Nov 6, 2016 - by Robert Rhead
8

At the time of writing the only options available were to buy into the Lee SW150 Mark 1 system (if you could find one for sale anywhere), to shoot without any filters using bracketing and Photoshop or to cut ones loses and purchase another lens with filter thread for attaching the Lee 100mm filter system (or another brand). In my original blog post I described my thoughts, options and the solution I resorted to. You can read the original post here.

Some two years down the line, Lee Filters has released the Mark 2 SW150 system which not only seems a great improvement over its predecessor but is actually ‘in stock’ at many photographic stores.

'Wideangleness' should be a word

I’ve loved my Nikon 14-24mm lens since the first day I purchased it and I admit that replacing it with the 16-35mm f/4 for the vast majority of my landscape work left me a little heart broken. I couldn’t bring myself to sell it and on the occasions that I did get to use it I really noticed the extra ‘wideangleness’ during post-processing. It seems that insignificant sounding 2mm really does make a big difference.

Expensive obsolescence

Over the past couple of years I've acquired a good selection of Lee 100mm filters including solid NDs, graduated NDs and a circular polariser... non of which would be compatible. The SW150 system would mean buying the same filters again in the larger format, not a cheap exercise and would effectively make my 100mm filters obsolete, possibly even my 16-35mm lens. Sure, I could sell them ...but can I be sure I'll never want to put a filter on my 24-70mm lens?

Irresistible red

Let’s face it… who can resist beautiful anodised red aluminium. I took the plunge... purchased the filter holder, the corresponding adapter ring (you can now fit the SW150 to many more lens makes) and also purchased a 150mm 0.6 soft grad, a 0.9 hard grad, the new 150mm Little Stopper and of course the Lee 150mm carrying pouch. The filter holder itself is big, meaning it won't fit into the carrying pouch... which was a gripe I've always had with the 100mm system. The large filter pouch is also way too big to fit into my camera bag, meaning carrying it separately to my rucksack, that's a pain ...but that red ...is beautiful.

Using the SW150

As you can imagine, the larger system is more cumbersome to work with. Handling the 150mm filters feels a little like juggling wet fish, you know you're going to drop one sometime, you just don't know when. They do however slide nicely into the filter holder, which is a gem to look at but a bit of a faff to fit to the lens. After fumbling on a few occasions I now keep the adapter fitted to the lens all the time. This does make the 14-24mm plastic lens cap obsolete, but Lee have thoughtfully included a neoprene pull over cover to replace the cap...nice work Lee.

I love wide angle portrait landscapes ...and here I discovered my only gripe with the square 150mm filters, especially with the hard grad range. Many of my photos are really low to the ground with the landscape horizon high up in the frame... sometimes much higher than the upper third rule. When aligning the hard grads transition to the landscape horizon the 150mm filters bottom edge is clearly in the frame. An unpleasant blurry line across the bottom of the photo is the result. I can usually edit this out in Photoshop...but it would be nice to avoid this issue 'in-camera' maybe a 150mm x 170mm filter would do the trick?

Field comparison - 14-24mm f/2.8 vs 16-35mm f/4

To see just how much difference there is between the two systems I took some comparison shots, setting up my tripod and taking a shot with the 14-24mm at it's widest plus the SW150 mark II system. Without moving the camera I replaced the lens with the 16-35mm and took another shot at its widest using the Lee 100mm system. Here are the results.

Cwyfan church shot with the 14-24mm f/2.8
Cwyfan church shot with the Nikon 14-24mm f/2.8 - Lee SW150 system - 0.6 ND Soft Grad
Cwyfan church shot with the Nikon 16-35mm f/4
Cwyfan church shot with the Nikon 16-35mm f/4 - Lee 100mm system - 0.6 ND Soft Grad
Cwyfan church comparison shot
Comparison images over-layed and auto-aligned in Photoshop

This comparison isn't intended to show differences between the 150mm and 100mm filters but rather to demonstrate the difference in lens focal length and why it might be worth considering coughing up the cash to use filters on the 14-24mm lens.

Last word

It's great to be able to use my 14-24mm again for my landscape work and I feel my photography has improved because of it. The SW150 system is considerably more cumbersome to carry, to work with and has the small issue of the filters being a little too short. Is it worth the investment? If you're looking for your first filter system, I'd say yes it is. If you already have the 100mm system and a 14-24mm lens, you'll need to weigh up if those extra wide angle pixels are worth the investment. Anybody want to by a used 16-35mm lens?

Let me know your thoughts below in the comments section.

Comments

Profile picture for user Vivienne Noonan

Vivienne Noonan

Nov 6, 2016 - 17:08

A great blog Robert, I really enjoyed the read and understood your dilemma - I thought I'd be bamboozled by the technicalities.
I'm beginning to look for a wide angle lens for my own camera and would appreciate your thoughts on the one I've got my eye on. I appreciate it's in the lower end of the price range for lenses, but it's the price range I'll be shopping in. Is it ok for landscape? Does it seem reasonable to you as the reviews are mostly good? I suspect the one you're selling would be well out of my price range ;)

Profile picture for user Vivienne Noonan

Alison S

Mar 9, 2017 - 7:54

Great article Robert! I recently upgraded my D700 to D810 and now looking to buy my first square filter system. My dilemma is whether to invest in the Lee 150mm filter system and save up for the 14-24mm lens or get the 100mm system and continue using my current 16-35mm? The weight issue is a bit of a concern .... being a 5'4" female! Also, a one-off trip to Iceland with a photography group later in the year is making me want to get this right! Any thoughts please?

Hi Alison,

it is a tough one. After using both systems I really use the SW150 almost exclusively as the 14-24 is better. That must however be balanced with available budget. 

Hope you have a great time in Iceland...I'm planning a two week tour there myself later this year. 

Profile picture for user Vivienne Noonan

Alison

Apr 9, 2018 - 3:45

In reply to by Robert Rhead

Thanks for your reply, Robert. So, I took the plunge and got the SW150 system AND the 14 - 24mm lens ..... and they have been a dream to work with! However, my only problem now is I'm finding there are many occasions where I want to use a polariser, an ND filter and an ND Grad at the same time, which is not possible with this system. Is there any way around this issue? Seriously thinking about buying the 100 kit with my 16-35mm now.

Hi Alison,
It is a problem I run into frequently... and I don't have a perfect solution for it yet. My current workaround is to prioritise the Polariser and ND filters, which both have a fundamental effect on the image. I then bracket 2 or 3 shots to make sure I have all possible data recorded for forground and sky. The effect of the ND Grad can then be replicated in post processing.

Add new comment