Pros:Low price, excellent performance, ease of attaching/detaching to camera's lens
Cons:Difficulties tightening/untightening filters to each other
The Bottom Line: The Sunpak circular polarizing filter and a UV filter are a great value and a must for somebody who doesn’t want to spend the big bucks and still...
I wanted to get a circular polarizer filter for my Nikon N55 cameras Nikon Nikkor 28-80 AF-G lens, which has a 58-mm filter thread diameter. I also didn't want to spend too much money on it, so the likes of Tiffen were out of the question.
I decided to give Sunpak a try. In Sunpak PicturePlus package, for less than $30 (shipping included), I have not only received a 58mm circular polarizer but an UV filter as well. This is a very low price for a circular polarizer, even disregarding the extra UV filter.
Why do You Need Them?
The polarizer filters help you get rid of unwanted reflections in your pictures. The reflected light often becomes polarized (light is essentially an electromagnetic wave) and the polarizer filter helps you get rid of it. Using a polarizer, you can make the sky look deeper blue, accentuate the clouds, make the water surface more transparent...
The UV filter is supposed to reduce the effect of ultra-violet (invisible part of the spectrum) light on the film and thus reduce the haze. It is often used as a cheap lens protector, and I always try to keep it on my lens.
The two filters came in one transparent plastic box with two lids on the opposite sides (or, rather, two plastic boxes attached together). Unfortunately, the filters didnt have separate containers for storage between uses. I keep the UV filter on the lens and sometimes put the polarizer in the original box, which is cumbersome.
My filters are made in Japan.
Both filters have 58mm threads on the forward edges, which lets you attach one filter to another. I attach the UV filter to the cameras lens and the polarizer to the UV filter.
The polarizing filter has an outer ring/barrel that needs to be rotated to obtain the maximum effect. First, you have to focus, then, while looking through the viewfinder, rotate the ring until the scene looks better. Obviously, you have to use an SLR camera (or a digital camera with electronic viewfinder) to see the changes
Example: I focus on infinity, point the camera on the cloud and rotate the ring until the contrast between the cloud and the sky is the greatest.
My lens has an outer barrel that rotates when I focus (in fact, I rotate it myself for manual focusing, which I do most of the time). Unfortunately, this makes the filters rotate together with the lens. Since the polarizer has an outer barrel that you have to rotate to adjust the polarizing effect, this necessitates holding the outer barrel of the cameras lens with one finger while rotating the polarizer ring with two others.
The aforementioned annoyance is the fault of the lens (which is, to say the least, inexpensive). However, there is more. Although the filters seem to be well-made and the threads look as they are of the good quality, the effort required to tighten the polarizer to the UV filter is inconsistent.
It is difficult to tighten it - after applying quite a bit of torque to tighten it, the filter sometimes still freely un-tightens itself if you rotate the polarizer ring in that direction). At the same time, once you tighten it, it is difficult to separate the two I have to remove both from the lens and then use the force to part them. Thus, I try to rotate the polarizer ring in the direction of tightening.
It is easy to attach or detach the filters to the cameras lens itself.
The filters perform very well, at least for the price. I have taken the same shot with and without filters and the difference is dramatic. The shot was taken from the hotel room in Astoria, OR and captured the Columbia River and the opposite shore. Without the filters, the sky is hazy and less blue; the opposite shore is hazy and has gray color. With filters, the sky is deep blue with contrasting clouds; the opposite shore is green and clearly visible.
One thing to keep in mind is that even though the UV filter does not affect the exposure, the polarizer does. I noticed that as the polarizer ring is rotated, as the scene darkens the required exposure time increases. The change in exposure reached about 2 stops, which means you might want to use either the film with higher ISO, the longer exposure time (hint: tripod may be required) or wider aperture (if available and if depth of filed allows).
I used the polarizer with excellent, but slow Fuji Superia Reala ISO 100 and got good results shooting handheld in bright sunlight. Since I didnt bring my tripod, in dimmer conditions, the polarizer could not be used with this film, but in those conditions there was virtually no need to.
The Sunpak circular polarizing filter and a UV filter are a great value and a must for somebody who doesnt want to spend the big bucks and still wants to improve the picture. The deep blue sky and better, less hazy landscapes are such an improvement over a no-filter shooting, these filters are a great investment.
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