MAVEN magnetic filters review: great colors, fantastic optics
The MAVEN Color Coded Magnetic Filters are a new collection of magnetized, circular filters made for photography and videography. Like other magnetized filters on the market, these filters instantly attach and detach from the front of a lens using a (provided) magnetized adapter, but with a twist — each filter is a different color.
Need a three stop ND for video? Grab the red filter. Need a ten stop ND for long exposure photography? Grab the gold filter. This is faster and easier than opening a pouch of dark gray filters and squinting at tiny white type.
But what about their usability in the field? Color cast and vignette? Are they worth buying? Let's find out.
- Fantastic color-coded rings
- Near-perfect color accuracy with little-to-no color shift
- Super thin and light
- No mechanical vignette even at wide angle focal lengths
- Compatible with lens hoods
- Circular polarizer problematic when used with solid NDs
Disclosure: MAVEN sent me pre-production filters for this review, but have not paid me to produce it. They have also not read this review prior to publication. This is a purely subjective review based on my experience and qualitative tests.
MAVEN provided me with the following filters for review.
- Splash guard / clear filter (silver)
- Circular polarizer (blue)
- 3 stop solid ND (red)
- 6 stop solid ND (purple)
- 10 stop solid ND (gold)
Each MAVEN filter is constructed using aircraft grade aluminum with thin optical glass made by AGC. Together, these materials make each filter surprisingly light — approximately half the weight of a traditional, circular threaded filter.
The outside of each ring is raised and textured to make the filters easier to grip and hold in the field, or rotate in the case of the circular polarizer (CPL) filter, shown below.
Filter size and type is etched in white type on the back of each filter. The neutral density filters (thankfully) display stops instead of the more traditional, complex nomenclature of "ND8", "ND64", "ND1000", etc, which some circular filters use.
The magnetic adapter ring also has a notched exterior for easier gripping. It threads on just like a circular threaded filter, and provides a base for mounting and removing each filter. Magnetic strength is strong, and easily holds the filters in place; even when carrying the camera.
In addition to the five color coded filters, the complete MAVEN filter kit includes a magnetized lens cap. The cap is strong, durable, and includes an attractive gray felt backing (shown below) that could be used as a white balance target in a pinch. The cap magnetically attaches to the front of a mounted filter and stays in place. The filters do have a habit of sticking to the back of the cap when the cap is removed, but that's normal in my experience using other brands of magnetized filters and caps.
Lens hoods may be used with a MAVEN magnetic adapter and filter mounted to the front of a lens. This is especially helpful when using telephoto hoods and the circular polarizer filter, for the CPL is rotatable with a hood attached.
Quality of optics
Color cast is a common side-effect with any neutral density filter. There is almost always some amount of warming, cooling, or tinting added to photos and videos. A good ND filter should introduce as little color cast as possible to maintain color authenticity and make color matching filtered and unfiltered images easier in post.
To test optical quality, I captured raw images with and without each MAVEN ND filter using a Canon EOS R5. Each image was shot under identical lighting conditions, with identical white balance and exposure settings (with the exception of shutter speed, which was slowed as needed to account for filter density). Any change in color would then be solely attributable to the ND filters.
Here are the results comparing a control image (no filter) to the 3 stop, 6 stop and 10 stop MAVEN solid NDs. All images are straight out of camera with no edits.
Overall, the results are excellent. There is barely any difference between the control image and the filtered images. The 6 stop filter is a touch warmer (which could be an anomaly in my pre-production copy), but compared to other solid ND filters I've tested, the color cast is very slight. Perhaps this is something MAVEN could look into before shipping their first batch of filters.
The 3 and 10 stop ND filters on the other hand are practically perfect. It's hard to tell the difference between the filtered and unfiltered images.
To test vignette, I used my widest full frame lens set to 16mm and captured raw images of a blank white wall with and without an ND filter. Here is the result, with the control image on the left (no filter), and the MAVEN 3 stop ND on the right.
There is a tiny amount of additional darkening around the edges and corners, perhaps due to the filter blocking some light from entering the lens from the side. Otherwise, no mechanical vignette (where the edges of a filter are partially visible). These results are similar to other thin solid NDs I've used and tested in the past.
Overall, I would perfectly comfortable shooting wide angle with these NDs and not worry about vignette.
Circular polarizer and ND
Can the magnetized circular polarizer (CPL) be used with a solid ND? Technically, yes, it is possible to mount and use both filters simultaneously. Because the CPL attaches magnetically, it's easy to rotate and filter light at any angle.
Vignette is typically a problem whenever circular filters are stacked, so I tested vignette using a stacked CPL on top of a 10 stop solid ND and saw little additional vignette at 16mm full frame (see below). The two filters performed more or less the same as the single ND vignette test from above. I attribute this performance to the very profile of both filters.
Keep in mind these results can be different depending on camera/lens make and model, so it's always a good idea to perform your own wide angle tests with any mounted filter.
I sprayed water on each filter to see how well their "hydrophobic nano-coating" repelled moisture. In my tests, the water beaded-up nicely, and was easy to wipe away using a microfiber cloth without smearing or water spots. This means the filters could be easily wiped dry and cleaned when getting wet in the field.
In the field, I instantly fell in love with MAVEN's color coded system. It took very little time for me to learn the meaning of each color. My vision also isn't that great close-up, so being able to instantly grab the right filter without squinting at tiny white type created less friction in my workflow and made the overall hassle of using filters less so.
I also appreciate being able to quickly remove and reattach filters when using autofocus with the 6 and 10 stop NDs (camera autofocus can sometimes struggle with dark glass in front). I can quickly remove an ND filter, allow the camera's autofocus to set a focal point, turn autofocus off, pop the filter back on, then click the shutter. For me, the speed is comparable to sliding square solid NDs in and out of a holder.
Design wise, each filter looks great and is professionally manufactured. The filters feel very light, especially when compared to heavier, circular brass filters made by other manufacturers. For a landscape photographer like me who's always trying to conserve weight when packing a backpack, their lightweight construction is a great feature.
The ND filters work beautifully for still photography when slowing down clouds and water for dramatic effect. For video, the 3 and 6 stop NDs are great when following the 180-degree shutter rule, and I like not having to worry about cross polarization or exposure anomalies (which is a common side effect of variable NDs). Videographers will appreciate their speed when magnetically removing or swapping filters while shooting.
To use the filters on smaller diameter lenses (than whichever magnetized mount came with the filters), MAVEN is also selling a variety of magnetized step-up rings. For example, as pictured below, I can use a 72-82mm adapter to mount my 82mm filters to a lens with a 72mm filter thread.
I tested two magnetized step-up rings against traditional, aluminum step-up rings, and it was no contest. The magnetized step-up rings were not only much easier and simpler to use, but also improved vignette performance because they're thinner than mounting a step-up ring to the back of the magnetized mount. (Note however that some lens hoods may not mount with these magnetized step-up rings.)
Other accessories worth checking out are the MAVEN cases and bags. I tested two of the "Q" cases, and they do a good job of protecting and organizing the filters when not in use. I especially like how small and compact the cases are when packed in a camera backpack compared to bulky, padded pouches I've used in the past.
Overall, I'm impressed with the MAVEN magnetic filters. The collection is well built, lightweight, easy to sort and use in the field, and the optics are top quality. Great filters for all types of photo and video work.
Below is the video version of this review. (Note that this video was recorded when the filters were being offered through a crowd-funded campaign which has since ended.)