Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Toolbox: Must-Have Optical Filters
Even the best software can't replace them
|Shooting straight into the sun typically will require too fast of a shutter speed to get the soft blur effect here. Using a neutral-density filter to cut the light will let you choose the slower shutter speed needed.|
Digital technology and software have given us enormous control over our images that we didn't have in the wet darkroom, and they have made photography more playful, too. Look at the popularity of iPhone apps like Instagram, which by now I'm sure you've heard Facebook paid a cool $1 billion to acquire. The social web has an insatiable appetite for images, and this, along with the proliferation of camera phones, has introduced a lot of people to photography who otherwise might have only very infrequently approached a camera. We can add quirky special effects, borders and the like, and share our shots instantly.
Polarizers are our number-one must-have filter. They're indispensable for removing surface glare and reflections, and also produce rich, saturated skies.
Why? Software can only manipulate the pixels as they were recorded by your camera's sensor. If your exposure blew out the details in the highlights or shadows, no algorithmic wizardry can truly re-create it. And though you may enjoy processing your image files, using these optical filters at the time of capture makes your software work easier. Don't waste 10 minutes fixing what you could have prevented with a bit of extra glass—that time would be better spent taking more photos!
Before we talk about the top filters you should have in your camera bag, it helps to understand some technical aspects of optical filters. First, a general suggestion: Invest in quality glass. Your lens is only as good as its most inferior element—if you use a cheap filter, you're compromising the quality of your entire optical system.
Pro-Optic Circular Polarizer
The other approach is to add the color dye to the glass while it's in a molten state so the coloration is perfectly even and actually part of the glass. In theory, this process produces a higher-quality filter, without risk of fading or uneven coloration. And because these filters are a single piece of glass, there are only two surfaces that must be ground completely flat.
Sunpak 8x Neutral Density
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