Lee Filters LEE100 Holder Review
Updated: May 3
Exciting times, One of my favourite companies, Lee Filters has released a brand new filter holder and polariser !
Being a bit of a Lee Filters fan boy I simply couldn't wait to get hold of one to put through its paces and try.
Those of you who follow this blog know I always shoot with them and really don't have a bad word to say about them.
The review I did of the Lee Filters Landscape Polariser will have left you in no doubt how much I liked the product and how much faith I put in it, so why change ?
Well after some seriously heavy use for a couple of years my polariser had become stuck to the holder and while it still rotated it meant I couldn't take it off which was a bit of a problem as not every shot requires its use but most however needed a filter so I was left with no choice.
Around this time Lee Filters announced the new LEE100 system and I must admit I really liked the look of it so I forked out the hefty sum of £317 for both the LEE100 holder and the LEE100 Polariser (I will review this separately)
Now some might say I didn't need to do this because Lee Filters market an adaptor ring for the new LEE100 system so you can use your old Lee 105 mm landscape Polariser with it for an additional £42 which would have then cost me just a "measly" £125 for the holder and adaptor.
The only problem was Wex Photography didn't have stock of the adaptor ring and I wanted it all right now plus my older filter had become a little stiff so I figured why not have the new stuff, after all I use it so often and considered it and investment and handy to have a spare.
So, What was the main difference ?
The original filter holder did have a problem with pinging off the lens mount every so often when using a heavier set up with a polariser and not only could it cause damage to the filters, worse case if the holder dropped off a cliff with two grads, a polariser and a holder on then it was a VERY costly error. (I speak from experience)
Lee Filters quietly rolled out a slightly revised version of their now famous holder a couple of years ago and this had a much stronger spring and clip on which did the job perfectly and in the two years I used mine I never had a single instance of it coming off the lens mount.
The new holder had a locking facility which would guarantee it wouldn't fly off when least expected and that alone was enough to convince me that the £83 price tag was worth it.
I waited for the postman to drop off my new toys and when they got here I was ultra excited and opened the holder box.
My first impression wasn't good if I'm honest, it felt quite cheap and flimsy compared to the old one.
It had a mock carbon fibre effect on it but it did feel lighter than the old version. It did however come with a nice velvet feel bag to keep the holder safe and another for the guides and removal tool.
The locking clip was my real cause for concern though, it was flimsy and plastic and frankly not what I expected from a company like Lee Filters where quality is never compromised.
The locking clip had 3 positions to it, Unlocked which would allow you to easily remove the filter in the usual manner by pulling the clip out. Position two would allow you to rotate the filter holder but it would be locked so it wouldn't come off and finally position three would keep the filter not only locked onto the lens mount but it would also stop the rotate facility so you could guarantee no accidental movement.
Now in theory this all sounded very good, however in practice it just wasn't the same.
Position one worked as it was meant too, the filter went on, could be rotated and was easily removed, So far so good.
Position two and position three however seemed to do exactly the same thing ? The filter was indeed locked on but could only be rotated with some serious force, neither was any looser than the other so unless I had misunderstood the Lee Filters explanation (which I'm certain I hadn't) then it didn't work.
The overall feel of the LEE100 holder bothered me, it just felt cheap and likely to break, not like the old well made warhorse that was the MK1 holder.
It did however come with some good new innovation in the filter guides, These were now removable in the field without the use of a fiddly screwdriver and no risk of dropping screws into long grass and losing them.
The LEE100 came with several different guides so it was now possible to run a single filter or up to 3 filters just by changing the guides (and of course the snap on/off polariser too)
This was a major positive as it meant you could carry spares with you as they weighed nothing and the whole holder was in fact 16 grams lighter than its predecessor anyway.
I had a go at adding and removing the guides which was fairly easy but required a special tool (which comes with the LEE100) and although it was a little bit fiddly to start with I soon got the hang of it and liked it.
The main bonus for me was the new Polariser on the LEE100 holder that would simply clip in and out easily allowing you to remove it quickly when not needed.
I slotted the polariser onto the LEE100 holder and I have to say it was really easy and as I gave it a rotate and I was instantly happier that the earlier issues would pale into insignificance, This was till I tried to remove it again.
To say I had to wrestle with the filter would be an understatement.
Now I'm sure there is a technique to this and the fact it was new and hadn't "bedded in" yet may well have been the cause, but it simply didn't get any easier.
I looked online to make sure I was doing it correctly and I was, it was simply a pig of a job to remove and not what I wanted at all. The whole idea of purchasing this new system was for speed and easy changes.
Having tried the system out on numerous trips I can say it does stay on the lens and from that point of view its good, But the product is a massive disappointment in terms of build quality and mainly down to the ultra fragile feeling blue clip that simply doesn't feel up to the job.
I've always purchased Lee Filters because their quality is second to none and everything is perfectly machined and does exactly what it say it will, This holder just doesn't live up to that.
I have seriously considered getting my old polariser sorted out so I can remove it again and switching back to my old holder, Thats how disappointed I am in the new LEE100 system.
I can't help but feel Lee Filters rushed this design out, desperate to be current and innovative as lots of other manufactures were snapping around their heels and this could well be the downfall of the LEE100 system in my humble opinion.
If you haven't used the old system and this is your first one then you will probably be fairly happy with it with the exception of the flimsy plastic clip which I defy anyone to say is a quality piece.
If however you have the old system then I really would urge you not to upgrade, because you will be as disappointed as I am with it and probably switch back to the old system.
In short it will be a waste of money.
The idea was there Lee Filters but the execution was poor and I can't help but feel when you are charging for a premium product with a premium price tag but you have massively under delivered.
I never thought I would see the day when I would fall out of love with Lee Filters but this really has tested my feelings towards them.
USER EXPERIENCE 7/10
TOTAL 36/50 - 70%
Simply not as good build quality as the original holder, had some nice touches and could have been good but was ruined by poor build quality and cheap components.
Just about the only thing that I did like on this holder was the much needed ability to lock it to the filter ring to stop accidents happening with it, Other than that there really isn't anything else to say on it, save your hard earned cash and buy a second hand mk 1 holder and lee landscape polariser which will all be coming up on e bay cheap as photographers such as myself all rushed out to by the latest and greatest product, Glad I kept my old kit, You will be too.
I have been using this now for quite a few months (5 in fact) and some of my initial concerns have now eased a touch, The plastic type clip hasn't broken and the holder has eased in a bit and now turns relatively easily.
I still wouldn't say i'm happy with it all but i do think better of it now than my first findings.
On a side note the new Polariser is excellent and does work very well with this system and has again loosened off a bit and can now be removed quickly.
I have now updated my initial scoring to reflect this.