Review: Alter Rapid Filter System (A Photojournalist’s Essential)

While there have been rapid filter system removable products available on the market for a while, there’s nothing like the Alter Rapid Filter System.

To really understand the Alter Rapid Filter system, you need to analyze how lots of modern photojournalism work is done. There is a greater demand for both high quality video and stills both. We can talk all day about the quality of a still frame taken from a video, but the quality still isn’t there yet for those of us that want to see it super large. And so, the Alter Rapid Filter System accommodates to the needs of the photographer that needs to shoot both video and photo often in the same setting. My days as a tech journalist showed me that this is something that needs to be done pretty often when on a location. And being able to use the Alter Rapid Filter System makes things a whole lot easier.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Very well built metal system
  • Easy to use once you wrap your head around it and read the directions that come with it
  • It can be adjusted to your optimum level of tightness
  • A great option for the modern photojournalist who needs to go from shooting stills to video.
  • Works great with both CPLs and ND filters
  • A nice option for strobists using ND filters that will dampen a camera’s autofocus performance
  • Interior ring system is really smart once you think about it carefully.

Cons

  • I miss being able to use my lens hood, but that’s a given with something like this.

Gear Used

We tested the Alter Rapid Filter System with the Canon EOS R, IRIX 150mm f2.8 Dragonfly macro lens and the Canon 50mm f1.2 RF L USM. We used both Hoya and SYRP filters.

Tech Specs

Specs taken from the press release:

  • ●  Uses​ – For enthusiast and professional level photographers and videographers. With the RFS you can quickly:
    • ○  Adjust to ambient light conditions
    • ○  Shoot video and stills on one camera
    • ○  Disengage dirty filter
    • ○  Use polarizer on rangefinder
    • ○  Set focus for long exposure
    • ○  Set white balance with WB disc
    • ○  Remove and replace a lens cap
  • ●  Image Quality

○ Zero light leak due to the integrated Light Shield

  • ●  Simple & Customizable Installation​ – The RFS is mounted with a threaded ring that secures the device firmly to the lens, allowing the user to rotate the hinge 360 degrees to securely orient it at any position on the lens.
    • ○  Once installed, the intention is to keep the RFS attached to your lens providing the convenience to attach a filter or lens cap to the filter ring.
    • ○  The RFS comes with a pre-tensioned friction hinge, which is user adjustable with the included wrench.
  • ●  Build Quality​ – Milled from aerospace aluminum and coated with a hard black anodized, the RFS is designed for precision and longevity.
  • ●  Universally Attached​ – The RFS is available in sizes from 40.5mm to 82mm and mounts to your lenses and filters via the universal threads.
  • ●  One Handed Use​ – The filter ring is slightly wider for easy opening and the adjustable friction hinge allows the filter to pivot 270 degrees while staying in place at any desirable position.
  • ●  Stable & Secure
    • ○  The device firmly holds the filter close to your lens, keeping it safe and out of the way.
    • ○  High grade neodymium magnets ensure the RFS stays in the closed position.
  • ●  Compatibility
    • ○  Filters, Lens Caps, Step-up Rings, and White Balance Disks
    • ○  The RFS is not compatible with lens hoods.
  • ●  Guarantee​ – The RFS boasts a lifetime warranty and high quality craftsmanship encouraging you to take it anywhere.

Ergonomics

The Alter Rapid Filter system can be described as a complicated system, but I’d only give it this label if you’re one to easily give up on things at the first sign of hardship. Indeed, once you actually mount it onto the lens, it’s really easy work with. The Alter Rapid Filter system uses an interior stacked ring design to affix itself to your lens. On the left is the main ring system that has a hinge and your filter on the other ring. On the right is the interior ring.

The empty, outer ring goes around the filter mount of your lens. Then the interior ring gets screwed down with pressure. This keeps the system in place. After that, you’ll just need to flip the filter on or off. Of course, you’ll be using your own lens filters.

To keep the filter down and locked in place, the Alter Rapid Filter system uses a magnet system. In addition to that, the hinge can be tightened or loosened accordingly. You’re provided with tools to do this; so just be careful. Pulling the rings apart after taking it out of the box required strength.

When the Alter Rapid Filter system is screwed onto the filter thread of your lens, you can use it however you’d like without fear of it falling off. The interior ring, as you can see in the photo above, has ridges to make screwing it in easier. This also makes the removal process easier.

Here’s a view of the Alter Rapid Filter system on the IRIX 150mm f2.8 Macro with the filter flipped up. You can place it however you’d like, but I just found this position to be the most convenient. When you’re using the system, you should be aware of where the main light source is in the scene. Said light may still hit the filter which will then add diffusion to the light hitting the lens.

Here’s a view of the Alter Rapid Filter system with the filter down. If you’re using a Circular Polarizer or a Variable ND filter, you won’t have trouble with turning the filter to get the results you want. Due to the way that the Alter Rapid Filter system is screwed into the lens, it’s difficult to make it get loose unless you’re trying with full intent.

Build Quality

When I first loosened the screw and joint system on the Alter Rapid Filter system, I was a bit careless. The entire thing can come apart with the right tool and the right amount of force. So with this a little bit goes a long way. What I ended up doing was gathering all the washers and buffers, then putting it back together. It’s solid. During my use, I didn’t have any complaint about it and I see myself using the Alter Rapid Filter system for a long time whenever I need to do video with a dedicated camera system.

Ease of Use

The only really difficult thing about the Alter Rapid Filter system is the initial mounting. But to be fair, that’s a problem that anyone will have with a new product. When using the Alter Rapid Filter system, you’ll find out how simple it is to work with the system if you just are careful with it and pay attention to what you’re doing. Right now, the Alter Rapid Filter system is off of my lenses because I’m not using them for video.

Besides video shooting though, I can see the Alter Rapid Filter system having a whole lot of practical application for a variety of photographers:

  • Landscape photographers that use very dark filters and who have their camera’s autofocus abilities dampened by the dark filter
  • Photojournalists who are more or less mixed media content producers these days. Going from photos to video is made easier here.
  • Strobists using an older method for overpowering the sun with an ND filter instead of using HSS or a fast flash duration

What could make the Alter Rapid Filter system better is an integration with the Cokin square filter system. By far that is my favorite option when it comes to working with filters due to how easy it is to slide them in or out. Being able to quickly remove the filters when not in use is really useful when shooting out in the field. That previous sentence was written with a whole lot of carefully thought of intent as the Alter Rapid Filter system really works best when deployed on location. In a studio, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense because you’re taking your time and setting stuff up beforehand. When you’re working in a run and gun method, then the Alter Rapid Filter system allows you to have more flexibility.

Something else to also remember is that when you’re shooting video with a shotgun microphone attached to your camera’s hot shoe that you’ll want the Alter Rapid Filter system to open to the side instead of directly upward. When using the Canon system and even trying it on my Sony a7r III, I found that it could get in the way of the microphones. Of course, you’ll have other audio around too to help, but blocking the audio could lead to issues with audio syncing in the most unfortunate of situations.

Conclusions

I think that the Alter Rapid Filter system is a great system for a photographer that really needs to do both photos and video often while on location. In fact, it’s probably going to become a staple in your camera bag. Perhaps it’s more useful for those photographers than the ones who care primarily about still use with a number of different filters. But if you’re poised to use only one filter, then the Alter Rapid Filter system will be very convenient. For the photographer that only occasionally uses filters though, the Alter Rapid Filter system doesn’t make a whole lot of sense vs just screwing and unscrewing them yourself.

What I’d really love to see is the Alter Rapid Filter system used with a phone camera system and a dedicated case.

The Alter Rapid Filter system receives four out of five stars.