Just shy of 12 months ago, DigitalReviews previewed the Xume Quick Release Adapters and wished we thought of the concept. Thanks to the team at Xume who kindly provided a set of these adapters for review.
What is Xume Adapters? Comprised of a lens adapter and a filter holder, the two components allows quick attachment and removal of round screw-in type photo filters. Ideally you have a lens adapter for every lens that you use a filter on, and a filter holder for each filter. This allows for super fast changing of photo filters without some of the risks associated, such as cross-threading or sometimes leading to dropping the filter as a result. I have busted my fair share of expensive filters though not during the mounting/dismount process. I have come pretty close a few times though!
When the Xume turned up in real life, it was not quite what I was expecting. In the FAQ Xume warns that there may be some flex in the adapter ring due to the low profile design. In reality the design is reasonably rigid. The lens adapter does not feel like there is any flex at all and the filter holder feels like there is a small amount of flex only after applying a fair amount more pressure than ordinarily required to work with a filter.
The Neodymium (NdFeB) rare earth magnets in use are also a lot stronger than I was expecting, to the point that it was a little tricky prising the two sides apart when I was playing with them in isolation. The Xume has a matte black finish which will blend into any lens mount.
With anything I put in front of my lens, one of the first things I wonder about is how will it affect my photos? Unlike a filter the Xume itself will not affect the light coming through to the sensor. With the extra offset the concern is on vignetting. Using a wide angle lens one would expect some vignetting regardless so let's walk in with our eyes open. In fact, Xume do not recommend using their product with super wide lenses.
What is vignetting? In the field of optics it is a reduction of an image's brightness or saturation at the periphery compared to the image center. It is sometimes an unintended and undesired effect as a result of focal length, sensor size, specific lens, filter type, filter brand, etc. Sometimes it is purposely introduce for creative effect to drawn attention to an area intended by the artiste.
My "weapon of choice" is a Canon EOS 5D Mark III and 24-105mm f/4 L IS USM. It is a full frame sensor body and one of the best and most popular Canon general purpose lenses that serves as my walkabout lens the majority of the time. As such I use a filter on this lens a lot - usually with a circular polariser, sometimes with what my friend Adriana calls "black glass" which is a neutral density 10-stop filter and occasionally a UV filter. Beyond the obvious use of filters for effect, they also protect the expensive glass on the lens from accidental damage.
With the naked 24-105mm lens, at the 24mm end there is noticeable vignetting on the full frame sensor and without any filters. This disappears around the 28mm mark and is good (as far as vignetting is concerned) from that point on. Personally I do not think vignetting is a particularly bad thing but I just want to be the one who controls the where and when.
I use a Kenko Zeta Wideband circular polariser. It is one of the thinnest filters on the market which is important to minimise vignetting. As you can see in the photo comparison, with the Xume adapter on, there is a distinct vignetting effect at 24mm. This disappears around 30mm which is just a little beyond what the naked lens would do and personally I feel that is acceptable. There are more examples of photos with the Xume Adapter mounted here.
The Xume in combination with the 10-stopper (ND) though is a marriage made in heaven. Those waterfall photos you see that is taken in broad daylight and the water is totally silky? That is the trick. The ND cuts out so much light that it is difficult to setup a photo with the filter already screwed on. The recommendation is to set up the shot then carefully screw the filter on and hope you have not inadvertently moved anything. With the Xume adapters on however, no moving points, no alignment required ... set up the shot, pop the filter on with a level of care and it is ready to go.
Unfortunately conventional lens caps does not fit the Xume lens adapters. To get around that you either put the lens cap into a Xume filter holder or I guess use a filter that you are happy to trash for the greater good. Either way you need a filter holder for that purpose.
I learn the hard way that the flex in the filter adapter will play a part in the grand scheme of things after the destruction of the above mentioned Kenko C-PL. This was the scenario: At the Avalon airshow we decided that my son has reached his tolerance for being awake and stimulated so we headed for the exits. The camera was slung across my body and I was carrying him out to the car which was a good 15 minutes walk from where we started. At some stage I heard a thunk on the ground close to me and looking down was the remnant of my C-PL lying on the ground. A quick check shows all the Xume components still securely fastened to the lens. My guess is that my son's foot might have kicked the filter adapter hard enough to flex it and the filter popped out. In the FAQ if you read it thoroughly, it is strongly suggested that the use of an over the lens type hood be used at all times to protect your filter from an accidental detachment. The said hood would also stop me using the C-PL properly so it was a Catch 22. LFMF.
The Xume Adapter is designed for DSLR Video, Film & Cinematography, Long Exposure Photography, Wedding Photography, Scenic Photography, Architectural Photography, Fine Art Photography and CSI Photography. You are well advised to read through the FAQ carefully and learn from my fail. For personal reasons sadly my filter will not be replaced at the current time.
Xume offers a no-risk guarantee where you can try it for 30 days and a full refund (minus shipping) offered if you are dissatisfied for any reason. They are available in 49, 58, 67, 72, 77 and 82mm. My review version is the 77mm and is available here for USD$11.95 for a filter holder and $32.95 for the lens adapter. A starter kit with 1 lens adapter and 2 filter holders costs USD$53.95 and a pro kit with 2 lens adapters and 4 filter holders for USD$104.95 offering a few dollars savings.
Despite the loss of my circular polariser, would I keep using the Xume? Yes. There are situations where they will come in very handy, I just have to keep in mind the limitations of the connection.