Photography News 08

Kit reviews

29

Lee Filters Little Stopper £99

SPECS

PRICE £99 100x100mm £68 75x90mm CONTACT www.leefilters.com AVAILABILITY 100x100mm, 75x90mm for Seven5 system FILTER Neutral density MATERIALS Glass, with foam gasket to prevent light seepage

1/10SEC AT F/22

6SECS AT F/22

RECOMMENDED WHITE-BALANCE SETTING 7000-8000K

7000 to 8000K – or try a custom white-balance, shooting something neutral through the filter. Using a Nikon D4 s I shot at every Kelvin value from 4350K to 10,000K, the value suggested for the Big Stopper. My test images were blue or cool until I got to 5880K and these were acceptably neutral. I used 6670K most of the time and when I wanted a touch of warmth I went to 7140K. Regarding exposure, I used a Gossen Digisky handheld meter and I found my Little Stopper was absorbing an extra 0.3EV, so a little extra exposure would be needed in practice. One thing about using the Little Stopper is that in decent light you can accurately compose and focus through the filter – you certainly can’t do that with the Big Stopper. That said, it’s still best to compose and focus prior to fitting the filter, especially in low light. Optically, the Little Stopper had no obvious impact on image quality and flare wasn’t an issue either unless the sun was shining directly onto the filter.

Manfrotto’s 055 family has been through several incarnations; now it’s been revamped again and I’ve been enjoying the company of the latest carbon fibre 055CXPRO4. With a street price of £259, it’s potentially very good value too. I partnered it with Manfrotto’s X-PRO head at £115. This four-section carbon version weighs in at 1.7kg so add a head, and you have a solid piece of kit but it remains perfectly portable, although a bag or a tripod-carrying strap is a good idea. To give the Manfrotto a stern test, I used a Nikon D4 s fitted with a 70-200mm f/2.8 at 200mm. I tried using this combination with the centre column at its maximum extension (not advised, I know) at a range of shutter speeds using a cable release to fire the shutter. In a brisk breeze, shooting at slow shutter speeds proved not to be an issue Setting the tripod up is quick. The Quick Power Locks are newly developed lever locks and the design is such that it is possible to undo two or more locks in one go. To be honest, with my hands it’s more practical doing two; while three is possible, it isn’t very comfortable. Anyway, undoing one lock at a time is just as quick and because you can use forefinger and thumb at the same time, there’s little effort needed. Locking the legs in position is positive and they lock securely in position with a reassuring click. The legs can be splayed for greater stability or a lower camera position. Just sliding the big silver catch down lets you set each leg at three more angles – the third position is the legs straight out at 90° to the centre column. The Little Stopper is the Big Stopper’s new little brother. Rather than a 1000x or 10 f/stop filter factor, it’s a mere 64x or six stops, so perfect for those occasions when light levels are low or you want a little blur. It’s available for the 100mm Lee system and the smaller Seven5 system; in stores at £99 and £68 respectively. Made from glass to avoid the infrared pollution problems of optical resin filters, the Little Stopper has a foam gasket to prevent light leakage when the filter is slipped into the holder. Accurate positioning and using the filter slot closest to the lens are both important to avoid any light leaks. The filter comes in a classymetal container together with instructions and an exposure guide chart. There’s also a note saying that the Little Stopper’s exposure factor can vary so you should test its actual factor before use. Its white-balance setting needs testing too, as the Little Stopper (like the Big Stopper and every extreme ND) is not neutral. Lee suggests testing a range from

The verdict The Little Stopper is a quality product and gives Lee Filters devotees an extra dimension to their long exposure photography. Plus it means you can get a serious amount of subject blur when the light levels are low.

PROS

Only slightly cool, easy to use, optical quality

CONS

Glass, so don’t drop it

Manfrotto055CXPRO4 £259

SPECS

PRICE 055CXPRO4 four section £259 055CXPRO3 three section £239 CONTACT www.manfrotto.co.uk CONSTRUCTION Carbon fibre LEG SECTIONS Quick Power Locks MAXIMUMLOAD 9kg MAXIMUMHEIGHT (centre column fully extended) 183cm with X-PRO head MAXIMUMHEIGHT (centre column down) 153cm with X-PRO head MINIMUMHEIGHT 11.5cm with X-PRO head FOLDED LENGTH with X-PRO head 68cm WEIGHT 1.7kg Three or four LEG LOCKS

The verdict Manfrotto’s 055 tripod family is a classic and the latest generation certainly lives up to its long-established reputation of offering excellent stability, tremendous flexibility and first-rate build quality. Of course, it comes at a price, but if you value and appreciate good kit and, more importantly, what it can do for your photography, this tripod is definitely worth checking out.

Clearly to use the tripod with its legs doing the splits means you have to adjust the centre column too and the Q90 mechanism lets you very quickly set the column horizontally without dismantling anything. All you do is extend the column to its maximum while pushing the red button at its base and the whole column/head assembly can be set at 90° and locked into position. It’s neat, works smoothly, is fast to use and the extra versatility is brilliant.

PROS

Stability, versatility, carbon fibre, the head’s retracting handles, leg locks

CONS

The leg locks can nip hands, so take care

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Issue 8 | Photography News

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