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Wine Country Camera Filter Holder: Unboxing and First Impressions

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It’s not often I shoot landscapes, or other scenarios that require an Neutral Density and/or Circular Polarizer filter. Sure, when shooting video it’s an absolute must - but I don’t shoot tons of video (yet). And honestly any time I’ve needed an ND, it was very run-and-gun and I just grabbed my Syrp Variable ND and B+W Circular Polarizer because of their size and portability.

                   Syrp 82mm Variable ND + Leather case and Step Down Ring (77mm)

                  Syrp 82mm Variable ND + Leather case and Step Down Ring (77mm)

But I wasn’t completely content with them. I’ve used a number of Variable ND filters through the years and they have been more or less the same.

  • You need to be mindful of vignetting or the dreaded “X effect”
  • Annoying to screw on/off in precarious situations - i.e. when you’re standing in a stream
  • Variable vs. Fixed - The obnoxios quality debate

I wanted a filter kit for when I had more than a few mere moments to set up a shot.

If I was going to get fixed NDs, they wouldn’t be screw on. Let’s just eliminate one headache right there. Ha!

A few years ago I decided to get the Formatt Hitech Firecrest Holder Kit. Now, the holders all looked 90% the same. And I wanted a kit, to start me off - so I went with what brand I thought allowed for the best image - better filters. You know how it goes: read some blogs, watch some videos, take some notes, and make a decision. Click “Buy Now”.

                   Doesn’t look to intimidating but those screws are the worst.

                  Doesn’t look to intimidating but those screws are the worst.

I didn’t really have any problems with the filters per-say. Maybe they scratched more easily than they should have? But they produced lovely images. Things worked out pretty well. It was the holder that got me down. Sharp screws. Foam gaskets. Awkward shape and no case. Not to mention potential vignetting if you wanted to use a circular polarizer stacked in front.  It was a bit of a mess - and they’ve since revised that flawed design, but it still looks cumbersome. Too many parts and flaps and things to lose or swap out. 

                  Left: Vignette, though subtle, is not cool. Right: The dreaded "X-Effect" is very apparent in this test shot.

                 Left: Vignette, though subtle, is not cool. Right: The dreaded "X-Effect" is very apparent in this test shot.

I wanted to try something completely different.

There were a few distractions along the way, like the NiSi variable ND 1.5-5 Stop. It promised to eliminate the dreaded “X-effect”. Not sure if it delivered on that promise. Reviews are scarce. Knowing me, I’ll probably order it sometime. 🙄

I kept looking. And then I found something that was also kind of scarce. And had a silly name. But looked amazing. And Intense. And thrilling.

Wine Country Camera. What?

I think I saw two video reviews on the holder - that’s all the info I found at the time. And that’s all I needed. I had to try it. It’s a big ticket item so I was going to keep my Formatt Hitech filters and use the Wine Country Camera holder. Granted I didn’t actually use it until months after I purchased it but… C'est la vie

I finally pulled it out at Acadia National Park in Maine a few weeks ago. I even used it with my Infrared Camera (Canon EOS M3 converted to Full Spectrum) and Super Color Filter 590nm. It was quite a joy to use, I must admit.

Yes, it's a larger piece of kit, but it's not a heavy one. It’s all self contained - case for the holder, case for the filters - which makes it all easy to carry. And it is certainly one of the most well made items I own. That makes it a good value.

Again, since I kept my original Firecrest filters, I can’t speak to the Wine Country Camera's own Blackstone ND filters, but considering my Firecrest ND5 got scratched the first time I used it… perhaps a new Blackstone is on the horizon. 

                   Extremely well made. Finally can be less afraid to hold your filters.

                  Extremely well made. Finally can be less afraid to hold your filters.

Using this filter system is such a pleasure, and I’ll certainly bring it along and use it more often.
We’ll see how it stands up over time.

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If you're interested in learning more or purchasing (These are not affiliate links. I'm not that fancy.):
Wine Country Camera
Wine Country Camera - SHOP

. . .

Soon: Drop-In Filters for Canon 600mm f/4.0 II
I've started to delve into this realm, as I am starting to explore video and other techniques a bit further. Stay tuned for more blog posts on my findings and 2¢.

Rina Miele