The LEE FILTERS ELEMENTS VND (2-5 stop) is close to perfection. The design is simple, slimline and of exceptional quality.
While using filters can seem like a faff, the difference you’ll see in your photography and video work when using this VND will instantly make the time it takes to fit seem worthwhile. When I say time, I’m not talking masses, just a few seconds, maybe a minute, once you’ve located the filter, removed it from the case and fitted it.
When shooting outdoor portraits, the LEE FILTERS ELEMENT VND (2-5 stop) makes controlling the exposure easier at the shutter speeds and apertures I want.
What’s really special about this filter is that the colour cast is next to nothing, slightly warm at the most, but for the most part, unnoticeable.
The real must-have use comes when shooting video. Popped onto the front of the lens and you instantly have more control over the depth of field whilst maintaining the correct shutter speed and, again, only the slightest signs of a warm colour cast.
Aside from screwing the filter onto the lens, there is nothing optically or design-wise that I can fault with the LEE FILTERS ELEMENT VND (2-5 stop).
Outstanding optical quality
slight warm colour cast
What is the LEE FILTERS ELEMENT VND (2-5 stop)?
The new LEE FILTERS ELEMENTS range has hit the mark for today’s hybrid photographers/videographers. You have the speed and convenience of a screw-in filter but with the market-leading quality offered by LEE FILTERS, a brand better associated with their rectangular filter systems.
The filter is a variable neutral density (VND) that covers the lower end of the light reduction range, which can make the effects subtle. Used for photography, this is an ideal solution for outdoor portraiture where you want to shoot with the aperture wide open. Used for video, this type of VND is widely used to control exposure and adhere to the all-important 180º shutter rule.
The design of the filter itself is simple, with two polarisers mounted together, and the effect is adjusted by rotating the front ring. LEE FILTERS has carefully designed the rings so that each ring’s outer edge is knurled differently, making it easy to distinguish which is which.
On edge are marked the ND amounts from 2 to 5 stops, so you know the exact amount of exposure reduction. These markings are handy if you need to work out exposure times. That attention to detail continues with the physical rotation stoppers that prevent you from overly rotating the front element, which can cause cross polarisation.
Diameter: 67, 72, 77, 82mm
Fit: Lens filter thread
Neutral Density range: 2 to 5 stop
Starting with the plastic case, I was a little reserved at first. Compared with the instant impressiveness style of the old metal cases that came with the original Big Stopper, the plastic case didn’t have that same wow factor. However, there’s a reason for that, the case is tough and extremely protective, and while it isn’t waterproof, it can withstand more than a shock or two.
In this instance, the quality of the case is so important because this filter is extremely expensive, and breaking it whilst it’s in the case would be devastating. If any case is going to protect the LEE FILTERS ELEMENT VND (2-5 stop), it will be this one.
Removing the filters and the two sections of the variable ND rotate beautifully smoothly wth the edges nicely knurled so you can feel the difference between the two. To fit the filter, it’s just a case of screwing directly into the filter thread of your lens, with the filter being available in several different diameters to suit a wide range of lenses and manufacturers.
In this test, I’m using the 82mm on a Sony A7 3 with 24-70mm f/2.8.
Once in place, the front element can be rotated to adjust the exposure. The quality of glass and ND effect is instantly apparent compared with other variable Neutral Density Filters that I have used recently. There’s only the slightest visible sign of a warm colour cast and no vignette around the edges; the frame is clear and crisp, as if there was no filter in place. The effect is solely the change in exposure times as the element is rotated, at least to the eye.
The amount of exposure reduction created by the filter is enough to control the exposure times while still enabling the AF to work without issue. Used to take a few landscape shots, and the filter’s effect was enough to extend filter times; and on a bright day, it was possible to open up the aperture to f/2.8 while still having a shutter speed that was well below the 1/8000 limit of the camera.
Where I have really found the filter to come into its own is when shooting video. The ability to stop between 2 and 5 stops of exposure enabled me to keep the shutter speed at 1/60th when shooting 1080p 30fps helping to ensure smooth motion.
Not only does this help with the motion quality of the footage it also helps boost the tonal content by enabling better control of the exposure.
The use of the filter is simple, but it enables an exact refinement of your settings to enable the look and style you’re after without compromising. The price is beyond what I would have thought I would pay for a variable ND, but when I consider the amount of time that this filter has saved me when processing video, it would have more than paid for itself, it is outstanding.
The ELEMENT VND (2-5 stop) is one of those filters that feels reserved in use but enables you to transform your photography and video.
Used for photography, the 2 to 5 stops of exposure reduction helps control the light, so if you want to shoot with the aperture wide open on a bright summer’s day when the shutter speed limit would usually be exceeded, you can. Likewise, if you want to shoot fluffy clouds or silky long exposure waterscapes, this filter will again enable you to dip your toes into the technique, although a step-up to the 6-9 stop is probably worth a look.
When it comes to video, things are a little more clear cut with how essential this filter is; after using it extensively over the last month, I can say that optically it’s excellent, and the amount of time that it saves in post-processing makes it an essential purchase.
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