I purchased a Hoya PRO1 Digital Circular Polarising Lens (72mm) from Amazon for £59.99, which seemed like a very decent price for a high quality polarising lens. The lens arrived, appropriately packaged, the following day as per Amazon's next day delivery promise.
***WHAT IS A POLARISING LENS DESIGNED TO DO?***
When you take a photo in certain conditions, for example high sunlight, it is inevitable that there are going to be certain types of light rays that enter your camera that, put simply, diminish the quality of the photograph. For example, there can sometimes be reflections that bounce off of surfaces (i.e. water). Basically, a polarising lens is attached to the front of an (D)SLR lens in order to ensure that certain types of light rays (like reflective rays) do not enter into the camera.
In addition to this, a polarising lens can also be used in order to increase the contrast of certain colours side by side.
Finally, a filter like this (and many others) actually serves as a protective filter to the main lens - which is generally much more expensive than the polarising filter.
***SO, WHAT ABOUT THE HOYA POLARISING FILTER?***
Attaching the filter to the lens is very easy and is done simply by screwing the filter onto a compatible digital lens manufacturer (in my case I use Canon and Nikon). However, I have found, at times, that the filter can be difficult to remove once it has been screwed into place. Although it has a textured edge which is designed to make removal easier, I have found, on more than one occasion, that I have had to take a pair of pliers to the edge of the filter in order to gain enough purchase on it to effectively remove it! This is obviously not great if you are wanting to remove a filter quickly.
As with all polarising filters, the Hoya PRO1 does indeed effectively remove unwanted refections from photographs, as well as increasing the contrast between colours - which is useful in periods of high sunlight as it helps the photograph not appear washed out. However, although it does this effectively, I have found that the glass on the PRO1 lens is darker than other polarising lenses I have compared it with, and as a result I have needed to compensate by using a slower shutter speed or a wider aperture. This is not problematic now that I have got used to this, but initially there were a few teething issues!
I like the fact that the frame of the filter is very low and therefore there is no vignetting. I have found this particular aspect to be very useful when I'm using a wide-angle lens because vignetting is a problem I've had when using filters on wide-angle lenses in the past.
This filter also has digital multi coating (DMC) and, in theory, this increases the amount of light acquired and decreases reflection more than that on single coated lenses. I find it hard to comment on the effectiveness of this as I have only ever used DMC filters / lenses - but I have been told by those with more traditional experiences, that it does make a subtle difference.
Overall, I'm really impressed with this filter and have found that it very much improves the quality of my photographs. I have had this lens for about 3 years and, as such, its still good as new and without any scratches. It is easy to clean and is generally left smear free. I highly recommend using a cotton bud to clean in the edges of the lens.
Recommended for people serious about their photography.
Polarisers are the ONLY filter that it is impossible to recreate in Photoshop or other photo editing software packages. This means that after a protective filter this will probably be the first filter you get for your lens, or may be the only other filter you get if you don't get particularly into photography.
Polarisers help increase the saturation of colours, especially the blue of the sky, and green in foliage/plants. This is in part due to their ability to cut out reflected light, and in this way they can also be used to remove unwanted reflections off water too. Because they are removing a proportion of the light then obviously they cause a loss of light (of 1.5 stops) which can be useful if you want to use a slower shutter speed, but can also be a hindrance if you are trying to keep shutter speeds up! Also remember, with digital cameras you must get a circular polarising filter.
There are a number of different Polarisers available, for a range of prices, and the Hoya PRO1 Digital is fairly high up in the range. This filter offers a number of advantages over cheaper models:
1. It has a digital multi coating (DMC), which reduces lens flare and ghosting
2. Matt black frame and rim to reduce reflection and glinting light
3. Low profile frame, which is especially important on wide angle leses to prevent vignetting (the frame getting into the edges/corners of the image)
4. Knurled edge, makes it easy to grip for attachment and removal
This filter really is good quality, and definately worth the price premium over cheaper models. They are well made, and come in a handy tough case which will protect your investment. You're filter is probably going to outlast most consumer lenses. And unless you drop or scratch it, it should last a lifetime.
One potential problem is that it can be difficult to remove the filter if you tighten it too much. This is partly due to the rim being so narrow and tricky to grip. You can get a filter removal tool, but I just popped a thick rubber band around the rim which gave me enough grip to loosen it.