It's been a while since I kindly received samples of the PRO1D+ Instant Action system filters to test in my landscape photography. The idea behind the system is at the very simple yet revolutionary: a filter magnetically attached to the lens. So, what is the news about that?
Usual filters are threaded at the lenses and most landscape photographers I know, including myself, have lost lots of valuable moments – light, passing clouds, a storm etc. - trying to attach (or detach!) the filter from their lens. Once I was in the Chapada Diamantina, in Bahia state (Brazil), and apparently without reason, the filter I was using decided not to detach. I desperately used a knife to remove it but had no time to photograph a beautiful sunbeam in the middle of storm clouds.
After this bad experience I barely used filters attached to my lenses for a long time. But at some moments I wished I had that stupid not-detaching polarizer with me. These filters are fantastic for landscape portraits and their effects cannot be simply reproduced through editing the raw files. Thus, I decided to give threaded filters a second option. Bought a better and more expensive one. The surprise: it painted my photos so yellow that editing was a pain. I retired another filter.
Just before the pandemics, I received the PRO1D+ Instant Action system from Kenko, a kit with three filters: UV, circular polarizer (C-PL) and variable neutral density (NDX3-450+C-PL). Now, after my disappointing experiences with the last two filters I used, I was in front of a new system. Going back to the question above, the news is that the filters are magnetically attached to an adapter ring, which is threaded to the lenses. This means that once the adapter ring is threaded, you won't need to care about it anymore. All you have to do is to attach the filter to the ring and voilá! To remove, just pull the filter and it is instantly detached from your lens. As the ring perfectly fits to the lens cap, it has almost become part of my lens.
My first impression with the filters was great, as it solved the issue of spending time attaching and detaching them, while my second problem with polarizers was still in my mind. The Kenko PRO1D+ Instant Action is great in terms of usage, but what about image quality? I didn't want to make a review with my impressions at home, I really wanted to see it in action outside. But unfortunately, I had to wait and wait to go photographing due to the pandemic restrictions in my region.
I finally managed to solve my second issue with PRO1D+ Instant Action by mid of July 2021. I then went to some of the most impressive mountains in South-eastern Brazil: Itatiaia and Três Picos, all of them located in Rio de Janeiro state. Even though the weather forecast was terrible, at the end it was perfect for testing the PRO1D+ Instant Action C-PL: open and blue skies every day of the trip. One of the main features of polarizers is to remove the scattering effect of water vapour in the atmosphere from the image (just a tiny note on physics), thus enhancing the overall contrast of the photo and highlighting the deep blue sky, an effect impossible to reproduce with an editing software.
How did I like the PRO1D+ Instant Action C-PL? Let's see the results.
I love the contrast between the clouds and dark sky, the main effect of the C-PL in my opinion. Also, the PRO1D+ Instant Action NDX3-450+C-PL gives a very nice result, but with some vignetting at wide open photos with Canon 80D + Tokina 11-20mm f/2.8 at 11mm, which disappears at 14mm. Editing this vignetting is also an easy workaround.
One of the things that I most like is to explore the contrasts in texturing landscapes. So, why not try some black and white landscape with the PRO1D+ Instant Action C-PL?
Then, after some hiking, the cold front arrived and the landscape turned into a white fog. There was not so much to do in terms of photography but waiting. Indeed, to me, waiting is the most important skill in landscape photography. After waiting a while, a sunbeam appeared and I got this photo with the PRO1D+ Instant Action C-PL. Here, the most important aspects of a polarizer for landscape photography are highlighted: controlling reflection in the water, enhancing the blue sky and improving the contrast of the final image while preserving the colours. It is very easy to remove the levels of water reflections and control the blue sky by moving the frame of the PRO1D+ Instant Action C-PL.
After this photo, the only option was to hike back and get on the way to the next stop: Três Picos. There, I had an opportunity to show the importance of the filter for photographing landscapes. See below the same composition without and with the PRO1D+ Instant Action C-PL.
After this view of the Três Picos and the valley, it was time to enjoy the sunset at the top of the Cabeça do Dagão mountain, a two-hour uphill hike. Definitely a good idea, as you can see in the next photos.
In the last afternoon at Três Picos, I could test the filter against some more sky and very contrasting colours in the landscape with exceptional results.
I left these mountains looking forward to go back. But before going home, spending an afternoon at the beach was not a bad idea. There, I could make the test I was missing: completely removing the reflections from the water. And, as expected, I really enjoyed the result, as the rocks underwater are highlighted in the photo, as well as the contrast of the clouds in the sky.
Talking about underwater stuff, why not try the filter for underwater photography? I will leave this point for the near future but I believe it will yield great results as well.
Ultimately, I really enjoyed the PRO1D+ Instant Action system. The UV filter is perfect for dusty protection without any annoying ghosting or flaring. The ND3-450+C-PL needs some caution for vignetting at very wide open of 11mm and 12mm, which is invisible at 14mm and easily removed in editing. But especially the C-PL filter is really great for my landscape photography. The system is easy to use, fast to put or remove and, least but not last, is impressive in terms of image quality. I will definitely carry PRO1D+ Instant Action in my bag (and the adapter ring always attached to the lens).