For a long time, LEE Filters has been the established choice for many a pro landscape photographer. Both its LEE100 and SW150 series of filters have built up a reputation for quality and performance, but both of these systems are aimed at those shooting with full-frame DSLRs and medium format cameras. If you’re shooting on a more compact mirrorless system, then they can be unnecessarily bulky.
That’s where the LEE Filters LEE85 filter system comes in. Smaller than the LEE100 system and replacing the Seven5 system, this is a filter system aimed at those looking for a more compact filter solution without compromising on quality.
Available in four different kits, we’ll be taking a look at the LEE Filters LEE85 Discover Kit. This includes the filter holder, three adapter rings (58, 67 and 72mm – other sizes are available), a 0.6 Medium ND Grad, as well as a LEE85 system pouch.
Ease of use
Compared to the Seven5 filter holder that the LEE85 system replaces, it’s a lot more advanced. LEE Filter has taken many of the learnings from the overhauled LEE100 system and distilled them into this smaller system. Made from aluminium, the filter holder might not enjoy some of the innovations seen on newer rivals, but it’s certainly well-made and can be tailored to hold one, two or three filters. For those looking to add a polariser to their set of filters, the LEE85 filter holder will also happily accommodate LEE Filter’s rapid-fitting clip-on LEE85 Polariser.
Compared to the no-thrills Seven5 filter holder, the new LEE85 filter holder also has a newly designed locking dial (another item borrowed from the LEE100 filter holder). It can be set to neutral, half-lock or full-lock, allowing you plenty of flexibility out in the field when rotating and adjusting filters, as well as ensuring your filter holder is securely attached. One thing to bear in mind is that you can't use existing filters from the Seven5 system with the LEE85 filter holder due to the size difference.
LEE Filters has reimagined both its ND and ND Grad filters, which now see a ‘grip tab’ on the top of the filter, allowing you to quickly see what filters are being used, while also making it that bit easier to remove from the filter mount.
The pouch is a welcome addition that’s well-padded and has space for four filters. A little cumbersome, it’ll more than likely find a home inside your camera bag rather than be used as a standalone accessory (it comes with three strap options – belt, over-the-shoulder and tripod).
While there was nothing really wrong with the Seven5 system that the LEE85 system replaces, this newer system is that much more refined to use. The filter holder is perhaps the most noticeable improvement, with the locking dial making it a much more polished solution. Not only is it now possible to lock the rotation of the holder once your filters are in position, but the LEE85 Polariser we used alongside the Discover Kit quickly popped on and off without any issue and is a great feature.
As we’ve come to expect with LEE Filters, filters slide smoothly into the filter guides and are held snugly in place, while changing the filter configuration to accommodate 1, 2 or 3 filters is a hassle-free and quick process.
As we’ve seen with the LEE100 filter system, the new LEE85 design might lack some of the flare and innovation of its rivals, but start using it and you’ll soon realise that it’s a very refined and polished filter solution. It’s certainly a welcome upgrade to the Seven5 system it replaces.
Bottom line is that if you’re a mirrorless user looking for a compact filter system or simply want to travel light, then LEE Filter’s LEE85 is the best option out there.