How to Find the Best Polarizer Filters
- Photography is more than just a hobby for some people; it is a passion. Beyond snapping a few pictures, they seek to capture the essence of the moment, whether it is a sunset, a bee hovering over a flower, or their child in mid-laugh. Getting a picture that is truly alive and traps a moment in time forever can be stumbled upon by chance; more often, though, it has to be worked for. Photographers have a lot of tools of the trade, not the least of which is an eye for the unusual, the beautiful, and beauty in the extraordinary. For outdoor photographers, a polarizer is one of the best tools for bringing stunning clarity and detail to photos. This guide will look at the best polarizers
for your needs and how you can use them to enhance your pictures.
What Can a Polarizing Filter Do?
- A polarizing filter is used primarily to eliminate the reflection or glare on surfaces like water. It is great for photographs of skies, bodies of water, saturated colors, and those that require greater light absorption. With this filter, you can enhance the color of the sky, make a shot of fall foliage more distinct and crisp, or remove glares from shots of the water. A good use of a polarizer is to eliminate the glare from the surface of water and enhance the tones from underneath. This way, you get a much richer, deeper image and can bring out color and complexity you may not have even seen with the naked eye. If you want to get an idea of what types of differences a polarizing filter can make, try a pair of polarizing sunglasses on. You will get a preview of the effects that you can achieve, especially if you remember to tilt your head and change the angle of polarization. There are two types of polarizing filters: linear and circular polarizers
. Which is best for you, and which is the best of the best?
- Linear polarizers are not as common as circular because they are designed to work on cameras without autofocus. Cameras made after the 1970s typically use a split beam metering system, which is a polarizing half mirror. Linear polarizers tend to be less expensive and many argue that they are more effective than circular polarizers. If you have an older camera or one without autofocus, you will need a linear polarizer filter. Some linear polarizing filters can be used on autofocus cameras, so make sure you look into this if you want one that will handle both. The first step to finding the best filter is knowing what size to get. Simply look on the back of the lens cap and you will see a figure in mm, 52mm for instance. You can browse the best selling linear polarizers here
. Choose from top brand names like Tiffen, B&W, Hoya, Zeikos, and Nikon.
Best Linear Polarizer Filters:
You will encounter a few of the same names over and over as you look for a linear polarization filter. Two of the best known are Hoya and Tiffen. Let's say you have a 52mm lens that you need a filter for. You can try the Tiffen 52mm Linear Polarizer
. This is designed for general outdoor use and will reduce the glare and reflection from non-metallic surfaces, including glass and water. It can be used with both color and black-and-white photography to minimize haze and can be rotated to help you achieve the effect you want. This can be found for just over $15 on Amazon. Another good one to try is the Adorama 52mm Linear Polarizing Filter
. This is much like the Tiffen version and is suited for general outdoor use and can be rotated for the desired effect. It can be used for color as well as black-and-white, and it combines with Red filters to reduce glare and define black-and-white shots. This filter costs under $13. Because circular polarizer filters are far more common, it is difficult to find reviews of linear filters. In addition to these suggestions, you can hit a few photography forums and ask for tips from the pros. These are good places to talk shop and get some useful information.
Circular Polarizer Filters:
If you see CIR, CIRCULAR, CLP, OR CP-L on your lens, you will need a circular polarizing filter. This is probably the case because, today, autofocus or SLR cameras are more common. There are several names to consider: B+W, Fujiyama, Marumi, Hamma, Heliopan, Hoya, Jessops, Lee, and Hi-Tech are among the top brands. You will find that Hoya, Lee, and B+W tend to lead the pack when it comes to favorites on photography forums. They were also well reviewed by LensTips and consumers.
One favorite is the Hoya HMC Circular Filter for 52mm lenses. This filter allows you to saturate colors without changing the overall color balance, and it is especially well-suited for cloud/sky contrast shots. The polarizing filter mount rotates so you can achieve your desired effect, and it is multi-coated for flare protection. One Amazon reviewer said that it worked very well for the type of photography he did, which involved photographing objects behind reflective glass. Another says it works extremely well. You can find the Hoya for $70 (view top rated circular polarizers here
). See what we meant about circular polarizing filters being more expensive? A high-end and well-reviewed choice is the B+W 52mm Circular Polarizer Multi Coated Glass Filter
. Amazon reviewers have said that this filter is expensive, but worth every penny, exceptional, and the best glass for your best glass. What does this B+W filter offer? It is multi coated for flare protection, offers deep contrast and great glare reduction for color and black-and-white photos, and combines with Red filters for gorgeous black-and-whites. You can find it for $80.
Please note that the examples we used were for 52mm lenses. You can find the same great brands in whichever size is right for your camera or cameras.
A polarizing filter can be a tremendously effective tool to add to your photography arsenal. One of the most important aspects of making sure it helps instead of hinders your photos is to practice. It may take a while before you are adept at using it, but this is to be expected. You can find great tips in forums, as well as on YouTube. Take a look at this video (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7Vvz_d6APXk) and others so you can see how they look and work in action.