The world of photography accessories can be a very competitive space to be in, with decent low-cost solutions vying for the attention of photographers seeking any accessory to aid in their photography exploits - be it camera supports, studio lighting, and optical filters. H&Y is a Hong Kong-based photography filter solution brand that is a relatively new entrant into the saturated market of optical filters - but with a unique value proposition that brings a fresh take to a familiar accessory: Magnets.
Nikon D850 and Laowa 15mm Shift with H&Y 100mm magnetic filter adapter
Filter holders are a pretty standard accessory that landscape photographers would be familiar with. Coming in different flavours of sizes with 100mm being the most common, a vanilla slot-in filter holder attaches to the front of your lens and contains filter slots which guide your filters into position and hold them in place with friction. H&Y introduces magnets to this time-honoured mainstay of landscape photography - replacing friction as the force needed to keep filters in place, and resulting in a more elegantly engineered method of optical filtration.
H&Y magnetic filter frames with optical glass filters and filter holders
H&Y's solution is intuitively simple to deploy and use in the field - pop on the filter holder on your lens and the magnetic frames attaches onto the holder with a satisfying click. There is a small knob on the side of the holder that screws into the notches of the filter frame for extra security, but in my experience there is no need for this step as the magnets enclosed within the filter frames are extremely strong and snappily locks into place on the holder without slipping. I've not experienced any slippage even when I accidentally knock the holder - the magnets are secure and do their job in keeping the frames from falling off which is quite a testament to H&Y's engineering.
The filter holder doesn't contain magnets but is itself magnetic, allowing the filter frames to clasp on magnetically on either side without issues. The holder also comes with a neoprene case and velvet gaskets along the edges to prevent light leakage, which is crucial for long exposure photography. Thanks to the use of magnets in the holder design, optical filters can be positioned much closer to the lens without gaps as the essentially 'stick' onto the holder instead of riding along friction-based guides that most manufacturers would use in their products. This keeps light leaks and vignetting to a minimum, especially with ultrawide lenses.
Set of neutral density glass filters with H&Y filter frames
The only caveat is that now you will need to purchase additional magnetic filter frames for every filter you use in your kit. This can be costly depending on the number of filters you use, so you might want to weigh on how often you shoot with neutral density filters. Otherwise, a simple filter kit would suffice for most. Nevertheless, if you frequently use filters in your landscape work, I'd consider switching to the H&Y magnetic filter solution as it really makes setting up your filters a hassle-free affair. There's no need to check if your filters are in the correct slots or accidentally drop your filters while slotting them in, which can and do happen in low-light conditions out in the field. The magnetic filter frame provides additional shock protection for your fragile glass filters (I've dropped one by accident in the frame and it helped to prevent my filter from shattering) and allows you to position your filters without touching them directly, keeping fingerprints literally out of the picture.
H&Y L-100 filter holder for the Laowa 15mm shift lens
In addition to the standard H&Y filter kit that I've mentioned, I'll also base my review on the L-100 holder, which is specifically designed for use with the Laowa 15mm shift lens. Since H&Y and Laowa co-designed this piece of kit, they complement each other very well. The holder itself attaches to the front of the Laowa through the bayonet mount just like its protective cap, so there's no need to fuss around with screw-on mounts like in other lenses. Just like the Laowa 15mm shift lens, whose metallic design brings to mind the 80s-era of legacy manual lenses, the H&Y holder is also made of solid aluminium. Amazingly, H&Y has managed to produce a 100mm filter holder that can be used on an ultrawide shift lens without vignetting. Most other manufacturers would usually require a bulky and inconvenient 150mm solution for such a feat, and I've definitely destroyed a few of those large and expensive panes of glass for my other ultrawide lenses.
Attaching the H&Y filter holder to the Laowa 15mm shift lens
I do wish that H&Y would etch guides to the bayonet mount of their L-100 filter holder, which would most certainly increase the intuitiveness of the product especially in the field. This is easily solved with a white marker or a bright sticker, and that will help you do away with fiddling and feeling your way about while mounting the holder onto your shift lens. Another point for H&Y to note is that the filter holder could have been designed with the notch present in the front cap - it doesn't make sense that the original front cap could click securely into place while the holder, which is based off the bayonet mount of the front cap, could not and must be held in place by friction. Having it click into place would make the set-up much more secure and give the photographer a greater peace of mind.
Attaching two filters to the H&Y holder
Just like any other magnetic H&Y product, the holder is able to support multiple filter attachments without slipping. As the magnets are only present in the filter frames, care needs to be taken in remembering the polarity of the filter frame when using more than one filters on the set-up. I paste stickers on the top of my frames to indicate their polarity, so that subsequent filters I attach will be correctly positioned.
Two filters attached to the holder with correct polarity
Using the H&Y holder with the Laowa 15mm shift lens that it was designed for is a breeze. It performs as what one would expect of a quality filter holder without fuss. Full shift in vertical or horizontal orientation is possible without mechanical vignetting - quite a feat considering that the filters used are the standard 100mm ones. This certainly makes it a godsend for tricky techniques like shift panoramas.
No vignetting at full shift for the top
Likewise, for the bottom as well
No vignetting issues in vertical orientation too
Just like any other standard filter kit, there is no need to purchase only H&Y-branded optical filters for use with this system. Should you prefer to use a brand that you are more familiar with (e.g. Lee, Nisi, Singh-Ray, etc.), you can purchase the magnetic frames for your 100mm filters and they should fit snugly around the edges of your preferred filter brand. Coupled with the modularity of the system, you'll have a myriad of options in building up the filter kit for your needs.
The H&Y filter solution is available through Photosphere Singapore, which is where I usually procure my photography accessories from. Apart from quality filter products, Photosphere also distributes the value-for-money Leofoto brand of tripods and camera supports.
But enough of the standard review write-up for now; I'll let some sample pictures do the talking:
Sunset in Teck Whye
Sunset in Teck Whye (full shift panorama without mechanical vignetting)
Sunset as seen from atop Marina Bay Sands Skypark (handheld shift panorama)
Sunset across Toh Guan
MCI Building/Old Hill Street Police Station