A Circular Polarizer is an essential filter for landscape photographers. Yet, it’s often a filter which is less talked about, mainly due to the extreme visual effects achieved with a Neutral Density filter.
While a Circular Polarizer (CPL) won’t give you the same extreme visual effects (such as long exposure photography), it’s a filter that will make a huge difference to the overall look of your image.
NiSi Filters recently released their new Landscape NC CPL; a polarizer specifically made for landscape photographers. They were kind enough to send me one to test and in this review, I’ll take you through my experience using it during a trip to the Faroe Islands, as well as when photographing some local waterfalls.
When to Use a Polarizer for Landscape Photography
Before we jump into the specifics of NiSi’s Landscape NC CPL, let’s quickly look at some of the scenarios where a Circular Polarizer can be beneficial. I’ve previously written more in-depth articles on Polarizers (see Why You Should Use a Circular Polarizer) so I’ll keep this short.
- Photographing waterfalls – The Circular Polarizer is a favorite among landscape photographers when photographing rivers & streams. Not only does it remove the glare and reflections from the wet surfaces, it also enhances the colors of the landscape around.
- Daytime photography – Since the filter adds contrast to the sky, this is a filter you often see when people are taking pictures during the daytime. It’s also a lightweight and easy-to-use filter that is perfect for travel photography.
- Photographing through glass – Photographing through glass is often challenging as you get a lot of glare. The CPL does a great job reducing the glare and helping you achieve a better shot.
- Photographing forests – When you’re in dense woods or forests, the Circular Polarizer will help enhance the colors. It also removes reflections from leaves etc. which are distracting for the viewer.
First Impressions of the NiSi Landscape NC CPL
I’ve been using NiSi filters for a few years now and have learned that they are consistent in creating high-quality products; which is exactly what I expected when receiving the new CPL.
One of the things that initially opened my eyes to NiSi products was how you’re able to place a polarizer behind the slots for other filters. The filter is then rotated by turning one of two small wheels that are found on the outside of the holder. While more companies are starting to do this now, this was, and still is, a winning innovation.
In order to fit into the filter holder and to avoid vignetting, the NiSi Landscape CPL is a super slim filter – in fact, it’s among the thinnest filters I’ve seen. This doesn’t mean that it’s low quality, though; the filter is made with an aluminum frame and is taking advantage of Nano Coating technology (hence the NC in its name), meaning it’s waterproof and extremely easy to clean.
Installation and Storing
As mentioned above, mounting the NiSi Landscape CPL to your camera is quite easy. The filter is placed into the filter holder (either the NiSi V5Pro or NiSi S5 depending on the size and lens) and is secured by pressing the two knobs while rotating the filter.
Recommended Reading: NiSi S5: The Ultimate Filter Holder for Ultra Wide-Angle Lenses
I’ve often been worried about the polarizer falling out of the holder but this hasn’t happened to me yet (neither with the new Landscape CPL or other NiSi CPLs).
All NiSi products come with elegant and useful packaging and this one is no different. It’s shipped in a fitted plastic container but I prefer keeping it in the dedicated polarizer pocket of the S5 filter holders bag. The reason is simply that it saves space.
If you have the NiSi V5 Filter Holder there’s also a dedicated slot for the CPL in its bag.
The NiSi Landscape CPL in Use
There’s one thing you need to know about the Landscape NC CPL for the S5 Holder: it’s huge! After all, it’s a circular filter that fits the 150mm filter holder.
For those of you who are familiar with the NiSi S5 and V5 Filter Kits, you might be aware that there’s a polarization filter included in it. The NiSi Landscape NC CPL is not the same CPL included; it’s a separate product specifically made for landscape photographers.
Out of the box, it looks just like the original CPL but taking a closer look you can see a colder, almost purple tint in the glass. This is because NiSi has used a Nitto polarizing film (which is the best in the world with a polarization efficiency of 99.95%) so you don’t have to worry about strange color casts.
After testing the filter in various settings I found that, unlike many other CPLs, it gives a cooling and more natural look to the image while efficiently removing glare from wet surfaces (see image above).
It also darkens the image with approximately 2 stops; you’ll need to make slight adjustments to your exposure when using it.
I’ve used a bunch of different CPL filters since I started with landscape photography and have tried everything from the cheapest no-name brands to the supposedly best quality ones.
Previously, I’ve been a big fan of the B+W CPL as it has adds some nice saturation when photographing in the woods but this filter doesn’t match well when combined with other filters, nor does it fit for my Nikon 14-24mm.
That’s why my hopes were high when receiving the NiSi Landscape NC CPL; a polarizer that fits my ultra-wide angle lens and can easily be used in conjunction with both ND and Graduated ND Filters, without worrying about vignetting.
After thorough testing, I’ve found the filter to be satisfying and it does exactly what it’s supposed to do. My only remark is that I would prefer it to enhance the colors slightly more, especially when photographing in the woods – but this is just me being nitpicky as it in fact seamlessly removes color cast.
Example Images with the NiSi Landscape CPL
In order for you to get a better understanding of how the filter works, I’ve added two unedited example images for you to compare. Both images are shot with the same White Balance, Aperture and ISO. I’ve only made slight adjustments in the Shutter Speed to match the exposure.
The original image (without filter) is to the left and the image with the CPL is to the right. Simply drag the slider back and forth to compare:
I intentionally used a warmer White Balance in the original file to emphasize the subtle glow coming from the sun in the background. As you can see, using the Landscape NC CPL cools down the image quite a bit. However, the nice warm glow in the background is still there and it looks more like the filter has efficiently removed an unwanted color cast.
Here are a couple more images that I’ve captured with the NiSi Landscape NC CPL:
Disclaimer: I am an ambassador for NiSi Filters but all opinions are my own and I only share my honest, unbiased opinion. This is not a sponsored article.