I’m excited to be able to bring you guys an exclusive first look at the MindShift Gear Filter Hive, a new photographic filter organizer that handles both round and 4×6 filters. At the time of writing this I’m the only person outside of MindShift Gear to have one of these so this is a very special first look. The latest word is that this product will begin shipping in February and you can use the link in the section below to get a shipping notification.
Filters of some sort are almost always a part of any outdoor photographer’s kit, the problem for me has always been finding a way to keep things organized. Most people start out with a screw-on round filter of some type, maybe a polarizer or perhaps an ND. Then you pick up a larger size of round filter to fit that new wide-angle lens you just purchased and you start to experiment with longer exposures. Next you begin to understand the limitations in your camera’s dynamic range so you buy 1 or 2 graduated NDs with a holder which need thread adapters for your different sized lenses. Before you know it, your filter kit is filling up two or three pockets in your camera bag and you’re never quite sure where it all is or if you’ve packed everything before your next trip. After hours of waiting for the right light, when that golden 5 minutes (it’s rarely an hour is it?!) comes around you begin frantically digging through your bag grabbing different filters as the light changes second by second. By the time the sun has gone down you’ve got unprotected filters of all sorts lying all over and around your bag. Sound like a familiar story?
The front zippered pocket is large enough for a memory card holder or perhaps a lens cloth and your camera’s cable release
The MindShift Filter Hive is designed to solve that problem by providing you a space for all your filters, as well as all the necessary accessories. Keep this case packed with your filter kit and grab just one piece before you leave, safe in the knowledge that you have everything you need.
8.1” W x 5.3” H x 3.9” D (20.5 x 13.5 x 10 cm)
Removable filter insert:
7.3” W x 4.3” H x 3.1” D (18.5 x 11 x 8 cm)
Rectangular filter slots:
6.7” W x 4.3” H (170 x 110 mm)
Round filter slots:
3.4” W x 3.6” H (86 x 91 mm)
0.6 lbs (0.3 kg)
On the back of the case you’ll find both a belt attachment and a small strap that allows you to attach the Filter Hive to your tripod. With the belt attachment you can choose to wear the case on a belt if you’re traveling super lightweight with just a camera + tripod on your shoulder. The Think Tank Skin Belt works very well for this. You can also attach it to the MindShift Rotation 180 Professional (review) or Panorama’s hip belt for use when it’s part of the backpack, or on its own with the belt pack removed from the pack. With the tripod attachment strap, rather than digging through your pack on the ground, you now have easy access to all of your filters right when you need them.
The clip is useful because it means that you don’t have to put the Filter Hive on the tripod before your camera and it’s adjustable to fit just about any size of tripod you can imagine.
It’s great to have a way to organize all this stuff but what if you don’t want an extra bag to carry around? The internal organizer from the Filter Hive is held in with hook & loop so it comes out easily when you want it to. It has its own dust flap so wherever you decide to store it, your filters will be protected from dust, sand and dirt.
The organizer had slots for 6 round filters, up to 82mm in diameter and the back two of those slots are slightly deeper than the rest to allow for variable-ND filters or combo filters like those produced by Singh Ray. The organizer also has room for 6 4X6 (100mm x 150mm) filters as well. This should be enough to satisfy even the most avid filter user and the front slots for the round filters also work perfectly for the thread adapters needed for using 4×6 holders like the Hitech holder, Lee and Cokin. Personally these days I’m carrying a a combination of round and rectangular filters with a round polarizer, and round 3-stop ND, 1-3 stop graduated NDs and a couple of reverse graduated NDs.
The organizer is pretty expandable and in this photo you can see it really loaded up. The soft material means you don’t have to keep your filters in their individual sleeves anymore, but if for some reason you wanted to carry a huge number of filters you could leave them in the sleeves and easily fit multiple filters in each slot. To re-iterate, this is an over-the-top number of filters in this photo but I wanted to prove just how much you could fit into this if you wanted to.
Color coded tabs are really useful if you stick to a routine when packing the case. After a few uses you’ll know exactly what you’re reaching for.
This is a much more typical setup with the filters sitting directly in the organizer. The rectangular slots are generously proportioned so it’s easy to grab those quickly. Smaller round filers are a little trickier to get out of their slots but still easier than fumbling with individual plastic cases.
If you use a filter holder then you’ll no doubt have a collection of stages and spare screws like those in the photo above. This summer I went on a trip to Cambodia and forgot to take these with me and boy was that a HUGE pain in the ass! This little zippered pocket on the front of the organizer is here for those little things and because the pocket is on the organizer and not the outer bag, you know you’ve always got them with you.
Speaking of filter holders, there’s enough room in the bag to store the holder as well. The bag was designed for holders of the size of the Hitech, Lee and Cokin 4×6 holders. The one in the photo above is the Hitech holder. Users of this filter will know that the screw ends are incredibly abrasive and the second length of screws that you’re provided with are often far too long. The holder does fit in the bag with those longer screws, but I’m sure they would pierce the internal nylon wall of the bag quite quickly. Cokin and Lee holder users won’t have that issue as far as I can tell, but I’m on the lookout for some different screws for my Hitech holder, or perhaps some small rubber caps for the end of them. Their screws have always been a worry to me, they’re just so sharp! When I travel with it I tend to dismantle it completely.
This photo shows the internal organizer inside the MindShift Rotation 180 Professional but you can of course fit it into any other camera bag which has adjustable padded inserts. I think my use of the Filter Hive will be about 70% inside my pack and 30% outside it on the belt or one of the side straps.
If you want to offer your filter kit the greatest protection you can also put the whole thing into the bag. Since the padded external part of the Filter Hive is very lightweight, there’s little weight penalty to this method and then you have the whole case there ready to hang on your tripod for easy access when it comes time to shoot. No adjustments were made to the positioning of the padding in this photo to fit the case in so you can easily switch between carrying methods as the situation dictates.
Even with the whole case in the bag it’s still very easy to reach all of your gear.
Here you can see the Filter Hive attached to the hip belt of the MindShift Rotation 180 Professional. It gives you a pretty good idea of relative sizing and you can see that it’s not a very bulky bag at all and works very well in this combination.
The Filter Hive doesn’t come with a rain cover which is something to consider when you’re using it in the configuration above. If there’s a threat of rain on your trip then it would be best to pack the Hive inside the bag.
There’s a few other ‘filter organizers’ out there but the problem is that none of them organize everything. None of them allow you to store both round and rectangular filters and none of them help you to store all the necessary accessories. Essentially they just provide some protection for your filters. The Clik Elite filter organizer only holds 4 round filters and then only up to 77mm in diameter. Both Canon’s most popular landscape photography lenses, the 16-35 II and the 24-70 II have 82mm front threads so that one isn’t a lot of help. The Lee 4×6 cases are bulky, book-style cases that offer no space for round filters or accessories and no easy access to the filters unless the case is completely removed from the bag. The Kinesis filter bag can hold more 4×6 filters (up to 10), but it lacks space for round filters and accessories and doesn’t offer a removable organizer, it’s also more expensive. I seem to be seeing more and more people opt for screw on polarizers and ND filters and only grad filters for the 4×6 size. Many people are simply hand holding the grads in front of the screw-on polarizer. The MindShift Filter Hive is the only solution out there that can offer a dedicated space for everything.
For the first time in my photographic career I feel like I have this stuff properly organized. I always try to compartmentalize my gear so that I can grab a specific pack, cube, case or pouch when I’m shooting a specific subject. I’ve got grab bags for many scenarios and it saves me time on a morning when I decide to head out and shoot. It also serves as office organization in my gear cupboard which would otherwise be spilling open with photo gear and trinkets. The thing with filters in the past has been that they have very specific needs. Protection and security for round and rectangular things of different sizes along with many accessories. A simple cubic case filled with filters in individual cases was a nightmare and offered little protection. I gave you guys a glimpse into my previous process at the beginning of the article and my disorganization led me to leave behind important accessories on my biggest trip of the year in South-East Asia. On that very same trip I permanently warped three very expensive graduated 4×6 filters because they were improperly protected in my camera bag and subjected to constant 40 degree Celsius heat. That was an expensive mistake! With the Filter Hive I finally have my solution and I know that I’m not going to suffer any of those headaches again. For $55 I think it’s a steal of deal and should be part of any outdoor photographers kit, especially when you consider that it’ll be protecting hundreds if not thousands of dollars worth of filters!