Anyone who has attended one of my Edinburgh Photography Workshop Seascape or Highland sessions will tell you that I am a massive advocate of the Lee filter system and I think when I started to use it that my photography significantly improved. However, the one filter I used that wasn’t Lee was the circular polariser. I was discouraged from using the ‘old’ Lee polariser by many other photographers who said the quality wasn’t as good as the Heliopan 105mm Slim Circular Polariser SH-PMC filter and so that was the one that found its way into my bag and I was pretty happy with it except for one problem – at the wide end of the 17-40mm L lens that I have on my Canon 5D MkIII there would always be quite a significant amount of vignette visible and so it meant either cropping the image after or pulling back to about 18 or 19mm and losing some of the edge of the scene that I really wanted to capture.
Lee have responded to both the quality issue and the vignetting issue with the launch of the new Lee Landscape Polariser which promises to remove vignette on 16 and 17mm lenses and also add a warming tone to increase the impact of the greens, browns and golds in landscapes. Being a bit of geek the first time I used the Landscape Polariser I had to put them up against each other to see the difference between the two. All the images you can see below were shot on the same camera using the same focal lengths and with a Outdoors White Balance applied in camera, they were then imported into Lightroom using the standard import and have not had any other changes applied before being exported as standard JPEG’s so any differences are caused by the polarisers and not any other influence.
First up, I wanted to test the vignette issue, as that was the one that was causing me the most pain. These two images were taken at 17mm at f/11 with 0.8sec exposure and you can clearly see the first image taken with the Heliopan has a very strong vignette caused by addition of the polariser to the Lee system. The second image , taken with the Lee Landscape Polariser doesn’t suffer this issue at all with no signs of vignette even at the widest end of the lens on a full frame camera. I am impressed that I now have an extra couple of millimetres available to use the polariser with but you can also see in this image that greens and browns are slightly more vibrant. It is normal for polarisers to take around two stops of light, however, the Lee version seems to be about 1/3rd of a stop less than this so you do get a brighter and ‘poppier’ image as a result.
Secondly, I wanted to see how much of a difference the warming effect had on the image so I removed the vignette issue by now shooting at the long end of the lens (40mm) and I also introduced a 2 stop soft graduated filter to add a bit of detail into the sky so a little more like I would use the system in the field. This time the top image is using the Lee Polariser and you can see that compared to the next image which is using the Heliopan the overall image is brighter and the greens and yellows are much more vibrant.
You are probably now thinking the same as me, that the difference has been caused by the extra 1/3rd of a stop that is passing through the filter with the Lee Landscape filter, so I then took a further image using the Heliopan with the extra stop added in through opening the aperture up to f/11 and whilst we have a much more comparative image there is still a marked difference in the vibrancy of the Lee Landscape Polariser compared to the Heliopan equivalent.
For me, the Lee Landscape Polariser has clearly performed better than the Heliopan version and it will now be changing places in my camera bag and I can now truly call myself a full advocate of Lee Filters with my entire system now using the same brand. I was also trying out the new Field Pouch which I am sure I’ll cover in another blog posting once I have had a chance to use it a little more in the field but it is a really convenient way of carrying my standard pack of Lee filters and having them to hand.