Monday, May 27, 2013

Sony VF-49CPAM Circular Polarizer - Hands On

by Hasan Karagülmez


I´m very happy with my recent purchase of the Sony 35mm 1.8 OSS, a.k.a. SEL35F18, of which you can read about it on my recent blogpost.

The depth-of-field with which you can play with, with a wide-aperture lens, is really fun. There's one thing I was missing though, which became evident when taking pictures of my car, and that's a polarizer!

As you probably know, you can use a polarizer for getting nice blue skies, but you can also use it for shooting through reflections. And whilst you can edit-in nice blue skies in post-processing, shooting through reflections is a significantly harder trick to pull-off in PhotoShop, I'm sure you'll agree ;-)

Another reason is size. 

See, I've already got a Hoya 77mm polarizer which I use on my lenses for the Canon EOS 7D, and I contemplated for a little bit about using that for NEX-lenses with step-up rings from 49mm to 77mm. 

However, that would also mean I´d be throwing pocketability with the NEX and 35mm 1.8 out of the window, something which is a major plus for me.

Another reason for this post is that I can't find much about the Sony VF-49CPAM online, so I hope to do my part here :)

Anyway, a new polarizer it is!

Sony VF-49CPAM - Circular Polarizer

I eventually made the decision to go with the Sony VF-49CPAM Circular Polarizer filter. It's not the cheapest 49mm polarizing filter you can find, but having noticed reflections and such on cheaper polarizers, I decided to fork out a bit more.

I ended up on paying 90 Euros (about 116 US Dollars) for the Sony VF-49CPAM. Not cheap, but few things in the Netherlands are...

Anyway, I'd like to show you the effects of the polarizer on blue skies and such, but since the weather for the last weeks consists mostly of clouds, I'm afraid it's gonna be a bit hard...
The weather for the last two weeks can be summed up by the following: Thick Clouds and Rain

So, instead, I'm going to show you what you get in the box - and a bit about reflections :-)
Note that you can view all the pictures on the Google+ webalbum, or by clicking on a picture.

Let's start with the box!

Sony VF-49CPAM - Packaging

The Sony VF-49CPAM comes in a Sony Alpha themed coloured box. As you can see, It's actually not specifically marketed as being for NEX-bodies, though the Sony Website does list just about every Sony NEX lens as compatible:

Even the very expensive 24mm 1.4 is on the list, so good job on making 'em all compatible Sony!

Sony VF-49CPAM box - front
Sony VF-49CPAM box - innards
Sony VF-49CPAM box - top

As you can see, the polarizer itself is right in the front of the package, with the case in the backside compartment. The packaging is actually very easy to open, none of the regular blister-packaging nonsense.

Let's get it out of the packaging and take a closer look!

Sony VF-49CPAM - Size

With a filter size of only 49mm you'd expect it to be small, ofcourse, but seeing it in person and holding it in your hands you can see how "dinky" it just is.

In fact, it's even lower than the NEX lens-cap!

Let's see how it compares to the Hoya 77mm Circular Polarizer which I use for my DSLR:

The difference in size is enough to transform it into the realm of pocketability ;)

Mounted on a lens

Let's see how it looks like when mounted on a lens. 
As you can see, when fitted on the 35mm 1.8 OSS (see my hands-on) it's still smaller than the NEX 18-55-kitlens. Awesome :)

We can also fit it on the NEX-kitlens of course, in which case it neatly fits on the middle of the extending barrel. Very well done :)

You can also see now why having a non-rotating barrel is important. If the barrel rotated whilst zooming out, the polarizing effect would change!

Complete package

And here it is mounted on the 35mm 1.8 OSS, which in turn is mounted on a Sony NEX-5. As you can see, the package isn't much larger than it was - a big plus!

For changing the polarizing effect you can turn the ring, which, whilst small, is still perfectly operable. I'd advice you to turn the ring of the polarizer to the left (as seen when you're behind the camera) when changing polarization, because turning to the right might unscrew the actual filter itself.

As you can see, the VF-49CPAM doesn't add much additional length to the package
The all-black package of the NEX-5, 35mm 1.8 OSS and VF-49CPAM looks the part!
The front of a camera suddenly looks a lot cooler with a seemingly large piece of glass in front of it ;)

Carrying Case

Remember that photo above, with the case which comes in the box? It's a pretty neat addition, in case (ha!) you might want to pull that polarizer of the lens.

It's a bit bigger than it needs to be for this polarizer, not sure why that is actually, as it results in having a bit of empty space when the filter is placed in it. I personally would have liked for it to be smaller and neatly fitting, as it saves space.

Perhaps the case is used for other-sized filters as well?

The carrying case actually holds the polarizer in place quite well; it doesn't seem to rattle around

Sony VF-49CPAM - Markings

There are four markings on the VF-49CPAM itself, which are, in order when turning the ring to the left:

  1. Sony
  2. Carl Zeiss T*
  3. Circular PL Filter 49mm  
  4. VF-49CPAM Made in Japan

They are all spaced out 90 degrees from each other, i.e. placed at each quarter.

Even though it's marked as having Carl Zeiss optics, it's also marked as Made in Japan. I'm guessing that that means it's made by Sony, by the specifications of lens design by Carl Zeiss and using a licence for the name.
The same as the so-called Carl Zeiss compacts by Sony, read about that on this Carl Zeiss page for example.

Note that these markings are all placed on the turning ring, and so these come in handy to remember how much we've turned the ring. 

Probably not a coincidence ;)

Time will tell how well the markings stay in place.

Polarizing Test

As you've seen, the weather has been rather crappy, so I mostly did some indoor testing for shooting through reflections. This morning, at the first workday, the sun started shining again, so I took some shots of that as well.

Test 1 - Reflection

Let's start with the reflection test.
In this test, I'm shooting into the front of the Canon 7D with 24-70mm 2.8 L lens, which has the 77mm Hoya polarizer attached (which is why it looks so massive).

As you can see, I've positioned the NEX 18-55mm kitlens so that it appears in the reflection.
I've shot this with the NEX-5 with 35mm 1.8 OSS with the VF-49CPAM, with the Sony marking on the ring at the top.
VF-49CPAM attached, Sony marking on top - as good as no polarizer effect

And on the next shot, the goal was try and shoot through the reflection. 
In order for this to happen, I've turned the polarizer 90 degrees to the middle of the Carl Zeiss T* marking on the ring.
Turned 90 degrees to the Note how different the lens reflection looks like, we can now see through it. The lens hood looks really different as well.

Works pretty well huh? 

We can now see through the reflection and actually see the markings of the Canon 24-70 2.8 L lens, which wasn't visible before.
Also note how different the lens-hood looks, it's a lot deeper black and reflects a lot less. 

Very nice!

Test 2 - Reflection

Next up, let's try a different situation and use my phone. When held under a small angle, there can be quite some reflection, as evidenced in the next shot:

Polarizer ring turned 0 degrees, left on the Sony mark on the top of the ring.

Now, let's try turning the ring 90 degrees for maximum effect:
Turning the ring 90 degrees we can shoot through the reflection, and actually see the contents of the screen.

Pretty neat as well huh? The phone looks a lot better, however note the rainbowing effect on the screen? It's not inherent to this filter, as I saw the same effect with the Hoya 77mm.

You can get rid of that effect by changing your angle to the subject, for example:
No rainbowing effect with maximum polarization, but changed shooting angle

What's important to remember is that you must sometimes take extra care when using a polarizer!

Test 3 - Shooting Blue Sky

Just as I was ready to post this blogpost, there were some nice blue skies popping up for the first time in quite a while.

Ideal moment to test right? 

To test, I shot four different shots, each at the middle of each marking on the turning ring.
Note that I opened these four RAW files in PhotoShop CS6 with Camera RAW, all defaults, then resized and saved as a JPEG-image.

Let's see how it turned out:
CF-49CPAM turned 0 degrees - middle of "Sony" marking

CF-49CPAM turned 90 degrees - middle of "Carl Zeiss T*" marking

CF-49CPAM turned 180 degrees - middle of "Circular PL Filter 49mm" marking

CF-49CPAM turned 270 degrees - middle of "VF-49CPAM Made in Japan" marking

As you can see, it's polarizing effect on blue skies is there, but it's relatively subtle. The biggest effect can be seen on the right-side of the picture.

Note that I've shot these shots in the morning, you might get another effect in midday or at another time, so the Sun is in another place.


The VF-49CPAM is a nice polarizer for sure. It feels sturdy and fits neatly on NEX-lenses. All Sony NEX-lenses seem to be compatible as a result of them all using the same filter size. (update: not all it seems, the 16-50mm pancake lens has a 40.5mm filter thread...)

It works perfectly for shooting through reflections, but gives a relatively modest effect on blue skies.

It's not the cheapest filter money can buy, but the pricing does seem in line with the price of quality filters of this size.

Note I've only got it a couple of days, but I felt a little blogpost would help as I cannot seem to find that much information about this lens.

Perhaps I'll add some extra info in the future, and as always, if you've got questions let me know.

That's it, happy shooting!

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