Lee Filters Landscape Polariser Review
Updated: Sep 15
This week I thought I would do a review of a product that all landscape photographers should own, The polarising filter.
So why should you own one of these ? What can they do to improve your photography ? Can you live without one ?
All questions I hope to be able to answer and give you a bit of background into as well.
What is a Polariser ?
The basics of a polarising filter are pretty simple really, it’s a small filter that goes in front of the lens that when twisted will remove glare from water or shiny surfaces.
This comes in handy more often than you would think and don't for a second feel it is only useful near water because it will aid your exposures on areas like shiny rocks too, not to mention adding beautiful saturation to your images and a real punch.
Have you ever seen those shots where the sky is a beautiful punchy blue colour ? But when you have tried yourself it never comes out quite the same ? Well, chances are the photographer was using a Polarising filter.
The filter itself looks just like a piece of clear flat glass but it is in fact full of what can be described as microscopic slats which manage the light and glare.
Twist it one way and it will block the light, the other and it allows it through. This means that reflections or polarised light can now be blocked out of an image.
There are several bits of software that claim to offer a polarised effect but none of them can actually successfully reproduce the effect of a manual polariser and I wouldn't recommend using them at all, As I've said many times, get it right "in camera" and then you won't need to post process.
You can use a polariser to good effect in most situations but its at its most effective and noticeable if you use it at an angle of 90 degrees to the sun.
When using a polariser it also has the added benefit of increasing your exposure by up to 1 + 2/3rd's of a stop as well which is very handy for the type of shots where you want to add a slight bit of movement to your image.
Polarisers come in two varieties usually, Circular or CPL as they are usually better known or Linear.
The name doesn't refer to the shape of the filter, it's to do with the way the light is modified as it passes through the filter itself.
If you're using a digital autofocus SLR camera where you rely on the cameras metering system then you will need to make sure you only use the Circular Polariser, due to the way the Linear polariser allows light through it will mess with your cameras metering function. If you are using a manual focus non metered camera then you can use either type of filter without any issues.
Polarisers are mainly mounted on the front of the lens where they screw in, then usually a filter ring is placed over the top of it to which you attach your graduated filters (you all know how much i rave about these)
This system however brings its own issues, if you are using polyester graduated filters then they should be behind the Polariser and not in front of it.
Top quality versions like Lee Filters Grads are made from resin so the problem doesn't happen but well worth noting if you do use the polyester type.
The other issue I have found with these polarisers that fit directly to the front is that rotating them when they have a filter ring attached can prove very difficult and in some cases the filter itself can twist round in the middle of a shot which obviously causes a great deal of issue.
If only someone would make a front mounted Polariser that can rotate independently of the graduated filters I hear you cry ! Well, they did. Enter the Lee Polariser.
Photographers everywhere rejoiced at this as it opened up new possibilities and made everything so much easier to use. No longer would your filters twist around when you didn't want them too and no more struggling to get the filter ring off when it would just twist over and over again as you couldn't get a grip on it.
The Lee Polariser was a game changer, that is till we started shooting with wide angle lenses.
The problem manifested itself in the form of vignetting which although some people actually like it's generally not something you wanted. So people would shoot slightly further back and crop their images but this was merely side stepping the issue and not solving it.
Innovative as ever Lee Filters brought out the landscape polariser which is a slimmed down version of the same thing, once again it was a game changer and landscape photographers everywhere once again had their edge back. Shooting with a wide angle lens right down to 16 mm on a full frame camera is now possible ! Very handy as I just so happen to use a Canon 16-35mm lens for 80% of my shots on a full frame body.
So now you have a bit of background on the polariser and what it can do i'll get on with the review itself.
Most of you who read these will know that I'm a bit of a fan of Lee filters but I promise you an unbiased and factual review on the product.
The Lee Landscape Polariser - Review
So I decided to treat myself to one of these recently to coincide with my trip to Wales, I had seen them and fancied one for a long time but it's an expensive item and I had put it off as I already had a polariser which did the job.
The upgrade wasn't an easy choice as it costs roughly £174.00 including VAT (depending where you look, cheaper prices can be found but I strongly recommend using a tried and trusted dealer) and on top of that price you will need the metal accessory ring to fit it to your Lee system which costs a further £39.00 (including VAT) at the time of writing these are the prices quoted by Lee Filter Dealer, Linhof Studio who I highly recommend and buy all my Lee Filters from. You can visit there website by clicking HERE
So at just over £200 it isn't the cheapest of filters, but its absolute quality and that doesn't come cheap.
The first thing you will notice when you take it out of the packaging is just how solid and well built the Lee is.
I can't emphasise this enough having used many different ones over the past few years this is the first one that actually feels substantial and feeling of instant confidence in the product is born.
The accessory filter ring is easily attached to your Lee Filter system (I use the 100 system but this is also available for the Lee Seven5 micro filter system) you simply remove the existing screws and then the top protector guide from each side, place the ring over and screw in.
This again is a solid and really well made adaptor with very easy fitting. This filter ring is designed to be a permanent fixture to your filter holder although it can be removed in a couple of minutes if you should need to.
The Landscape Polariser is then screwed onto this accessory ring and the whole thing clips to the front of your camera on the adaptor ring.
The fitting is nice and tight and grips well but you should not transport the camera with the ring in place as accidents can happen and its possible to knock it off if you give it a hard clump or catch it.
The filter itself comes with a well made protective pouch which will keep your filter safe in your bag or while transporting your camera, there is also a metal box which lee make for ultimate protection which I also have and prefer being a cautious old bugger, although this is a separate option and doesn't come with the product.
So first impressions were very, very good, it all fitted together very nicely and worked well and was very well made, time to take it out for a test ride.
I decided to try a few shots with my original slimline polarising filter on the front as a comparison too see how the Lee shaped up to it.
My previous filter was a good quality version and not cheap so I felt it would be a decent test. I took my shots then removed it (a task in itself with the lens mounted ones) Placed the Lee Landscape Polariser on and took some more shots. The difference in the area that was being affected by the Lee was very, very clear.
Not only did I feel that it had reduced the glare significantly over the other filter but it had also given the image far more punch and a much more pleasing tone.
The Lee Landscape Polariser actually has a small degree of tint to it to warm up a scene, it's the equivalent to a 81a warm up filter for those geeks out there ;)
This really helped add punch and depth to browns, golds and greens in the images and an all round warmer feel to the image, I liked it very much.
I looked closely for any signs of vignetting and I have to be honest there simply wasn't any there ? I expected to see a small bit as I had been plagued in the past with it from other filters but this one was doing exactly what it said, a rare thing.
At this point id like to tell you that I did many further test between the two filters, the truth however is I didn't. I liked the Lee a lot and was so impressed with the difference it made it just stayed on. The other filter was swiftly thrown in its pouch and will remain there as an emergency only spare.
The ease of the Lee system was a huge bonus and very addictive when you have struggled with screw on lens type for so long, simply clip on or off, no twisting to position, mount the ring then watch it change. No more frustrations, in a nutshell it was simple and effective.
I tried the lee under a variety of conditions from glaring reflections on water to shiny rocky surfaces and it handled them with ease, The image quality seemed to go up by a decent margin too.
I shot with it for my whole week in Wales and have used it for around a month and I just can't see myself ever changing it.
The performance and build quality make this filter absolutely essential in my eyes and of course it's designed to work with my existing Lee system.
While shooting a range of waterfalls recently it really brought home to me just how good this filter is. Waterfalls can be a challenge when its bright and of course there is usually a fair bit of reflected light going on but the Lee Landscape Polariser just cut through it, it virtually disappeared completely leaving a lovely well balanced image with added punch from the autumn leaves due to the warm up effect.
I started this review by saying it was quite expensive and if you haven't used one then it probably still sounds it, my opinion however has completely changed and I now think this filter is worth its weight in gold and the cost of it doesn't even make me bat an eyelid anymore because it really does perform that well.
If you're contemplating buying one just go ahead and do it as you won't regret it, no other filter I've ever used has come close to this one.
I'm sure it sounds like I'm over doing the praise for this but it really does deserve it.
I would like to mention at this point too that Lee Filters are a superb company to deal with and they have really great customer service and due to some queries I recently had I found out first hand just how much I value this.
They were helpful, gave the best customer service I have ever experienced and nothing was too much trouble for them. This combined with the effectiveness of their filter system makes it an essential purchase.
You cannot have kit that lets you down when your out in the field or a company that doesn't support it.
Lee Filters are at the very top of their game cause of this and I salute them and will continue to buy their products and use them exclusively. If you wish to see the products Lee make and read some more about them then please click HERE
So final round up, it's an easy choice. 10 out of 10 for this first class company and product, I simply couldn't be happier.
I'll leave you with a few images i have taken in the past month with the Lee polariser, thanks for looking.As always, happy shooting.
Taken along the Dorset Stour, The Polariser really helped to reduce the glare coming from the water and to emphasise the colours reflecting from it and add punch to the leaves.
Another situation where water reflection was a real problem but the Lee Polariser cut through it and gave me the colours that the eye could see but the camera couldn't.
The cloud behind was a nice shade but using a ND Graduated filter would have really made the cliffs suffer on the exposure, The Lee Polariser darkened this portion of the sky just nicely to emphasise the colours.
I put this one on to emphasise the colouring of the golds & greens in the picture. The Lee Polariser really does make all the difference on these shots.
This shot really shows the difference it can make, the light was bouncing off the cliff and i really wanted to catch it but the reflection off the water was killing the shot, The Lee Polariser however made all the difference and was able to catch the colour reflection and reduce the glare.
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