The NiSi S5 is a filter holder I’ve been waiting a long time for. Even though there are several other 150mm filter systems available, including an older NiSi model, none of them have been able to grab my attention.
This changed with the NiSi S5.
Finally, they’ve released a system that makes most photographers using Ultra-Wide Angle lenses such as the Nikon 14-24mm drool.
But how good is it? What makes it so unique? Is it worth the price? Does it do what it advertises? That’s what we’ll find out throughout this review.
About the Holder
Most filter systems are mounted on the filter thread of a lens but the build of these Ultra-Wide Angle lenses is slightly different. Since they don’t have filter threads, the holder is mounted by tightening an adapter on the outside of the lens hood.
What makes the NiSi S5 different from other 150mm filter systems is that, as with their successful 100mm V5 Pro System, you can attach a Circular Polarizer. It’s also possible to rotate the Pro CPL without removing any parts.
The filter holder is constructed of aluminum alloy and is much sturdier than their previous 150mm holder.
What’s in the Box?
It’s no secret that NiSi filters are on the upper scale of the price list; these are not the products you find at a budget store. That being said, NiSi products are also high-quality and they have become a well-known and sought-after brand in a short time.
When purchasing the NiSi S5 filter system you receive not only the holder and adapter but also their Pro CPL and a bag to carry it.
Let’s take a closer look:
NiSi S5 Filter Holder
The filter holder is the part of the system where you place the square filters. Similar to their previous model, the NiSi S5 filter holder has two slots that accept 2mm thick filters.
A good filter holder should have slots just thick enough for the filters. Meaning that you shouldn’t need to worry about the filters sliding out but you shouldn’t need to use muscles to insert them either.
After thoroughly testing this, I’d say that the filter holder does a good job; the filters slide into the slot easily and they don’t slide out. I’ve tried shaking the holder up and down as well as walked around with the system mounted on my camera and at no point have the filters moved unintentionally.
The Pro CPL
I consider a polarizing filter to be essential for landscape photography. It has several purposes but is mostly used to:
- Remove glare and unwanted reflections
- Add contrast
- … and enhance colors
The Pro CPL used for the S5 is a larger version of the Enhanced Landscape Polarizer used in their 100mm filter systems and it performs at the same high level. Despite the enormous surface of it, the Pro CPL is thin and relatively lightweight.
I find these thin polarizers to be quite satisfactory and perhaps the biggest benefit is that they don’t create a vignette since they are so thin. This means that you can easily use a polarizer at 14mm without any vignetting.
My only slightly negative comment about the polarizer is that it doesn’t enhance the colors as much as certain other brands. That being said, none of the other brands have polarizers this thin that will fit the holder.
A lens adapter lets you connect the filter holder to the lens. It’s screwed onto the outside of the lens hood and a spring-loaded tension pin holds it in place.
The lens mount adapter is interchangeable, meaning that you can use it with other lenses by sourcing an adapter for your specific lens; as of this writing, the NiSi S5 is only available for the Nikon 14-24 and Tamron 15-30mm. However, NiSi has stated that they’re making lens adapters for other Ultra-Wide Angle.
My favorite part of this system is the possibility to place the Pro CPL inside the lens adapter. It’s easily mounted by blocking the two knobs on the side while screwing the filter into place.
The wheels on the side are then used to rotate the polarizer independently from the other filters. That means that you don’t need to make any adjustment to the Graduated ND or ND filter in order to fine-tune the CPL.
My only slightly negative comment about the lens adapter is that it can be a little difficult to remove the polarizer when it’s freezing outside. This doesn’t have much to do with the mechanism itself but rather the fact that you need to use your frozen fingers to lock the wheels.
The S5 Bag
NiSi is known to make bags and pouches that are both visually pleasing and practical. If you have the V5Pro system you might be familiar with the beautiful leather pouches that they use.
Even though I like the leather boxes, I was happy to see that NiSi didn’t use one for the S5 Holder. Taking the size of the filter system into consideration, I believe a leather box would add too much weight thus influencing many photographers away from buying it.
The new bag is lightweight and perfectly fits the filter holder and CPL. Keep in mind, though, that it only carries the filter holder and not the square filters; you’ll need a separate pouch for them.
NiSi S5 Field Test
While all of the information above is good to know, the real question is: How does it perform?
I’ve already mentioned some of the things I’m looking for in a good filter system but let me summarize and add a few more:
- The holder must be solid and durable
- It should be easy to mount onto the lens
- It should be able to be properly tightened and not fall off
- Filters should be easy to place in the slot(s)
- Filters should be easy to remove from the slot(s)
- There shouldn’t be any vignetting even when all filters are used at the widest focal length
After thoroughly testing the filters in various conditions, I can safely say that the NiSi S5 meets all my requirements. I haven’t had any issues with the system and it took next to no time to learn how to mount it.
The image below is captured with a Nikon 14-24mm at 14mm with the Pro CPL, 6-Stop ND Filter and a Soft Graduated ND Filter attached. As you can see there is no vignetting.
The image below shows an image captured minutes later but this time without any filters attached.
As I mentioned already, I’ve shaken the filter holder and carried it around in awkward positions in order to see how well it sticks to the lens and how well the filters stick to the holder.
While that might not be a scientifically accepted experiment, I found the holder to fit surprisingly well and I did not succeed in making it fall off my lens. The filters stayed put as well without moving during my rough treatment.
Here are a couple more images I’ve captured with the NiSi S5:
Now, there are three downsides I want to point out as well.
The first, and the one I hear mentioned most often, is the price. Retailing at roughly $440, this is an expensive system, especially taking into consideration that filters are purchased separately.
That being said, I believe the S5 is amongst, if not the, best 150mm filter holder system available today. So, though it’s expensive, you do get a quality system that will last for a long time.
This isn’t solely related to the S5 holder but to any 150mm filter holder: They are enormous.
Since the 150mm system is for Ultra-Wide Angle lenses only (and can’t be mounted on regular lenses) it adds a lot of weight to your backpack for something that can only be used on one lens.
As of writing this, I’m a bit split on what to do: I regularly use both tele-zoom and Ultra-Wide Angles – and they require different systems. A 100mm filter holder fits the majority of lenses but the 150mm only fits a few.
Detaching the Polarizer
Ok. I’m being extremely picky right now but I want you to be aware of every tiny detail, good or bad.
I’ve found detaching the polarizer to be slightly difficult in cold temperatures. You need to press your finger on the knob to avoid it rotating while you’re screwing the polarizer in order to remove it. Keeping the knob locked is at times slightly uncomfortable, especially when it gets cold.
There’s been a couple of times where I’ve decided to just leave it on because I haven’t managed to take it off in the cold.
Once I’m back home or in a warmer place, though, it disconnects without a problem.
You might already have an idea of what my verdict is, so I’ll keep this short and simple:
I am very pleased with the NiSi S5 150mm Filter Holder System and it has led to me using the 14-24mm for more than just astrophotography.
It’s a solid, high-quality system that I highly recommend. I love the fact that they’ve managed to integrate the Pro CPL just like the 100mm system does.
Disclaimer: I am associated with NiSi but all the above statements are my honest opinions.