Which NISI Circular Polariser is right for you?

Left to right: with NiSi Natural CPL, Standard CPL, Landscape CPL 

A circular polarising filter (CPL) is an essential part of any landscape photographer’s kit. There are no ways to recreate the effects these filters have on your images. In short, a polariser prevents damaged reflected light from reaching your sensor. When used correctly, CPLs beautifully saturate and add contrast to your images; they turn pale skies a deeper blue, coax vibrant rich greens from foliage and forests, make rainbows pop, and cut reflections off the surface of water. If it sounds like I’m preaching, I am. Every landscape photographer needs a CPL in their kit. NISI has three in their range, and the purpose of this article is to help you understand the difference between them and ultimately choose the right one for you.

Left to right: NiSi Standard, Natural and Landscape Enhanced CPLs

The models we’ll be reviewing are:

Pro Nano Coatings

Before we go into the differences, let’s talk about similarities. All three filters use high definition optical glass, along with NISI’s proprietary Pro Nano Coating. This has been designed to cut glare and reduce unwanted reflections. The Pro Nano Coating also provides a waterproof and scratch-resistant layer. It assists in the cleaning of unwanted fingerprints, dust and water stains. Interestingly, water and other liquid will tend to bead rather than spreading and smearing across the filters. As a landscape photographer, my gear regularly faces the elements, so this extra line of defence is welcomed.

Reliably constructed

Fumbling with filters that refuse to be screwed onto lenses is immensely frustrating. Perhaps more so are filter threads that jam when being removed. NISI’s CPLs proved effortless to get on and off my lens. The frames of each CPL are slim in design, but still allow a lens cap to be attached. The outer rim of the polariser has ridged sections, providing grip for your fingertips when rotating. The mechanism itself is smooth and easy to rotate, without mistakenly screwing the entire filter from the lens thread.

Consistent image quality

I field-tested these filters, in conditions with varying light, wind and air quality. I didn’t notice any differences in overall image quality or sharpness across the three models. The most notable difference was the stronger effect of the Landscape Enhanced CPL, which required approximately +1 stop of exposure to balance with the Standard and Natural. Again, this was not a studio test, and under ‘scientific’ conditions or to a more keen pixel-peeper, differences may be picked up.

NISI Pro Nano Standard HUC

The Standard HUC model was developed before both the Landscape and Natural versions. You would never know by looking at, or by using the filter, nor do I believe the technology is at all outdated. The notable difference is in the colour tone of the Standard HUC, which is the warmest of the range. From research, I believe this was the industry norm for CPLs when the Standard HUC model was first manufactured, and is something you will find across brands. The warm tone is by no means intrusive, and in fact, I found it to be flattering in certain instances. For example, sunrise shots down a green Drakensberg valley benefitted from the golden tint. I imagine this would also work well in architectural photography. However, my preference would be to capture an image with as little colour tone as possible, and do any manipulation needed in post-production.

NISI Pro Nano Landscape Enhanced

As the name suggests, the Landscape Enhanced has been designed with the landscape photographer in mind. When NISI first released this model, it was a move against industry norms. Rather than the standard warm tone, the Landscape Enhanced produces a cool tint, which works wonders across a variety of landscape scenes. The cool tint ensures that white clouds stay fresh and crisp, and pop from cobalt skies; greenery is bold and vibrant; water is rich in colour. It’s fair to say that a cooler tint is favourable for most landscape scenes, from the coastline to the mountains. The polarisation on this model is stronger than the others, resulting in an image approximately -1 stop darker. This is not a majorly significant detail in my experience, but worth noting if you often shoot handheld or in low light. On a positive note, it will also help when shooting longer exposures in brighter light. The frame of the Landscape Enhanced is made with Titanium, offering an even more sturdy build quality at a negligibly heavier weight.

NISI Pro Nano Natural

This is the latest addition to NISI’s range, and the years of research and development have paid off. The result is a CPL of exceptional optical quality. True to its name, the Natural CPL causes almost no colour tone. Granted, that any polarisation will shift colours slightly, this filter reproduces images as close to natural as I’ve ever seen. For obvious reasons this is incredibly desirable. The subtle tone it creates is on the cool side, which is favourable to landscape photography. Scenes benefit from the increased vibrance and contrast we expect from a CPL, without any of the colour tone. The largely neutral tint, means that the Natural CPL is supremely versatile, and can be used across environments. Outside of landscape photography, product or automotive photographers would find great value in a CPL that cuts reflections without affecting colours. Since I received these three filters, the Natural CPL has found an almost permanent home on the front of my lens.



Left to right: with NiSi Natural CPL, Standard CPL, Landscape CPL

Left to right: with NiSi Natural CPL, Standard CPL, Landscape CPL

Left to right: with NiSi Natural CPL, Standard CPL, Landscape CPL

Above images: Left half with NiSi Natural CPL, Right half with NiSi Landscape CPL

In conclusion

Ultimately, choosing one of NISI’s circular polarising filters will come down to personal taste and opinion. Frankly, it may come down to budget too. Arranged by price from low to high the order is Standard, Natural and Landscape. The difference between the Standard and Natural is small, with a bigger jump to the landscape version which is constructed from a Titanium Alloy. Across the range, one thing I can assure you, is that excellent quality is consistent. I have used the Landscape CPL for over a year, and have no complaints. However, after using the Natural CPL, it’s unlikely I will be using anything else. The ability to reap the benefits of a polarising filter, without any colour tone, feels like a win-win situation. This justifies the slightly higher price. Warmer or cooler tints can be added during post-production (with restraint and finesse I might add). As a photographer, my goal is to create images that are as close to the scene I experienced as possible. And to that end, the Natural CPL earns itself a first-place finish.

About the test

I put NISI’s three CPLs to the test in the Drakensberg mountains and in the Mpumalanga Highveld. All images were shot on a Sony A7riii & Sony 24-105mm lens. The game plan for these tests was to photograph the same scene, switching filters between shots as fast as possible to avoid drastic changes in light. For the most part, I applied a high level of polarisation to make the effects clear.

Top: with NiSi Natural CPL 

Left and right: with NiSi Natural CPL 

Left and right: with NiSi Natural CPL 


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Matt Bouch is a South African landscape photographer, travelling full-time since January 2020. A passion for the mountains drives the direction of his work. It was this passion that motivated him to sell his shares in a production company he co-founded, move away from corporate creativity, and pursue a lifestyle that allows for more time outside.