HOYA HD Square Filter System Review

All sample photos and product shots of this review were captured by Christophe Anagnostopoulos unless otherwise noted.
November 5, 2022 -> Full Review was published.

***Reading Time: 25 minutes***

Intro

I have mentioned it many times on my reviews and articles that I’m not only a big fan of filters, but filters are also a crucial tool for my work.
How I love manipulating the available light based on my needs or style, trying to capture the shot I have in mind directly on camera.

As a landscape photographer, I need a high quality and durable system with a wide and versatile range of filters, while as a travel photographer this system has to also be lightweight and portable.

In this review I will share my experiences on using the HOYA HD Square Filter System.
So let’s dive in.

Image Samples, captured with HOYA HD Square Filter System

Filters: HOYA Sq100 IRND16 GRAD-S (4-stops) + CPL
Lens: Tokina opera 50mm F1.4 (F)

Filters: HOYA Sq100 IRND1000 (10-stops) + Sq100 IRND8 (3-stops) + IRND16 GRAD-S (4-stops)
Lens: Tokina firin 20mm F2 AF

Filters: HOYA Sq100 IRND8 (3-stops) + CPL
Lens: Tokina firin 100mm F2.8 MACRO

Filters: HOYA Sq100 IRND1000 (10-stops) + IRND8 GRAD-S + CPL
Lens: Tokina firin 20mm F2 AF

Filters: HOYA Sq100 CRAFT Golden Mist 1/8 + CPL
Lens: Tokina atx-m 23mm F1.4 X

Filters: HOYA CRAFT Sq100 STARSCAPE
Lens: Tokina firin 20mm F2 AF

Filters: HOYA CRAFT Sq100 Black Mist 1/4
Lens: Tokina opera 50mm F1.4 (F)

Filters: HOYA Sq100 IRND 1000 (10-stops) + IRND8 GRAD-S + CRAFT Sq100 Clear Mist 1/4 + CPL
Lens: Tokina firin 100mm F2.8 MACRO (FE)

Filters: HOYA IRND8 (3-stops) + IRND8 GRAD-S + CPL
Lens: Tokina atx-m 56mm F1.4 X

Filters: HOYA CRAFT Sq100 Clear Mist 1/8 + CPL
Lens: Tokina opera 50mm F1.4 (F)

*Disclaimer*

Before proceeding, it is proper to mention that I’m a Global Ambassador of HOYA filters since 2017, however this is not a paid post, and I’m only expressing my personal thoughts and experiences using the new HOYA HD Square Filter System.

*Testing Notes*

The following lenses were used for this review:

The following cameras were used for this review:

  • Fuji X-T3
  • Nikon Z7ii
  • Fuji X-H2s

What’s Inside the Box

HOYA Sq100 Holder Kit

I find the packaging of the system very modern and minimalistic in design. No product shots, no information except the big HOYA logo and the name of the product. That’s a very welcome change, at least for me. It makes you even more excited and eager to open it right away.

Inside the white square box we will find a HOYA wallet-pouch containing the HOYA Sq100 Holder, an 86mm CPL filter and the required geared adapters (86-86mm1 and 86-82mm2)
186-86mm geared adapter is used when your lens filter size is 86mm or with adapter ring to fit lens with the filter size less then 82mm, for example 77mm or 52mm.
286-82mm geared adapter is used when you have lens with filter size 82mm or with adapter ring to fit lens with the filter size less then 82mm

The lens adapter3 rings are sold separately, and are available in all sizes, to fit any lens.
3Basically the adapter rings are simple step-up rings, from each lens filter diameter to 86mm.

There is also a small plastic bag that contains: an additional slot (with its correspondent size screws), an Alen key and lastly two (2) extra screws in case you miss some of the original ones.

Back on the pouch, it has one (1) big socket to carry the holder and three (3) thinner sockets to store either three square filters, or like in my case, two filters (on the double back sockets) and to carry any extra adapter rings and/or the CPL filter in the remaining front socket.

HOYA HD Sq100 IRND1000 (3.0) – 10stop ND & HOYA HD Sq100 IRND16 (1.2) – GRAD-S 4stop

Starting from the boxes, and compared to the holder kit, here we have a demo shot for each filter and some information on the back side regarding the filters.

Inside the boxes there is a pouch containing each filter respectively. The pouch is carefully designed with hard edges on the sides of the filter compartment to protect the glass from scratches and hits.
The main difference between the two pouches is the size, as the ND filter has a size of 100x100mm, while the GradND filter has a size of 100x150mm.

Build Quality & Design

The first thing that I always check and test in any product is the build quality.
As most of the time I’m out in the field, usually facing all weather elements from a light rain to strong winds, from extreme heat to ice and snow, I must be certain that I can trust my tools (that also applies for my lenses and cameras, but we’ll leave it for another article/review).

The HOYA Sq100 Holder is made of high quality aluminum that ensures great durability out in the field as also a very lightweight construction.

 

 

The fixation knob and the control wheel of the CPL filter are made of metal, as also the geared adapters and the adapter rings.
Overall the quality is very good and it feels great and sturdy in hands.

 

 

The filters are made of toughened glass, incorporating all the newest and advanced technologies of HOYA, with nano coatings on each side to prevent color cast as also providing water repellent abilities to ensure that you can continue to shoot in any weather condition.

The filters are of course of the highest quality, and you can feel it while holding them in your hands.
HOYA is by far the most advanced optical manufacturer in the world so there is little to be said about the quality of its filters.

Size

The weight of the holder is only 78g (with two slots and without the geared adapter), and if we measure it fully deployed with the geared adapter, the CPL filter and the adapter ring, as also a 10-stop ND filter, the weight goes to 171g, which again is very light,

In general the holder is very lightweight which practically means that you can easily leave it attached on your lens all day without issues.

Protective Gasket

The holder also features a protective gasket to prevent any unwanted light leaks, something very important if you work with long exposures.

The threaded slots are precise and have the proper tightness level, which practically means that they don’t require all your strength to attach the filter(s), but on the other hand they are tight so to not drop your attached filter(s) even on steep angles.

Extra Slot

As mentioned before, the kit includes an additional slot that it is very easy to install to the holder, in case you want to use three (3) filters at the same time (without including the CPL of course).
Keep in mind though that when there are three (3) slots installed to the holder, and depending on the focal length of your lens, some vignetting might be visible.
In my tests I experienced a slight vignetting when I used my Tokina firin 20mm F2 AF (FX lens), but nothing too intense that couldn’t be fixed in post. But, as I said before, this clearly depends on the lens used.

 

Available Filter Range

At the moment of writing this review, HOYA have already announced and released a wide range of square (and rectangular) filters for this new system.
All available filters can be found on HOYA’s website (check here), but I will try to summarize them in a small paragraph:

  • Neutral Density with strengths of 3, 6 & 10stops, and Gradient ND with strengths of 0.9 & 1.2 stops
  • Black, Clear, Silver and Golden Mist with strengths of ¼ & 1/8
  • Starscape (for light pollution)

How To Attach

The procedure is rather easy, and I will start from the lens.
Depending on your lens selection, you must attach first the right size adapter ring. In the following example I used the Tokina atx-m 56mm F1.4 X lens which has a filter size of 52mm.
So I used a 52mm to 86mm adapter ring and attached in front of the lens.

 

After that, and depending on my shooting scenario, I attached the screw-on CPL filter on the proper geared adapter (86-86mm) and then I attached that to the lens adapter ring, like shown below:

So now my lens has in front: the adapter ring that is attached with the geared adapter, who by its turn has the CPL filter attached.

Now that everything is ready, I simply position it properly based on the markings on the filter holder and when its positioned correctly, I turn the fixation knob to tighten everything.

Then its time to just attach the required filters and start shooting!

Below is a YouTube video from HOYA official channel, showing the process.

Handling & User Experience

I have used the HOYA HD Square Filter System on many occasions the last few months, from weddings to astrophotography, and honestly it didn’t let me down.
I was already familiar with the filters and their performance based on my experiences with their circular counterparts, and I can say that HOYA only changed the circular form factor to square (and rectangular) and nothing else.
The performance remains at the same excellent levels and actually I’ve seen some serious improvement on specific aspects, like in example on flaring.

My main consideration as an experienced user and before testing the system,  was the overall performance of the holder as it is the first time that HOYA releases a square system, and I was very curious if I would find any (serious) issues.

Well, as I’m always honest in my reviews and articles, I have to note some things about using the holder.

The first thing that troubled me in the beginning was that I had to change hands (while handholding the camera, not on a tripod) if I wanted to change from landscape orientation4 to portrait, as the fixation knob was on the right side and the camera grip is always on the right side as well.
I ended up with some missing shot opportunities due to the wasted time, but it was so easy to find a workaround to that, I just changed sides on the holder, ending up having the knob to the left hand and the CPL control wheel5 on the right
After that it became easier (but not ideal) to change from horizontal to vertical and vice versa.

4Of course, this only applies when a GradND filter is being used. Otherwise, with all the other filters there is no need to change orientation.
5Regarding the CPL control wheel, it is very easy to use it to fix/change the polarization effect, so nothing to be told for this.

Then it is the overall time required to move the holder from one lens to another, when I changed lenses.
I had to first release the fixation knob to remove the holder (usually with a filter attached), then I had to remove the geared adapter from Lens A and to lens B while attaching the proper ring adapter to Lens B, and then re-attach the holder.
Obviously if you have only one or two lenses with you (i.e. a travel zoom 24-120, or 24-200), this is not an issue at all as you will leave it attached almost permanently.
However, if you have many lenses and you change them constantly, then a simple solution would be to leave the adapter rings permanently on your lenses which will save some time.

Of course, these are not serious issues, I would describe them best as “a workflow learning curve”, so these are noted just from a personal perspective.
Other than that, I didn’t found anything else to report.

Lastly, one small note about the holder wallet/pouch. Ok, obviously this has nothing to do with optical performance and even with workflow, but I think that the wallet misses something so simple that it could make it even better.
And that is something on its back side that would allow it to be attached to a belt, or even to the camera bag. Or even a removable shoulder strap.
I found myself many times to just let the wallet down on the ground in order to change filter, or even to remove the holder from the lens.
And it would be great if there was solid ground beneath, but what would happen in a different scenario, like in the image below?

Personal Thoughts

It is great to see HOYA develop and release a brand new square filter system, entering a market that needed the optical quality of HOYA.
I honestly don’t have anything to say about the filter(s) optical quality, they excel in every category, having a superb end result on my shots.

Regarding the holder, sure, I think it requires a small learning curve in order to add it to the shooting workflow, and although it has some very minor design flaws (for my style), it still is a highly capable holder that combined with the magnificent filters of HOYA makes a great filter system that can be used on almost all photographic genres.

Q & A

(will be updated with the questions I receive via email and direct messages regarding the system)
*
-I already have some square 100×100 filters from another brand, is the HOYA Sq100 Holder compatible with those?
-Yes, it is 100% compatible as it takes industry standard 2mm thickness square and rectangular filters.
*
-I have many different lenses on my camera bag, is it compatible at least with some of my lenses?
-Yes, as it only requires a dedicated lens adapter ring (basically a step-up ring) in order to attach it to the 86mm geared adapter.
*
-Will I lose any image quality when using more than one filter at the same time?
-In most occasions no, there will not be any visible loss in image quality, as the filters are being made with the highest possible quality materials, incorporating state of the art technologies.
However, as mentioned before, there might be some visible vignetting in case you use the third slot.
*

Conclusion

“A highly capable and versatile filter system, developed with the quality of HOYA brand.
The available filter range will cover almost all shooting scenarios.

Ratings

Build Quality:8.8 out of 10 stars (8.8 / 10)
Handling:7 out of 10 stars (7.0 / 10)
Size and Weight:9.2 out of 10 stars (9.2 / 10)
Filter Optical Performance:9.5 out of 10 stars (9.5 / 10)
Available Filters:9.1 out of 10 stars (9.1 / 10)
Price:8.7 out of 10 stars (8.7 / 10)
Average:8.7 out of 10 stars (8.7 / 10)

Recommended!

HOYA HD Square Filter System

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Did You Know?

..That each participant on my Mountains Experience Workshop gets a 10-stop HOYA ND filter?
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