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LEE FILTERS LEE ELEMENTS CPL Review

LEE FILTERS LEE ELEMENTS CPL review
Review

Price when reviewed

£186

$160
Check current price

Our Verdict

Again I’m impressed with the quality of the LEE ELEMENTS filter range. This standard LEE ELEMENTS Circular Polariser (CPL) is designed to screw directly into the front of your lens and offers outstanding optical quality. As with the rest of the LEE ELEMENTS range, it arrives in a high-quality, high impact protective case that helps to ensure the safe carriage of the exquisitely machined and manufactured photographic filter.

Once screwed into place the use of the filter is simple, just rotate the front element to apply the amount of polariser effect you want. The intensity of the polarization is well balanced enabling you to kick out rich deep blue skies on sunny days and complement these with hidden detail lifted from clouds that you wouldn’t get to see without the filter.

The filter offers a touch of warmth for landscape users; however, if you’re using this filter for car photography or anything colour critical the slight colour cast does need to be factored in. Maybe as LEE FILTERS has done in the past they will produce a colour neutral version.

The intensity and effects of the CPL on reflective glass and water are again well balanced and around the mid-intensity of CPLs of this type that I have looked at. What is apparent is the outstanding optical quality with the effect of the polarisation balancing with the colour influence, detail and contrast boost.

There is no doubt that the LEE FILTERS LEE ELEMENTS are expensive; in fact, there are few other filters that would set you back anything near this amount. However, the CPL is exceptional and inspires you to get out and take great pictures.

For

  • Easy to install
  • Very high quality
  • Precision rotation of front element

Against

  • Expensive
  • Adds a slightly warm tone

What is the LEE FILTERS LEE ELEMENTS CPL?

LEE FILTERS LEE ELEMENTS circular polariser (CPL) is a screw-in circular polariser. The filter itself is designed to screw directly into the front of your camera’s lens and has the same functionality as the LEE clip-on CPL filters that we have seen for the rectangular 100mm and Seven5 filter systems.

As with the rest of the LEE FILTERS LEE ELEMENTS range, this circular polarizer is a bit of a break away from the usual rectangular system filters and offers new hybrid photographers and videographers access to the high-quality LEE FILTERS offers.

Having a screw-in filter may offer less flexibility than the rectangular filter system equivalents as they can only be used with one diameter lens. Still, with just one piece of kit to carry around rather than the filter system, adapters and the filters themselves, it does allow the LEE ELEMENTS filters to be far more lightweight and convenient.

LEE FILTERS LEE ELEMENTS CPL review

The filter consists of two sections fitted together with the rear section screwing into the lens filter thread, the front section is then left free to rotate. The quality of the manufacture and machining of the metal rings is exceptional with the rotation of the front element being silky smooth.

Fitting the filter takes all but a few seconds, and once in place, it is simply a case of rotating the front elements to increase or decrease the polarising effect. Looking through the viewfinder or on the rear screen, you’ll instantly see the effect that this filter has on your image, with the intensity of the colours in the sky becoming rich and reflection in glass or water reducing.

Specification

  • Diameter: 67, 72, 77 and 82mm
  • Filter type: Screw in

Performance

Starting with the manufacture, there is very little to fault with the quality of this filter, as there is with the rest of the LEE ELEMENTS range. The quality of the workmanship is exceptional, and the smooth rotation of that front ring, one screwed into place, means that you can very accurately adjust the effects of the polarisation. Once the ring has rotated into place, there’s enough friction to hold it, the rotation of the ring is fluid smooth not loose.

A nice feature of the rings are the different styles of knurling that have been used. This makes it very easy to differentiate between the two sections of the filter.

When it comes to using the CPL is pretty straightforward, position yourself at roughly 90º to the position of the sun with the scene you want to photograph in front of you of course, and then dial in the intensity of the polarising effect.

LEE FILTERS LEE ELEMENTS CPL review

Depending on the lens you use you’ll see a difference in the intensity of the polarisation across the frame, this is more apparent on the 16-35mm at the widest setting compared with the 24-70mm.

Unlike some other filters there’s nothing special that you need to do when it comes to exposure settings or AF, simply fit and take pictures as normal. A couple of points that you will notice are that exposure times extend slights – this CPL affects the exposure by 1-stop, so a 1/60th shutter speed will become 1/30th.

Out in the field when capturing images the use of the filter is very straightforward and everything about its use feels in line with how a CPL should work.

Checking out the polarising effect

It’s only when you get back into the digital darkroom and open up your images that you really get a feel for the performance of the filter. Instantly you can see the effects of contrast and the deepening of blue in the sky. There’s also a slightly warm colour cast that I wasn’t expecting which does add to the impact of landscapes but isn’t so useful when photographing cars. The cast itself is minimal and in the end, I set the white balance to daylight rather than the Sony’s AWB.

Used to reduce the reflection in water and glass and more reflective surfaces, this CPL did an exceptional job, the effect of polarisation is very well balanced.

CPLs are equally suited to video. Used for video this filter really comes into its own, helping to take out reflective backgrounds that could’ve become distracting and boosting the intensity of the scene. The one-stop reduction in exposure was also helpful.

LEE FILTERS LEE ELEMENTS CPL Before review

Scene without CPL attached

LEE FILTERS LEE ELEMENTS CPL After

Scene with CPL attached

Final Thoughts

Once again, LEE FILTERS has managed to impress with another exceptional but expensive filter. The more I get to use the LEE ELEMENTS range, the more attuned I feel it is to the new wave of hybrid image creators. Those who put equal weight behind their video content and photography content.

These filters are perfectly attuned to that style of photographer/videographer with the ability to adapt to either stills or videos easily. While the screw-in filters might not have the flexibility that filter systems offer, as they’re only compatible with one lens diameter, they do cut out the amount of kit that you have to carry around and are simply far more convenient.

LEE FILTERS LEE ELEMENTS CPL review

In this review, I have looked at the 82 mm version of the LEE ELEMENTS CPL filter, and this has given me the flexibility to utilize it on both the large diameter 16 to 35 mm Sony lens and the 24 to 70 mm Sony lens. By means of a step-down ring, I was also able to use the 82 mm on smaller diameter lenses.

Using a step-down rain gives good flexibility, and because the lens diameter is smaller than that of the filter, there is less chance of any vignetting. Still, at the same time, there could also be a small chance that I will get some filter flare; however, through this test, I didn’t suffer from that issue.

If I were to find fault with this filter, it would be that there is a slightly warm hue to the images, but this light warm hue is mild and can easily be adjusted and corrected in Photoshop. If you’re looking for just about the highest quality circular polarizer on the market, and one that is flexible for both stills and video, I have to recommend the LEE FILTERS LEE ELEMENTS CPL.

LEE FILTERS LEE ELEMENTS CPL review

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