Freewell has announced its Versatile Magnetic VND. They are claiming that this product is a world first. Essentially it is a 7-in-1 filter system that lets you attach various filters to a base filter magnetically.
Magnetic filters are a simple concept, but not a new solution. Freewell, just like some other companies, is using magnets so that you can just snap on filters instead of having to screw them on.
As I just mentioned, magnetic filters for lenses are not a new concept. We have seen this done before from companies such as Breakthrough Photography and Manfrotto with their XUME.
So what is it and how does it work?
The whole system revolves around a magnetic filter that you screw directly onto your lens. Now, this filter does have a 1 stop ND inside it, but it can be removed.
Once you have this filter attached you can then simply place any of the other filters straight on top of that filter. The filters are all magnetic so there is no need to screw them on.
The only filter you have to screw on is the base filter that has a red ring around it.
You can’t just attach the filter any way you want. You do have to align them up so that the A marking on both filters matches up.
The reason you have to do this is so that the filters have a hard stop and this makes sure they work correctly when put on.
To be honest I did find that this process was a little fiddly and you have to take some time to make sure you do it correctly. If you don’t have great eyes you may find it a little hard to see the small markings.
Now, here is the issue I encountered. Once you screw the base filter onto your lens or a step-down ring the markings where you need to line everything up are not going to be at the top where you can see them. This means you have to loosen the base filter (or step-down ring) and rotate it around so you can attach the magnetic filter. This is far from ideal, and as you are essentially having to unscrew the filter anyway to line it up correctly it sort of defeats the purpose of having a magnetic filter in the first place.
Taking the filters off is pretty easy. You simply put your fingers on the thread and pull up. If you do have big fingers you may find this a little difficult to do because the filters are quite thin.
Although you can attach the filters magnetically, it does get a little bit more complicated once you start needing to swap over how the system works. If for instance, you wanted to use the CPL, you have to take the 1 stop ND out of the base filter and then insert the CPL filter into that base filter frame.
The front filter cap is also magnetic, so you can just snap it on and off too. This has a good amount of resistance so it won’t come off accidentally.
The only thing you do need to be careful of is it is pretty easy to remove both the filter and the lens cap if you aren’t paying close attention. To remove just the front lens cap without removing the filter as well, you need to just grab the edge of the cap with two fingers. If you are working in cold environments and need to wear gloves this is going to be an issue.
According to Freewell, the filters are made of really high definition multicoated optical glass and they are claimed to be scratchproof, waterproof, dustproof, and oilproof. Essentially the filters you are getting are the same filters that Freewell already has in their collection. The glass has just been put into a different filter holder.
The filters will be available in the following thread sizes:
In general, the system works well, but there are some caveats.
If you are just using one lens, it’s fast and convenient to change filters. However, if you are using multiple lenses that have different front filter diameters and you only have one of these filters, then it’s going to be a different story. If for example, you have a Freweel 82mm filter and you want to use it on a 72mm front diameter lens, you will have to unscrew it off the lens you were using and then place it on an adapter ring and put it onto another lens. Now, I believe Freewell does have its own magnetic step-up rings to solve this very issue. You can, of course, just use your own step-up rings, which is what I did.
If you are using a camera on a gimbal and you are keeping the same lens on, you can quickly swap over filters without having to rebalance your gimbal.
Does the Variable ND have any color casts?
I did a couple of quick tests to see if the Freewell variable ND filters introduced any color cast. Firstly I white balanced the Canon C70 with no ND being used so I would have a reference. I then compared the Canon C70’s built-in ND against the Freewell Variable ND.
The Freewell Variable ND filters are not completely neutral and they do have a slight push towards yellow. If you are going to use variable ND filters it is always a good idea to white balance your camera after you have attached them.
Above you can see the vectorscope showing the internal ND filters on the Canon C70 and the Freewell Variable ND filters.
Does the CPL work well?
Above you can see a quick test I did with the CPL filter to check how well it works. I filmed a TV set as this is a good test to show how well a CPL works.
The Freewell Versatile Magnetic VND system is now available to purchase for $399.99 USD. You can buy it below usi ng the following links:
If you actually purchased all of these filters individually in the already available threaded versions it would set you back somewhere between $700-800 USD.
The Freewell Versatile Magnetic VND system certainly lives up to its name and with this one kit you can pretty much cover just about anything you would ever need to do with filters.
Yes, magnetic systems can be a little fiddly, but they can also be a great time saver on shoots.
The filters all work as advertised, but you do need to be very aware of the few caveats I raised during this review.
Swiss Army Knife style products almost always revolve around compromises, however, as the Freewell system is essentially using the same filters they already make, the quality of those filters hasn’t been compromised.
If you are after a decent quality set of filters for your mirrorless or DSLR camera then the Freewell Versatile Magnetic VND system does a good job without breaking the bank.