Lee Filters Lee Elements Big Stopper review

Lee Filters' popular Big Stopper ND filter is now available as a screw-in filter as well as a 100mm-type square filter

Lee Filters Lee Elements Big Stopper
(Image: © Angela Nicholson / Digital Camera World)

Digital Camera World Verdict

While not quite as convenient to use as a magnetic filter, the Lee Filters Elements Big Stopper is highly portable and does away with the need for a filter holder. It offers the 10-stop light-cutting capability that we’re familiar with from the 100mm-type square Big Stopper, but also delivers that blue cast that we’ve come to expect and that many photographers say they love but others don’t.

Pros

  • +

    Excellent build quality

  • +

    Great optical performance

  • +

    Supplied with a protective case

Cons

  • -

    Only available in 4 sizes

  • -

    Expensive

  • -

    Blue colour cast

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Lee Filters is one of the biggest names in filter manufacturing and its filters have been the go-to for many professional and enthusiast photographers for years. The company’s Big Stopper, a 10EV neutral density filter (opens in new tab) has become so well-known that many photographers use the name ‘Big Stopper’ for any 10EV filter.

Until relatively recently, Lee Filters only made square and rectangular filters, but in November 2021 it introduced the Lee Elements range, a collection of circular filters that screw onto a lens. There are five types of filter in the Lee Elements range including the Little Stopper (6EV) ND and Big Stopper (10EV) ND as well as two variable neutral density filters (VND 2-5 stops and 6-9 stops) and a Circular Polarizer (CPL). The filters are all available in 67mm, 72mm, 77mm, and 82mm screw-in sizes.

Lee Filters makes the Lee Elements Big Stopper from high-end optical glass with multilayer nanocoatings to make it resistant to scratches and help it shed water droplets and fingerprints, so it’s easy to clean. 

Meanwhile, the frame is made from machined alloy and it’s designed to minimize vignetting.

The filter is supplied in a durable plastic case with a clear label that shows which size and type of filter is inside. That’s handy if you’re carrying several filters.

Specifications

(Image credit: Angela Nicholson / Digital Camera World)

Size: 67, 72, 77, or 82mm

Mount: screw-on

Construction: aluminum alloy and glass

Build and handling

(Image credit: Angela Nicholson / Digital Camera World)

Lee Filters only makes the Lee Elements Big Stopper in four sizes, so you may not be able to get one to match all of your lenses. That needn’t be a problem, however, as it’s usually more cost-effective to buy the largest filter that you’re likely to need and then use step-rings to fit it on any lenses with a smaller filter thread. I tested the 82mm filter, which is the largest one available, and I mounted it directly on a couple of lenses and via step rings on lenses with 77mm and 72mm threads.

While it is quite deep in comparison with some other filters, the Lee Elements Big stopper also has a high-quality feel with superb machining. It has smart knurling that makes it easy to grasp as you thread it onto a lens. 

It’s nice to have a protective case for the filter, but its plastic clip is quite stiff and difficult to open, especially with cold fingers. It’s also a shame that the case is only deep enough to house the filter by itself, it means you have to remove any step rings before you can store it.

Performance

(Image credit: Angela Nicholson / Digital Camera World)

Checking my images captured using the 61MP Sony A7R IV (opens in new tab) reveals that the Lee Elements Big Stopper doesn’t have a noticeably detrimental impact upon the level of detail visible. And when the filter is mounted on the Sony FE 24-70mm F/2.8 GM, which has an 82mm filter thread, there’s no increase in vignetting at the 24mm end.  

What is noticeable, however, is that the Big Stopper imparts a blue colour cast. This is a known feature of the Big Stopper since it was first introduced as a square filter for the Lee Filters Lee100 filter system (opens in new tab). Some photographers profess to like it, but those that don’t can correct it using their image-editing software, ideally working on raw files.

The Big Stopper is designed to cut out 10-stops or 10EV of light to enable much longer exposures to be made in daylight. My tests confirm that it does this, enabling the movement of water or clouds to be blurred effectively.

Verdict

(Image credit: Angela Nicholson / Digital Camera World)

Lee Filter Big Stopper is the most well-known of all the 10-stop filters and many photographers regard it as the original and best, and are therefore prepared to pay the price premium. It is optically very good, but it also has a significant cooling effect on images. Fortunately, this can be addressed by setting a custom white balance, or by adjusting the image post-capture.

Physically, the filter is very well made, and it feels robust – but with other manufacturers moving towards magnetic filters, the screw-in design seems rather old-fashioned.

Read more: 

• Best filter holders (opens in new tab)
Best ND grad filters (opens in new tab)
• 
Best polarizing filters (opens in new tab)
• 
Best neutral density (ND) filters (opens in new tab)
• 
Best variable ND filters (opens in new tab)
• 
Best lens protection filters (opens in new tab)
• 
Best light pollution filters (opens in new tab)
• 
Best close up filters (opens in new tab)
• 
Camera filters explained (opens in new tab) 

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Angela Nicholson

Angela has been testing camera gear from all the major manufacturers since January 2004 and has been Amateur Photographer’s Technical Editor and Head of Testing for Future Publishing’s photography portfolio (Digital Camera Magazine (opens in new tab)PhotoPlus: The Canon Magazine (opens in new tab)N-Photo (opens in new tab)Practical Photoshop (opens in new tab)Photography Week (opens in new tab) and Professional Photography magazines, as well as the Digital Camera World and TechRadar websites).