Reviews |LEE FILTER LEE ELEMENTS BIG STOPPER

LEE FILTER LEE ELEMENTS BIG STOPPER Review

Lee Elements Big Stopper Review
Review

Price when reviewed

£215

$175
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Our Verdict

When the Big Stopper was first released, it was big news as it was one of only a few high-quality and affordable ten stop neutral density filters available. The only issue aside from the initial price was that you had to invest in a complete filter system to use it. The Big Stopper was only available in the 100 and 150mm filter system formats.

Now the Big Stopped is available in the LEE ELEMENTS screw-in range, enabling you to attach the filter directly into the filter thread of your lens without the need for a filter system. This makes using the new Big Stopper extremely convenient, lightweight and easy to use.

The quality is excellent and as with the rest of the ELEMENTS range, it arrives in a tough plastic case that helps protect it from knocks in the kit bag.

In use, the filter does the job beyond expectations. Sure enough, the LEE ELEMENTS Big Stopper extends exposures, but there is a difference if you’re familiar with the square filter system version. With the old system filter version, it was often better to focus before inserting it into the filter system here; with the ELEMENTS version, the AF system on the Sony A7 III continued to work without issue. Out in the field, the filter was quick to install, easy to use and equally easy to remove, all much easier and quicker than the rectangular filter system equivalent.

I went back to the studio and checked the images, and the results were good. The tonal range and detail captured were excellent, with only a slight contrast boost. What is surprising is the lack of colour cast. I would’ve expected a slight coolness as I’ve seen previously with Big Stopper filters, but here there’s nothing; it’s just a nice clean long, exposure image.

Ultimately the LEE FILTERS LEE ELEMENT Big Stopper is extremely convenient to use. The fact that you can quickly screw it into the front of your lens without a filter system makes it a great neutral density solution that you can always carry with you.

The manufacture and the optical quality show that this new Big Stopper is essential for serious landscape photographers. However, when you consider that you can now pick up the LEE FILTERS Big Stopper in a 100 mm or 150 mm filter system for between 50 to 60% less, the price of the LEE ELEMENTS version does seem steep.

For

  • Massively extend exposures
  • No visible colour cast
  • Exceptional optical quality

Against

  • Expensive

What is the LEE FILTERS LEE ELEMENTS Big Stopper?

The LEE ELEMENTS Big Stopper is a must-have filter for any serious landscape photographer. The filter reduces the amount of light that travels through the lens by ten steps. Doing so extends exposures so that you can capture smooth seas and fluffy clouds, even on a bright sunny day.

While previous Big Stoppers have only been available in a filter system where adapters and filter holders were required, the Big Stopper is part of the new screw-in LEE ELEMENTS range. Just pick the diameter for your lens filter thread, and that’s it.

The filter is available in several sizes, including 67, 72, 77 and 82 mm, which should cover most lenses. You can always use a step-down ring if you have a lens outside of these diameters.

Lee Elements Big Stopper Review

Performance

What I like about the LEE ELEMENTS range is the convenience of the simple screw-in approach that gives you access to the high-quality optics of LEE FILTERS without the need for a filter system. It is more convenient to use and saves a huge amount of space in your kit bag, and as I found during the test, I was more likely to take the Big Stopper with me on a daily walk than I was with the full filter system.

In this test, I’ve looked at the 82 mm version of the LEE ELEMENTS Big Stopper, and I have used this in combination with the Sony 24-70mm F/2.8 lens. The combination of the two offers a flexible and convenient solution that easily fits in a small day pack, even if I do not intend to take long exposures.

The LEE ELEMENTS Big Stopper instantly proved itself as a must-have filter. I quickly realised that I could leave the Big Stopper on the front of the lens a lot of time rather than having to disassemble a filter system. Then when I see a shot that I want, I can remove the camera, mount it on a tripod and get the shot. OK, unclipping the old filter system wasn’t exactly time-consuming, but having this screw-in filter, you find it’s just ready to go.

Lee Elements Big Stopper Review

One of the other features of the LEE FILTERS LEE ELEMENTS Big Stopper that I found was that the AF system on Sony A7 III was able to focus perfectly well. Using the Big Stopper filter system version, I found it better to focus, switch the lens to manual, and then pop in the filter before taking the shot. Otherwise, the Big Stopper could confuse the AF system.

Now, however, with the LEE ELEMENTS Big Stopper, I found that the Big Stopper could focus easily in almost all conditions. The AF became an issue when using smaller apertures or when the light started to dip with a heavily overcast sky. In these instances I just opened up the aperture to let enough light through to enable the camera to focus, switched to manual focus and then closed the aperture down.

The Big Stopper is a filter that you would usually use in isolation, however, there is a front filter thread so accessories such as a lens hood, Matte Box or something else could be screwed in place. This also contributes to the slightly thicker look to the filter.

Using the filter is simple, screw it into the front of your lens, select the shooting mode you want, make sure the focus is locked on and take the shot. I found that keeping the histogram on enabled me to check the tonal information of each shot and helped adjust the settings correctly; then, zooming into the image helped to ensure that everything was captured in focus.

Lee Elements Big Stopper Review

Interestingly, in the past, I have found that using auto white balance rather than daylight would result in some cool colour hues; however, the AWB setting seemed to do a great job. Any changes in coatings or the distance of the glass from the lens seem to have made a difference to WB and AF reliability.

Back home and checking through the images and the lack of colour cast throughout the sequence was again apparent; I really would’ve expected some type of cast to be full of these pictures.

Checking over the image quality, the images were full of tonal detail with well-reproduced colours; if anything, I would say that there was a slight increase in contrast, not that you will notice unless you’re looking for it.

Lee Elements Big Stopper Review

LEE FILTERS LEE ELEMENTS Big Stopper Sample image

Lee Elements Big Stopper Review

LEE FILTERS LEE ELEMENTS Big Stopper Sample image

Lee Elements Big Stopper Review

LEE FILTERS LEE ELEMENTS Big Stopper Sample image

Lee Elements Big Stopper Review

LEE FILTERS LEE ELEMENTS Big Stopper Sample image

Overall the performance of the LEE FILTERS LEE ELEMENTS Big Stopper has been exceptional. The filter is easy to fit, screwing into place smoothly and enabling the capture of images that would be impossible without it. On many levels, the LEE ELEMENTS Big Stopper wins out over the filter system equivalent simply by being that much easier to use and a filter that you can always carry with you.

Final thoughts

When I saw the LEE FILTERS had created a LEE ELEMENTS version of the Big Stopper, I wasn’t sure how I would feel about it. The Big Stopper has always been about spending time with friends, a trip to a beauty spot to capture a long exposure shot and then the chat and experience around that event. There’s something about just screwing in a filter that takes away from this experience and the slowing of pace that a filter system brings.

Of course, the LEE ELEMENTS version doesn’t stop you from doing this; it just gives you an alternative.

The LEE ELEMENTS Big Stopper is a quick ten stop fix for your long exposure shots. Screw it in, compose, take the shot and move on.

The new version of the Big Stopper is fast and convenient, it also enables you to auto focus, for the most part, without removing and replacing the filter each time you re-compose, and it doesn’t seem to suffer from a colour cast.

I like the LEE ELEMENTS Big Stopper at the end of the review. The filter is fast, convenient and enables you to capture long exposures without needing to Pfaff around with a complete filter system. This means that I can now carry a Big Stopper with me at all times and capture those long exposures whenever I want. Unlike the larger filter system, it does fit into a small backpack along with the camera; this filter can even fit in a jacket pocket.

I will continue to use the rectangular filter system Big Stopper when I’m out with friends. Shooting landscapes with the filter system version brings a slower pace to the process. However, if I’m working and I know that I need to get a long exposure shot, or more importantly, I’m out with the family and time is extremely limited, the LEE ELEMENTS Big Stopper is the filter that I’ll be taking with me.

My one sticking point is that the LEE FILTERS Big Stopper in the 100mm rectangular filter system can now be picked up for almost a third of the price of the LEE FILTERS LEE ELEMENTS Big Stopper; that’s a big jump. The financial jump makes sense for professionals because of the time and convince, but that expense is more difficult to justify for enthusiasts.

For this reason, my feelings about LEE ELEMENTS Big Stopper are mixed. Strip away the price, and you have an extremely high-quality must-have filter. Put the price back into the mix, and you have a filter that can only really be justified for professionals.

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