A circular polarizer filter can help you boost the color and contrast in your images. In our latest group test we seek to find the best circular polarizer for your needs, testing out five of the top filters available.
When you browse sites like Flickr or the pages of a magazine and spot really striking landscape shots taken during the day, with bright blue skies, defined clouds and strong contrast, the chances are they’ve been taken by a pro using a high-quality circular polarizer filter.
So what is a polarizer filter? Polarizing filters are a great addition to any photographer’s kit bag, because they’re brilliant at enhancing saturation and contrast, helping you to produce more vibrant images – while avoiding the need to use Photoshop!
They work by selecting which light rays reach your lens, and will cut through haze, deepen blue skies and boost contrast to give your landscape and scenic shots added impact. They’re perfect for shooting buildings and cities on bright sunny days because they boost blue skies and increase edge contrast for more dramatic results.
A polarizer filter can also cut through reflections in water – should you want to see river beds to give your landscape shots a different feel – and reduce unwanted reflections when shooting non-metallic shiny objects. A polarizing filter will also help to reduce the reflection and glare of bright, white light, meaning you don’t burn out your highlights so much.
More vibrant photos
For the best results, shoot on sunny days with blue skies and a little cloud, with your scenes or subjects at 90 degrees to the direction of sunlight. Once screwed on securely to the end of your lens, rotate the outer ring of the filter to adjust the intensity of its polarizing effect.
To ensure your DSLR doesn’t try to counteract the work of the filter, set your white balance to a fixed setting such as Daylight. You may also need to dial in a little negative exposure compensation to avoid overly bright results: around -2/3-stop to -1-stop should do it.
So, we picked a sunny day, rounded up five circular polarizers from five different makers (with prices from £25 to £132 for 58mm sizes) and set out on location in Somerset to see which one is best.
Best circular polarizer filter: 01 Kood Circular Polarizer
Price: £25 (58mm) £42 (77mm)
At the budget end of the camera filters scale is this affordable circular polarizer from Kood International. It comes in a plastic case to protect it when not in use.
Polarizing filters like this prevent your photos from being spoiled by unwanted reflections from glass, water, and other surfaces that scatter light. Image results using the Kood filter were fine and it boosted blue skies well, but didn’t lift contrast and detail radically in other areas of our shot.
As it’s quite thick it also reduced our shutter speeds by 2 1/3 -stops at full intensity.
This Kood polarizing filter is certainly good value at just £25 – which is less than half the price of the Hoya in this test – but the quality of the filter itself and the functional (not stunning) effects are unfortunately reflected in that price.
We learned using this filter that it’s best to turn the circular polarizer outer ring clockwise when adjusting the intensity of the effect – otherwise you end up undoing the filter from the lens!
Pros: Well priced for beginners, boosts skies capably enough; decent overall image results
Cons: Feels lacking in quality; thickness means a noticeable impact on shutter speeds; results not outstanding
PAGE 1 – Best circular polarizer filter: 01 Kood Circular Polarizer
PAGE 2 – Best circular polarizer filter: 02 Hoya PRO1 digital filter
PAGE 3 – Best circular polarizer filter: 03 Cokin P164 Circular polarizer
PAGE 4 – Best circular polarizer filter: 04 B+W Digital MRC F-PRO
PAGE 5 – Best circular polarizer filter: 05 Tiffen Digital HT
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