There's almost nothing worse than watching, in what seems like slow motion ,your £100 Lee Little Stopper slipping through your fingers & shattering as it hits the rock on which your standing . I could have cried ! My fear of doing exactly the same thing again has prevented me from replacing it & it's made me a 100 times more paranoid when using my Lee Big Stopper .
I do miss the extra versatility of the Little Stopper & have been very close to pressing the BUY button on the WEX website ( other photography stores are available ) so an unexpected email from K&F Concepts arrived at an ideal time . A week or so later the K&F Concepts Variable ND2-32 filter arrived & I realised that reviewing this filter presented a bigger challenge than I expected. Being a circular screw-in type filter I discovered that it wouldn't work with my Lee Filter system - darn it !
The filter comes in double packaging , a rather swish looking black box with a flip up lid which holds a perspex circular box inside which is the filter . It looks very professional in its presentation but sadly the lid of the perspex box doesn't lock properly which is a bug bear ( maybe this was a one off ) . when carrying the filter in my camera bag I'd only want the perspex box & a with a lid that doesn't snap shut securely there's a risk of the filter falling out & getting damaged .
Un -deterred I headed off to Padley Gorge , a location I know pretty well & which I figured would be ideal for a 1st try out as I could probably get away with not needing to use any Grad filters .
The filter feels very well made , the rotation action is smooth & it screwed onto all my lenses very smoothly , unlike the Lee Landscape Polariser which is a monkey to fit ! This filter is available in a variety to thread screw sizes to fit most lenses , bizarrely all my lenses (except the Tamron Macro) are 77mm threads so no need for step up/step down rings which is a bonus. There's small markings on the outer ring so you can see what strength your'e using - it would have been more helpful to have numbers written on the ring rather than just dots , but then again , I'm not sure it really matters as its clear to see either through the view finder or when using live view how much light is being blocked out .
I have to say I was pleasantly surprised at how little color cast this filter gave . Being at the budget end of filters I really was expecting a strong cast but the even the very feint blue tinge with the filter on its weakest setting was easily rectified simply by increasing the Kelvins to 7140 ( white balance) .This is quite important for me as I really can't abide spending too much time faffing in post to get the color correct .
I was certainly pleased with the results I got at Padley Gorge , the waterfalls were a good test to start off with. I did want to use the filter in a more open setting such as a seascape but that would mean either finding a way to use the Lee Filter Holder with it so I could use my Grad filters
I did want to use the filter in a more open setting such as a seascape but that would mean 1 of 3 options :
a : finding a way to use the Lee Filter Holder with it so I could use my Grad filters -
I spent a while trying to figure this one out but in the end I gave up. I could manage it with the use of elastic bands but that's not the most secure way of fitting filters to your lens !
b : Bracketing shots - I'm not a fan of faffing in post processing & tend to get bored when editing bracketed images so really this was a non starter.
c : the Black Card technique - I've used this once before with passable results so decided this was going to be the way to go . For those of you who've not heard of this technique ,essentially it involves holding a piece of black card in front of the lens whilst doing a long exposure . The trick is holding it at just the right height & for just the right length of time to avoid getting a nice heavy tell tale black line across image . Sounds simple right ?
A trip to Skinningrove provided the opportunity to try out the Black card technique . Very little cloud in the sky & no real sunrise color at a location I was unsure of meant no amazing images but rather than sulk I opted to try the Variable K&F Concepts filter out.
Again, I was impressed with the lack of color cast the filter gave at any strength & even more impressed that I managed to use the Black card quite successfully . I will pop some images in here as soon as I've edited them -I'm running a little behind at the moment. The compositions are nothing to write home about but this was an exercise in testing the filter rather than capturing award winning images .
So , to sum up , yes this filter has some drawbacks BUT given its price point I feel it's a rather good piece of kit . It''ll certainly be staying in my gear bag & will no doubt get used again .
Pros : Price
1 filter with several levels of Filtration so no need to carry lots of filters around
Feels well made
Minimal color cast
Available in various thread sizes
A range of compatible filters also available ie ND Grads
Cons : that blooming lid !
Not compatible with the Lee Filter Holder system
I would certainly recommend this filter , an ideal entry in to the world of filters without breaking the bank, & on the subject of breaking , if you do drop it , the cost to replace isn't quite as scary as with Lee filters.
Check out the finer details on the filter here : Technical Info
If you decide you'd like to buy one click here : Amazon Link
( be aware , the above links are affiliate links so if you purchase through them I get a small & I mean very small , commision ).
As always , I vlogged both my trials of this filter , If you fancy a watch head over to my You Tube Channel : Lynne J Photography