Square filters are the only type of filter you should use for landscape photography, and this requires a filter holder.
The Lee filter system is by far the best filter on the market. There are some alternatives to the Lee filter system, such as the Hitech modular filter holder, the Zomei Pro filter holder and several other (cheap and nasty) filter holder systems but none of these are as good as the Lee filter system.
When I first started using square filters I was horrified how much the Lee filter holder was and my first thought was to find a cheaper alternative. My first port of call was Amazon and a general search for filter holder produced several results, some of which were exceptionally cheap, some of which were expensive (being only marginally less than a Lee filter holder) and some of which were in the middle.
The first filter holder I bought was a cheap and cheerful one on the basis it looked like the Lee filter system, it appeared to work like the Lee filter holder and it was way cheaper than the Lee filter holder. A filter holder is a basic bit of kit that seemed pretty easy to make and since it doesn’t directly affect the image quality I thought cheap and cheerful was the way forward. How wrong I was.
When the cheap filter holder arrived (I forget what make/brand it was) I eagerly started screwing it to the end of my wide angle lens. As I was screwing the filter holder on to the end of the lens I noticed the holder didn’t screw in evenly and it felt kind of tight. Even though the filter holder wasn’t going on smoothly I continued until it was fully home. This was a big mistake since when it came to removing the filter holder I couldn’t and it was stuck fast and I couldn’t budge it. Fortunately, I use UV filters on my lenses for protection, so the filter holder was stuck to the uv filter rather than my expensive Canon l series lens. Needless to say I couldn’t get the filter holder off the UV filter and I had to go and buy a new uv filter.
The cheap and cheerful filter holder I bought was so poorly made and so poorly machined the thread was rubbish, and when I had to use a little force to remove the filter holder the metal simply twisted and warped. My advice is to never, ever buy a cheap filter holder unless you plan on leaving it on your lens all the time.
After the episode with the cheap and cheerful filter holder I decided I would spend a bit of money and buy a decent filter holder. Even though I was prepared to spend a bit more I couldn’t justify the cost of the Lee filter system so I bought a Formatt Hitech filter holder instead. My early experiences of the Hitech filter holder were positive and it served me well. Okay there were a few niggles, however I was happy on the whole.
It wasn’t until I was out with the camera club that I got to experience the Lee filter system first hand, and I have to say it got me thinking. The Lee filter system is and awesome system. The Lee filter holder feels sturdy and like a proper bit of kit, attaching it to the end of the lens (or in to the uv filter) is a smooth operation and removing the filter holder after the shoot is too. The Lee filter system is not only well made but a top performer too. It is a versatile system that quickly allows you to change and tweak everything you need to in order to get that shot. Don’t get me wrong, the Hitech filter holder is a good bit of kit. I mean, it is sturdy and well built, it is adjustable and it does (almost) everything I need it to but it doesn’t do it as well as the Lee filter system.
It’s strange that I spend loads of money on a full frame camera, a wide angle lens (Canon l series) and a sturdy tripod but I scrimp when it comes to a filter holder. It is utter madness, and I don’t know why I had that mind set. Anyway, once I had experienced the Lee filter system and realised that I needed to spend a bit of money to get the type of landscape shots I wanted I invested in the Lee filter holder.
Compared to other filter holders the Lee filter system is expensive, but compared to the cost of your other bits of landscape equipment the Lee filter system really isn’t that expensive at all. The search for the ideal filter holder has ended up costing me a lot of money and I have gone through them all. I am annoyed at myself for being tight and, looking back, I should have bought the Lee filter system in the first place. Hind sight is a wonderful thing……………..
If you are thinking of buying a square filter holder (and I highly recommend you do if you want to improve your landscape shots) please learn from my mistake and go straight to the Lee filter system as you will not be disappointed, and if you buy cheap in the first instance I can guarantee you will end up buying the Lee filter system sometime in the future.
Keen photographer addicted to cameras, lenses and everything photography related. Feel free to follow me in my photography ramblings, and if you have any thoughts, comments, queries or anything else to add I would love to hear from you.