If you recently purchased a $160 Lee Solar Eclipse filter to photograph the upcoming solar eclipse, beware: Amazon has sent out emails warning photographers not to use it. Amazon is also refunding the full purchase price without requiring that the pricey filters be returned.
Photographer Brian Matiash purchased the filter recently and was surprised by an email from Amazon this weekend with the subject line: “Important Product Safety Notification Regarding Your Amazon.com Order…”
“To protect your eyes when viewing the sun or an eclipse, NASA and the American Astronomical Society (AAS) advise you to use solar eclipse glasses or other solar filters from recommended manufacturers,” Amazon writes. “Viewing the sun or an eclipse using any other glasses or filters could result in loss of vision or permanent blindness.
“Amazon has not received confirmation from the supplier of your order that they sourced the item from a recommended manufacturer. We recommend that you DO NOT use this product to view the sun or the eclipse.
“Amazon is applying a balance for the purchase price to Your Account (please allow 7-10 days for this to appear on Your Account). There is no need for you to return the product.”
Amazon has also completely deleted all product pages for the LEE filters on its online store. It’s still listed by retailers such as B&H (where it’s backordered), though.
Amazon’s email “was out of the blue because it was almost as if Amazon was stating that Lee’s solar eclipse filter is unsafe for use,” Matiash tells PetaPixel. “It all sounds like they would rather take the hit in refunding all eclipse related gear that hasn’t been officially approved.
“No doubt that it’s a rounding error for Amazon but sending an emailing stating to not use the filter plus refunding me the purchase price does seem to absolve them of any litigious actions down the line.”
B&H’s description indicates that the LEE Solar Eclipse filter should be safe for solar eclipse photography. It reads:
The solar eclipse filter is designed solely for solar and solar eclipse photography. It is not suitable for general long-exposure landscape photography, or for direct solar viewing with the naked eye.
We’ve reached out to LEE for comment regarding this “recall” and will update this post if/when we hear back.
LEE also offers a Super Stopper Neutral Density filter that reduces light by a whopping 15 stops. But if you’re wondering whether you can use this extremely dark filter to photograph the solar eclipse, the official answer is “no.”
A source tells PetaPixel that after reaching out to LEE regarding using Super Stopper for the upcoming eclipse, the company provided this response:
Thank you for your inquiry. Although we’ve heard of people successfully using the Super Stopper, there is a risk of damaging your sensor from the IR & UV rays.
So if you’re unwilling to put your sensor at risk, you shouldn’t use the Super Stopper for the eclipse. It’s possible (or even likely) that the LEE Solar Eclipse filter is perfectly safe for the eclipse and that Amazon is simply taking an extremely cautious position, but until we hear official word from LEE, you might want to hold off if you’re the cautious type.
Update: Fuji Addict got in touch with LEE and writes that the filters should be perfectly safe for use, writing:
It seems Amazons concerns were that DSLR users would use it while looking through the optical view finder and regular viewers would use it instead of proper glasses. So out of unnecessary caution, Amazon is refunding and pushing the cost of the filters on dealers. The dealers will likely file a class action lawsuit against Amazon because there is nothing wrong with the filters if used for their intended purpose.
According to LEE, all photographic filters for the solar eclipse are designed this way and Amazon might end up pulling them all if they realize this is the case. So the lucky people that ordered from Amazon should be perfectly ok using the filter on their mirrorless camera or with live view. Just don’t try to view the eclipse directly through the filter!
So if you received a refund from Amazon, consider yourself one of the lucky photographers who was gifted a free filter from the giant retailer.
Update: In a comment left below, LEE states that Amazon incorrectly identified this filter as a viewing apparatus:
Amazon has incorrectly identified our filter as a viewing apparatus. The LEE Filters Solar Eclipse filter is NOT intended for viewing the eclipse but rather to photograph the phases of the eclipse, as clearly stated on our website
Enjoy your free filters, folks!