About a month or so ago I picked up one of the new Lee Little Stopper 6-stop neutral density filters. I’ve been a huge fan of the Lee Big Stopper 10-stop ND, but sometimes it’s just too dark. It’s great if you’re out in the middle of the day and want to make some dramatic long exposures and it’s just too bright out to do it with any other filter. But if you’re out any time around sunrise or sunset, the 10-stops is just too much. For me, I can pretty much accomplish everything I want from a long-exposure in about 60 seconds. Maybe 2 minutes on the high side. But if you’re out around sunrise/sunset, your shutter speeds start getting in the 3, 4 and even 5 minute range and that’s just too long. So I’d usually resort to my Tiffen set of screw-on filters which has a 2, 3 and 4 stop ND. Sometimes that just isn’t enough which is why I wanted the Lee Little Stopper – it’s right in between.
There’s not too much to say here. Lee has a great reputation for high-quality filters. They’re not the cheapest filters on the market, but they’re known as some of the best. I love square filters too. They’re easy to put on and off, especially if you’re using a dark neutral density and need to move the filter to focus, and put it back on.
One of the things I liked the most about the filter is exactly the reason I bought it – something that’ll let me get longer shutter speeds, but not quite as long as the 10-Stop Big Stopper. Here’s a good example. I took the photo below at sunset. Without a filter, the water looked frozen and ripply. With the 10-stop Big Stopper, my shutter speeds were getting pretty long. But with the Little Stopper, I was able to get some good motion in the water, without waiting too long.
Another good thing is that it comes in a protective tin case. I think Lee started doing this a while ago, but my first Big Stopper met an uncanny demise because I had it in a regular soft filter case. So I was happy to see this one in a hard case that’ll stand up to me beating it around a little on planes or out hiking.
The only thing that really bugged me about the filter (and it’s not specific to Lee filters by the way), is the fact that when I take it off right in the middle of shooting, I have nowhere to readily put it. I wish there was a string attached to the filter, from the filter holder.
Another semi-issue that the Big Stopper used to have is that it produced a blue color cast on the photos. It was really easy to correct in Lightroom or Photoshop (and only took a few seconds), but it did have a blue-ish color nonetheless. I barely even mention this because I never cared about it. It was a huge topic on many forums because people would say other filters gave a more neutral color right out of the camera and that they didn’t have to do any post color-correction work to the photos. For me, it never bothered me because every single one of my photos sees Lightroom and/or Photoshop at some point. It’s literally a 3 second fix with the White Balance tools so it was never an issue. But if you are the type that takes their photos straight out of the camera, then you’ll be happy to know the Little Stopper isn’t quite as bad and the photos come out fairly neutral compared to taking the same photo without the filter on. Also, if you want to read up on it a little more, one of blog visitors here (Achim Sieger) wrote a review over on his site. Here’s the link if you want to check it out.
Would I Buy It Again?
As always I think that’s the magic question. Yes, I would buy it again. There’s cheaper ones out there but they’re usually resin filters and not good glass. I never much liked the thought of spending $1500-2000 on a lens, only to put the cheapest piece of plastic I can find in front of it 🙂 I trust Lee filters, this 6-stop fits right in to my filter set for what I need, so I’d definitely buy it again. Here’s a link to B&H Photo if you’re interested in grabbing one. Seems they’re on 2-4 week delivery, but you can probably snag one on eBay if you’re willing to pay a little more.