A polarizing filter is one of the most essential tools in a landscape photographer’s bag. It is typically the first filter landscape photographers buy to instantly improve their pictures by adding vividness and contrast to them. In this article, we will go through detailed information on polarizing filters, what they do, why they are important and why you should consider using them for your landscape photography.
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.
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.
One of the biggest knocks against the Nikon 1 series of cameras has been, and continues to be, the small sized CX sensor. While this sensor has some distinct advantages when shooting birds and wildlife with the FT-1 adapter and the resulting 2.7x crop factor, it is challenged with landscape photography where dynamic range and color depth are important factors.
It is no secret that many landscape photographers, including myself, heavily rely on filters for field work. As I pointed out in my Landscape Photography Guide and Lens Filters Explained article, filters can be very helpful for, among other things, capturing more dynamic range in difficult lighting conditions, decreasing reflections and haze, enhancing colors and slowing down the shutter speed. I have been using a number of different filters and filter systems ever since I started photographing landscapes (more filter holder system reviews coming up soon), so when I found out that Hitech came out with a new filter system this year, I decided to give it a try.
While I was photographing the beautiful scenery of the Glacier National Park at sunrise, I realized that some filters are pretty much required to get good results when photographing landscapes. While many photographers think that some of the built-in tools in Lightroom and Photoshop can simulate filter behavior, making filters redundant in the digital age, some filters in fact can never be simulated in software, while others help in getting even better results in post-processing. If you do not know what filters are and what they are used for, I highly recommend reading my “lens filters explained” article before you continue to read this one.
Camera lens filters can serve different purposes in digital photography. They can be indispensable for capturing scenery in extremely difficult lighting conditions, they can enhance colors and reduce reflections or can simply protect lenses. Filters are widely used in photography and cinematography and while some only use filters in rare situations, others rely on filters for their everyday work. For example, landscape photographers heavily rely on various filters, while street and portrait photographers rarely get to use them. Since digital photography is all about the quality and intensity of light, lens filters are often necessary to modify the light before it enters the lens. Many photographers think that some of the built-in tools in Lightroom and Photoshop can simulate filter behavior, making filters redundant in the digital age. As I will demonstrate below, some filters in fact can never be simulated in software and some actually help in getting even better results during post-processing. In this article, I will talk about the different types of lens filters available, what they do, when and how to use them.