I had the chance to play with the VU filter system. It is made up of a holder that mounts to the camera and then you have 100mm glass filters (Neutral Density and Graduated Filters), that you can slip in and out of the holder.
The Holder - VFH100
The holder (VFH100) is well constructed and comes with a 77 mm adapter ring and an 82mm adapter ring. It can hold up to 3 rectangle or square glass filters and one 82mm polarizing filter.
The nice part about the holder is once you thread on a slim polarizing filter you can still use up to 3 square filters, while still being able to rotate the polarizing filter. On the back of the holder is a knurled ring that lets you rotate the polarizing filter without removing the square filters. This is great when you need to use the filter, the only drawback with it is taking the polarizing filter on and off, it is very difficult to remove once the filter is on, your fingers have nowhere to grab the filter, it took me ten minutes to slowly work the filter off of the holder, so there is no quick changing of the polarizing filter. The one option I would use if I was to use this system would be to have a ring with the polarizing filter on and a ring with no filter on it, this would make it quicker to take out the polarizing filter.
Another feature of the holder is a foam ring that will block out the light for the filter closest to the lens, it was designed for using Neutral density filters, especially the 6 and 10 stop ones to block light coming from the side. The good part is it does seal out the light well, the bad part would be once the seal gets old how could you replace it and pulling a filter in and out all the time, might wear that seal out after a couple of years. It also makes putting that one filter in a little harder because it sticks to the glass. It does do it job well in keeping the side light from coming into the lens.
I ordered three filters, a 3 stop neutral density filter, a 2 stop graduated neutral density filter and the polarizer. I will start with the polarizer, it was very neutral in color and worked well as a polarizing filter, working as you would expect a polarizer to work. The 3 stop neutral density filter is a good filter to extend your shutter speed, I like to use this type of filter to smooth out the water in a water fall. I currently use a 6 and 10 stop neutral density, so trying a 3 stop one was a new experience, as I expected it dropped the exposure 3stops, I measured the color of the filter with a densitometer and it was a neutral density. I saw no color shift using the filter, it slide in and out of the holder very easily, plus dropping exposure just 3 stops, I could still compose through the viewfinder. I will be adding a 3 stop to my system in the future.
I next tried the graduated neutral density filter. It is darker on one end and slowly fades to clear. It is used for darkening sky. It is rectangular, so that you have room to adjust where the end of the neutral density starts. It was also very neutral in color not seeing any color shifts. It work fine for darkening the sky, although I think I would use a stronger one, maybe 3 stops instead of the 2 stop. It did make a difference in the sky, but I have also found that I can use the Graduated filter in Lightroom to accomplish the same result, it is always better to do the adjustments in capture than after the fact, but I am finding that it is easier to use the Grad filter in Lightroom than it is to use the real filter out in the field. The part I found the hardest is to tell where the filter is gradually fading out, while when I use the filter inLightroom, you can see your adjustments as you apply them.
So to sum up my thoughts on the VU filter system. The filters are glass, so you must handle them carefully, if you drop them they will break, while the resin filter made by other companies will just scratch. I mainly use Lee filters which are glass and I am extremely careful not to drop them and so far they have lasted me a couple of years. VU’s website is lacking in information on how the holder works, especially using the polarizing filter. The site also is weak on explaining the strengths of their various filters. So learning what the codes means makes it difficult to figure out which filters you would want to have. It is a well made filter system and would make a great addition to someones camera bag. The use of neutral density filters to slow down your shutter speed is great, I love using the square filters, you can take them on and off very quickly, and you will be taking them on and off often, just to recompose the shot. So for me the square filters are the ones I will use all the time. I still prefer the Lee Filters (http://www.leefilters.com) over the VU Filters, but they are both good and worth taking a look at. The Lee Filter website is so much more comprehensive to use with a lot of good tutorials, so I will be staying with the Lee Filter system. I will be having a review of the Lee Filters this winter to give you a comparison of both systems.
Here are the cost of the filters:
VFH100 Holder with a 77 and 82 mm ring $150.00
3 stop neutral density 100 x 100 mm filter VSQMD3 $144.00
2 stop soft graduated 100 mm x 150 mm filter VSQNDG2S $224.00
82mm Polarizing filter $180.00
For more information on the VU Filter see www.vufilters.com or contact Hunt’s Photo and Video, they carry this line of filters.