Reviewing the new LEE100 holder by LEE Filters
I had the opportunity to test the new LEE100 holder a few weeks prior to the launch which is being released on Saturday the 16th March 2019 at The Photography Show in Birmingham .
If you’re into landscape photography you cannot do without a set of good quality filters. I’ve been using LEE filters for the past 7 years, after trying various other brands having all their pros and cons, but it all boiled down to a few requirements. Obviously goes without saying,the glass quality which has to be neutral; the versatility and ease of use during a shoot. Now after 25 years of service the LEE foundations kit is retiring and the LEE100 Filter Holder is replacing it. Below is my personal view on it’s new improved features.
What are the main new design features?
1. Easy to reconfigure filter-guide blocks without the need of a screw driver
2. A new Polariser with knurled edge for better grip during rotation
3. Easy to clip on and off the polariser without having to screw/unscrew the filter
4. Locking Dial with an innovative 3-way locking dial mechanism that allows you to use the holder in a variety of ways
5. Compatibility with previous adapter rings*
The holder made of glass filled nylon is lightweight, strong and robust. The weight remained practically the same. When weighed on a digital scale the LEE100 Holder with the new Polariser attached, weighs 116 grams, while the previous version weighs 124 grams.
The new guide system is now modular and tapered to maximise the use of ultra wide angle lenses and can be reconfigured without the need of a screwdriver to alter the guide set-up.
The new polariser comes packed in a dual zip pouch with soft inlays.
One of the best features I found with the new system is the quick and easy way of attaching and detaching the polariser to the holder, the LEE100 polariser simply clips on the front of the holder.
This was one of the main issues I had with the previous version. Most of the time it was very difficult to mount and remove the polariser to the ring, especially in cold weather when my fingers become numb and unscrewing it from the ring becomes very difficult. The new system makes it easier and safer during a shoot in difficult situations, where you are working against time to replace filters.
Most of the time I preferred replacing the holder completely and clip on a spare which I carry with me just in case I loose or drop the main holder. It was also very important to clean the thread of both filter and ring from shoot to shoot due to sea spray or fine sand, this was prone to corrosion if not cleaned properly, even fine sand could deposit in the thread making it very difficult to unscrew from the ring.
The new LEE100 system is more user friendly, the new polariser simply clips on the front of the holder and has a knurled edge along the circumference making it is easier to rotate and set the desired intensity.
It is recommended that the operation is best carried out off-camera, and with the holder flat in your hand. Not only it is easier, but it also prevents the filter from being dropped during fitting.
The new polariser and the ring have merged into one single unit making it safer and quicker than the previous version. Sometimes during a shoot it happened to me to rotate the polariser anti-clockwise, if this was not screwed properly to the ring it could accidentally unscrew the polariser off from the ring and could result in dropping it.
The new holder has a 3-way locking mechanism.
Neutral position – still able to turn the holder and set the grad in the desired position
Half-lock position – the holder is locked to the adapter ring and cannot be knocked-off, however it can still be rotated freely.
Full-lock – The holder is not only locked to the ring, but it cannot be rotated, I found this feature very useful especially when using reverse grads, to lock the horizon in place and preventing the holder from turning. I think this is a big step forward in the design and minimises the chance of mis-aligning the grads to the horizon.
All the previous adapter rings are still compatible with the new holder, although with some older adapter rings the rotation lock may not fully work *
There is an improvement also in the filter guides where I noticed that sliding in and out the filters feels smoother and is much easier when it comes to remove one and slide in a different density. On location every minute counts, so it is essential that gear is made up to ease the process as much as possible.
When it comes to vignette I tested it with a Nikkor 16-35mm f4 lens on both Nikon D800 and D810, using both 2 and 3 guide-blocks for testing purposes. At 16mm focal length and 2 guides the holder is not visible but I could see the guides when mounting the third guide. This is not a big issue since it will be easily removed when profiling the lens correction in Photoshop camera Raw.
I am happy with the new features, and personally I think that this is a considerable improvement in design and ease of use, LEE filters have once again proved to be a leading brand when it comes to neutral density filters and innovation.