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Thread: Lens Filter - polarizing and ND or GND filter

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    flipmode's Avatar
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    Lens Filter - polarizing and ND or GND filter

    I'm thinking about getting a few filters to start playing with but need some advice.

    I'm looking for something for landscape shots and also waterfall shots so I was thinking about a polarizing filter and either a ND filter or GND filter. My questions is this:

    1) Are some brands better than others? And which one's would you recommend?

    2) Between the ND and GND filter, which one would you go with? Does one offer more benefits that the other where I can get the most out of it?

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    Moderator Donald's Avatar
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    Re: Lens Filter

    Chris

    Are some 'better' than others? The received wisdom is that 'Singh-Ray' are top of the tree (with a price to match). Do a search on Singh Ray here and you'll turn up Colin's references and the links to the articles he's written for their website.

    It depends what you're intending to achieve. For everyday run-of-the-mill stuff (which is what most of us are doing), the question is - Do you need Singh-Ray quality? I use Cokin. Have been toying with the idea of changing to Lee, but as Rob said in a thread a couple of weeks ago, would I be able to see the difference if there were two images placed side-by-side?

    So, one of the questions to answer is - How deep is your wallet?

    As to ND or GND - They're for very different things. Go onto the websites of Cokin, Lee or Singh-Ray, etc and read up about what each is for. I think you need both in your armoury. The ND doesn't get used a lot, but it's really frustrating not to have it for those times when you need it - like at flowing water!

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    Re: Lens Filter

    Hi Chris,

    Donald covered things nicely there, so I'll just expand on a couple of things ...

    An ND filter is used to cut back the light so that you can use longer shutter speeds, thus smoothing water - getting cloud motion etc. I use these a lot in exposures up to around 12 to 16 minutes. For this the best filter - hands down - is the Singh-Ray Vari-ND which will give you 2 to 8 stops in a single filter. Not cheap, but worth 3 times the price (in fact, I have 2 of them!).

    GND filters are used to compress the dynamic range of a scene into something that the camera sensor can handle - typically to retain foreground shadow detail when shooting into the light. For this I use a Singh-Ray 3-Stop GND and/or 3-Stop Reverse GND (the latter when the sun is around the horison line).

    As Donald mentioned, I've written a few articles for their blog that also include a few of my images that you might find interesting.

    http://singhray.blogspot.com/search/...lin%20Southern

    Hope this helps

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    flipmode's Avatar
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    Re: Lens Filter

    Wow, Singh-Ray is quite expensive. As much as I'd like something of that caliber in my bag, I will have to settle for something more practical for now. I was looking at Hoya. How are they?

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    Re: Lens Filter

    Quote Originally Posted by flipmode View Post
    Wow, Singh-Ray is quite expensive. As much as I'd like something of that caliber in my bag, I will have to settle for something more practical for now. I was looking at Hoya. How are they?
    No idea - I don't use them

    In terms of ND though I'd really Really REALLY encourage you to get a Vari-ND; if for no other reason than it's many filters in one. They're not cheap, but it'll last a lifetime (and more).

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    Re: Lens Filter

    Are those Vari-ND made up of two polarisers? If so, do you have to take the polarisation in account when composing your shot?

    Remco
    (thinking about yet another addition to his wish-list)

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    Re: Lens Filter

    Quote Originally Posted by revi View Post
    Are those Vari-ND made up of two polarisers?
    Yes, but they don't give you colour shifts like you can get if you try this with 2 normal polarisers.

    If so, do you have to take the polarisation in account when composing your shot?
    Sorry, I can't really say - I never use polarisers.

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    Re: Lens Filter

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post

    If so, do you have to take the polarisation in account when composing your shot?
    Sorry, I can't really say - I never use polarisers.
    Hi Colin,

    I think I see what Remco is getting at here, he is talking about when you are using the Vari-ND.

    If the Vari-ND is two special polarisers, let's assume one is parallel to the horizon and the other is at say 30 degrees to it, giving an amount of attenuation to all light. Remco's question was, won't the first one kill reflections off the surface of still water, just as if using a single polariser would?

    However, if the whole Vari-ND filter were rotated (both optical plates together), this wouldn't affect the attenuation, but would it affect reflections, or sky colour?

    Thanks in advance,

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    Re: Lens Filter

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    I think I see what Remco is getting at here, he is talking about when you are using the Vari-ND.
    Hi Dave,

    I remember someone apparantly asking Prince Charles what it was like to be a prince - to which he is supposed to have replied "I don't know - I've never been anything else". Bit like that with me - I've never really used a regular polariser in anger, only the Vari-ND - so in that respect I can't say if it behaves like a CP, but to try and answer the question, no, I don't make any allowances for it's properties other than the effect it has on my shutterspeed.

    I'll do some tests on the reflection aspect if I get a chance.

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    Moderator Dave Humphries's Avatar
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    Re: Lens Filter

    Quote Originally Posted by Colin Southern View Post
    I'll do some tests on the reflection aspect if I get a chance.
    Thanks, I was hoping you'd say that, you're a prince (among photographers)

    Cheers,

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    Re: Lens Filter

    Thanks guys for the responses.

    @ Colin, I'll definitely be considering it for the near future. Perhaps after I get some good glass.

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    Re: Lens Filter

    Quote Originally Posted by Dave Humphries View Post
    Thanks, I was hoping you'd say that, you're a prince (among photographers)

    Cheers,
    No worries Dave - just remind me please if I forget!

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    Re: Lens Filter

    I have the Singh Ray 3 stop soft grad and love it. Wonderful filter and I will be adding one or two more in time, perhaps the Darrel Benson Reverse grad ND. Seems like a slick item for sunsets and sunrises. With filters, you get what you pay for of course and you only pay for it once.

    Not to hijack the thread, but I am ordering a ND and had looked at the Vari ND myself. Also saw the Vari N duo. These are not cheap and I was curious if there was any reason not to get the duo. Looks like I will be ordering from Singh Ray as these items appear out of stock online. Thanks for any thoughts on these two models.

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    Re: Lens Filter

    Quote Originally Posted by danattherock View Post
    Not to hijack the thread, but I am ordering a ND and had looked at the Vari ND myself. Also saw the Vari N duo. These are not cheap and I was curious if there was any reason not to get the duo. Looks like I will be ordering from Singh Ray as these items appear out of stock online. Thanks for any thoughts on these two models.
    Hi Dan,

    To be honest, I'd completely forgotten about this model. When I ordered my 2nd regular Vari-ND I got a call from Weir (my editorial contact whom I liaise with for my Singh-Ray blog articles) offering to upgrade me to this new one (it wasn't publicly announced at that point), but after thinking about it, I decided to stick with the regular variety. Given that I never use a CP filter anyway, I guess it wasn't really that surprising. I know that a lot of people rave about them, but I'm afraid that they "just don't do it for me".

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    Re: Lens Filter

    @ Dave

    Hi Dave - if you have a read of Dan's post above, and my reply, it might answer the question we had about the Vari-ND. I'll still test though if I get the chance.

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    Re: Lens Filter

    For the last few weeks I have been thinking that a GND (or set thereof) could possibly benefit me with the type of shooting I am leaning toward and in some of the conditions in which I anticipate finding myself. Recently, it has been suggested that one of the photos I posted here could have been corrected in-camera by the use of said filter.

    I read a thing Ken Rockwell wrote about these filters. He says that a square type filter with the mounts et al is unnecessary and he uses a screw-on type (Tiffen). However, I have not seen this type of GND mentioned in this thread. I can see the obvious advantages of a square type (moving it up & down as needed), but the ease and convience of use with a screw-on is certainly tempting and would be a lot easier in some of the environments I find myself in. It might be a bit cumbersome having to put down the camera with a square rig, pick up a paddle in a canoe to correct the boat, and pick the camera back up, just as one example. As another, just the set-up time difference between the two types.

    Any thoughts on this and is a screw type completely out of the question?

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    Re: Lens Filter

    Quote Originally Posted by flipmode View Post
    Wow, Singh-Ray is quite expensive. As much as I'd like something of that caliber in my bag, I will have to settle for something more practical for now. I was looking at Hoya. How are they?
    Hi, Chris;

    I have Hoya close-up filters, the kind with a set of +1, +2, +4 diopter. They seem fine: they cut the light some, but that's expected, and they don't add any appreciable CA or other distortion.

    Cheers,
    Rick

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    Re: Lens Filter

    Quote Originally Posted by Loose Canon View Post
    I read a thing Ken Rockwell wrote about these filters. He says that a square type filter with the mounts et al is unnecessary and he uses a screw-on type (Tiffen).
    Hi Terry,

    Normally we like to be pretty diplomatic about how we say things around here, but I'm afraid that this isn't one of those occasions ... so I'm just going to come right out and say it;

    "That's the worst piece of advice he could ever give you with regards to GND filters"

    There's one more thing you need to know about Ken ... you can read it here, in his OWN words ...

    http://www.kenrockwell.com/about.htm

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    Re: Lens Filter

    So I picked up a circular polarizing filter by Hoya and was able to play around with it briefly. I can see how it darkens the sky and enhances clouds. I haven't gotten to reflections in water yet. However, I have a few questions though regarding its use for other shots.

    For example, can you use it for sunset or backlit shots or would it basically have no effect? Also, would you or have you used it in combination of shooting outdoor portraits where lets say you have REALLY nice clouds to compliment your subject. Will using this type of filter have any negative effects on your subject?

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    Re: Lens Filter

    Quote Originally Posted by flipmode View Post
    would you or have you used it in combination of shooting outdoor portraits where lets say you have REALLY nice clouds to compliment your subject. Will using this type of filter have any negative effects on your subject?
    Hi Chris,

    I don't use them anyway, but Joe McNally (voted one of the world's 30 most influential photographers of the decade) said that they can have an undesireable effect on skintones, and for that reason he avoids them.

    If you want deeper / more saturated skies in outdoor portraiture, just under-expose the sky by 1 to 2 stops and expose your subject normally using a flash.

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