Circular Polarizing Filters and Panoramas

When I was first learning photography (a few decades ago), circular polarizing filters (CP) were THE way to bring the best rich colors to skies, but does that apply to the digital age?

I read recently that in wide outdoor sky shots and outdoor panorama shots, you shouldn’t use a CP filter due to the uneven results you would get.

For those of you new to CP filters:

  • They block light coming from different angles
  • Which is great for removing reflections
  • But in wide shots, only part of the frame is changed. That is why CP filters are not recommended for wide or panorama shots involving the sky

… But I didn’t find many examples online, so for those of you who are more visual (like me), here are some quickly made examples from my Fuji X-T1.

First – I rotated the CP filter 45 degrees for each shot.

Fuji X-T1 18-55mm CP filter

(The limited color range of the GIF format created the curved gradient bands that you don’t see in the photos below.)

18mm is the widest Fuji lens that I have, but you can see the uneven effect. Now for panoramas. The next sets were created with my Fuji X-T1’s in-camera panorama feature.

I rotated the CP filter 90 degrees for each shot in this animation.

Fuji X-T1 panorama CP filter

Next set – I rotated the CP filter 45 degrees for each shot so you can better see the effect roll across the image.

Fuji X-T1 panorama CP filter

(Again, the limited color range of the GIF format created the curved gradient bands that you don’t see in the photos below.)

It is also interesting to note that:

  • The Fuji X-T1 had difficulties stitching with a CP filter in place.

    • I don’t get this kind of difficulty when shooting without a filter.
    • But the wavy foreground differences (especially on the right) are my fault – I shot without a tripod or monopod.
  • With a CP filter, the effect changes as you rotate the camera. This shows up as vertical banding in the stitched panoramas.

In-camera panorama by Fuji X-T1 18-55mm CP

Now the important question – do you really need a CP filter for sky shots today?

Fuji X-T1 circular polarizerFuji X-T1 panorama circular polarizerFuji X-T1 panorama circular polarizer

What do you think? Like many things, it is probably a matter of taste but keep in mind panoramas seen large are different than seeing thumbnails.

Finding the best rotation to avoid problems does take some time and effort, and seen large on a screen, I like the results without a filter so that is what I am personally sticking to.


And, for those interested, here are the individual shots.

20151001 071444 DSCF7936 XT1 ev-2_DCE20151001 071553 DSCF7938 XT1 ev-2 CP0_DCE20151001 071607 DSCF7939 XT1 ev-2 CP45_DCE20151001 071617 DSCF7940 XT1 ev-2 CP90_DCE20151001 071628 DSCF7941 XT1 ev-2 CP135_DCE20151001 071638 DSCF7942 XT1 ev-2 CP180_DCE20151001 071649 DSCF7943 XT1 ev-2 CP225_DCE20151001 071702 DSCF7944 XT1 ev-2 CP270_DCE20151001 071711 DSCF7945 XT1 ev-2 CP315_DCE

.

In-camera panorama by Fuji X-T1 18-55mmIn-camera panorama by Fuji X-T1 18-55mm CPIn-camera panorama by Fuji X-T1 18-55mm CPIn-camera panorama by Fuji X-T1 18-55mm CPIn-camera panorama by Fuji X-T1 18-55mm CP

.

Fuji X-T1 panoramaFuji X-T1 panorama CP filterFuji X-T1 panorama CP filterFuji X-T1 panorama CP filterFuji X-T1 panorama CP filterFuji X-T1 panorama CP filterFuji X-T1 panorama CP filterFuji X-T1 panorama CP filterFuji X-T1 panorama CP filter

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