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I think that I'd really like a polarizing filter and possibly a NG filter. Trouble is I am on a limited budget (and by limited I mean very). So was wondering what sort of quality are the cheaper ones or would I be better to save up for more expensive ones? Also, what sort of a difference would it really make to my photographs? I do like landscape stuff (just not much of a chance to do it!). I think what I want to say is that are these filters really an absolutely essential piece of kit, especially in landscape shots?
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No they are not essential but they do help, the ND filter can be mimicked in photoshop or a bracked exposure can be blended, but a polarizing filter can't really be replicated in the polar effect but the boost to colour saturation can be.
As for the quality, you get what you pay for, but I saw a lab test a few years back that showed the differences between the various filters, and while there was a difference the test suggested in real world shooting unless you bought dodgy real cheapie filters you wouldn't be able to tell the difference.
LazFair - I agree with sqamseamale47.
I wouldn't recommend cheap NG filters. I used cheaper NG's in the past and on numerous occasions suffered from them being not quite neutral. Now I bracket or take two exposures (expose for sky + expose for ground) and then blend.
Polarisers on the other hand can't be really mimicked in software. I use them primarily for removing reflections from glass/body work when photographing cars. I've used a few different types in the past, Cokin, Hoya, Lee and now B&W. The main difference I've seen is in the build quality (fit, coatings etc.), and whether its prone to flare, ghosting or vignetting (typically the thinner the better and more expensive). All the ones I've owned have polarised in the same way. If you've got some expensive lenses then I'd pair with good quality filters(B&W, heliopan etc). If not then the standard Hoya's were reliable and can be had for pretty good prices on ebay (I'd go for a second hand one from a UK seller, typically around £20-£25). Kevin.
Wayne gives some sound advice. Subtle hdr techniques can also be useful to replace a lack of ND grads in landscapes. Also have a look at icelandaurara's magic cloth technique - Tony says he developed this to save buying expensive ND grads.
A have to admit to using my polarizer more in the last 12 months than ever before - but still I don't think its an absolute must have. I know a lot of others would strongly disagree... I find where it is most useful is in removing glare based reflections. Folk often talk of using it to increase the saturation of colour and increasing contrast - both these effects are replicable to some extent in post production. You may find if your using a polarizer with an ultrawide angle lens that you'll get an inconsistant effect across the frame. When this has happened to me the images have been useless.
You need to slow down a bit and be sure of what you're asking for..so just to break it down a bit...
1) POLARISING FILTERS - you should get a circular one that rotates, as the effect is dependent on rotation
a) the good side - they eradicate certain directions of light and in landscapes are useful for bringing out bright vibrant colours in skies, especially where there's blue against white. They only work in certain conditions and in certain direction to the sun. They are also useful for boosting colours on overcast scenes such as damp woodland, and cutting down reflections off water surfaces (so you get to see more of the stuff beneath the water)
b) - the downside of polarisers..especially at wide angles they can give an uneven result and can give ugly almost blackish dark areas in the corners
they cut down the light by two stops, even if their polarising effect isn't working
c) Is it worth buying cheap? - you really do get what you pay for, cheaper ones bought from the likes of ebay at silly prices can give horrible colour casts - I got one that changed the colour from magenta to green as you turned it
d) so, yes, I think a plariser is an essential part of a landscaper's kit, but used with caution and restraint
2) "an NG filter" - I presume you mean neutral grey, or neutral density. Firstly, it's important to differentiate between two types of ND filters. An ND filter has an even area across the filter which cuts out the light reaching the lens, so allowing for longer shutter speeds. They are typically used for blurring water so that is has a "silky milky" feel. Some say that gives it a sense of motion, and it's a real marmite love-it-or-hate-it- effect, although some magazines and even sections of this site would suggest that it's the only way to shoot water (I think you may be sensing here that I disagree )
b) a Neutral grey or neutral density graduated filterhas an entirely different effect, as only hsalf of the filter has a darkened area, whuch graduates fron grey at the top to transparent at the centre. Its use is to even out the balance in light between bright skies and relatively dark foregrounds,. YTo use one you need a holder and an adapter ring to fit ypur particular lens. They are IMO an essential part of a landscaper's kit, although you can get the effect by shooting two or more shots at different exposures and blending them in software later ( a lot more hassle).
You get Grads, or ND grads, for one, two or three stops of light to cope with different conditions
c) can you go cheap?? well, there are several systems - Cokin, Hoya, B+W, Lee. Lee are by far the gold standard, though v expensive for the kit and serious supply problems at the moment. Other systems like Cokin are cheaper, though can give colour casts in the wrong conditions.....
So anyway, there's a lot to think about there, but as I said at the start i think you need to clear your head about what you really mean that you want first. Hopefully you'll get more help on here, otherwise search for a few tutorials or oldand fquent forum posts. Hope this "introduction" hasgiven you some food for thought
The polariser cannot be properly copied in ps but I personally rarely, if ever, use one. The ND Grad can easily be replicated in ps without the hinderance of a lesser quality glass filter over a quality lens however bracketing exposure is simple if the subjects dont move at all and you have a tripod. If not then some scenes or shots will be difficult without an ND Grad. For the suitable scenes I would say that PS can sometimes do the job better from several bracketted exposures. Cheap grads ie Cokin often have a purplish cast in the sky ..
Thanks guys for your help,
I think I'll probably look into buying polarizers but not a NG grad (yep that's what I meant to say)!
It depends what you want to achieve.
Honestly, I've managed to get some fairly decent results without a polarizer, but I couldn't manage without the grads. For what its worth what I did, and what I would recomend. Get a decent system and but slowly, a 2 or 3 stop ND grad (Hard) first - then build up your system.
Why not have a look through the galleries on here and elsewhere - look what the people you admire do then drop them a PM. A polarizer on wide angle lenses can produce some weird effects (particularly the cheaper brands).
I was given some advice early on buy wise, buy once.
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