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I'm an amateur landscape photographer, have some cheap ND filters but I'd like to take it to the next level and invest into more advanced gear. I was thinking of getting a Lee basic kit which I've heard superb things. My question is that most polarising filters are circular and come with a screw mount. The soft and hard edge ND filters are long and square that go into the foundation that is attached to the lens with a circular ring also screwed into the lens front. So how can I use both the polarising and the ND together without breaking the bank and having to buy all the variations for all of my lenses?

Thanks

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  • \$\begingroup\$ You could use the Cokin system. Their holders have spots for both circular (but not screw mount) filters that rotate freely in the holder as well as square/rectangular filters. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 0:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ If I may ask, what situation are you shooting that you want both a polarized scene where the dynamic range is such that a ND grad would help? Note that a square polarizing filter can only be used at 90 degree angles to the grad filter. This can severely limit its use. \$\endgroup\$
    – user13451
    Commented Dec 23, 2014 at 4:08
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelT Cokin's filter holder allows the use of round CPFs that can be infinitely rotated in the same holder with square ND, GND, etc. filters. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Dec 24, 2014 at 1:27
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelClark true. However, with the "Lee basic kit" the OP was looking at getting, this doesn't have it. However, if one is after Lee filters for other things (Lee tends not to make Cokin sized filters across the board which forces you to the even more expensive Singh Ray for some quality ND grads - though they are worth it if you photograph that way)... well, you don't have a rotateable polarizer in a square filter. The Lee solution to this (with square filters) would be a tandem adapter to link two filter holders together and allow independent rotation of each. \$\endgroup\$
    – user13451
    Commented Dec 24, 2014 at 4:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MichaelT Which is why, in the first comment to this question, I suggested using the Cokin system instead. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 2:11

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I've used Cokin A, Cokin P, and Lee filter holders. There are issues with each of these that you will need to consider between price and what lenses it can work with. There are plenty of blog posts about the various merits of each.

The first consideration would be to get a circular polarizer with threads (rather than a thin one that lacks front threads). Then you can screw the adapter for the square filter system into it.

This works especially well if you have a number of lenses that have the same size filter threads. Most of my lenses are either 52 or 77 (I have a few that are other sizes, but they tend to find themselves used only in special situations and the 72mm has a stepping ring to 77mm for those filters).

The advantage here is that this solution is system agnostic.

When it comes to looking at rotations for filters, I strongly believe that you will find greater versatility with the Lee system than the Cokin system. The reason for this is that the Lee rotation approach is to stack two holders on top of each other, allowing for each to be rotated independently. The Cokin approach to rotation filters is to make a filter slot that can hold a special rotatable filter.

The problem with the special rotatable filter for Cokin is that it is firmly bound to the Cokin system and cannot be used anywhere else. Lee and Cokin Z sizes are both standard 4" / 100mm filters, but you can't rotate Cokin Z independently nor can you put a Cokin Z round filter in any other system.

The advantage for Lee isn't only with the polarizer being rotatable but also stacking grads to be rotated against each other (one ND grad this way, and then a blue grad 30° off of that - or whatever you want to do).

Yes, this will add to the depth of the filter holder system. Remember that the filter holders can be adjusted so that they have fewer slots to cut back on the thickness... and also you probably won't be shooting with wide angles that would have issue with the CPL in the sky.

Lee filter configs

You would need a minimum of two filter slots in one - one for the filter, one for the adapter, and one filter slot in the other (for the other filter).

The stack would look like:

Tandem adapter

(from https://www.flickr.com/photos/topside/6688569477/ - note the filters in use are the circular polarizer and a .6 ND hard edge grad)

I wouldn't recommend this setup if you are going to be shooting very wide, but then again, I would have reservations using a polarizer if you are shooting wide in the first place.

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Ultimately, you're going to break the bank if you head down this path.

Lee is superb, not cheap. they have square polarizers that might be useful. If you're going to go into a square filter you're likely talking about a full commitment. I think I've seen one holder that allows a round filter to be added, but I worry about vignetting at wide angles.

The only real way to avoid spending lots of money and buying variations for all the lenses is to buy a filter big enough for your biggest lens diameter and use step-down rings to attach it to your other lenses.

I'm going to open up a can of worms, but more and more photographers are doing away with their Grad ND's in their kit and doing that in post. I carry two filters now: a polarizer and a variable-ND round. I don't carry grad ND's any more. I know some photographers still swear by them (like Ian Shive and Brian Matiash) but I know others (like Michael Frye) who have stopped working with the grads in favor of post work. You might consider your workflow and shooting and think about whether, having not STARTED using Grad ND's, if going the post route will get you the results you want (it'll sure be cheaper and less hassle in the field).

I've gone back and forth on this one; ultimately, I decided I couldn't justify the cost for the improvements I might get over shooting well in the field and using Post to tweak the image further later.

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Many years ago, I started with and always use (not just for landscapes), a wide-angle 82mm front thread "standard" 17-35mm or so zoom lens.

Over the years I tested my options, starting with Lee (then the only available) "filter system"—which I still have and use—but ended up loving an 82-105mm step-up ring. It is cheap, I can mount a 105mm ND or CPL on it and it is it. I was ready for waterfalls/rapids or sea/wavescapes. If you want to try this, go for "slim" filters and NDs which have a 105mm front thread. They have to be mounted first stacking with a CPL.

Instead of spending on expensive "systems" it is wiser to spend money on good filters. None of which have to be too expensive today. Haida makes excellent NDs and I use a CPL made by ICE. I test filters at 300mm and could not find any loss of sharpness (compared to images taken with no filters) even at that focal length/magnification.

I still use a Lee-style holder (with one slot only) and my old Lee GND (rated .75) to "pull" clouds out when skies are too bright in cloudy landscapes. I kept a Lee 82mm "wide angle adapter ring" though. It brings the holder slightly back which helps if two slots/filters are mounted. It seems that nobody makes "alternative" products of that kind.

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If you want to combine a polarizer and ND filters in the same exposure, you're probably better off going with Cokin's system. Their holder allows you to use square/rectangular ND or GND filters at the same time you are using a non-threaded circular polarizer that can be infinitely rotated. The Cokin system comes in at least three sizes: A (for amateur?), P (professional?), and Z (???).

For what you are wanting to do I would only consider P if the thread size on your largest lens is 77mm or less. If you have some ultra wide lenses, you may have vignetting issues even if your lenses are all less than 77mm thread size. The advantage of Z compared to P is that they are larger and so allow a wider angle of view. The disadvantage is that they are larger and thus more expensive. And unfortunately, there are no round CPL filters from Cokin for the Z size system. Singh-Ray does make a round one that will fit the Cokin Z-Pro series holder.

If you need to go larger than Cokin P size you are probably better off using a screw-on CPL, then attaching your adapter ring to the front of it for the holder for your ND filters. You would first rotate the polarizer to get the effect you want, then hold the polarizer in place while you rotate the filter holder on the adapter ring to align the ND filters if they are graduated. Here's a discussion that covers this in detail.

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Of note, the Z 164 CPL filter is $750 at B&H - note thats a 4"x6" filter - I can't find a circular framed one . That's a tad bit. Though if you're going for a Z series, again, why not Lee (B&H $216) and double up which is still cheaper than the Cokin Z CPL? \$\endgroup\$
    – user13451
    Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 2:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ (Digging into it a bit, it might be cheaper to buy a Singh-Ray Z Sprocket mount filter if you are going to go with the Z series... which is still more expensive than the Lee system option when all is said and done) \$\endgroup\$
    – user13451
    Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 2:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ Thanks. I've not looked at pricing for Z-series polarizers. The P-series run about $100 US for a genuine Cokin CPL. \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 2:37
  • \$\begingroup\$ The P series though won't work with lenses that are wider than 75 deg diagonal field of view (28mm on a full frame) without vignetting. The plastic holder is cheaply made. It's really a quite limited size (I had trouble with it back when I used that size) - really quite frustrating. \$\endgroup\$
    – user13451
    Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 2:42
  • \$\begingroup\$ The 4x6 Z 164 CPL is only $360 @ B&H. bhphotovideo.com/bnh/controller/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Michael C
    Commented Dec 25, 2014 at 2:53
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I use a similar set up to user12351, except that instead of the Lee square CPL I use the L22 105mm filter adaptor and a 105mm round CPL. This gives you a slimmer filter stack, but you cannot rotate grads relative to eachother.

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