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By Daniel Dupont

April 22, 2020

 

If you practice landscape or travel photography, the polarizing filter could help improve the rendering of your photos. In my opinion, the polarizing filter is an essential item that should fit in the photo bag of every photographer who wants to create stunning images.

It is important to know that there are two types of polarizing filters: linear and circular. Personally, I recommend using a circular polarizing filter rather than a linear one (because the latter can interfere with the auto focus).


Why use a polarizing filter?

The polarizing filter increases color saturation and helps manage reflections off water, glass and other surfaces. It allows you to measure the impact of the reflection of the surrounding landscape on the water or to see the bottom of a stream. It is important to note that there will be no impact on reflections from metal surfaces.


How to use it?

It is relatively simple to use: after screwing it to your optic while holding the two rings, you will notice that they turn on each other. As you look through your viewfinder and slowly turn the front ring, you should notice a change in reflections and colour saturation.

PRO TIP: Avoid always using it for maximum effect, as you may get a sky that is too dark or even almost black.

Daniel Dupont
Canon EOS 5Ds + EF 24-70mm f/2.8L II USM
1/13s  |  f/11  |  100 ISO


Light Angle

The polarizing filter will not be effective in all light conditions. Under an overcast sky, it is much more difficult to see its effect. Its maximum effect is obtained at an angle of 90 degrees to the sun.


Choice of filter

To purchase it, you need to know the diameter of the front lens of your optic. This value is usually written on the edge at the front of your lens. If you have several optics of various diameters, you will have to make choices according to your budget.

You can purchase a filter for each lens. It's obviously more expensive, but that's the approach I personally prefer. You can also buy a polarizing filter only for your favourite optic, but in practice, this could be restrictive.

Daniel Dupont
Canon EOS 5Ds + EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS II USM
1/80s  |  f/11  |  100 ISO


Choosing your mount

You will also be faced with the choice of frame, either "standard" or thin. The thin filter reduces the risk of vignetting when using a wide angle (10mm on an APS sensor or 16mm on a full-frame sensor). If you plan to use neutral or step neutral filters with a filter holder, you should avoid purchasing a thin filter, as it may be impossible to screw the filter holder's fixing ring onto the almost non-existent threads.


Advantages and disadvantages of polarizing filters

The main advantage of polarizing filters is to be able to manage reflections on water and glass and to increase or decrease color saturation. They are also useful to protect the front glass.

The major disadvantage is that they can reduce the entry of light by up to two notches. However, this disadvantage can become an advantage when you want to create a spinning effect on the water.

Daniel Dupont
Canon EOS 5Ds + EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II USM
1/40s  |  f/16  |  100 ISO


PRO TIPS: 

Ideally, you should not use a polarizing filter indoors (loss of 2 notches of light) nor use it in conjunction with a UV filter, especially with a wide-angle lens, as the risk of vignetting becomes too high.

If you're on a bus tour and need to take pictures while driving, the polarizing filter may reduce reflections from the vehicle window. The important thing is to bring the optics closer to the window and turn the top ring. Do not place the lens completely to the window to avoid collisions. Keep in mind that the filter will reduce the light by two steps, so choose a high speed to counteract the movement of the vehicle.

You should always turn the top ring counterclockwise to ensure that you do not inadvertently unscrew the filter and that it does not fall to the ground. 



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