Can a 5mm thick ring transform a normal filter into a practical tool for fast-paced video production? I’m taking a look at Xume’s Quick-Release Filter Adapters to find out.
Filters can be very useful for many situations. A polarizer can reveal the deep blacks of an asphalt road hidden by the glare of the sun. ND (neutral density) filters enable stills shooters to use long exposures even in bright sunlight and allow video shooters to maintain an ideal shutter speed under any lighting condition.
Filters are nice, but they are terrible for fast-paced shooting. To use a filter, it needs to be screwed on, which completely kills your rhythm when shooting stills or video. It’s just as bad when you want to stop using a filter because it then needs to be unscrewed before you can resume shooting.
Worse yet, the tiny threads on filters are prone to cross-threading, which basically fuses a filter to the lens. If this happens, say goodbye to your fancy $80 CPL– it’s only coming off with a hammer and hacksaw.
I’ve experienced all of these momentum-destroying issues (thankfully the filter was only a $30 polarizer), so I’ve shied away from using filters as often as I would like to.
Xume’s Solution: Magnets?
Xume Quick Release adapters use the power of magnets to make your filters easy to add and remove from your lens.
If these thin rings work as well as the manufacturer claims to, a Xume adapter will live on all of my filters. No more risk of crossed threads and no more wasting time screwing and unscrewing filters.
But how well do the magnets grip? Will it work with my filters? Will the adapters stand up to the rigors of still photography and video production? Will Xume adapters fit in my workflow?
I’ve found many good things about the Xume adapters, but also a few caveats to be aware of. Let’s take a closer look.
If we are going to be trusting our filters to magnets, we need to talk about the strength of the Xume adapter’s magnetic grip. If the magnets aren’t strong enough, your filters are in danger of falling off the lens. If the magnetic attraction is too strong, it’ll be a hassle to remove filters quickly.
So how well do the Xume adapters grip?
My first impression is that the grip of the Xume adapters is pretty well balanced.
The magnetic hold is strong enough that a standard filter will not simply fall off a lens during normal use. Though there is likely a limit to the weight the adapters will bear (e.g. stacking multiple filters), I don’t see there being an issue with the Xume adapter’s ability to hold on to any standard filter.
The grip is also not so strong that it’s hard to remove filters with one hand. However, if you’re stacking multiple filters attached with Xume adapters you’ll need to hold the stack with one hand while popping off the top filter with the other hand otherwise the entire stack comes off.
Caveat: Lens Hoods
Xume adapters can also be used with lens hoods for quick mounting when some lens shading is required. However, as noted on Xume’s FAQ page, if you’re going to mount a hood using a Xume adapter, do not attach filters to the hood. A lens hood extends further out than a filter, giving it far more off-axis leverage which makes it very easy to knock off. When the hood falls off, any filters mounted to the hood will also take a dive.
However, a lens hood securely attached to the lens (i.e. not mounted with a Xume adapter) can also protect filters from off-axis impacts (e.g. a knock on the filter’s sides) that could potentially dislodge filters mounted with Xume adapters. Even a $6 collapsible lens hood adds a decent amount of protection.
Xume adapters will fit any lens or filter that matches the adapter size you purchased. For example, a 77mm Xume filter adapter should be compatible with any 77mm filter.
Xume adapters are also available for all common filter sizes ranging from 49mm all the way up to 82mm. I standardize all lenses and filters to 77mm which makes it easy to use any filter on any lens and also means I only need one size of Xume adapter to work with all of my lenses and filters.
Xume adapters are also compatible with filters that have a rotating element like a polarizer or a graduated ND filter. While these filters generally rotate without issue, I have noticed that the Xume adapter will rotate if the filter’s rotating element is strongly dampened or if it is rotated too quickly. This doesn’t generally cause a huge issue, but it does make a slight scraping sound when it occurs. I haven’t tested this while shooting video yet, so I’m not sure if the scraping is loud enough to be captured by an on-camera mic.
Caveat: Lens Caps
The only real compatibility issue I’ve encountered so far is that lens caps will no longer fit on lenses with Xume lens adapters attached. This is clearly noted on all Xume product pages.
The manufacturer recommends getting an additional Xume filter adapter to use with the lens cap. It is a bit hard to swallow having to purchase a $12 filter adapter just so you can use a $2 lens cap to protect the lens, but the only other option would be to remove the Xume adapter from the lens whenever you wanted to cap the lens. Of course, this would negate the point of using a quick-release Xume adapter in the first place.
I’m amazed by the build quality of the Xume adapters, considering that neodymium magnets are known to notoriously difficult to machine.
The filter threads of the Xume adapters are nice and smooth. Like a well-made filter, these adapters screw on smoothly and easily. There’s no roughness or chunkiness in the threads.
However, as neodymium magnets are rather brittle, I’m curious how much mounting and unmounting the Xume adapter’s threads can handle. My plan is to leave the Xume adapters on the lenses and filters though, so hopefully this won’t ever become an issue.
The adapters also have a few knurled sections around outside that provide good gripping points. I would have preferred the entire circumference of the Xume adapter to be knurled so that I didn’t just get better grip at certain spots, but I can work with this.
Caveat: Debris in threads
One thing you do have to watch out for when mounting Xume adapters compared to normal filters is debris in the threads. Because of Xume’s unique magnetic properties, metal debris can be lodged in the threads and are not easily dislodged with air or fingers.
One of the lens adapters I received came out of the box with little metal “pebble” stuck in the threads that had to removed with tweezers. I almost didn’t notice it before attaching it to the lens. If I had screwed the adapter in with the pebble still between the threads, it would have likely meant a stuck adapter.
Bottom line: Inspect your filters before attaching them and realize that magnetic filters might attract different debris than a standard filter.
If you want a way to quickly mount and unmount filters but don’t want the bulk of a mattebox and 4×4 filters, the Xume adapters are virtually your only “quick release” filter option at the moment. Therefore, whether these adapters are worth the cost really depends how important this capability is to you.
In my case, I really (really) like the idea of quickly adding and removing filters on demand. Mounting and unmounting filters the normal way (i.e. screwing them in) is one of the main drags of using filters. A quick release solution like the Xume adapters provides a way to use filters without them getting on my nerves too much, so I really like that.
That being said, Xume adapters are not a cheap solution. At about $12 per filter adapter and $33 per lens adapter (you need at least one of each), the costs can quickly add up if you have a lot of lenses and filters. Xume adapters are sold in kits that provide some discounts, but if you wanted enough adapters for a couple lenses and a few filters, the cost could easily climb above $100.
Caveat: Lens Adapters Cost More
One thing I’m curious about is why Xume’s lens adapters cost nearly three times more than the filter adapters. This makes the idea of having a Xume lens adapter on every lens a costly endeavor indeed.
I’m sure there is a good reason that the lens adapters are so much more expensive than the filter adapters, but I do know that if lens adapters were the same price as the filter adapters, I would have one on the front of every lens and filter that I own so that I could mount and combine filters with abandon. This would be ideal, but currently that’s simply not practical.
Xume quick release adapters are definitely an innovative and elegant solution for anyone who uses filters on their camera. Whether they fit in my workflow and how well they hold up to the demands of fast-paced still photography and video production remains to be seen.
I really want the Xume adapters to work because I need a solution to keep me sane. As it is, I’m already selecting other equipment based on how well they work with the Xume adapters (e.g. using fixed ND filters instead of a flared and heavy Tiffen variable ND filter).
However, using the Xume adapters definitely takes getting used to. Even just the idea that your filters are only being held by magnets takes time to acclimate to regardless of how strong the magnets may be.
Only after using these adapters extensively in the field will I be able to determine whether they fit into my workflow. Thankfully, I will be traveling throughout Asia for the next couple months where the Xume adapters will be subjected to a wild variety of shooting conditions (both stills and video) and I will be reporting my findings along the way.
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