Polarizers and NDs are two types of filters used for photography and video. Less common, the polarizer/ND filter mixes the best of both worlds. Now there is a new solution, Sandmarc’s Hybrid Pro filters.
Photographers love NDs or neutral density filters, but so do videographers. NDs allow you to control the amount of light that reaches the film, sensor, and open a whole new world of creative options, where shallow depth of field and blurred movement are mixed to create stills or moving images that would not be possible to create otherwise. Filmmakers love them to get the shutter speeds needed for filming. Photographers also love how NDs can be paired with flash, to explore using slow-sync with wide aperture when outside, something that is not possible to achieve if the Sun is high in the sky.
Polarizers are a different brand of filters, allowing you to cut reflections and saturate colors. Because using them also implies losing some light, a polarizer can be used as an alternative solution to a ND if you need some extra control over exposure. Although not offering the versatility or power of NDs – usually a polarizer will cut up to three stops of light – a polarizer can be handy if you do not have NDs around and need to reduce exposure. Because of the way polarizers work, giving best results when at a 90-degree angle to the sun, it may be hard, in some situations, to use them as NDs.
A filter combining ND and PL
When photographers want to reduce the amount of light that reaches the sensor and, at the same time, reduce glare, reflections and saturate colors, they stack neutral density filters and a polarizer. That’s probably the most common way polarizers and neutral density filters are used, but there is another solution: a filter that combines polarizer and ND, meaning you do not need to stack multiple filters, and get the best of both worlds in one single filter, that will contribute for better images with less trouble.
Sandmarc, a brand specializing in photography gear for iPhone, DJI and GoPro cameras, recently launched professional-grade polarized ND filters for DSLR & Mirrorless cameras: Hybrid Pro Filters. The filter, according to the company, “is the first polarized ND filter that protects the DSLR from overexposure, improves high dynamic range and give a photographer the highest possible control over a camera. “
The “other” ND/PL filters available
The Hybrid Pro Filter is not the first ND/PL filter available for big cameras, although, to be fair, ND/PL filters are not very common, being “specialist” filters that – some – landscape photographers use, instead of stacking multiple NDs and a polarizer in front of the lens. ND/PL filters are also used in aerial cinematography, for example, where having one filter to take up to the sky makes a lot of sense.
PolarPro is a company that offers ND/PL filters for smartphones, action cameras and drones. The company also offers a family, the Quartzline, for DSLR and mirrorless cameras. Another example is Singh Ray’s Bryan Hansel Waterfall Polarizer, for DSLR and mirrorless, which combines “a polarizer and a Solid ND Filter” to offer “a single, easy-to-love filter — eliminating the need to stack! This new filter makes it easier than ever to capture heart-stopping images of silky waterfalls and river rapids, without any of the potential hurdles from stacking filters, such as light-leakage and vignetting.”
A set with ND16/PL, ND32/PL and ND64/PL
Sandmarc does have a series of ND/PL filters for smartphones, GoPro action cameras and DJI drones, and now they are taking their experience to big cameras, with the Hybrid Pro Filters. The filter is, says the company, “designed from a multi-coated and anti-reflective glass that produces accurate color transmission, and aluminum frame material that makes it both durable and light.”
Each Hybrid Pro Filter set includes three filters: ND16/PL, ND32/PL and ND64/PL, allowing, says Sandmarc, ”you to shoot in most weather conditions whether it be cloudy or bright conditions” offering versatility without the need to stack filters.With an ultra-thin aluminum frame, the filter shows no vignetting up to 16mm wide-angle lenses.
The filters are available in the following thread sizes: 52mm, 67mm, 77mm and 82mm. Sandmarc suggests the following use for the Hybrid Pro Filter set :
- Cloudy Days (Winter): ND16/PL Filter
- Mild Cloudy Days (Fall, Spring): ND32/PL Filter
- Sunny Days (Summer): ND64/PL Filter
Designed in California, the Hybrid Pro Filter comes in a set with the three ND/PL filter values. The price for the largest diameter, 82mm, is $199.99, which is competitive, if the filters are up to the quality suggested by Sandmarc. If you’re after a filter solution for your landscape photography, this should be in your list of products to check. You’ll probably end carrying less weight and getting good results without having to stack multiple glass surfaces in front of your lens.