Monday, October 8, 2007

Buyer's Guide 2008: Digital Camera Accessories

Gear and gadgets to make your photography more productive, rewarding and creative

Comprised of compounded glasses and materials, optical filters can produce an entire spectrum of practical and artistic effects so you spend less time in front of your computer and more time taking pictures. Of all optical filters, a polarizer is the most essential.

Circular polarizers eliminate reflections from glass, water and nonmetallic surfaces at the same time that they reduce haze, glare and atmospheric noise. Because of this, skies in particular are bluer, with clouds that gain heavier contrast for more striking images. And, in a pinch, polarizers can also function as a neutral-density filter so you can use much slower shutter speeds during the day.

Circular polarizers like the Hoya Pro1 Digital PL-C don't disrupt the automatic focus and through-the-lens (TTL) metering functions of a camera. That's the main benefit of circular polarizers as opposed to linear polarizers, which are just as effective if you can live without built-in metering and autofocus.

Neutral-density filters like the B+W ND 0.9 are also at the top of the list of must-have filters. By reducing light levels without altering color, ND filters give you more control over exposure, depth of field and shutter speed, ideal for motion blur and overly bright situations.

A landscape, for example, may require the use of a graduated neutral-density filter—a half-clear and half-tinted filter with drastically or subtly "graduated" tint or density going from the center to the edge. With a grad ND filter such as Tiffen's Color-Grad ND 0.6, you can emphasize the exposure of one area, say the sky, while also increasing the exposure in darker areas in the foreground or midground.

B+W, Cokin, Heliopan, Hoya, Sunpak, Tiffen and others have a host of effects and color-conversion filters that alter the aesthetics of an image without changing exposure. Alterations can be subtle or drastic, from a gentle warming or cooling to an entire spectrum shift. Infrared and ultraviolet filters can produce otherworldly, ghost-like images. Effects filters include soft diffusions, stars of refracted light, hall-of-mirrors-style repetition and more.




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