Recently home from a long stint on the island of Unst, Shetland, which is the most northerly isle of the UK, I have taken some time out to catch up with working on my website, including some long overdue thoughts on kit. I don't do reviews as such, they seem quite pointless, generally comparing one product against another. Everything has a specific use so these kit posts are more of a 'user experience'.
I've been a long time LEE filter user and they have always been seen to be the best, with a reputation won over long years working with great photographers. When landscape photographers in particular are starting out on their journey, investing in the relevant LEE system would in most cases take their photography to the next level, giving a professional finish to their images with a system that is simple and effective in use. The past couple of years however have seen LEE facing more competition in the market place, with manufacturers adding little touches of their own. It was getting to the point where LEE had to respond to the competition. But how do you improve on something as simple as a filter holder and one that already does a great job of its intended use?
It seems that the boffins at LEE got their heads together and came up with a few interesting improvements to the classic 100mm holder and gave it a fresh new look at the same time. The most welcome improvement for me has to be the lockable dial. It has to be said that you had to be very careful with the older design, if you were rushing, which is often the case when we're working in challenging weather conditions or simply when we encounter fleeting light, as the old holder could be knocked off the ring quite easily. I'd had that happen myself just a couple of times over many years but luckily managed to catch the holder before it hit the ground with my precious filters attached; some of my workshop clients have not been quite so lucky and have smashed filters on rocky shorelines due to knocking the older system. To have this new lockable holder is of great reassurance, it's also quick and easy to use with the knurled lock being chunkier and less fiddly than on the old system.
Another improvement is the new filter guide block system. The 100mm holder comes with three sets of guide blocks consisting of options to hold 1, 2 or 3 filters. These new guide blocks are quick to remove and replace once you have the hang of it, coming with a small blue lever to clip them out; no screwdrivers or fiddly little screws necessary. Personally I always keep the 2 slot blocks attached as I don't tend to use any more filters than that, although that doesn't include the polariser which has also had a huge improvement! Essentially the new polariser clips on and off the holder with a secure and solid click. Users of the old system will remember that the polariser could be quite tricky to attach, especially out in the field in bad conditions.
The new holder is also lighter whilst feeling more solid than the original and is better ergonomically, being easier to handle. So, for a relatively simple item, huge improvements all round.
Hermaness, Unst - LEE 100mm system 0.6 hard grad, polariser and Hood.
LEE have also very recently updated their hood for the 100mm system. Historically the hood wasn't something I'd take out on every outing as I do like to travel light a lot of the time, however you can guarantee that on the occasions that I didn't take it with me I wished I had! With that being the case more often than not I will carry it with me these days. The hood shades the lens from glare and direct or off-angle light. It's very rare that I'll shoot in the direction of the sun but I'll frequently shoot with a strong side light as in the image above. On occasion in situations like the one above I have had glare appear in the image, often when using multiple filters, and the hood eliminates this risk.
As it comes, with a particularly useful heavy duty case.
Inside the case
With the holder attached
The new hood has also seen huge improvements. The hood fits easily and securely on to the new holder via the four blue locking tabs, which are adjustable in height to correspond with the thickness of your chosen filter guide block. Other features include the facility to easily fit and remove the polariser ring, and the hood can be rotated independently from the filter holder, thus enabling the user to rotate a grad without impacting on the angle and position of the hood.
LEE 100mm system - polariser, 0.9 medium grad & hood.
The hood is also water resistant and can withstand a bit of light rain or drizzle, which is one of the main reasons that I carry it. It also protects from sea spray that we often encounter on coastal shoots, obviously not head on in to the lens, but as with the above image, I was encountering sea spray from the side and the hood kept my filters dry and clear whilst also controlling any glare that could have been produced from the strong side light.
LEE 100mm system - polariser, 0.6 very hard grad, 10 stop ProGlass IRND & hood.
LEE 100mm system - polariser, 0.6 hard grad, 6 stop ProGlass IRND filter & hood.
To conclude, with these new improvements from LEE, the whole set up feels like a cohesive, well thought out modular system, with each component intuitively connecting. These improvements have brought a welcome reassurance and ease of use in the field. Another plus is that the case for the new hood is very useful: the case will close comfortably even with the holder attached so that you are good to go upon arriving at your location, a nice little touch.
I hope you enjoy the other images below and many thanks for reading.
LEE 100mm system in action on Unst the most northerly isle of the UK.
The most northerly photographer in the UK! ;-)
LEE 100mm system - 0.9 reverse grad, 6 stop ProGlass IRND & hood.