Kase Filters

Kase mobile phone lenses and tripod review

I first saw the Kase mobile phone lenses at the Photography Show, Birmingham in March. I didn't really get a chance to try them out, however immediately had an interest in them for two main reasons. First, at the Skye Photo Academy we run Phone Camera Workshops, so know these will be great for our customers to use to get some different from the norm shots with their phones. Also, my fiancée prefers taking photographs with her iPhone, and know she will have a lot of fun with them.

So I asked Andy at Kase UK if it would be possible to try the lenses out and do a review on them, and he instantly said 'yes'. He also mentioned that Kase did a tripod for mobile phones, and that he would be able to get hold of one for me to try out alongside the lenses.

Kase currently produce four lenses for mobile phones, a 7.5mm fisheye wich gives a 238° angle of view, a 16mm wide angle, a 10x magnification macro lens and a 65mm telephoto lens. When purchased as a kit, the lenses are stored inside a single zip closure case, whilst when purchased separately, each lense is stored in its own zip closure case. The lenses screw on to a clamp which then attaches to your phone, and have rubber/plastic attached to stop the clamp from causing any damage.

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They also produce a small travel style tripod which will hold your mobile phone in place for extra stability.

In The Field

After receiving a set of lenses and tripod from Kase UK, my fiancée and I headed out into the field to try them out. On this particular day the conditions were not ideal, however I did get some shots of Clare using the kit. This shot shows the tripod legs fully extended, which is around 32 inches (81 cm), whilst with the centre column full extended it reaches a height of 39 inches (99 cm). Folded, the tripod measures 9.5 inches (24 cm) in length.

kase-mobile-phone-tripod.jpg

To make the tripod compact when carrying, the legs fold in on themselves, so when you are ready to use it you simply fold them back to the normal position. The tripod legs are telescopic so you extend them simply by turning the bottom of each leg by around 180° and pulling the sections out, then turning the bottom in the opposite direction to dial in the height you want. The tripod height can be increased by firstly extending the centre column then twisting the head and pulling out a further section of the centre column.

The phone is attached to the tripod using a clamp which attaches to a ball head which you then use to adjust your composition.

kase-mobile-phone-tripod-clamp.jpg
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When attaching the clamp to your phone and subsequently attaching the lens to the clamp, you of course need to make sure the lens lines up with your camera. This can seem a little fiddly to begin with, because if you don’t manage to line everything properly, you will notice a significant loss in image quality. The best way I have found to do this is to attach the clamp to your phone with the lens attached, look down through the lens, and when you see your phones camera lens, they are most likely lined up. Of course the best way to make sure they are lined up is to take a test shot and check it.

I find it a bit fiddly to change lenses when the phone is attached to the tripod, so I usually remove the phone from the tripod clamp, remove the existing lens then screw the new one on with the phone screen facing down. 

Image Quality and Conclusion

Now, the main thing to mention here is that these lenses are being attached in front of the lens of your mobile phone, so there is bound to be some drop-off in quality. For me the image quality is acceptable with just a small amount of softness at the edges, which could also be caused by the lens not being lined up properly with the phones camera lens.

For me, the Kase lenses and tripod are great for someone who doesn’t have a ‘regular’ camera or simply don't want to have their 'regular' camera with them, and want to expand their mobile photography. The tripod isn’t exactly a necessity, however attaching a lens to the phone does add a bit more weight so you may find it more stable on the tripod. Also, you can get apps which allow you to take long exposure shots, so the tripod is pretty much a necessity for that.

My fiancée liked the lenses and tripod so much that I purchased her a set as an early birthday present.

The kit of four lenses, individual lenses and tripod can be purchased directly through my website here Kase Mobile Phone Lens Kit.

Below are some sample images taken using the four mobile lenses, along with an image showing the same scene without the lens attached in a couple of the examples.

No lens attached

No lens attached

Wide angle lens attached

Wide angle lens attached

Telephoto lens attached

Telephoto lens attached

No lens attached

No lens attached

Macro lens attached

Macro lens attached

Fisheye lens attached to get a wider angle of view

Fisheye lens attached to get a wider angle of view

Fisheye lens attached, distorting the vertical columns in an already round shaped room

Fisheye lens attached, distorting the vertical columns in an already round shaped room

Kase filters review

A couple of months ago I was approached up and coming photographic filter manufacturer Kase UK, asking if I would be trying out some of their filters. Now, I had never heard of Kase before and currently use filters from Lee and Formatt Hitech, so thought it would be a good idea to see how these filters faired against the ones I currently use.

Not long after agreeing to test and review their filters I was sent one of their K100 Wolverine Master Kits.

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The K100 Wolverine Master Kit comprises of the following:

Leather case for storing your filters and filter holder

K100-X filter holder

Geared adapter rings: 77-86mm & 82-86mm

Step up rings: 67-82mm & 72-82mm

86mm slimline polariser

Wolverine 100x150mm soft GND filter GND 0.9 (3 stop Soft Grad)

Wolverine 100x150mm soft GND filter GND 1.2 (4 Stop Soft Grad)

Wolverine 100x150mm R-GND filter R-GND 0.9 (3 Stop Reverse Grad)

Wolverine 100x100mm ND filter ND 64 (6 Stop ND)

Wolverine 100x100mm ND filter ND 1000 (10 Stop ND)

Filter cleaning cloth

As the kit I received included the leather case, my review will also discuss my thoughts on that, as I already had cases from Lee and Lowepro. Upon opening the case you will find a pouch in the front which will store the filter holder and adapter rings. In the main compartment there are slots for the polariser and 5 filters, which is less than I am used to as the Lee holder takes 10 filters, with the Lowepro holder taking 10 square/rectangular filters along with extra room for a folder and polariser.

What I did notice initially about the leather case was its weight, especially as it only holds 5 square/rectangular filters, so decided to weigh it in comparison to my Lowepro filter case. With the Kase holder filled with 5 glass filters (3 grads and 2 ND's), the Kase polariser and filter holder, it came in at 867g. My Lowepro filter case filled with 5 glass filters (3 grads and 2 ND's), the Lee Landscape Polariser (heavier than the Kase polariser) and Lee filter holder came in at 823g; 44g lighter than the Kase set up.

The Filters

Like the Formatt Hitech system, the Kase system has the polariser attaching just in front of the lens via the lens adapter, whereas the Lee polariser attaches to the front of the filter holder. You may be thinking that if the polariser attaches to the lens adapter, and the filter holder sits on top of that, how do I rotate my polariser. Easy, there is a thumb wheel on the side of the holder which you use to rotate it independently of the positioning of any grads which you may have in the holder.

The filter that intrigued me most was the reverse grad as it is one I have never used before. The benefit of a reverse grad is when shooting into the sun at say sunrise or sunset when the sun is close to the horizon, as this area can be very bright. With a normal grad, the dark area is at the top, meaning that the grad isn't very strong at the horizon. However, with a reverse grad the dark area starts at the horizon and goes clear toward the top of the filter.

Some other things to note with these filters are that Kase claim that their ND filters (6 and 10 stop) are completely neutral, in that they have no colour cast, compared to that from Lee which have a blue cast; which of course can be changed when processing the RAW image.

They also claim that their filters are shatter proof, something I am not going to test here as they are on loan to me. Finally, it has been said that they have a coating on them which handles water droplets much better than other manufactures, making them easier to wipe dry. Well, I am in a prime location to put that to the test.

Field Test

Before I get to talking about how good or bad the filters themselves are, I will share a few of my thoughts from my first outing with this kit.

First, the writing on the filters telling you which filter it is, is on the bottom of the filter, which I don't like. Why is that such a big deal you may ask. Well, generally the bottom of the filter would be sitting at the bottom of the case, so you can't tell which filter you are pulling out, unless you know the exact order with which they are in the case. All other filter manufactures I have used put the name of the filter to the top, meaning that when I open the case, I can see exactly which filter I am pulling out (just in case they were put back in the wrong order last time).

I initially found the filter holder itself rather fiddly to work with in a few ways. I liked the fact that the holder screwed on to the lens adapter, compared to the spring attachment of the Lee holder, especially as I have recently had a client who knocked the holder causing it to drop off the front of his lens and into a river - over £500 of filters and holder never to be seen again. In reality, I think the fact that the holder screws on and once screwed in place is fixed, may slow me down a bit. When using grads with the Lee system I can easily push them up or down in to place whilst also placing it an angle should I need to. However, with my first use I thought I would need to get the angle right first, lock the holder in place, then move the filter down to the horizon. I have since realised that I can simply unscrew the holder by a quarter turn, which allows you to rotate the holder freely and lock once the angle has been chosen and the filter in place.

My main issue with the holder is it's shape. What I mean here is that the corners of the Lee holder are cut out and with shorter guide rails, whereas the Kase guide rails take up the full height of the holder, meaning the corners are not cut out. This means that should you have an ND filter in place with a grad front of it and want to change the ND, you need to take the grad out first, then the ND and put the new ND in place, followed by resetting the position of the grad. Since I first mentioned this to Kase UK they have been in touch informing me that they have made a new filter holder which is also 50% lighter than the one I have reviewed here. I have also been told that they have made a new range of filters, which are thinner (1.1mm thick, compared to 2mm thick which I tested), so are around 45-50% lighter. (Update 22/03/18: Kase are now producing 100 x 150 ND filters which means that you can easily swap them out without having to remove a grad in front first)

With regards the filters themselves, I am very impressed indeed. As claimed, there is no colour cast with the filters I have used, the clarity is brilliant and yes, they are a lot easier to wipe dry compared to some of my other filters.

Update 22/03/18: I have been very impressed by how quickly Kase UK have looked at and addressed the potential issues I raised with them. Kase UK is run by photographers for photographers which makes their customer service first class.

Further information on the various filters and systems available at Kase can be found here.

Below is a selection of images I have taken with various combinations of filters in the kit I received.

Polariser, Wolverine 6 stop ND

Polariser, Wolverine 6 stop ND

Polariser

Polariser

Polariser, Wolverine 3 stop ND Reverse Grad, Wolverine 6 stop ND

Polariser, Wolverine 3 stop ND Reverse Grad, Wolverine 6 stop ND

Polariser, Wolverine 4 stop ND Soft Grad

Polariser, Wolverine 4 stop ND Soft Grad

Wolverine 3 stop ND Reverse Grad

Wolverine 3 stop ND Reverse Grad

Wolverine 3 stop ND Grad

Wolverine 3 stop ND Grad