Review Sensei Pro Filter Holder System
Filters are important for the type of landscape and seascape photography that I do. For sunrise and sunsets, I almost always use a Singh-Ray ND grad and often use a Singh-Ray Mor-Slo ND filter (see my Filters for Outdoors article for more info). Because those filters are rectangular or square, respectively, you need a filter holder to hold them onto your camera. I’ve tried many holders in the past, but have yet to find the perfect holder. Early this year, Sensei sent me a Sensei Filter Holder to review (their website).
Like other filter holders, the Sensei Pro 100mm Aluminum Universal Filter Holder fits 4 x 6 inch or 4 x 4 inch filters. It fits 2mm filters, so almost every brand’s ND filters and ND grads will fit (see below for the exception). To put it on your lens, you screw on an adapter ring. Then the holder itself clips into the adapter ring. Then you insert the rectangular filters into up to three slots. It’s modular, so you can use a maximum of three filters, but you can set it up to use fewer. I set mine up to hold two filters.
The Sensei Filter Holder easily turns once attached to the camera, which makes it easier to get the perfect filter placement — when you turn the filter holder from side to side, it makes it easier to see where the dark part of the filter starts on an ND grad. It easily comes off when you need it to come off, and for extra security it has a screw that you can tighten to make sure the holder won’t pop off of the adapter ring (unlike the Lee filter holder).
The adapter ring features a threaded ring that lets you attach an 86mm round filter with a thin profile. This is for adding a polarizer. Typically, you attach a polarizer holder on the outside of the filter holder and use a 105mm polarizer. If you already have a 105mm polarizer, it appears that Lee’s polarizer adapter will fit this filter holder. I don’t own an 86mm polarizer, so I didn’t test this feature.
In the field, this has become my favorite filter holder. It’s so easy to use. It’s light. After a year of use, it shows little wear and tear and except for one issue (see below), it has become my favorite filter holder. It also allows me to shoot to 16mm (my widest lens that takes filters) without any vignetting.
The one issue with this filter holder that I have is it won’t work with some ND filters. For example, my personal favorite ND filters are Singh-Ray’s Mor-Slo filters. Out of all the ND filters that I’ve tried, they are the most neutral. The 15-stop and 10-stop version ships with a foam gasket, which stops light leaks during long exposures. You can request a foam gasket on the 5-stop if you want one. Other brands use a foam gasket as well. The foam gasket doesn’t fit into the filter slots on the Sensei filter, and even if it did there would still be a gap between the holder’s base and the filter. This gap allows light leaks and light leaks cause loss in contrast and other optical issues that ruin your image.
There are a couple of ways that you can fix this. You can take off the foam gasket and then apply it to the Sensei’s base. The problem here is that the foam is just a touch too thick to make it easy to insert the filters. Because it’s a tight fit, it prevents light leaks. This is probably the easiest way to address the problem. The second way is to use some gaffer’s tape and build up a blocker. This works okay. On other filters, such as VU’s filter holder, there’s a piece of felt that protects against light leaks. By adding these foam gaskets, tape or felt, you do have to be careful to make sure the gasket is clean, so that when you slide a filter in sand or grit stuck on the foam gasket doesn’t scratch your filter. If Sensei could figure out how to address this issue, it would be the best filter right out of the box.
If you’re looking for a filter holder, I highly recommend that you look at this one. It is the one that I’ve been using most often.
Price: $69.99 for the holder, $19.99 for the adapter ring, $84.99 for a kit.