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Lee (Hardware) Filters Explained!



2nd March 2014



For a number of photographers, filters mean post processing in computer software. The captured image is digitally manipulated, this even includes scanned 'film' negatives transformed into 'tiff' files.

It can be argued that applying software filters to an image to graduate and open up it's dynamic range, alter the colour of it's skies or to create other effects to enhance it are simply no substitute for the real hardware filter. In fact when a software filter is applied to an image, does the image itself not suffer a degradation in image quality, no matter how mild?

Joe Cornish on Landscapes and using Lee Filters -



Lee Filters produce some of the best lens (hardware) filters ever made and they are supplied in various forms and sizes to fit the majority of film and digital cameras. There is even a rangefinder camera kit, especially designed for Leica M cameras. Invariable the filter kits are supplied with a main adapter bracket that screws into the front of a lens and then a filter mounting frame is attached to accept the various filters required by the photographer. 

Lee Filters supply their filters as individuals or as kits and the mounting frames (depending on the choice) can accept a single filter or a number of different filters. Also some mounting frames are designed within a bellows hood to shade the lens and filters from the sun.

There is a great deal of satisfaction in selecting a subject and a location, perhaps even weeks or months before you go there, and setting up your equipment for a photo shoot. There is no rush, it might be a night set-up for a rising dawn or even a late afternoon for a falling sun. It could even be a train travelling through the day that crosses a bridge at a particular time and you have been there several times in the year to catch a moment. It might be a water fall cascading down a mountainside?

Perhaps if you consider that the photographers of the 19th and 20th centuries lugged plate cameras up mountainsides and across continents then surely modern camera equipment is no big deal to long as you have the right back pack to carry it!

Typically you might take with you -

  • A back pack

  • A film or digital single lens reflex camera or even a medium format camera

  • A number of prime lenses of different focal ranges

  • A Sekonic light meter

  • A carbon fibre tripod

  • A remote shutter release

  • A 'Lee Filter' kit

  • A camera and lens - adjustable 'rain' cover

  • Spare batteries and memory cards

  • Sandwiches with lemonade or coffee

There is a great deal of pleasure to be had from this approach to photography, sure it is not rapid fire and it requires planning and concentration, especially if the opportunity to take the final shot is a moving train that you are waiting on!

I use the Lee Filter System with my Canon 5D DSLR for landscape photography. The pace is slowed right down, the location and subject have been chosen and I enjoy setting up the tripod and fitting the accessories that make landscape photography so relaxing. Lee Filters are great to use and it is very easy to assemble the various components and slide in the filter choices to suit the scene.

There are starter kits for DSLR and other cameras  (outlined in the videos below) and the filters as well as the holders come in very nice well made pouches with cleaning cloths.

This shot was taken up at Aviemore in Scotland and the weather was appalling. I used the Canon 5D MK 1 DSLR with a Canon 24-105mm IS L Lens with the Lee 77mm adaptor screwed on the filter screw of the lens, my Lee universal hood clipped onto the ring of the adaptor with a graduated '2 stop' grey grad filter slipped in the first slot of the hood for a graduated sky effect and a 'yellow' straw filter slipped into the second slot with the 'straw' section of the filter at the bottom.

I prefer to use the the Universal Hood and as it name suggests, it can be configured to suit many specific needs. It can be a simple lens shade, or have room for one, two or three filters in any standard thickness. Its size and shape make it an ideal general-purpose hood, and for shading wide angle lenses on Digital SLR, 35mm and medium format cameras.

There is also the Lee RF75 Filter System for smaller camera systems, such as the Panasonic Micro 4/3rds GF1 and the Leica M Series of Rangefinders, which has been designed to offer a high quality precision filter holder that is compact, lightweight and will fit to lenses with a diameter of 67mm or less.

The holder is primarily offered to users of rangefinder and high end digital compact cameras, but will equally be of use for large and medium format users who require a smaller, more compact filter system.

The RF75 System includes a full range of filters sized 75mm x 90mm. These filters are hand made to the same exacting quality standards of colour and optical flatness found in the renowned LEE 100mm System. In keeping with the smaller size, the filter graduation zones have been adjusted to suit the smaller system. These changes have been made through extensive testing and in conjunction with top landscape photographers.

A video from Robert White in the UK -

The Lee SW150 Filter System enables you to use graduated and standard filters on a Nikon 14-24mm lens.

The filter sizes for the system are 150mm x 170mm for graduated filters and 150mm x 150mm for standard filters. The holder is fully rotational enabling greater flexibility when positioning graduated filters.

Also available is the SW150 System Adaptor, this allows you to attach to the SW150 onto any standard LEE adaptor ring, enabling you to use the SW150 on any other lenses you have.


This Robert White Photographic video explains the Lee Starter Kits -

The Lee Seven5 Filter System for compact system cameras -

The Lee 100mm Filter System ( 2 Part Videos) for DSLR cameras - 

If you have enjoyed this article - please donate to my Charity of Choice   -   
The Sick Kids


Richard Lawrence
United Kingdom


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