Thursday, April 28, 2011

DO NOT buy one of these...

{sigh}. 2:00 am again. I don't know where the day goes...

Waste of money
I always wanted to have a variable Neutral Density filter. Well at least since I saw one up in Wawa -- Brian Barker had one. His was made by Singh-Ray and cost about $350. Ron had a Lee system with a filter holder and several glass insert filters and that was substantially more money.

I researched and shopped around and found another source, a company called Fader and by most of the reviews I read, it wasn't bad. They ran about $120 on eBay and elsewhere, so I went shopping. What I found was another one made by POLAROID. Half the price! $55! How could I go wrong?

Well, I could have my $55 instead of a useless piece of glass.

First of all, I found out (after the fact, of course) that Polaroid isn't the Polaroid Corporation that we knew and loved. Somebody bought the name and sells the branding to unknown producers in the Far East.

The way these things work is to mount two polarizing filters so that they can rotate relative to one another. When they are at their maximum setting, you get as much as 10 stops attenuation. The same shot that you would have made at 1/60 second would be at 15 seconds or so! Think about the possibilities for waterfalls! For thunderstorms!

When you look at the filter, it appears to be well built. It has a useful collar on it, something I wish they would put on regular polarizing filters so you could turn them without overtightening them on the lens, and still be able to unscrew it when you need to. The thread is a bit fine so you have to be careful screwing it onto the lens but the build quality seems to be pretty good.

All good, until you try to take a picture with it.

First I tried it with my wide angle lens -- I have two lenses that it will fit without a step-up ring, my 12-24 and my 70-200. With the wide angle you get a huge interference pattern that looks like someone is holding a big black cross up in front of the lens. So I switched to the long lens.

The word "SOFT" does not even begin to describe the results I had with my first test. Focusing is difficult, etc etc but trust me when I say I set it up carefully. NOTHING is in focus. Exposure is hit and miss, but you can deal with that by bracketing. But folks, if I got a water glass from my kitchen and held it in front of the lens I'd get sharper pictures.

Maybe it wasn't a fair test. I'll go out today (if it stops raining) and try again. But I think I just bought myself a $55 coaster for under my coffee cup.

I guess I'll never learn. I have to walk the walk, not just talk the talk: DON'T BUY OFF BRAND STUFF. You will regret it.

If you're tempted to buy a cheap variable neutral density filter, stop and send the money to my PayPal account instead. It will be better spent if you just give it to me.

That said, I'll try again and try to get some documented pictures to show you next time.

Some other pictures:
Here are a couple of pictures I did on the weekend, while teaching the Motorcycle course at Humber. Both of them were enhanced using Topaz Adjust in Photoshop.

I don't normally take the camera out, I'm being paid to teach not shoot pictures. However, they asked me to get a few shots of the old guy. He was 87, getting his basic motorcycle license. Guess it was on his 'bucket list'! How can you NOT photograph that face?

This was one of my fellow instructors preparing the students for their license qualification test. I removed his name from the nametag on his hat. By the way, I was reflected in the left lens of his sunglasses. Can you say, "content aware fill"?

It rained all day today, including a couple of thunderstorms. It cleared up and quieted down around sunset and I got this shot. I know it's kind of ordinary, but it says a lot about why I live up here.
Next weekend, some friends are coming up to shoot Trilliums and other stuff, and maybe learn a thing or two about shooting HDR's (I know, I still haven't finished that article! Any Day Now!). Come join us. May 7/8 up in the Haliburton Highlands. Shoot me an email if you're thinking about coming up.

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