Aurora Aperture PowerXND – CPL/UV Filters Review
Today we are going to take a quick look at two filters by Aurora Aperture. We have already tested their variable ND filter about a year or so ago so if you have been watching you should be familiar with the brand.
The first is a UV filter – pretty straight forward 72mm called PowerUV protector and the second is a 77mm PowerCPL filter. Both can come in different threads ranging from 37-95mm (the CPL also has a 105mm version). We have covered both when they were first announced last year.
Let’s start with the UV protector filter first. If you are not shooting with analog cameras you probably don’t need actual UV protection as digital cameras are not affected by light at these wavelengths. So why would you put an extra piece of glass in front of your lens? The reason most people who do this will quote is to give you extra protection for your front element against scratches or blows and let the relatively low cost filter take the hit instead of your potentially expensive lens. We will also add the fact that it is typically easier to clean as you can remove the filter and easily clean it from both sides, but hey – maybe this is just our thing.
There are people who don’t follow this logic and prefer to go bare with their lens – if you are that type of person just jump a bit forward in this review to the CPL part, however if you are the type of person who is looking for some extra protection for your glass (we certainly are), the PowerUV protector seems like a very interesting option.
The PowerUV protector
On the Aurora Aperture website you can find a lot of interesting information on the PowerUV protector. Maybe the most important part is that this filter uses Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3 technology which is used in many smartphones to protect the glass from breaking and scratching. The company claims that in its tests it was able to withstand a 50 inch or 1.2 meter drop of a metal ball weighing 56 grams – significantly more than any other filter (most good ones top at 16 grams or so according to the company).
Aurora Aperture also ran a successful scratch test for 30 min trying to imitate keys rocks and other potential scratching hazards that can destroy your filter.
Although we didn’t run any sort of real world crash or scratch tests (anything we would have done would not really be considered “scientific” anyway and we only had a single filter which we didn’t want to destroy by accident), we did want to try and see if the PowerUV protector influences the image quality in any meaningful way. For that purpose we shot a color chart and our resolution test target.
We shot these test in the sun outdoors – this gives us natural light but the drawback is that the results are not always exposed exactly the same. Here you can see a comparison between our Nikon 105mm macro lens without any filter and with the PowerUV protector – we don’t see any noticeable color shift with the PowerUV protector (although in our shots the PowerUV protector image seems to produce darker blacks).
PowerUV – No visible color cast
We also see no noticeable reduction of sharpness with the filter (if anything the contrast seems just a tad better – really surprising). We compared this filter to our existing Hoya HMC UV filter and again we were not able to see much of a difference in terms of color or sharpness between the two.
Better contrast? (can this be or is this an artifact from testing outdoors?)
The PowerCPL is used to filter out polarized light, making a sky bluer and vegetation color more saturated and letting you shoot though water or glass without significant reflections (which are two things that you can’t really replicate in post processing – at least not easily).
With the PowerCPL we also wanted to test its performance but also show how well it worked at polarizing light as you turn it around and give you some examples of possible uses.
Let’s start with performance. First you need to realise that a CPL will reduce the amount of light that reaches your sensor. In this case it is just over one stop of light reduction so you need to keep this in mind and we compensated for that in our test. With that said we see a very minor change in some of the colors in our test chart – for example in the reds – but this might also be due to the exposure not being 100% identical.
Power CPL color test – notice any color cast?
As for sharpness, if you magnify the image to about 400x you do see a slight decrease in sharpness – but this is too much pixel peeping even for us – so for all intends in prepuces we would say that the sharpness of this CPL is very good.
Can you see a sharpness reduction?
The most striking demo that we were able to record that can show the power of this CPL was removing the glare from a monitor, at least in our testing the effects on the color of vegetation were not very strong and even water was not too effected by this CPL (although there are many factors here and you might see different results).
So let’s some things up. The build quality of both filters seems good enough and we had no problem attaching and detaching them and the PowerCPL turns pretty smoothly. In terms of actual performance the PowerUV didn’t show any visible reduction in image quality in our testing and even somehow improved the contrast by a tiny bit and if we should believe Aurora Aperture claims, it should be significantly stronger than other protective filters including the new Sigma Ceramic protector and Hoya’s HD protector.
Corning’s Gorilla Glass 3 on both filters
The PowerCPL was mostly effective in our testing when we shot highly reflective surfaces such as LCDs and less so when we tried shooting plants or water but it doesn’t seem to have any significant color cast and has very minimal loss of sharpness.
In terms of pricing these filters are not as expensive as the Sigma Ceramic protector – for example the Sigma 77mm filter cost just under $120 while the Aurora Aperture PowerUV cost just over $80. The CPL is a bit more expensive at $125 for the 77mm version but if you look for example on the Hoya 77mm HD3 CPL you easily reach the $200 price range so the Aurora Aperture is certainly not the most expensive filter in this category as well (we could only find the new filters on e-bay at the time of publication).
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