Last updated: August 10, 2021

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

With this, we would like to make your purchase decision easier and help you find the best polarising 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 pay attention to if you want to buy a polarising filter.




Summary

  • In principle, a distinction is made between circular and linear polarising filters. Depending on the intended use and type of camera, a polarising filter is best suited for you.
  • Before you decide on a filter, you should consider key purchase criteria such as diameter, scratch resistance, water repellency, wide-angle suitability and f-stops.
  • Polarising filters are mainly used for reflections. Water surfaces and reflective glass panes can thus be easily filtered to achieve certain effects that are difficult to achieve with digital image processing.

The Best Polarising Filter: Our Picks

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

How much does a polarising filter cost and which brands are typical for the price range?

Polarising filters are available in all price ranges. The classification into a price class is determined by factors such as polarising filter type, i.e. whether linear or circular, and quality.

In addition, the diameter also plays a major role in the price calculation.

The cheapest polarising filters from amazonbasics and Hama are already available on Amazon for just under 20€.

These would be suitable for those who have not worked with a polarising filter before and are therefore still undecided about whether they are comfortable with the system.

Polfilter Sterne

High-end polarising filters are available from 80€ in various markets. Depending on the size, the price can go higher. Brands such as Zeiss and B+W are represented in this price range. (Photo: Nathan Anderson / unsplash.com)

In the medium price range are brands like Hoya and other lesser-known brands. In addition, premium filters can also be found in this price range. An example would be the Phorex by #jaworskyj polarising filters.

What should I look for when buying?

There is not much choice when it comes to polarising filters. The spectrum is limited to two types, namely the linear and circular kind. Even though they hardly produce different results, you should still limit your choice to one. The following questions should be asked:

What kind of camera am I using?

If you have a DSLR, i.e. an SLR camera, you should use circular polarising filters. The exposure sensors are designed in such a way that the light cannot be measured directly on the sensor. The camera therefore needs circular light currents for exposure measurement, which can only be generated by a circular polarising filter.

If you have a compact camera or a DSLM, i.e. a system camera, you can use circular polarising filters as well as linear polarising filters. How the light beam hits the sensor is irrelevant.

However, if you don't know how the exposure is measured in the camera, you can of course look for an answer on the internet on the one hand, but on the other hand you can also access circular polarising filters without any doubt.

Polarising filters are basically used to reduce reflections. They free the image from disturbing elements.

What is the diameter of the lens I am using?

As you know, lenses have different diameters. To choose the right polarising filter, you should know the diameter of the filter thread on the front lens. Most lens manufacturers have this information on the front of the bar next to the lens. The specification of conventional lenses can vary between 37mm and 77mm.

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Do I want to use the polarising filter on multiple lenses?

If you have several lenses at home, it is highly likely that the filter threads are of different widths. In such cases, it is possible to buy the polarising filter with the largest diameter and the so-called step-up adapter. With the help of this, this filter can be adapted to all kinds of lenses.

Polfilter Objektiv

Step-up adapters are, roughly speaking, polarising filters of different sizes, but without glass. They are empty filter threads that can be screwed onto each other according to size. (Photo: Søren Astrup Jørgensen / unsplash.com)

If the lens has a diameter of 52mm, you screw all the filter threads from size 77mm to 52mm on top of each other and mount it on the lens thread. At the other end, of course, you attach the polarising filter.

Polarising filters are usually stored in plastic trays, as the glass needs special protection. A collection of three or four such trays takes up a lot of space in the camera bag.

Therefore, one of the advantages of using adapter rings is that fewer dishes have to be transported and the collection of step-up adapters can be thrown into the bag without worry.

What focal length do I want to shoot at?

When deciding which lens to buy, it is also important to consider the focal length at which you want to use a polarising filter. In the medium to high telephoto range, you should encounter realistic image results.

At wide angle, there is a possibility that the sky will be too dark over a large area when taking landscape photographs. This in turn depends on the angle at which the camera is positioned to the sun. Here, too, trial and error and experimentation are the order of the day.

By simply screwing on the lens, you get the polarising filter effect. This is weakened with clockwise rotation and strengthened the other way round. But there are exceptions.

What compromises do I have to make?

In fact, you have to expect a few compromises. Especially with regard to exposure and possibly also sharpness. (More about exposure in the Trivia category)

Depending on the quality of the polarising filter, it can also happen that edges and contours in the 100% do not correspond to the sharpness you might be used to. With pixel giants like the Nikon d800 or the Sony a7r, this is perhaps less noticeable.

Especially if the images are intended for online use. On popular social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, for example, the images are compressed to the bare minimum, which happens at the expense of sharpness.

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

A polarising filter, also called a polarising filter or CPL filter, is an accessory used for the photo camera to achieve a certain image result. It is in the interest of many photographers who come from a wide variety of backgrounds.

The polarising filter has many uses. They help landscape photographers, for example, to make shots of horizons more dynamic. Water bodies are also depicted more clearly. Product photographers avoid reflections in their subjects that can be caused by the large softboxes in the studio.

Street photographers are able to photograph what is behind shop windows and car windows, which would normally not be possible due to reflections.

Of course, these are not the only possible uses. In nature photography as well as in portrait photography, a polarising filter can definitely be used. It is estimated that in every field of photography, one would discover new possibilities of photography with the help of such a filter.

What types of polarising filters are there and which is common?

Basically, one can distinguish between two types of polarising filters:

  • circular polarising filters
  • linear polarising filters

If you enter "polarising filter" on the Internet, you will mostly be offered circular polarising filters, which are easier to use and more ergonomic. The range of linear filters is rapidly decreasing, as they do not work universally on all kinds of cameras.

Especially with SLR cameras, their use is problematic from a technical point of view. Therefore, circular polarising filters are more common in the DSLR age.

What do polarising filters do and what are the advantages and disadvantages?

Without wanting to put it too scientifically: Light waves are like endless sine curves that run in a certain direction and can be rotated on their own axis.

However, the human eye cannot recognise the different types of light. To us, each type of light appears to be the same.

Advantages
  • Higher contrast values
  • Higher saturation values
  • Vapour removal
  • Elimination of reflections
Disadvantages
  • Unsuitable for ultra-wide angle
  • Loss of light
  • Possible colour distortions
  • Possible loss of sharpness

Certain light waves cause unattractive reflections or dull colours in a photo. A polarising filter is used to prevent these blemishes by suppressing the impact of these certain light waves on the camera sensor.

How do linear polarising filters work and where are they used?

When an unpolarised light beam hits a linear polarising filter, linear polarised light is produced by filtering. Linear polarising filters are only used on system cameras and compact cameras.

Natural light emits unpolarised light waves. This means that the light waves can consist of arbitrary types and directions. With a polarising filter - roughly speaking - the light waves that do not correspond to a certain directional value are not allowed in and are absorbed. So what remains at the end is a light beam that consists of linearly polarised light waves.

The reference value according to which the filtering takes place is set by rotating the polarising filter. After attaching the polarising filter to the lens, you will notice that part of the filter can be rotated further.

Advantages
  • Natural image result, instead of oversaturations
  • Less vignetting
Disadvantages
  • Only for compact and system cameras
  • Decrease on the market

Of course, you don't know - especially as a layman - in which direction you have to turn and how much to get the best result. Right from the start, this is done by trial and error. Especially since the setting of the polarising filter has to be changed for every lighting situation. For better adjustment, the Live View of the camera is a great help.

How do circular polarising filters work and where are they used?

The following also applies here: If an unpolarised light beam hits a circular polarising filter, linear polarised light is produced by filtering. This light beam, however, hits a second glass layer that transmits the light waves in a circulating manner to the camera sensor. Only in this way can the light information also be recorded and processed by DSLRs.

A circular polarising filter consists of two layers of glass, each with a different molecular structure. The outer glass produces the same result as a linear polarising filter. However, some types of cameras cannot work with linearly polarised light. Therefore, the light is circulated with the help of the second glass and thus made receptive for the camera sensor.

It is also possible to set a reference value by turning the ring on the polarising filter. This reference value depends on the position of the structures of the two glasses in relation to each other.

On the one hand, you can reduce the incidence of light almost completely or allow any kind of light waves. Of course, there are also gradations in between, which you can adjust by trial and error. Here, too, the camera's live view is a great help.

Advantages
  • Compatible with all camera systems
  • Larger selection on the market
  • High light filtering
Disadvantages
  • Exposure sensors on camera sensor necessary
  • Tint can be too strong

Circular polarising filters are mainly used with SLR cameras because their exposure metering sensors are not on the camera sensor. For this reason, they cannot process linearly polarised light.

Buying criteria: Use these factors to compare and evaluate polarising filters

In the following we would like to show you under which aspects polarising filters differ. By observing these criteria, you can choose a polarising filter that is suitable for you and your camera.

In summary, these are:

  • Diameter
  • Scratch resistance
  • Water repellency
  • Wide-angle suitability
  • Possibility of using a lens hood
  • Possibility to use additional filters
  • Filter box
  • F-stops

In the following paragraphs you can read about the purchase criteria and how you can classify them.

Diameter

The diameter of the polarising filter should correspond to the diameter of the lens. By purchasing step-up adapters, the relevance of the fitting accuracy is no longer relevant. So before buying, you should find out how wide the front edge of the lens mount is.

With conventional SLR lenses, you can get this information by looking at the plastic edge of the front lens. With conventional DSLM lenses, however, there is also the possibility that the diameter is noted on the side. As soon as you know the diameter, you should of course only start looking for polarising filters with the corresponding size.

Polfilter Studio

However, if you own several lenses and do not want to buy a polarising filter for each lens, step-up adapters could help you. The only thing to remember here is that you should look for polarising filters for the lens with the largest diameter. (Photo: Dan Gold / unsplash.com)

With compact cameras, the diameter of the lens is rather unusual. However, it is not too tragic, since the filter thread is missing and therefore a high fitting accuracy is not required. Therefore, it would suffice here to measure the width of the lens on the compact camera itself. Since the choice of different filter sizes is accordingly small, the decision is not too difficult.

Scratch resistance

Especially when shooting outdoors or when transported incorrectly, polarising filters can quickly become scratched. These can reduce the quality of the subsequent image. No matter how much you protect glass, for some inexplicable reason you will find fine to coarse scratches on the surface after a certain time.

This is particularly bad with polarising filters, as the image quality suffers. This can be compared to scratched or dusty glasses, which can be perceived as annoying by the wearer in everyday life. It is therefore advantageous to look for scratch-resistant filters, as you can then use them for much longer.

In addition to scratch resistance, it is also important to pay attention to the cleanliness of the filter. Impurities will affect the quality of the picture.

Water repellency

Polarising filters are coated in different ways. A special type of coating causes water drops to bead up, so that after a short cleaning, the water drops can be completely removed.

Water is difficult to remove from conventional glass surfaces. It literally "sticks" to the surface. If you wipe it with a cloth, you smear it rather than actually clean it. In addition, small amounts or traces are left behind from time to time.

On coated surfaces, you are spared this problem. The individual drops of water roll off and can be removed very easily with the simplest cloths. No residues can be detected. This also simplifies and speeds up regular cleaning.

Wide-angle suitability

Polarising filters can be of different heights. If the housing is too high, dark edges or strong vignetting can occur at extreme wide-angle ranges. Besides the width, i.e. the diameter, polarising filters also differ in height. Here, it is relevant when choosing which focal lengths you would use when taking photographs.

If the decision lies in the wide angle, you should go for the slim models. These have an extremely slim design and should not impair the final image due to the high edge with unwanted shading. Up to which focal length the use of the respective products is considered uncompromising is to be researched for the individual polarising filters.

For working with 24mm (full frame) and 18mm (APS-C) all slim polarising filters should not pose any problems. For the range above these focal lengths, slim as well as the standard models are considered safe.

Using a lens hood

Lens hoods are lens hoods. They are used to prevent direct sunlight from entering the lens and to prevent unsightly lens flare. In this way, dull image results can be prevented.

Lens hoods are available in two versions. With the one, cooperation with a polarising filter is guaranteed. With the other technique, there is the possibility of complications.

One type of "GeLis" (abbreviation for lens hoods) has a filter thread so that it can be screwed onto the already attached polarising filter like an additional filter, provided the latter has a suitable thread. Here, the filter housing is exposed and can be operated by the photographer without restriction.

The other type can be fixed over the edge of the lens by means of a special "snap-in" mechanism. Here, the polarising filter is enclosed by the lens hood. For this reason, operation through the lens hood is limited. To turn it, you would have to fiddle around with the front of the lens, which can be a big "fiddly job".

Sometimes filters are even much too high that the lens hoods with the special "snap-in" mechanism cannot be mounted. In this case, polarising filters are not considered suitable for lens hoods. If you still want to work with a lens hood, you would have to get a lens hood with a filter thread.

Using other filters

Sometimes the photographer is not satisfied with just one filter. For example, it would be possible to work with an additional ND filter if you want to photograph plant leaves in bright sunlight during the day with the aperture as open as possible. On the one hand, it is necessary to darken the entire image with the ND filter and, on the other hand, to eliminate reflections from the surface with the help of the polarising filter.

So if you expect to work with several filters, you should make sure that the polarising filter has an additional thread on the front. It is important to ensure that the additional filter has the same width as the polarising filter to which you want to attach it.

Filter box

Since filters consist only of a thin metal or plastic housing and fine glass, they are very sensitive, which requires careful storage. For this reason, most of them come with a filter box.

Just as a quiver belongs to a lens and a camera bag to a camera, the polarising filter necessarily comes with a filter box. This is used for transport, protection and general storage.

Due to its high relevance, it is therefore included in the scope of delivery of almost every manufacturer. It is usually made of plastic, is square and is exactly the same size as the diameter of the polarising filter.

F-stops

To achieve the required effect, polarising filters are necessarily tinted. Therefore, the camera must be overexposed by a few f-stops.

The polarisation of the light is due to the fine structures in the glass. These structures, taken as a whole, darken the glass somewhat.

Since each manufacturer works with a modified system, this tinting can be different for each polarising filter supplier. Therefore, the strength of the tint is specified for almost every CPL filter. This is done with the unit "f-stops".

For a darkening of two f-stops, for example, the camera must be set two stops brighter in manual mode. Here you have the option of turning up the aperture twice, increasing the shutter speed by two steps or turning up the ISO according to feeling.

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If one prefers to take pictures in aperture priority mode, the photographer does not have to make any changes to the camera, as the camera adjusts itself accordingly. The only thing you have to make sure of is that the camera does not set the shutter speed too high, as this can lead to camera shake.

If you want to take pictures that are guaranteed not to be blurred and save time and effort, the best way is to shoot in aperture priority mode. Here, settings such as the shutter speed can be selected manually, which has the advantage of preventing camera shake.

In full automatic mode, the photographer leaves the settings entirely up to the camera. When using a polarising filter, the photographer does not have to pay attention to anything.

Facts worth knowing about polarising filters

How do the camera settings have to be changed when using a polarising filter?

Due to the special glass structure, tinting is not inevitable. The image is made two to three f-stops darker overall by using it. It can be compared to the effect of sunglasses with black lenses.

If you work on the camera with automatic settings, nothing will change for you, as the camera will adjust itself automatically. However, if you work in manual mode, you would have to increase the aperture by two to three stops, turn up the ISO or increase the shutter speed.

How do you attach a CPL filter to a DSLR?

When you attach your desired lens to your DSLR or system camera, the polarising filter is screwed into the filter thread on the front part of the lens like a bottle cap. Since the filter thread is very fine, you should be especially careful.

If you take the lens in your hand, you will see a thread on the front edge of the lens that is only a few millimetres wide. This thread is intended for all kinds of filters. Filters have a filter thread that fits perfectly for this purpose, which protrudes slightly from the filter frame. If the CPL filter is the right size, the filter only has to be screwed on to the end.

How do I attach a polarising filter to a compact camera?

Compact cameras do not have a filter thread to which a filter can be attached. Instead, there are smaller polarising filters that can be magnetically attached to the metal housing of the lens.

Even if you look closely, you will not find a filter thread on a compact camera. Therefore, conventional filters would not be suitable for such lenses. However, in order to be able to take pictures with the polarising filter anyway, magnetic polarising filters are offered, which can be attached very easily and quickly to the front of a metal housing. Of course, they can be removed just as easily as they are attached.

There are also compact cameras on the market that are made of plastic. For such cameras, some manufacturers offer additional magnetic strips that can be stuck onto the lens. In this way, polarising filters can also be used for these types of cameras.

Are there alternatives to polarising filters?

There are alternatives that would replace a polarising filter in certain areas, but then you either don't have a detailed image or you end up investing a lot more time. So you don't get the same result.

The life of a photographer can be quite routine. Photographs are taken and then photoshopped for several hours. It often happens that you invest a lot of time in accentuating the stones in the lake, in strengthening the contours of the clouds or in extracting information from overexposed areas.

With the help of polarising filters, the amount of work in image processing for landscape photographers, product photographers as well as street photographers could be considerably reduced. The images already offer an almost perfect basis for subsequent Photoshop work out of cam.

Overexposures occur much less frequently or not at all. The contours are much clearer and more dynamic when used correctly. If you like this style, a polarising filter is an optimal tool.

Can I combine polarising filters with other filters?

Of course, it can happen that several filters have to be used at the same time. For such cases, there is the option of screwing several filters together.

All filters consist of two threads. The filter can be screwed onto the lens via one thread. The thread on the other side of the filter can be used to attach other filters.

To protect the lens from scratches, UV filters can be used, which hardly change the image.

Under what conditions are polarising filters used?

Polarising filters are used when light hits non-metallic objects, because in such a light situation reflections or reflexes can inevitably occur. With the help of the polarising filter, these disturbances can be eliminated.

Non-metallic objects include, for example, water, glass, plants and plastics such as foils or hard plastic. This is because surfaces are very likely to reflect non-polarised light waves.

How do you clean a polarising filter?

This is a very controversial subject. For grease stains, some count on washing-up liquid, others on ethanol. Water is also a choice.

Lens glasses and lens filters should be cleaned carefully. It is important never to rub the dirt away dry, otherwise scratches can occur.

It is not recommended to clean the glass with chemicals or running water. Depending on the finish, this can cause damage. In the best case, use a microfibre cloth or a lens pen.

If you discover small spots on the polarising filter that cannot be removed, they may be between the lenses. Unfortunately, it is not possible to get into this space with a microfibre cloth or similar. Therefore, it is also not possible to remove these spots. However, the formation of such dots is due to poor quality of the polarising filter.

Image source: Alexey Koldunov / 123RF.com

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