Polarizing Filter?

CamaroDMD

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I am very new to DSLR cameras and am just starting to use mine. For many years, I used a little point and shoot camera and had fun with it...but I wanted something a little more powerful that I could learn to use. I feel like I am learning to take decent photos...but I still have a long way to go. So, I picked up a Canon T3i Rebel and am finding it very fun.

I'm leaving for vacation to Italy in a week or so and will be taking photos of my trip. The purpose of the camera on this trip is more to document memories than take beautiful artistic photos. But, Italy is a very beautiful place so plenty of opportunities for nice photography will present themselves.

A friend of mine suggested that I pick up a cheap polarizing filter as he claims that by filtering the light I will get more vivid colors. I have no experience with such things so I wanted to come here and ask the experts. Is there a benefit to such a filter for a trip like this? Will the pictures I take benefit?
 

skieur

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A polarizing filter used at right angles to the source of sunlight will create dark bluer skies, fluffier clouds, and remove the reflective glare from windows, water, wet objects etc., as well as. It will also contribute to more vivid colours.
The disadvantage of a "cheap" polarizer is that will considerably reduce the light entering your lens and possibly degrade your image. A better quality polarizer is worth the extra cost.
 

SCraig

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A circular polarizing filter will help eliminate glare, especially from water and glass, but at the cost of a lot of light. Two full stops as I Recall.

I disagree with your friend about picking up a "Cheap" filter. Filters become part of the optical path and anything "Cheap" in it is going to degrade the images a certain amount. If you get one get a good one or don't do it at all.
 

TCampbell

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The difference between a "cheap" filter and a "good" filter is noticeable and obvious. It's one of those filters that I don't suggest you go "cheap" on.

Depending on where you plan to be in Italy you may also want a neutral density (these come in various strengths... I'd suggest 3 stops or ND 0.9 (each ".1" in density value represents 1/3rd of a stop) if you only own one ND filter.) Rome, for example, has a LOT of fountains. Stretching out the exposure time can make for a gorgeous image. You will NEED a tripod (or something to rest the camera on for the shot -- hand-holding the camera is not possible for these types of shots.)
 

TonyMontanaSlot

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I have a question too. Can I stack the filters (mount them one on another)?. For example, I have an UV filter on my camera can I place polarizing filter also or should I use them separate from each other?
 

Gavjenks

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I have a question too. Can I stack the filters (mount them one on another)?. For example, I have an UV filter on my camera can I place polarizing filter also or should I use them separate from each other?
Yes you can stack filters.

Although a UV filter is pretty pointless if you have another filter on as well.



Note that the more filters you stack, you will start to get vignetting (dark corners) as they begin to block light around the front of your camera. Also, if you have a bunch of mediocre filters, the optical flaws in them will add up.
 

TonyMontanaSlot

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I have a question too. Can I stack the filters (mount them one on another)?. For example, I have an UV filter on my camera can I place polarizing filter also or should I use them separate from each other?
Yes you can stack filters.

Although a UV filter is pretty pointless if you have another filter on as well.



Note that the more filters you stack, you will start to get vignetting (dark corners) as they begin to block light around the front of your camera. Also, if you have a bunch of mediocre filters, the optical flaws in them will add up.

Thank you, good to know :)
 

TCampbell

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I have a question too. Can I stack the filters (mount them one on another)?. For example, I have an UV filter on my camera can I place polarizing filter also or should I use them separate from each other?

You can stack filters, but you would _never_ stack a UV filter... that would be a waste.

A UV filter doesn't actually do anything useful with a DSLR because the camera already has a UV filter built-in. The argument "for" UV filters has always just been that it's a form of protection (you may as well just use clear glass.) A lens hood is also a form of protection because it tends to do a good job keeping things from hitting the end of your lens.

If you wanted to stack, say, a circular polarizer with a neutral density filter then that would be fine.

You can get ghosting and reflections when stacking filters... since they're all flat pieces of "glass" and all glass is at least a tiny bit reflective it can lead to ghosting.
 

skieur

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A circular polarizing filter will help eliminate glare, especially from water and glass, but at the cost of a lot of light. Two full stops as I Recall..

Only with the cheaper filters. The latest ones have very little cost of light.
 

hirejn

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I haven't seen anyone accurately describe what a polarizer does, so that's important. It's one of the most misused, misunderstood tools. Contrary to popular belief, a polarizer is not a sky and water enhancement tool. You can use it for that, but what it does should be described more generally because people shouldn't think it works only on skies, water and windows. A polarizer does one thing: reduce direct reflections into the camera. By doing that one thing, two other things happen: Color saturation increases and contrast increases. The same thing happens when you put sunglasses over your eyes. You see things differently -- with direct reflections reduced. OK, technically a PL can also increase reflections depending on how you rotate it, thereby reversing the other two effects, but it's rarely used for that.

How you apply these effects and on what is up to you. You could use it on plants, buildings, people, food, animals, anywhere you want the effects to apply. It doesn't have to be just skies, water and windows. The sun's cool rays reflect off all sorts of stuff, so reducing those reflections, even if they aren't obvious to the eye, enhances saturation and contrast in just about anything. It even works in overcast conditions. You have to experiment with the angles and lenses that work best. When using a PL, it works best when pointed about 90 degrees from the sun, not directly into the sun or away from the sun. Turn it until the ground becomes a rich color.

Since a polarizer does what most people immediately do in software anyway, it's a valuable tool for giving your images an extra punch right in camera. Also, while software PL filters exist, none can replicate exactly the way a polarizer works in camera. They can simulate it to a degree, but it's not the same, so a PL is one of the few filters that software can't replicate. I've liked results from Tiffen, Moose and Hoya. I have not liked Sunpak. Make sure to get a circular PL, or CPL, for a DSLR.
 

justingrainge

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Agree with most above posts about not buying cheap, and just because you can stack filters doesn't mean you should (unless in something like the lee system). You would be better off learning RAW processing with the images shot without filters because you can achieve many filter looks without degrading your original images.
 

vintagesnaps

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A polarizing filter blocks rays of light that we have difficulty seeing; it blocks the more horizontal rays of light that we see as glare (they oscillate so they aren't strictly horizontal or vertical). If you use a circular polarizer it starts blocking rays of light as you turn it and helps cut the glare.

It might be good to use one when you're outdoors but I wouldn't necessarily leave it on all the time; you'd need to adjust your camera settings accordingly for the amount of light coming thru the lens into your camera if you're using a filter.
 

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