PolarPro Summit Landscape Kit review: beautiful design and results
Note (8/15/21): This post was updated to include new content following additional use in the field.
Summit is PolarPro’s all-in-one filter system designed for landscape photographers. The system includes commonly used solid and graduated NDs, a circular polarizer, individual pouches for storage, plus threaded plates for mounting to a 77 or 82mm lens (additional plate diameters may be purchased separately).
Square filter systems like Summit aren’t new. But with Summit, PolarPro has reimagined and redesigned the traditional filter holder with a number of unique features.
What’s different about Summit? Is it worth buying? Let’s take a look.
Summit Landscape Kit Components
PolarPro Summit is currently offered as two (money saving) kits: “Artisan”, which includes the entire system, and “Landscape” which includes just the essentials. You may also take an a la carte approach and build the system that works for you and your photographic needs.
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.
ND1000 Solid ND — 10-stop solid neutral density filter. Same build as ND64. (Included free with Summit at the time of this writing). Additional filters are sold separately.
ND4 Graduated Filter — Rectangular 2-stop graduated filter. 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
The first step is threading either the 77mm or 82mm thread plate onto the front of a 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. Inside the Core unit is a slot with a small lip at the bottom left. Insert the polarizer behind this lip, pull out the brass tab at the top-right, then push the filter down. Release the brass tab, and the polarizer should now be locked in place. (Note: you may also use Summit without the circular polarizer).
Next, mount the Core to the thread plate on the 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.
The basic functionality of PolarPro Summit is similar to other neutral density filter systems, but with a few unique details.
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
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 either the ND64 or ND1000 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 Graduated Filter) or you may add another Summit square ND filter to increase density. This slot is intentionally open-ended 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.
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.
Unlike most square filter holders that don’t support circular polarizers, PolarPro designed their Summit system around the filter. Summit’s circular polarizer sits inside the Core and is rotated using two wheels on the side. This allows you to rotate the polarizer without touching mounted filters.
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 and its components together, or you don’t use them 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.
Circular polarizer can’t be used independently
Summit’s circular polarizer is specially designed for the Summit Core holder. It can only be mounted and used with the Summit system.
User Experience from the Field
How well does Summit perform in the field when creating landscape images? Here are some notes from my experience using the product.
Locking down filters is important
Because the Summit ND filters easily slide in and out of the Core holder (one of the system’s best features), locking them down is important. Otherwise, if you were to move your tripod with a camera attached, or change orientation, the filters may accidentally slide out.
This is different from traditional filter holders that grip inserted filters. With Summit, you must remember to twist and tighten the two brass knobs on the side each time a filter is inserted to avoid accidents.
Filters are durable
Speaking of accidents, I’ve dropped the Summit ND filters a handful of times, and they’ve yet to scratch or break. I suspect the aluminum frame around the edge goes a long way towards protecting the glass. Great news for photographers shooting in challenging, natural environments.
Circular polarizer performs well
As mentioned earlier, the wheels of the circular polarizer could rotate easier, but in general, Summit’s circular polarizer design is fantastic. So much simpler and easier to use than other systems.
Case and pouches are cumbersome
Every component in Summit comes with its own individual, padded case. That’s great when storing the components when not in use, but it’s not ideal when traveling. The Core holder case is especially large, for it must accommodate the (removable) rubber hood.
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.
Below is the video version of this PolarPro Summit review from my YouTube channel.
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.