Last updated: August 20, 2021

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Welcome to our big CPL filter test 2021. Here we present all the CPL filters we have tested in detail. We have compiled detailed background information and added a summary of customer reviews on the web.

We would like to make your purchase decision easier and help you find the best CPL filter for you.

You will also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. If available, we also offer interesting test videos. Furthermore, you will also find some important information on this page that you should definitely pay attention to if you want to buy a CPL filter.

Contents




Summary

  • A Circular Polarisation Filter (CPL) is suitable for removing unwanted reflections from smooth surfaces.
  • Neutral density filters come in different strengths. CPL filters are often used in landscape photography, but they can also help with portraits.
  • When using a circular polarising filter, make sure it is of good quality so that you get good photos.

The Best CPL Filters: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a CPL filter

What is a CPL filter?

A CPL filter is a polarisation filter for photo cameras. CPL is the abbreviation for Circular Polarization Filter and means circular polarisation filter. This camera filter belongs to the group that can improve the quality of your photos. Circular polarizer is an important camera accessory in photography.

A CPL filter is used to polarise light. You can use it to remove reflections from surfaces that are not made of metal. In doing so, these filters create more intense contrasts and a warm colour quality.

With a CPL filter, you can filter out reflections caused by light bouncing off smooth surfaces, such as shop windows or cars.

What are the benefits of a circular polarising filter?

A circular polarising filter prevents unwanted reflections and also haze or fog are no longer visible in the photos. So if you use a circular polarising filter, you can, for example, make water look clearer and more transparent.

Frau im Wind

With a CPL filter, you can avoid unwanted reflections in glasses when taking portraits. (Mason Wilkes / unsplash.com)

Coloured areas, such as the blue sky or the sea, are also rendered more colour-intensively and the image appears warmer. The photos will also be of higher quality, sharper and more natural. This allows you to better represent how you perceive the photo subject with the naked eye.

How does a circular polarising filter work?

From a source, light always vibrates in three dimensions. Some surfaces reflect it, while others absorb it. The CPL filter ensures that the oscillation of the light is reduced to one plane.

This means that before the light hits the polarisation filter, it oscillates in all possible planes. Only when it hits the filter does it oscillate in only one plane. With a CPL filter, you can therefore filter out the light from a defined polarisation direction.

Reflecting surfaces, such as water or glass, have the highest polarisation. However, the effect of the circular polarisation filter does not work on untreated metal surfaces.

When to use a circular polarisation filter?

There are some photographers who do not take off the CPL filter after they have used it for the first time. However, a polarising filter is not always necessary in photography.

The circular polarising filter is often used in landscape photography. Here you can intensify the colours of the landscape, especially on cloudy days. If your subject is also at a 90° angle to the sun, you can intensify the blue of the sky.

Have you ever tried to photograph fish through the water surface? Most of the time you will only see the sky reflected in the water. But if you use a CPL filter, you can remove the reflection from your photos and also photograph an underwater world.

Did you know that polarising filters are also used for 3D projection?

This involves projecting onto an aluminium or silver-coated screen that can reflect the polarised light. The images are emitted by two different projectors and the 3D glasses also consist of two polarisation filters, each of which allows only the appropriate polarised light to pass through for viewing.

In portrait shoots, a circular polarising filter can also help you. If your model wears glasses, you can use the filter to remove the reflections in the glasses and focus on the model's eyes.

What is the difference between a circular and a linear polarising filter?

While you can use circular polarising filters on SLR cameras as well as on other cameras, linear polarising filters are not suitable for SLR cameras because their measuring technique can cause misrepresentations. With CPL filters, the polarising effect only works in the intended direction, with linear polarising filters you can look through both sides.

Circular polarising filter Linear polarising filter
Suitable for SLR cameras Not suitable for SLR cameras
Polarising effect only in the intended pass direction Works in both pass directions
Wide range of products Limited range
More expensive than linear polarising filters Inexpensive

Since circular polarizers are mainly used nowadays, you will find a wide range of products for them. Linear polarizers are less common, but cheaper than CPL filters.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a CPL filter?

With a CPL filter you can increase the quality of your photos and get sharp photos. You can also filter out unwanted reflections on smooth surfaces. However, your circular polarising filter should be of high quality and must be readjusted before each shot so that the settings suit the circumstances.
Advantages
  • Sharp photos
  • High quality images
  • Unwanted reflections can be removed
Disadvantages
  • Good quality needed
  • Should be adjusted before each shot

For whom and which cameras are CPL filters suitable?

If you buy a circular polarising filter, you should learn how it works in order to get good results on your photos. Otherwise, a CPL filter is just as suitable for beginners as for professional photographers.

Circular polarising filters are suitable for digital SLR cameras, unlike the linear version. Otherwise, you can also use the filter with analogue cameras, other digital cameras and compact cameras if you buy the right size.

What size do I need?

The size you need depends on the size of the lens you want to use the polarising filter with. You will find the size directly on the lens. The filter should then be the same size as your lens.

If you want to use a CPL filter with more than one lens, you can either buy a filter in each size of your lenses or you can buy the filter in the size of your largest lens and buy a step-up ring set. This allows you to use one filter with smaller lenses.

Wechselobjektiv

You simply screw a CPL filter onto the front of your lens. (aixclusiv / pixabay.com)

What are cheap CPL filters good for?

You should pay attention to the quality of circular polarisation filters. Cheap filters are often poorly made or are not made of high-quality material. If you have invested a lot of money in a lens, you should not save money on the filter.

The light has to pass through the circular polarisation filter to get to the sensor. If you use a bad filter, your image quality can suffer massively. In this case, your investment in a good lens will not have paid off. So try not to save money at the wrong end.

How do you use a circular polarising filter?

The CPL filter is screwed onto the front of the lens and is ready for use as soon as it is attached. With the CPL filter you need a little more exposure time, which you can set on your camera. So it's best to work with a tripod, because then you can make sure that your photos are not blurred.

What is the best way to take photos with a circular polarisation filter?

Once you have attached your CPL filter to your lens, you can rotate the filter, which changes the wavelength of the light that is filtered out. To do this, look through the viewfinder of your camera and at the same time carefully turn the front of your filter until the angle fits. If you turn the filter more than 90°, the effect is reduced again.

The right rotation depends on the angle of the incident light and the subject. Generally, the best effect is achieved when the light source falls on the subject at a 90° angle. Of course, there are always exceptions, but as a rule of thumb you can keep this in mind for the beginning.

Amanda BreakwellBloggerin
It can take years to master the correct use of the CPL filter. Fortunately, however, there are easy basics for beginners that can be mastered quickly. A basic tip is always to do just a little fine-tuning with the filter, otherwise the images will look unnatural - unless you want to achieve this. Basically, the CPL filter helps you avoid reflections and increase contrast.

(Source: mygobe.com)

In general, you should adjust the filter for each shot to bring out the mood you want to portray. If you turn the filter to maximum intensity, you will get intense colours. But does that fit the mood you want to capture? Or do softer tones suit it better? Then go for a lighter intensity of your CPL filter.

What are the limitations of CPL filters?

The efficiency of a polarising filter depends on the position of the light source. With wide-angle lenses or panorama shots, the angle to the sun changes depending on which part of the image you are looking at. This also changes the effect of the filter and a gradient is visible on the photo.

For example, a blue sky can have an unnatural gradient: it is dark in the middle and light at the edges. Unfortunately, it is not possible to achieve a uniform, colour-intensive blue sky with a CPL filter on a wide-angle lens.

Decision: What types of circular polarising filters are there and which one is right for you?

In the following we want to show you the different types of CPL filters. This should help you to decide which type is best for you. Basically, a distinction is made between the following types:

  • Plug-in filter
  • Screw-in filter
  • Slim filter

In the following, we will introduce you to the respective types and show you the strengths and weaknesses of each type of filter.

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a plug-in filter?

CPL plug-in filters are not often used in practice, but they can be changed more quickly than screw filters and can also be adjusted in height. The problem with plug-in filters is that light can enter from the outside. Furthermore, there is not a particularly large range of CPL plug-in filters because, as mentioned, they are not often used in practice.

Advantages
  • Can be changed more quickly
  • Can be moved in height
Disadvantages
  • Not often used in practice
  • Light from outside can fall in
  • Not much available

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a screw filter?

When you screw the CPL screw-on filter onto your lens, it can be used immediately afterwards. Since the filter sits directly in front of the lens, it is difficult or impossible for light to enter from the outside. In addition, it is a little easier to turn a screw filter. However, it takes a little longer to change the filter and it can happen that the filter gets stuck if you have tightened it too much.

Advantages
  • Can be used directly after attachment
  • Outside light cannot penetrate
  • Turning is easier
Disadvantages
  • It takes a little longer to change
  • Can be tightened too much

What are the advantages and disadvantages of a slim filter compared to a filter with a normal mount?

If the image filter gets into the image because it is too thick, shadowing (vignetting) can occur at the edges. This can be prevented with slim polarising filters because they have a particularly thin frame. This automatically improves the quality of your photos. They also weigh less and are easier to carry.

Advantages
  • No vignetting at the edges
  • Better quality photos
  • Lighter than thicker mounts
Disadvantages
  • Less easy to grip
  • Lens cap is usually impossible to put back on
  • More difficult to adjust when used with other filters

However, the CPL slim filters are more difficult to grip than those with thicker mounts. Likewise, the lens cap can usually no longer be put on. Adjusting the intensity is also more complicated when used with several filters.

Buying criteria: Use these criteria to compare and evaluate CPL filters

In the following, we would like to show you which factors you can use to compare and evaluate circular polarisation filters. This will make it easier for you to decide which filter is suitable for you or not and which one fits your quality requirements.

In summary, these are the following criteria:

  • Filter diameter and frame material
  • Height of the filter
  • Scratch resistance and water repellency
  • Optical quality and coating
  • Weight
  • Filter box
  • Budget and demand
  • F-stops

In the following paragraphs you can find out what the individual purchase criteria are and how you can classify them.

Filter diameter and frame material

Before you buy a CPL polarising filter, you should know the diameter of your lens, as the filter should fit your lens. The filter must be exactly the same size as your lens to fit.

Also, CPL filters come in different mount materials. There are brass and aluminium mounts. Both have their advantages. While those made of brass are particularly durable, those made of aluminium are more likely to avoid vignetting.

Height of the filter

The height of the filter is also an important factor to consider. If the filter is too high, it can happen that the camera filter gets into the picture. This can cause unwanted vignetting. However, thinner filters are more difficult to grip. In principle, however, you should prefer filters with a thinner mount, as your photos will then be of better quality.

Scratch resistance and water repellency

Your filter will be taken and carried around a lot, in a variety of circumstances. For this reason, your filter should ideally have a coating that prevents scratches and also repels water. This will maintain the quality of your filter and make it more durable.

Multi-coatings are often a little more expensive, but it is worth it because they are more durable and you don't have to buy a new filter after frequent use.

Optical quality and coating

The CPL filter should be made of high quality glass and have a good coating. Good glass costs a little more. However, if poor quality glass is used, it may appear as if you are looking through dirty glasses. So make sure that good glass is used for the filter.

The coating is also an important aspect. You can compare this with the anti-reflective coating on glasses. This prevents annoying reflections and improves the quality of your photos. The result is clear and high-contrast photos.

Did you know that it was already recognised in the 19th century how to suppress annoying glossy reflections?

Even then, it was known that polarising media could suppress this effect. But for lack of alternatives, Nicol prisms or tourmaline crystals were used. In 1851, the physician William Bird Herapath discovered the strong polarising effect of artificially produced crystals. But because they were too small, they were never used in practice. Then in 1926, A. Zimmern succeeded in producing flat crystal sheets. But it was not until 1935 that Ferdinand Bernauer finally succeeded in producing crystal faces that could be used for photographic purposes.

Weight

The weight of your filter depends on the material used. Polarising filters made of aluminium are lighter than those made of brass. Slim filters are also lighter than filters with a thicker frame.

So if you have a lot of photographic equipment anyway, you should rather take a lighter filter if you want to go on longer hikes, for example. However, you have to decide for yourself.

Filter box

Some CPL filters come with a filter box. This is a storage box where you can put the filter when you are not using it. The box protects the filter from scratches, dirt and water penetration.

You can also buy such a box separately. However, if you want to avoid this step, you should choose a circular polarising filter that comes directly with a filter box.

Budget and requirements

In principle, you should choose a filter that fits your budget and meets your needs. If you have invested a lot of money in good lenses, you should not save money on a filter, because the investment in the expensive lens will not have paid off and your pictures will show this.

However, as a beginner you don't have to buy the most expensive Circular Polarizer. Professional photographers, however, should go for the more expensive ones, as they are better made. However, make sure that the filter is of a certain quality so that you don't have to buy a new one straight away.

Facts worth knowing about circular polarisation filters

How do I clean a circular polarisation filter?

The best way to clean your CPL filter is to follow the steps below. This will preserve the quality of your filter and prevent scratching:

  1. Remove dust with a small bellows or similar.
  2. Clean the circular polarising filter with a microfibre cloth.
  3. For really stubborn dirt, you can use a so-called lens cleaner solution or distilled water for cleaning.

It is important that you do not use any other chemicals when cleaning your filter, as this can damage the coating.

How can you combine a CPL filter with other camera filters?

You can combine the CPL filter with other filters, such as a colour filter or ND filter. However, you should make sure that you can still rotate the polarising filter, as you should readjust it every time you take a picture.

Also, be careful not to combine too many filters and avoid a stack of filters on your lens. Every filter you put on your lens absorbs light and can affect your image. Therefore, always consider whether you need the filter before using it.

Can the polarising filter effect also be created in the post-processing of the photos?

The polarising filter effect is one of the few filters, along with the ND filter and the infrared filter, that you cannot create by post-processing with image editing programmes such as Photoshop. This is simply because the CPL filter is a physical effect that simply cannot be recreated.

Reflections can also only be removed through complicated and time-consuming editing, and then usually not completely. For this reason, it makes sense to photograph directly with a CPL filter.

Picture credits: ShareGrid / unsplash.com

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