Tuesday, July 1, 2008
Gadget Bag: Polarizers
If there ever has been a single piece of gear that all nature photographers agree is indispensable, it’s the polarizer
For more than 60 years, B+W Filters has been known for outstanding quality as well as technological innovation. It was the first filter manufacturer in the world to offer multilayer coating that repels water and dirt. Its proprietary MRC coating is actually harder than glass, so it protects filters from scratches. Today, B+W offers more than 1,500 different filters, plus many related accessories. If forced to pick a single favorite, many photographers would choose a B+W warming polarizer, which combines the powers of a polarizer with the warming effect of an amber filter and is available in several configurations (81A, 81C, etc.).
Not every filter manufacturer can say it has been recognized by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences with a Technical Achievement Award. But as a matter of fact, Tiffen has two Oscars® (and one Emmy®) in its trophy case. Using a Tiffen polarizer doesn’t guarantee you’ll get any closer to Hollywood, but it does mean you’re using a product with quality high enough to satisfy even the most demanding professionals. Tiffen polarizers are widely available in all popular sizes.
Primarily known in the motion-picture and video industries, Formatt has an excellent reputation as a manufacturer of high-quality filters. It makes linear and circular polarizers in a variety of sizes to fit just about any screw-in lens assembly. Construction incorporates the Formatt ACT methodology, which sandwiches a polarizing polymer between two pieces of high-quality Schott optical glass, which is then polished to extremely high tolerances.
One of the best features of Singh-Ray’s polarizers and warming polarizers is what they call “Lighter, brighter.” In a nutshell, that means the filter factor is less, and consequently, it requires less exposure compensation. It also means more light is transmitted through the viewfinder, so it’s easier to compose and focus. A perennial favorite, the Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue Polarizer allows you to gradually shift from warm, golden tones to stark, cold blues simply by rotating the filter. This filter is highly recommended for beach scenes.
Heliopan filters are more like jewels than camera accessories. They’re made from glass supplied by Schott (wholly owned by Carl Zeiss) and set in black anodized brass rings that screw in with precision and authority. They’re available in every conceivable size and configuration, including 13 different types of polarizers and special-effect filters. Heliopan thin circular polarizers accommodate ultra-wide-angle lenses as wide as 21mm.
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