One of the biggest disadvantages to circular screw-on filters is the time and attention needed to get them properly seated in the threads and tightened to the lens. The Manfrotto XUME series of filter adapters aims to solve this by using quick-snap magnets instead.
The XUME adapter has two essential pieces to make the system work, and once everything is set up there is no more threading on and off your filters (for example a circular polarizer or a neutral density filter). The first piece is the lens adapter which, as you can probably guess, is fitted to the end of the lens. The other piece is the filter holder, which will screw into the filter. Now, when you want to add a filter to the end of your lens, you just connect the modified filter to the modified lens and the magnets in each keep them bonded together. Note that any brand of filter can be used with the XUME adapters, but obviously it needs to be the same filter size.
If you want to make a full conversion to the XUME system, you would purchase a lens adapter for each of your lenses, and then filter holders for each of your circular filters. The lens adapters run for around $30 and the filter holders cost around $15, all depending on the sizes. B&H Photo sells a number of different kits with different quantities and sizes to get everything converted right out the gate, or you can do it piece by piece separately.
One of biggest concerns I had when I used the XUME adapters is the strength of the magnets. The last thing I’d need is to lose an expensive filter over the edge of a cliff because I accidentally bumped my camera. Good news is that there is a decent amount of force needed in order to take off the filter holder. However, its weakness is definitely side-to-side bumps or sliding if there was one. The magnet is strong enough to where using this weakness is actually how I ended up removing filters faster, since just pulling straight out from the lens is a lot harder to do.
The downside to using the XUME adapters is that they do cause vignetting with wide-angle lenses. Having those two extra hollow pieces added to the end of the lens before the filter does add a bit of depth, and there’s not much to be done about this. Below are two photos, one taken at 16mm with a Sony FE 16–35mm GM where there is basically an unusable amount of vignetting, and then another at 24mm taken with the Sony FE 24–70mm GM where the vignetting is nearly gone and can surely be compensated for in post-processing.
What I Liked
- These are good for using with strong ND filters. I can quickly lock in focus while using a tripod without the filter, and then slap one on quickly to start shooting.
- Swapping between different filters for different looks is simple. If I thought one ND filter wasn’t strong enough or was too strong, I could swap it out for a different one in seconds.
- Works with the filters I already own and trust.
What I Didn’t Like
- Vignetting limits its application on wide-angle lenses.
- There is always an element of extra care in the back of your mind since the filter is not physically threaded onto the lens, regardless of the magnetic strength. Maybe this will relax over time.
Overall, I really like the idea of the XUME adapters. Threading on filters, and those awful times when the filters seize onto the lens, are the worst parts of using circular screw-ons. This is a simple solution, but unfortunately has its own downsides to then consider. Personally, wide-angle photography is an area where I’m most often using filters such as a neutral density, so as much as I love the idea of the product, the execution is somewhat limiting.
All available sizes of XUME lens adapters, filter holders, and kits can be purchased through B&H Photo.