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PolarPro Summit Landscape Kit – First Impressions

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Summit is PolarPro’s new, all-in-one filter system designed for landscape photographers. The system includes a variety of solid and graduated neutral density filters, a circular polarizer, and thread plates to mount the filters to the front of any threaded lens.

Filter systems like PolarPro Summit aren’t new. They’ve been around for years. But PolarPro appears to have had the luxury of time to research and experiment, for Summit is anything but a “me too” product. PolarPro appears to have redesigned and engineered the traditional filter kit from the ground up, for it features a number of original ideas that set it apart.

What’s different about Summit? Is it worth buying? Let’s take a look.

(Note: I’m calling this a “First Impressions” review until I’ve had more time to use Summit in the field.)

Summit Landscape Kit Components

Summit Landscape Kit
PolarPro Summit Landscape Kit

PolarPro Summit is an a la carte system you may customize with whichever components you need, or you may purchase pre-built kits at discounted prices. Summit kits include “Artisan” (the entire system) and “Landscape” (the essentials).

Here are the items included in the “Landscape” kit:

Core — The backbone of the system. Holds neutral density filters and the circular polarizer.

77/82mm Thread Plates — Two threaded lens plates for mounting Core. Additional thread plates are sold separately in smaller and larger sizes.

ND64 Solid ND — 6-stop solid neutral density filter. Constructed using quartz glass and housed in a rigid cast aluminum frame. Includes padded protective case.

ND4 Graduated Filter — Rectangular graduated filter. 2-stop reduction in light at the darkest end. Includes padded protective case.

Circular Polarizer — Increases clarity and remove reflections. Includes padded protective case.

Case — Soft, protective case for carrying the Core unit. Rubberized bottom to protect it when placed on the ground. Can hold entire system with all components attached.

Setting Up the PolarPro Summit

Attaching the PolarPro Summit to a Canon 16-35mm EF lens
Attaching the PolarPro Summit to a Canon 16-35mm EF lens

The first step is threading either the 77mm or 82mm thread plate onto the front of your lens. If you’re not sure what diameter your lens is, check the front or top of the lens. You should see a number there. 77mm and 82mm are the most common diameters, but if you need a larger or smaller plate, PolarPro offers additional sizes. For smaller lens diameters, you may also use step-up rings to mount the 77mm plate included with the kit.

With the thread plate attached, the next step is adding the circular polarizer to the Core. On the inside of the Core unit, you’ll see a slot with a small lip at the bottom left. Simply insert the polarizer behind this lip, pull out the brass tab at the top-right, then push the filter down into the slot. Release the brass tab, and the polarizer should now be locked in place. (Note: you can use Summit without the circular polarizer).

Next, mount the Core to the thread plate on your lens. Insert the bottom edge of the plate into the Core, lift-up on the brass knob on top, then slide the Core unit over the ring. Tighten the brass knob to lock it down.

Summit is now ready to use with whichever neutral density filters you intend to use.

Unique Features

The basic functionality of PolarPro Summit is similar to other neutral density filter systems, but also includes a number of unique features that enhance the user experience.

Cast Aluminum Frames

Unlike most square and rectangular filters that are simply raw panes of glass or acrylic, Summit’s filters are housed in solid cast aluminum. This aluminum frame not only protects the filters from damage and undesirable fingerprints and smudges but gives you a place to grip and hold the glass.

Filter Pull Tabs

PolarPro Summit ND64 Filter
PolarPro Summit ND64 Filter

Each filter includes a bright, PolarPro-brass colored tab at the top. This tab gives you a place to hold filters when adding and removing them from the Core. Filter type and strength is printed on each tab, and on the top of the frame so you can see which filters are inserted when standing behind the camera.

Hard Stop When Inserting Solid ND

The Core unit includes an inner and outer slot when inserting filters. The inner slot has a closed bottom while the outer slot is open.

Insert the ND64 square filter into the inner slot, and the filter slides down and stops in place. Unlike other filter holders where you have to manually align square filters just-so over the circular lens, Summit filters quickly and easily slide into place for a perfect fit every time.

The outer slot is designed for graduated filters (like the included ND4 GR) or you may add another Summit square ND filter to increase density. This slot is intentionally open-ended and lightly grips the filter so the filter may be raised and lowered to reduce exposure at either the top or bottom of your image. Filters in this slot may be inserted top-down or bottom-up.

Hood

Similar in design to a cinema camera matte box, the PolarPro Summit includes a rubber hood for blocking sun flare and reflections. The hood may be easily removed and reattached if you don’t need it.

Circular Polarizer

PolarPro Summit Circular Polarizer
PolarPro Summit Circular Polarizer

Unlike most filter holders that don’t support circular polarizers, PolarPro designed their Summit system around one. The polarizer sits inside the Core and is rotated using two wheels on the side. This allows you to rotate the polarizer without touching the filter.

If you don’t want the polarization effect, simply rotate the filter 180 degrees, or remove the polarizer and place it back in its padded case.

Focal Length Compatibility

17mm full-frame is the widest supported focal length of Summit. Images shot using focal lengths wider than 17mm (15mm or 16mm typically) may include some vignette, but how much is added around the edges of your images will depend on lens type and manufacturer.

Points to Consider Before Buying

Before considering PolarPro Summit for your landscape photography needs, a couple of points to consider.

Summit is only compatible with PolarPro filters — Square and rectangular 100mm filters made by other companies aren’t compatible with Summit. PolarPro’s filters are slightly larger because of their aluminum frames, which makes the dimensions of the Core slots wider as well. This means you won’t be able to mix and match filters as you would using other systems. You either use Summit for everything, or you don’t use it at all.

Circular polarizer turning is slow — Unlike a traditional circular polarizer that can be rotated all the way around in one go, the polarizer inside Core is rotated incrementally using a wheel exposed through small openings on the left and right side. The small opening makes rotating the polarizer comparatively slower and a bit cumbersome (I could only comfortably rotate it when using both hands). In general, though, it works fine. Perhaps it is something that could be made smoother and faster in a future version.

PolarPro Summit Circular Polarizer turning in Core

Circular polarizer can’t be used independently — Summit’s circular polarizer is specially designed and does not include threads for mounting independently. This means the Summit circular polarizer may only be used in the Core system.

Final Impressions

PolarPro’s Summit filter system is beautiful, thoughtful, and well-engineered. Like pretty much everything PolarPro produces, Summit has a solidity and quality of construction that sets it apart. From a usability perspective, the experience is exceptional.

Before committing, however, it’s worth remembering that Summit is a closed, proprietary system. Meaning, any additional filters you need will have to be from PolarPro. Thankfully, PolarPro makes some of the best neutral density filters out there in a wide variety of shapes and forms, so you do absolutely get what you pay for. You just won’t be able to use third party filters or any existing 100mm filters you may already own.

Purchase PolarPro Summit

PolarPro Summit is available through Amazon and B&H, but at the time of this article, PolarPro is running a fantastic deal through their online shop: $100 off the Landscape Kit, plus a free ND1000 (10-Stop) neutral density filter (that’s worth $200). No idea how long this deal will last, so click the button below to check the current price.

Video

Below is the video version of this PolarPro Summit review from my YouTube channel.

Disclaimer

In full disclosure, PolarPro provided the Summit Landscape Filter Kit for the purposes of this review. PolarPro did not have any creative or editorial input on the contents of this review, nor did they see or read either the article or video before they were published.

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