When it comes to enhancing images, a circular polariser is probably the oldest trick in the book. It can change a pale sky to a deep blue one, turn foliage into a luminous super-green, light up autumn colours, saturate rainbows and even make water look crystal clear. The added contrast, saturation and clarity that a polariser can give to images is nothing short of magic and every photographer should have one in their bag. Mouse-over the image below to see the difference that a polariser makes to this autumn scene in Magoebaskloof.
Just a Sheet of Glass?
You’re probably wondering how much there is to know about a sheet of glass mounted in a metal ring, that justifies writing an entire article about it? Well, For starters, it’s not just a sheet of glass. Polarising filters consist of multiple polarising foils (the filtering stuff) sandwiched between multiple layers of precise, high-quality glass. A polarizing filter is much more advanced than most people presume and the advanced design is what puts the price tag on it.
The critical aspects taken into consideration when designing a polariser are listed below.
- Optical efficiency – Percentage of light allowed through the filter.
- Colour Cast – Does it negatively affect the colour of the light?
- Light scattering – That the light transmission isn’t compromised by reflections when passing through the filter.
- Weather sealing – can water enter the layers?
- Longevity 1– how resistant is it to scratches when cleaning?
- Longevity 2 – is it easy to clean?
- Daily use – will it jam in the lens thread?
- Wide angle use – is it thin enough for use with ultra-wide lenses?
Choosing The Best Product
I put a lot effort into my research on which polariser LANDSCAPEGEAR.CO.ZA should stock, so that the choice is easy for my customers. My first choice was of course the one I have, a B+W Kaesemann MRC, but I had to be thorough and make sure it’s the best available product. The only problem my research revealed was that there was a new and improved version, the XS-Pro. A brief history of these filters gives some cool insight into the naming thereof and why it’s the best.
Firstly, B+W does not stand for black and white. The founders of the B+W Company were two partners by the names of Biermann and Weber, who specialised in optical filters. Schneider Optics purchased this company in 1985 and they chose to retain the reputable name for those specific products. Around the same time, Schneider also purchased another company, Kaesemann, for a number of optical technologies to further enhance it’s products. The combined technologies of three German optical specialists have today resulted in the best polarising filters in the world. Mouse-over the image below to see the difference that a polariser makes to this amazing Patagonia scene.
B+W Kaesemann MRC Xs-Pro Circular Polariser
That name seems like a nonsensical mouthful of marketing gibberish, but it actually isn’t. Understanding what makes their filters the best isn’t that simple. Making sense of some of the aspects requires a very good understanding of optics, but I have done my best to simplify it and hope that it makes sense to you.
The Kaesemann name association involves the following-
- As mentioned above, the polariser has a layered construction consisting of polarising foils and glass. Kaesemann filters use the very best materials and manufacturing processes to ensure that the layers are perfectly plano-parallel/flat. This ensures that a very high percentage of the light passes through (good optical efficiency), without being distorted in any way (optimal light transmission), or affecting the colours and thus creating a colour cast.
- Kaesemann filters are extremely well sealed to prevent moisture from entering the layers and potentially ruining the filter.
The multi-resistant coating serves two purposes –
- The easy to understand one is that it is a hard coating that prevents scratches from cleaning, to prolong the lifespan of the filter.
- The complicated one is it ensures that the light transmission isn’t compromised by reflections (light scattering) when passing through the filter. Simplified even more – The MRC coating assists in making sure that the light comes out as it went in, less only the polarized light.
As mentioned, this is the new name association that packs three very useful features-
- The first is a special new water-repellent nano coating. Water beads on an Xs-Pro filter like it should on a R5000 rain jacket. This makes it super easy to clean, which in turn also prolongs the lifespan of the filter.
- The second is a ring made of brass, which doesn’t jam as easily as cheaper metals usually used for screw-in filters.
- Finally, the Xs-Pro filters are substantially thinner than their predecessors, which ensures that you can use it with modern ultra-wide lenses.
I hope that this article gives you some insight into why these polarisers are the best ones on the market. LANDSCAPEGEAR.CO.ZA carries stock of the 67mm,77mm and 82mm sizes, available here. If you ever want a different size, please get in touch via the contact page. This is the only brand that we import on our own and shipping time is 3-5 business days.
Mouse-over the image below to see the difference that a polariser makes to this forest scene.