you have any additional information regarding Lee or Cokin or any other filter systems please share. It is hard to know which systems are best for wide angle lenses at a reasonable price point. Post any opinions, questions and comments,

Matt

Have you had a chance to test this out with the Lee Foundation Kit? :confused:


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mattmorgan44
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Aug 10, 2012 00:13 |  #13

Hey guys I didn't see new posts in my User CP, sorry for the delay.

aximrocks wrote in post #14318498 (external link)
I use adhesive putty to attach filter to the lens. it works very well and cheap too.

That actually works fine for one filter but I often use more than one and I think I would make a mess of my filter too.

Sirrith wrote in post #14430792 (external link)
My Lees have all come in individual pouches, not wrapped in cloth.

That does seem like quite a lot of trouble to go through... Maybe the situation is different over here in the UK, but the foundation kit is readily available.

I ended up finding my kit from a small shop in the UK. I think it is much, much more readily available over there and they don't advertise like the US shops. It does look like a lot of trouble but I assure you it really isn't as hard as it looks at all. I just wanted to be thorough in my instructions.

Jamooche wrote in post #14430634 (external link)
Thank you for this fantastic post! I just upgraded from APS-C to full frame and will need to get larger filters. Cokin Ps are now too small. I think I might do exactly what you have done. I am also interested in the new Hitech filter holder which seems pretty thin too:

http://www.2filter.com​/prices/Hitech/Hitech4​x4.html (external link)

ben_r_ wrote in post #14430838 (external link)
Very cool, thank for posting this! I have dont a similar modification for holding thicker filters closer to the lens front element with the Cokin setup myself. Its a nice platform for modding to your needs!

Logan_from_Miami wrote in post #14442510 (external link)
Great post! Thank you for sharing

Thanks so much guys. I thought this thread died and all my work on it was for nothing :oops: Thanks for the kind words.

Blurr Cube wrote in post #14458818 (external link)
Have you had a chance to test this out with the Lee Foundation Kit? :confused:

I will do it tonight! I have a feeling the above modification will allow the filters to sit closer than Lee's kit but we'll see :)


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Aug 10, 2012 01:16 as a reply to  @ mattmorgan44's post |  #14

I, too, am very interested in the results. Fantastic work. Very complete!


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taemo
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Sep 06, 2012 17:19 |  #15

big thanks to this thread, did it for my Z-holder as well and some big advantages with this..
+UWA usable now
+GND filters sits closer to the lens now reducing possible light leak


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Cokin Z-Pro Filter holder review and modification for wide angle lenses
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