One of the easiest ways to substantially improve the image quality of your daytime cityscapes is to use a circular polarizing filter. Putting a polarizing filter on your lens is like wearing a pair of polarized sunglasses over your eyes; the polarized glass blocks random light waves from passing through, creating a clearer image. Randomized light tends to be lower quality than direct light. As such, a polarizing filter will help ensure that only the sharpest, most colorful light hits your image sensor.
As a busy photographer who travels quite a bit both within the USA and overseas, I have gone through many types of gear in my camera bag. While some of the gear and accessories are absolute necessities I will not leave my home without, others can be very useful in particular situations or when traveling to other countries. In this article, I would like to go over my top must-have gear for travel and discuss why you might consider including them in your arsenal in the future.
The title of this article closely resembles a Tarantino movie (and I originally wrote this close to Halloween weekend), but this is another story. It is a story that speaks of lenses, filters and the people behind them. And it describes the difficulties of doing a review when time and the weather aren’t cooperating with you. What you will read is not like a classic review of the new IRIX 15mm f/2.4, but something slightly different. It may deviate from a “normal” technical review, but I think you’ll still get a really good idea of what I think about the lens.
For most photographers, especially those who shoot landscapes, it is crucial to have a good set of filters at your disposal. Filters come in two types: screw-on filters (attaching directly to your filter threads) and square filter systems (sliding into a holder on the end of your lens). A lot of landscape photographers move to a square filter system over time — they have a wider selection of filters, and they let you move your filters from lens to lens more quickly. The main companies that make square filter systems are Lee, Cokin and HiTech, all of which are well-known among landscape photographers. There are a few other companies in the marketplace, too, including a relatively new brand called NiSi. Recently, NiSi has been contacting photography websites for reviews, and they contacted us as well. I have used the Lee system for a while, and experienced a few problems with it, so I wanted to review these NiSi filters and see how they stack up. This review covers the NiSi filter system, along with a few specific filters.
Landscape photographers often deal with the dilemma of choosing between different types and brands of neutral density and graduated neutral density filters for use in high-contrast situations such as sunrise and sunset, where their cameras might not have enough dynamic range to be able to capture the entire scene. While we are not going to go over each and every brand to see which one performs better, we do want to show the difference in sharpness between glass and resin filters. For this particular test, we used three 0.6 (2 stop) filters from three different manufacturers – NiSi (glass filter), Lee (resin) and HiTech (resin). The latter two are probably the two brands that are used the most among photographers in the field.
During the past few months, both Spencer and I have pretty much switched from our old Lee filter system to a much better (in our opinion) filter system by NiSi. While I have been a fan of Lee filters, I have had a few problems with it in the field, whether it comes to how I use a polarizing filter, or the fact that I find myself having to re-purchase the resin filters, since they constantly get scratched. On one hand it is nice to have resin filters, since they are light and I can carry a single filter with me in a pouch and I am set. On the another hand, how good are these filters if they easily get scratched up and need to be periodically replaced? I have never tried glass filters, but after obtaining a pack of glass filters from NiSi, I might switch going forward. Well, I will save my thoughts to the upcoming NiSi filter system review, but for now, I would like to share the below interview with Macon Leiper of ikan Corporation, which distributes NiSi filters in the USA.
Every once in a while, you will hear some photographers claim that lens filters are completely useless. Some will argue that only specific types of filters such as UV and protective filters are evil, while others will also include polarizing and ND filters into the mix, claiming that one could reproduce the effects of all those filters in post-processing software. Arguments for or against filters can spark a lot of heated debates in the photography community, similar to topics such as “Nikon vs Canon”, or “DSLR vs Mirrorless”. There are certainly some passionate individuals out there who are ready to stand their ground no matter what. And there is nothing wrong with that, as that’s what typically happens when there is truth on both side of the coin, depending on what angle you are looking at – there are certainly both pros and cons to using lens filters. Having been teaching photography for a number of years now, I have come across many different photographers of all skill levels in the field and I have come to realize that there is sadly quite a lot of misinformation out there regarding lens filters and their proper use. Many of us simply don’t know enough about not just filters themselves, but also their significant effect on our post-processing workflow. Although we have previously written many articles on lens filters, let’s explore filters once again and hopefully address some of the misconceptions about these important tools.
When it comes to ultra wide-angle lenses, the Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G is an outstanding choice, thanks to its top notch corner to corner sharpness, amazing colors and superb performance throughout the focal range. The lens has become a legend, outperforming most ultra wide-angle primes on the market in terms of resolution. As I have revealed in my in-depth Nikkor 14-24mm f/2.8G review, even Canon shooters have been using this lens with adapters since it is so good (and I have seen Sony A7/A7R users with this lens as well). The only downfall of the 14-24mm is its lack of a lens filter, which makes it impossible to use regular circular polarizers and filter holders. Thanks to the popularity of the lens, a number of manufacturers developed larger filter holder systems that allow mounting both polarizing and rectangular filters (such as neutral density and graduated neutral density filters). One such manufacturer is FotodioX, which developed the most popular filter system for the lens, the WonderPana FreeArc, which I am reviewing here. Although the review sample I received is for the Nikon 14-24mm lens, the FotodioX WonderPana is in fact available for a number of lenses from different manufacturers. For example, those that shoot with the Canon 14mm f/2.8L II lens can also use the same system using slightly different adapters.