On Trial Wine Coun­try Cam­era 100 Mm Fil­ter Sys­tem

De­signed by a work­ing pho­tog­ra­pher, the Wine Coun­try Cam­era fil­ter holder sys­tem has been de­signed to more ef­fec­tively deal with the com­mon han­dling and us­abil­ity is­sues. It works too.

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There are now numer­ous fil­ter holder sys­tems on the mar­ket, but all have the same flaws and draw­backs. Wine Coun­try Cam­era has come up with in­ter­est­ing so­lu­tions which greatly en­hance both the con­ve­nience and the prac­ti­cal­ity.

When the French company Cokin launched its fil­ter holder sys­tem in the late 1970s, I was an en­thu­si­as­tic early adopter, en­ticed by the of­fer of free­dom from the tri­als and tribu­la­tions of screwthread fil­ters. One screwthread fil­ter on a lens is fine, but start stack­ing on oth­ers and things can get messy very quickly… I give you the dreaded drama of crossthreaded fil­ter rings!

Over time though, it be­came ev­i­dent that the Cokin sys­tem had its draw­backs too, chiefly re­lated to the de­sign of the holder. The French de­cided to keep things sim­ple and af­ford­able – which is com­mend­able – but, frankly, the orig­i­nal Cokin holder was hor­ri­ble (al­though it’s been much im­proved upon since with the company’s higher-end fil­ter lines). I dis­liked it so much, I didn’t use it at all and sim­ply held the fil­ters up to the lens which wasn’t very sat­is­fac­tory either. In­evitably the plas­tic poly­mer fil­ters be­came scuffed and scratched – es­pe­cially as they needed to be held tight against the lens to avoid light leaks – so I started treat­ing them as con­sum­ables, chuck­ing away the old dam­aged ones ev­ery few months or so and re­plac­ing them with new ones. Yep, that’s how much I hated us­ing the holder.

There have since been numer­ous at­tempts to im­prove on the fil­ter holder con­cept, some more suc­cess­fully than oth­ers. The key de­sign ob­jec­tives have to be more se­cure fil­ter han­dling, more con­ve­nient in­ser­tion and po­si­tion­ing of fil­ters in the holder, less prob­lem­atic ac­com­mo­da­tion of a po­lar­is­ing fil­ter, min­imis­ing vi­gnetting and elim­i­nat­ing light leaks, es­pe­cially when us­ing mul­ti­ple fil­ters.

Wine Coun­try Cam­era’s so­lu­tions to all these chal­lenges gets off to a good start by virtue of the company’s name (home is south­ern Cal­i­for­nia), but it prom­ises to de­liver more with “The Holder Sys­tem Reimag­ined”.


The WCC holder is in­deed an im­pres­sive piece of equip­ment with its large matte-black al­loy frame, con­toured tim­ber han­dles and red but­tons (all will be re­vealed shortly).

The big deal is that a cir­cu­lar po­lar­is­ing fil­ter is es­sen­tially ‘built into’ the back of the holder which im­me­di­ately elim­i­nates one po­ten­tial source of light leaks. It can ac­tu­ally be re­moved if so de­sired, but the de­sign in­te­grates the PL fil­ter into the body of the holder so it’s flush-fit­ting with a much more com­pact gear as­sem­bly for mak­ing ad­just­ments. As viewed from be­hind the cam­era, the ad­just­ment knob is lo­cated at the lower left of the holder and, con­ve­niently, fac­ing you so it’s more com­fort­able to reach and use. Ro­tate in whichever di­rec­tion feels best and it’s quite easy to use when wear­ing gloves. The knob it­self is also tim­ber and ap­par­ently this is about more than just aes­thet­ics… it doesn’t get as cold as a metal al­loy com­po­nent when work­ing in low tem­per­a­ture con­di­tions. Like­wise, this is the rea­son for also hav­ing wooden han­dles which are de­signed to make the holder eas­ier to han­dle, es­pe­cially when fit­ting and de­tach­ing from a lens and when wear­ing gloves. The adap­tor rings are also more elab­o­rately ma­chined than is nor­mally the case, with a lo­cat­ing lip around the rim which means that only a sin­gle lock­ing screw is needed to keep it se­curely in place. This also makes the holder much eas­ier to at­tach or re­lease with­out ac­ci­den­tally mov­ing the cam­era as well. WCC calls this the “Do Not Dis­turb” re­lease, and it’s ob­vi­ously very ben­e­fi­cial if you’re us­ing very strong ND fil­ters and so need to frame and fo­cus first.

Light tight

The 100x100 mm ND fil­ters – which carry the Black­stone la­bel – are con­tained in a frame that’s made from a spe­cial, high-den­sity glass epoxy ma­te­rial claimed to be ap­prox­i­mately 50 per­cent lighter than alu­minium and also gen­er­ally more durable. Known as “fil­ter vaults”, these frames make the fil­ter much eas­ier to han­dle and store, but more im­por­tantly cre­ate a light-tight fit – on all four sides – in the holder’s ded­i­cated re­cess at the back of the main frame.

Thus mounted, the fil­ter is also kept com­pletely flat plus there’s no wear and tear on the

A cir­cu­lAr po­lAr­is­ing fil­ter is es­sen­tiAlly ‘built into’ the bAck of the holder, which im­me­di­Ately elim­i­nAtes one po­ten­tiAl source of light leAks.

side edges of the fil­ter glass either. Fur­ther­more, this slot ar­range­ment en­sures that the fil­ter can never - ever - just slip out and crash ex­pen­sively to the ground (and the frames are keyed at the top just in or­der to make dou­bly sure). Of course, the vault frames also mean good­bye to fin­ger prints which, in turn, min­imises the need for con­stant clean­ing.

The fil­ters them­selves are made from op­ti­cal-qual­ity Schott ul­tra­white glass which is ex­tremely flat with a fire-pol­ished sur­face to elim­i­nate any im­per­fec­tions which could cause vis­i­ble dis­tor­tions. Ad­di­tion­ally, a new gen­er­a­tion of vapour-de­po­si­tion coat­ing (VPC) is claimed to be neu­tral across all spec­trums of light (in­clud­ing UV and IR) and also re­solves the im­age with no dif­fu­sion ef­fect. WCC says its ND fil­ters are de­signed to work with “100+ megapixel cam­eras” with­out any loss of res­o­lu­tion or sharp­ness. The Black­stone ND fil­ters are cur­rently avail­able in den­si­ties of three, six or ten stops, but you can fit other brands of 100x100 mm glass fil­ters (such as Lee) into the vaults which are avail­able as a separate pur­chase at $53 lo­cally (the Black­stone fil­ters come with the vault for free). Fil­ter thick­ness, es­pe­cially with resin types, is the main is­sue here. The cir­cu­lar po­lariser is also made from fire-pol­ished Schott glass.

There are two fur­ther slots in the WCC holder which each em­ploys a push-but­ton ar­range­ment that’s de­signed to lock grads at the de­sired po­si­tion. Push the but­ton in to al­low the fil­ter to slide freely and then re­lease it to hold the fil­ter in po­si­tion. The two fil­ters can be po­si­tioned in­de­pen­dently of each other. Again, the vault frames are keyed at the top so it’s im­pos­si­ble for a grad to sim­ply ac­ci­den­tally slip out of the holder. The Black­stone grad line-up com­prises a two-stop ‘Soft Edge’; and twoor three-stop ‘Hard Edge’. These are sized at 100x150 mm and, again, vault hold­ers are avail­able for pur­chase, at $53 each, to al­low other brands of grad fil­ter to be used in the WCC sys­tem.

If you’ve been keep­ing count, you’ll note that the WCC holder can ac­com­mo­date up to four fil­ters, in­clud­ing the in­te­grated po­lariser, which should cover most bases for land­scape or ar­chi­tec­tural pho­tog­ra­phers.

With the ND re­cessed into frame, even with four fil­ters up, the WCC holder is still quite thin which min­imises vi­gnetting and, al­though it’s still a bit on the bulky side, it ac­tu­ally only weighs 420 grams with the po­lariser, two fil­ters and adapter ring.

Happy Days

In the field, the first thing that you’ll no­tice when us­ing the WCC fil­ter holder sys­tem is that you’re swear­ing a lot less. The op­er­a­tional side of things is ac­tu­ally quite en­joy­able be­cause it all works com­fort­ably and ef­fi­ciently… and you don’t have to con­stantly worry about pre­cious fil­ters get­ting dirty or, worse, dam­aged.

It’s not com­pletely per­fect – for ex­am­ple, a grad can still move even when sup­pos­edly locked in place, but you have to give it a good shove so it’s a lot less likely to hap­pen by ac­ci­dent. And, on our test unit, the ad­just­ment knob for the po­lar­is­ing fil­ter man­aged to shed two of its three se­cur­ing screws, be­com­ing very wob­bly as a re­sult. One of these screws – and they’re tiny – we man­aged to re­cover (the other re­mains AWOL) which re­stored some sta­bil­ity. Un­re­lated, the po­lariser ad­just­ment is also pretty noisy thanks to the metal-on-metal move­ment. How­ever, none of this de­tracts from the other­wise over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive ex­pe­ri­ence which largely ef­fec­tively ad­dresses all the usual draw­backs and de­fi­cien­cies of a holder-based fil­ter sys­tem.

The ND fil­ters are in­deed com­pletely neu­tral, even the ten­stop­per and, apart from the vis­ual ef­fects of the longer ex­po­sure time, com­par­isons of the wit­hand-with­out im­ages show no dis­cernible dif­fer­ences in colour bal­ance. Sharp­ness and de­tail­ing are com­pletely un­af­fected too, and best of all, there are no is­sues with light leaks even with strong sun­light flood­ing across the holder.

Not sur­pris­ingly, the Wine Coun­try Cam­era fil­ter sys­tem isn’t cheap, but it isn’t ex­ces­sively ex­pen­sive either given the qual­ity of both the holder and the fil­ters plus all the con­ve­nience fac­tors. The three- and six-stop ND fil­ters mounted in a vault frame cur­rently cost $249 each and the ten-stop­per is an­other $30. The holder by it­self costs $598 which in­cludes the ded­i­cated cir­cu­lar po­lar­is­ing fil­ter. How­ever, a far more cost-ef­fec­tive pur­chase is the Wine Coun­try Cam­era fil­ter kit which sells for $1165 and com­prises the holder with po­lariser, a lens adapter ring (avail­able in sizes from 58 mm to 82 mm); the three, six and ten stops ND fil­ters each mounted in a fil­ter vault; a spare 100x100 mm fil­ter vault, a 100x150 mm fil­ter vault, and a cus­tom fil­ter pouch. This rep­re­sents a good sav­ing over­all and makes the sys­tem ex­cel­lent value for money.

tHe Ver­DiCt

While there are plenty of holder­based fil­ter sys­tems on the mar­ket, most have all the same de­sign flaws and han­dling draw­backs. The Wine Coun­try Cam­era holder is some­thing a bit dif­fer­ent, in­cor­po­rat­ing a num­ber of well-thought-out so­lu­tions to the typ­i­cal prob­lems. These fea­tures not only sig­nif­i­cantly en­hance us­abil­ity in the field, but re­duce the risks of dam­ag­ing or break­ing fil­ters which are usu­ally an ever-present dan­ger, es­pe­cially if you have to work fast in chang­ing light con­di­tions. The much greater ease of use has many other ben­e­fits, not the least be­ing that us­ing ex­pen­sive glass fil­ters be­comes a whole lot less stress­ful and, con­se­quently, the en­joy­ment fac­tor in­creases con­sid­er­ably. So, the WCC fil­ter sys­tem is not only good for your pho­tog­ra­phy, but for your well-be­ing too!

The Wine Coun­try Cam­era 100 mm fil­ter sys­tem is dis­trib­uted in Aus­tralia by Main­line Photo. www.main­linephoto.com.au

In the fIeld, the fIrst thIng that you’ll no­tIce when us­Ing the wcc fIl­ter holder sys­tem Is that you’re swear­Ing a lot less.

Han­dles are ac­tu­ally tim­ber which has been treated to pro­tect against the weather and is also specif­i­cally shaped to avoid caus­ing any vi­gnetting. The main ad­van­tage of us­ing this ma­te­rial is that it is more com­fort­able to the hand in very cold con­di­tions than metal.

Good-sized knob for op­er­at­ing the po­lar­is­ing fil­ter is also made from wood. The PL fil­ter sits in its own ded­i­cated re­cess at the back of the holder which elim­i­nates any light leaks. Red clips se­cure the po­lariser in the holder.

Spring-loaded but­tons op­er­ate stops to hold a grad­u­ated fil­ter at a de­sired po­si­tion. The two slots can be set in­de­pen­dently (cen­tral ‘but­ton’ is just for show, but note neat WCC logo).

Fil­ters are mounted in frames called “vaults” which make for much eas­ier han­dling (no more fin­ger prints) and also pre­vent light leaks. The gold ‘coin’ at the top swivels to lock the fil­ter into the vault. Other brands of 100 mm glass fil­ters can be fit­ted to the vaults.

Only this gold-coloured screw lock is need to hold the lens adapter ring in place. The de­sign of these rings en­ables what WCC calls a “Do Not Dis­turb” re­lease which avoids ac­ci­den­tally mov­ing the cam­era as well.

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