Oh, look. It’s another established company jumping on the Kickstarter train to try to launch a new product. This time, it’s Benro, with their new Aureole, a “modular 3-in-1 drop-in filter adapter system”. Essentially, though, it’s just another Canon EF lens to whatever camera mount adapter with filters you can slot in between the two – a bit like Canon’s own EF to RF drop-in filter adapter.
Except, this one comes in options to let you mount those EF lenses to Canon RF, Sony E, Micro Four Thirds, Nikon Z, Leica L, Fuji X and Fuji GFX cameras. There’s also a Nikon F lens to Nikon Z camera body version and they say that more will be on the way in the future. And all of them use the same filters – which are proprietary to the mount making it kind of limiting.
The Kickstarter campaign complaining about the way traditional filters work. Either they screw on in front of your lens or they mount to the rear of your lens (or sit inside the camera body itself). They talk about the woes of square filters and their reliance on a holder, increasing the weight of the system. Yeah, I get it, they kinda have to in order to make their product sound amazing and revolutionary, but it’s still just an adapter with proprietary filters.
To be fair, they’re kicking it off with a useful looking (but basic) set of filters. There’s a GND0.9s (3 stop) graduated ND filter – with what looks like a fairly limited range of movement and no way to rotate it to compensate for things like hills and angled treelines – an ND64PL (6 stop) polarizing filter, an ND1K (10 stop) neutral density filter, a standard polarizer, and a couple of clear “flang distance compensation” filters.
The clear filters are presumably to let you be able to pre-focus using AF before swapping out to a 10-stop. Focusing with a 10-stop ND in front of your sensor, even with mirrorless, can still sometimes be tricky to focus and see your scene. If you pre-focus without any kind of filter, then your focus can shift once you add a filter (index of refraction, etc). So focusing with the clear filter(s) eliminates that potential focus shift when you swap out to your strong ND.
There are also a few optional extra filters that you can add on to your pledge, too, including a GND1.2S (4 stop) graduated ND filter, as well as ND8 (3 stop), ND16 (4 stop), ND32 (5 stop) ND filters. The naming system is odd, going with the “ND1.2” for the grad but “ND16” for the regular ND – despite both being 4 stops. Just the fact that (at least) two different numbering systems for the same thing even exist already confuses many beginners. Having two different numbering systems within the same ecosystem is going to really mess with their heads.
Interestingly, though, the company promotes this system as supporting video shooters – which is arguably where you’d want an adapter like this the most. This sounds great, in theory and when you throw in your polarizer (or NDPL) you get your little dial for rotating it. But… they’re not offering a variable ND filter? At least a 2-5 stop VND is pretty common in a filmmaker’s kit bags these days, especially those of hybrid shooters, so this seems like a pretty big oversight. I expect we’ll see one of these coming at some point, though, if enough people complain about the lack of one.
On the plus side, though, it offers full electronic communication (or at least, as full as possible given the various mount combos available) and it looks to have a pretty solid mounting foot on there with a 1/4-20″ screw to help compensate for the shift in the centre of gravity of your setup and more easily balance those adapted lenses on your tripod.
I do quite like the concept. For some people, it’s definitely going to be a great solution – as evidenced by the fact that it’s hammered its low HK$50,000 (around US$6,378) goal, sitting at around $49K right now – but I’m certainly not the target market for this. The lack of real adjustability for ND grads makes it less than useful for me for landscapes and for video… No VND? And having to still put a matte box on the end of the lens anyway negates any weight savings this would add.
Maybe it’s just me but I’m also getting a little bit jaded by all of these “revolutionary” and “innovative” proprietary filter systems lately – not to mention established companies still releasing new products on Kickstarter! Screw-on, 100mm (4″) square and 4×5.65″ cine filters have been the standard for decades and they’ve worked. They still work. You can use any of them with anybody else’s system. You can mix and match Lee, B+W, NiSi, Haida, Cokin, etc. square filters with anybody else’s holder. I can use my Schneider 4×5.65″ cine ND filters with almost (see below) any standard matte box, too.
Over the last couple of years, though, we’ve seen the PolarPro Summit and Base Camp matte box, Revoring’s recently announced “Swift”, as well as several others and now this. And all of them are seemingly incompatible with every other system out there, locking you into their system and their system alone – which is limited by the filters they choose to release and the quality of those filters. That alone immediately discounts me as a potential customer. But, like I said, maybe that’s just me.
But, if you don’t mind being locked into a single system and your needs are quite basic – at least for now while the filter range is still quite small – it might be one worth checking out. For more advanced users, I’d probably stick to what you’ve got.
You can find out more about the Benro Aureole on Kickstarter, where pledges start at around $185. Shipping is expected to begin in June 2022.