Big Stopper Lee 10 Stop Neutral Density Filter review

Big Stopper Lee 10 Stop Neutral Density Filter review

by Lee Duguid, February 28, 2013
LANDSCAPE PHOTOGRAPHY | tips | Big Stopper Lee 10 Stop Neutral Density Filter review

 

The Big Stopper by Lee Filters is an amazingly popular 10 stop Neutral Density filter allowing photographers to shoot 30+ second exposures in the brightest of conditions. Easily mistaken for black welding glass this is a great creative tool and a must for all landscape photographers. Having owned the similar B+W 10 stop (3.0) ND filter ND-110 for almost three years I finally took the plunge and purchased the Lee Big Stopper. So why the change? Well as I discover there is only really one key benefit to the Lee Big Stopper.

Big Stopper Kit

Lee Big Stopper Build

The major advantage of Lee’s Big Stopper over the B+W equivalent is that the Lee filter is designed to slot into the Lee filter holder. This allows me to use a combination of solid neutral density and graduated neutral density filters (ND Grads) giving me extra long exposures with increased dynamic range. The B+W 10 Stop filter is screw on so your options are already limited. You could attach the Lee adapter ring to the  B+W filter however adding extra length (only a few mm) to the front of the lens increasing the chance of vignetting or obstruction, especially at wide angles.

The Big Stopper has a foam gasket around its edge to stop light leaking in from the side. For some reason the gasket doesn’t quite match up with the filter holder but doesn’t appear to be an issue. Ideally I would have like to have seen the two marry up perfectly with a slight modification to the shape of the filter. Shaping an enclosure to follow the contours of the filter holder would ensure no light leakage, make the filter stronger and only slightly increase production cost.

As the filter holder slots are of fixed depth the Lee Big Stopper is marginally thinner than the other filters to allow for the the addition of a foam gasket.  This comes at the expense of strength. Be warned this filter can easily be broken so don’t put it in your pocket and forget about it.

When viewing images at 100% I couldn’t see any quality difference between the Lee Big Stopper or the B+W 10 Stop filter.

Colour Cast

The one thing I noticed about the B+W 10 stop filter was how warm in colour temperature it was. It would seem that all 10 Stop ‘Neutral’ density filters are not so neutral in colour. The B+W filter will warm your images whilst the Lee Big Stopper will cool them. Below is a comparison using the different brand filters using a fixed white balance (set WB in camera using grey cards).

original no filters

Original Capture – 1/60 second, F18, ISO 100

B+W 10 Stop ND
B+W 10 Stop ND Filter – 30 Seconds, F18, ISO 100

Big Stopper
Lee Big Stopper 10 Stop ND Filter – 30 Seconds, F18, ISO 100

Big Stopper with 2 soft edge grad
Lee Big Stopper 10 Stop ND Filter + 2 Stop soft edge ND grad filter – 100 Seconds, F22, ISO 50

So is the colour cast really an issue? Well not really if you are shooting in RAW. Colour cast can easily be removed by correcting white balance via the RAW editor. I was surprised to see there wasn’t even any colour shift when stacking multiple filters as above (10 Stop Big Stopper + 2 Stop soft ND Grad). This is great as color correcting only part of an image, such as the sky is messy and can have mixed results. Below are the colour corrected images.

B+W 10 Stop ND colour corrected
B+W 10 Stop ND Filter – 30 Seconds, F18, ISO 100 – Colour corrected

Big Stopper colour corrected
Lee Big Stopper 10 Stop ND Filter – 30 Seconds, F18, ISO 100 – Colour corrected

Big Stopper with 2 soft edge grad colour corrected
Lee Big Stopper 10 Stop ND Filter + 2 Stop soft edge ND grad filter – 100 Seconds, F22, ISO 50 – Colour Corrected

10 Stops is 10 Stops right?

Well not quite. You may have noticed that between the Lee and B+W there is a difference in exposure even though the settings are the same. When comparing the two filtered exposures against the original there is a slight difference in exposures.  The original capture was 1/60th of a second so with the addition of a 10 stop filter, 15 second should yield the same exposure. Usually it is recommended that you compensate by 1 extra stop (so calculate shutter speed for 11 stops in total) hence why I doubled the shutter speed to 30 seconds. From the results it would seem if anything the Lee is 1 stop overexposed and the B+W is spot on. This would make the Lee Big Stopper bang on 10 stops in exposure reduction and the B+W about 11 stops.

Price

With the B+W $140 and Lee Big Stopper $160 there is little price difference between the two.

Availability

The Big Stopper has become a hugely successful filter and with production issues most customers have waited several months to obtain one. The production issues seem to have been resolved and the filters can be purchased with minimal delay if any. I purchased mine at MediaVision Sydney, the staff there were great.

 

Write a comment








Comment from Shawn
Time: May 25, 2013, 12:08 pm

Just wanted to say thanks. I am prepping for a trip of a life time to Greece and wanted to school myself on the B&W(which I have lots of already) and the Lee. I personally like the warming of the B&W above, but will purchase the Lee for the ability to do 10 stop + the Grad or Reverse Grad.
Thanks Again for your effort.

Comment from Luka Kerr
Time: June 30, 2013, 2:07 pm

Hey lee,

Im looking into investing into some of Lee Filters products. I have a 10-20mm lens that the filter size is 82mm. I want to get a ND filter which makes the horizon and above not to be overexposed but not underexposed as well.

I was wondering what i need to get for this. Like maybe a 100mm filter holder or something? I really dont know.

Thanks, Luka

Comment from Lee Duguid
Time: June 30, 2013, 5:31 pm

Hi Luka,
Yeah you want the 100mm x 150mm ND graduated filters. A 0.9 and 0.6 soft edge ND filter is a good start. Buy the 82mm wide angle adapter with Lee filter holder. It’s not cheap but a worthy investment.
Cheers
Lee

Comment from Roberto Pavezi Netto
Time: July 31, 2013, 6:38 pm

Nice review! Thank you very much.

Well I’m kind stuck with this filter subject because I will be in NY next monday buying some things in B&H and is almost impossible to find a Big Stopper.

Many people are saying that the new 2013 Hitech Prostop 3.0 IRND filter matches the Lee’s one. Since this one is much more available do you think is it worth the money? (US$ almost %145)

I really wanted a square one to use w/ the Lee system and they are compatible. The B+W seems nice but kind tricky to screw and unscrew when changing focus and metering exposure in testing conditions…

By the way, have you ever used the polirizer from B+W? B+W 77mm Kaesemann Circular Polarizer MRC Filter?

I appreciate your help!
Tks

Comment from Lee Duguid
Time: August 1, 2013, 7:16 pm

I’m not sure about the new Hitech filter. If it blocks IR, is just as colour neutral as the Lee and fits in the filter holder (slide in not screw on, don’t get the screw on) then great. Otherwise just save your money and wait for the Lee’s to become available.

I haven’t used one of these ‘B+W 77mm Kaesemann Circular Polarizer MRC Filter’, I barley use a CPL at all.

Comment from Roberto Pavezi Netto
Time: July 31, 2013, 6:41 pm

Sorry forgot to ask. Do you know if this Lee set is a good “starter kit”?

http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/292653-REG/LEE_Filters_NDGSSET_Graduated_Neutral_Density_Soft.html

It’s out of stock now but maybe I will be luckly to get one there or in Amazon.

Tks again!

Comment from Lee Duguid
Time: August 1, 2013, 7:14 pm

If it is cheaper just get the 0.6 and 0.9. The 0.3 is pretty much useless.

Comment from jm
Time: January 15, 2014, 1:21 am

how did you compute the exposure for Lee Big Stopper 10 Stop ND Filter + 2 Stop soft edge ND grad filter.. which is 100 seconds? thanks..

Comment from Lee Duguid
Time: January 17, 2014, 9:30 am

Thanks for the comment. I’ll do the calculation in my head for the Big stopper (so doubling the exposure 10 times) and not concern myself about the 2 stops for the sky too much. Best to get the exposure right with just the 2 stop ND grad then calculating the actual time with the 10 stop ND.

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Time: February 13, 2014, 9:56 am

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Comment from Deb Ramos
Time: November 11, 2016, 1:01 am

I am a novice at photography and would like to know what filters to purchase for the new canon 17-40mm lens — what is the purpose of a polarizer?

Comment from Lee Duguid
Time: November 11, 2016, 7:38 am

Hello Deb, the polarizer can be used to cut down indirect light, such as reflections on the waters surface. This will allow you to photograph the true colour of the water rather than the reflection of the sky. I can’t say I use mine very often, I would purchase ND filters first if you haven’t already.



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