This is the 1st of your 3 free articles

Become a member for unlimited website access and more.

FREE TRIAL Available!

Learn More

Already a member? Sign in to continue reading

Gadget Bag: The Fall Color Filter

For cutting glare and getting natural saturated reds, yellows and oranges, the polarizer is your autumn companion
Outdoor Photographer may earn a small commission if you buy something using one of the retail links in our articles. Outdoor Photographer does not accept money for any editorial recommendations. Read more about our policy here. Thanks for supporting Outdoor Photographer.
This Article Features Photo Zoom

The polarizer works its magic especially well on fall colors. Rotated to the proper angle, the filter can bring out those rich colors by eliminating the polarized reflections that desaturate them. It can deepen the blue of the sky and penetrate atmospheric haze (but not solid particulate matter like dust or water droplets), increasing contrast by eliminating polarized rays. The polarizer also can reduce or eliminate polarized reflections from nonmetallic surfaces like water.

Wait a minute, a polarizing filter eliminates polarized light? Doesn’t it polarize light? Both. The polarizer polarizes normal non-polarized rays, and can, when rotated appropriately, block polarized rays. Normal light waves vibrate in all directions perpendicular to their path of travel. A polarizer allows waves vibrating in only one direction to pass, blocking all other waves. You can control it by rotating the filter. When light is polarized—the waves vibrating in just one direction—the polarizer can block it when you rotate the filter appropriately.

It’s easy to use a polarizer. Just attach it to your camera’s lens and watch through the viewfinder while you rotate the filter. You can see the effect change as you rotate the filter. For sky-darkening, bear in mind that the effect will be strongest at a 90° angle to the sun (i.e., when the sun is to one side, rather than when shooting with the sun behind you, or into the sun). And since the effect varies depending on the angle from the sun, you can get uneven skies when working with a wide-angle lens. For saturating colorful autumn leaves, just rotate the filter until you see an effect you like.

If your camera doesn’t offer TTL viewing, just hold the filter up to your eye, rotate it until you see the effect you want, then attach it to the lens in that orientation.

Hoya HD Circular Polarizer

Polarizers come in two types: linear and circular. Both types are filter-shaped; “linear” and “circular” refer to how the filters polarize the light. If your camera has TTL (through-the-lens) metering or autofocusing, you want a circular polarizer because a linear polarizer will cause metering and focusing errors. Circular polarizers allow normal functioning of TTL metering and AF. If you use a linear polarizer, you’ll have to meter and focus without the filter, lock the focus and exposure, then attach the filter.

Polarizers have filter factors from around 1.3 stops to 3 stops, depending on the filter and lighting conditions. It’s a good idea to bracket exposures when using a polarizer, and be aware that some polarizers produce a slight cool cast. You can get a combination polarizer-warming filter to counter this.

B+W F-Pro Polarizer

Widely recognized for technological innovation as well as high quality, B+W filters were the first to offer multilayer coating that repels water and dirt. The coating is harder than glass and protects the filter from scratches. Filter rings are precisely machined with clean, sharp grooves and a great finish. The B+W Kaesemann Circular Polarizing Multi-Resistant Coating (MRC) filter is constructed from select polarizer foils and specially formulated optical glass. Kaesemann (“encased”) filters are sealed at the edges for maximum durability under extreme climatic conditions. The polarizers are available in a wide range of popular sizes. For the last 25 years, B+W has been part of the legendary Schneider Optical Works.

Introduced by photographer Jean Coquin some 35 years ago, the Cokin Creative Filter System comprises rectangular filters that fit into a special holder that attaches to the lens via an interchangeable metal ring. You can use the same filter and holder on lenses with different diameters simply by changing the ring—a big money-saver if you have a large, varied lens collection. Polarizers are available in circular (164) and linear (160) form—just two of more than 160 filters in the system—in all four Cokin system sizes: small, medium, large and extra-large. Cokin also offers the PURE Harmonie series, featuring a superthin 4.5mm circular polarizer with a factor of just one stop, available in circular sizes from 37mm to 82mm.

This Article Features Photo Zoom

Heliopan SH-PMC Circular Polarizer

Heliopan has been producing high-quality filters in Germany, using Schott glass from Zeiss, since 1949. Several polarizers are available, including circular ones in slim or standard mounts, with or without SH-PMC coating. The slim-mount version can be used with lenses as wide as 21mm. The Heliopan High-Transmission Circular Polarizing Multi-Coated Filter features SH-PMC multilayer coating, which transmits 98.8% of light and absorbs only one ƒ-stop, enabling exposure flexibility. The filters feature matte-black brass mounting rings.

One of the world’s largest manufacturers of optical glass, including glass used for camera lenses, eyeglasses and photographic filters, Hoya offers a full lineup of extra-thin Super Multi Coated polarizers. The EVO Circular Polarizer (exclusive to the U.S. market), available in sizes from 49mm to 82mm, features a very low-profile aluminum frame that works well with wide-angle lenses, plus IS-HMC overlain with an easy-to-clean, clear water- and stain-resistant coating. The Pro1 D filters, including the Pro1 D Circular Polarizer, are designed exclusively for digital cameras and offer advanced features like enhanced multicoating, black-rimmed glass and low-profile frames that don’t cause vignetting on wide-angle lenses. They’re available in sizes up to 82mm.

Kenko Zeta EX Circular Polarizer

Kenko‘s top polarizer is the Zeta EX Circular Polarizer. Superthin and superlight at 0.8mm and 10 grams, the Zeta EX can be used with wide-angle lenses. It’s also brighter than most polarizers, transmitting up to 25% more light. ZR (Zero Reflection) Super Multi-Coating minimizes reflections at any angle, while Nano Glass Technology produces an ultrasmooth stain- and scratch-resistant surface. It’s available in screw-in sizes from 49mm to 82mm.

Pro-Optic filters come in a wide range of sizes at budget-minded prices. Pro-Optic Pro Digital circular polarizers are available in sizes from 52mm to 77mm; Pro Digital Multi Coated/Water Repellent versions are available in 72mm and 77mm sizes (for the same $38.95 price as their “regular” counterparts). Adorama also offers a full line of circular polarizers under their own name in popular sizes ranging from 40.5mm through 86mm. The filters are thin and well made, and produce excellent results. Adorama also offers an interesting line of filter accessories, including Slinger filter wallets, stack caps (that simplify storage) and pincer-style filter wrenches for loosening filters that have been attached too tightly.

Singh-Ray Gold and Blue Polarizer

Singh-Ray LB (for “Lighter, Brighter”) polarizers transmit more light than average, permitting use of faster shutter speeds or smaller apertures, with less adverse effect on AF performance. They come in neutral and warm versions. Especially appropriate for fall colors is the LB ColorCombo Warm Circular Polarizer/LB Color Intensifying Filter, which provides full polarizer benefits plus color enhancement for outdoor scenes, particularly reds, browns and greens. The thinner-mount version of this filter can be used on lenses as wide as 12-24mm without corner vignetting.

Tiffen filters have long been used by the movie industry (the company was founded in 1938, and has been awarded a pair of Oscars® and an Emmy® for technical achievement). Tiffen offers a wide range of filters, including polarizers in all popular sizes. The Digital HT Circular Polarizer comes in sizes from 52mm through 82mm, and features Tiffen’s High-Transmission Double-Sided Titanium Multi-Coating, which exceeds military specs for hardness and durability, as well as a low-profile titanium finish ring and an anti-reflective black locking ring.