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The Secret of the Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue Filter

It's been some time now since Singh-Ray introduced their unique Gold-N-Blue Polarizer filter. I normally don't pay much attention to Singh-Ray products, but I heard about this filter through online discussion forums where some people seem to be very excited about it.

Recently I was playing around with my own ordinary polarizers and discovered that the Singh-Ray Gold-N-Blue filter is probably just two polarizers in a single mount.

If you're one of those who have been admiring the gold and blue effects, now you don't have to shell out $200 to have them. Just grab two polarizers - at least one of which must be a circular type - and experiment a bit. Hold them up in tandem and rotate them relative to one another while looking through them. You might have to flip one or both of them around and look through the other side for the effect to work. Eventually you'll find the right arrangement that produces the gold and blue color shift.

This isn't a particularly appealing scene, but it illustrates the effect. The images are in-camera JPGs, unaltered in any way except for resizing and sharpening. Notice how differently the colors have been rendered in the lower pair of images.

No polarizer:

One polarizer (circular or linear):

Two polarizers (at least one circular) in 'gold' alignment:

Two polarizers (at least one circular) in 'blue' alignment:

If you get it wrong, you might see no noticeable color change or you might instead see extreme darkening of the scene. This alternate effect can also come in handy as a variable neutral density filter.

You can mount one filter on your lens for shooting, but you might have to hold the second filter against it by hand if the threads end up oriented on the wrong side. In addition, the second filter should be a larger size than the first one to avoid vignetting.

How Can I Tell Linear From Circular?

Most modern polarizing filters are of the circular type because those generally are more compatible with autofocusing cameras. But there are still a large number of linear polarizers out there as well.

The quickest way to find out which type you have is to look at an LCD through it while rotating it; then flip it around and look through its other side. You can use just about any LCD, like the one on your digital camera or the one connected to your computer. A linear polarizer will produce the same effect through both sides, which will be to darken the display. A circular polarizer will behave differently, producing the darkening effect through one side, but the 'gold and blue' effect through the other.

Another way to check is to hold the filter in front of a mirror. Look through the filter, at the filter in the mirror. Flip it and look through the opposite side. If the filter in the mirror looks the same (semi-transparent) both ways, it's linear. If one way looks semi-transparent and the other way looks mostly opaque, it's circular.

Text and images 2009 Ray Lemieux