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.
(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.
Next set – I rotated the CP filter 45 degrees for each shot so you can better see the effect roll across the image.
(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.
Now the important question – do you really need a CP filter for sky shots today?
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.