Lee Filters is a widely known manufacturer of high-quality square and rectangular filters which mount on a lens via filter holder and an adapter ring. However, in November 2021, the company announced the Lee Elements range of circular filters. This comprises five filter types, with two standard neutral density filters (the Little Stopper 6 stop ND and Bigger Stopper 10 stop ND), plus two variable neutral density filters (VND 2-5 stops and 6-9 stops) and a Circular Polariser (CPL). Each filter is available in 67mm, 72mm, 77mm, and 82mm screw-in sizes and they are said to deliver the same performance as Lee Filters other filters.
Like the Lee100 Polariser that’s designed for use with the Lee100 Holder, the Lee Elements Circular Polariser is made from high-end optical glass. Multilayer nano coatings are also applied to make the filter easier to clean and to encourage water droplets to bead off as well as increasing the scratch resistance.
The rings around the filter are machined from aluminum alloy.
Lee Filters supplies each Elements filter in a protective case with a small cleaning cloth.
Sizes available: 67, 72, 77 or 82mm
Construction: aluminum alloy and glass
Build and handling
As usual with a circular screw-on filter, the first step when purchasing a Lee Elements Polariser filter is to decide which size to go for. The natural response is to buy the filter size to match your favorite lens, but with only four filter sizes in the Elements range, you may find that you can’t get an exact match and you need to buy a larger size then mount the filter via a step-up ring. If you have several lenses with different filter thread sizes, it’s usually a cost-effective move to buy a filter to suit the largest lens and then use step-up rings on the others.
The mounting ring of the Elements Circular Polariser protrudes slightly beyond the adjustment ring and this, combined with its ridged surface and the high-quality machining, makes it easy to mount the filter on a lens.
Once the filter is mounted, the knurling on the front ring provides plenty of purchase and the movement is smooth so it’s easy to rotate the filter until you find the desired level of polarization. The friction is just right so it doesn’t take a much effort to rotate the ring but it’s also unlikely to get knocked out of position too readily.
Lee Filters doesn’t state the light transmission of the Elements CPL but I found it reduced the light by up to around a stop, which means you need to adjust the exposure settings accordingly. If you want to extend the shutter speed further, the CPL can be used with an Elements Little Stopper or Big Stopper.
The Elements CPL has a low profile, which means the filter sits close to the front element of the lens, helping to minimize vignetting and that I was unable to spot an increase when shooting at a focal length of 24mm.
Optically, the filter is very good, with image quality being maintained extremely well while reflection and glare is reduced and saturation increased. As well as a boost to the color saturation, the images is also warmed slightly. This is often attractive but if it’s not wanted, it can be adjusted quickly in post-processing.
The machining and high-quality construction of the Lee Elements Circular Polarizer is apparent as soon you open the case that it’s supplied in. It also feels very good in your hand and the different size of the rings, plus their contrasting textures, mean you can tell which one your fingers are on while you look through the viewfinder.
While the Lee Elements Circular Polariser is a very good filter, I’m surprised that Lee Filters opted to go for a traditional screw-in design in 2021. A magnetic filter system is much more of the time.
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