Uses a nano-coating to resist scratches and other imperfections to the filter's surface, while also making it easier to clean. Fits numerous lens threads ranging from 30.5 mm to 86 mm. Front thread allows you to add more filters or accessories. Uses lightweight materials, so it won't hamper your photography work.
Expensive. Some customers report receiving filters that don't include the authenticity sticker.
One of the best values among polarizing lens filters, although it may not deliver the longevity of some other options on our list. Models available to fit lens threads ranging from 52 mm to 82 mm. Uses multiple coats on the filter glass to try to reduce problems with glare that are common with inexpensive polarizing filters.
Tends to cause some problems with color accuracy in certain shooting conditions. Some build quality issues.
Different versions available to fit lens threads ranging from 39 mm to 105 mm. Delivers the perfect color-neutral performance you would expect out of a high-end polarizing filter. Features an extremely high quality of glass in the filter, which means it won't have imperfections that could ruin your images.
One of the most expensive polarizing filters around, so it's not really made for beginners.
Strong polarizing filter option for intermediate and beginning photographers, as it has a great mix of performance and price. Gives you a better quality of optics than you might expect in this price range. Available to fit lens threads ranging from 49 mm to 82 mm. Uses an aluminum frame to keep the weight down.
Fits the lens threads almost too tightly, leading to problems with making adjustments quickly.
Mid-range price, so you aren't going to break the bank with this model. Versatile filter that has options to fit lens threads ranging from 28 mm to 86 mm. You'll have no problems making quick adjustments to this filter while you're in the middle of a photo shoot. Should deliver accurate colors in most shooting conditions.
Some customers report problems with removing the filter after using it because of issues with the threads.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.
Photographers love to shoot beautiful nature scenes that show blue sky, open water, and forested areas. And while these landscapes seem like an easy scene to shoot with no fast-moving subjects, it occasionally ends in disappointment.
With bright sunlit photos that have a lot of sky in them, the photos sometimes end up washed out. This means the colors aren’t vibrant, the details in the scene are lost, and the photo doesn’t duplicate what you’re seeing with your eyes. One way to bring vibrancy back to this style of photo is with a polarized lens filter. The polarizing filter alters the way the camera measures the light from the scene. The filter reduces the effects of glare and reflections, preventing hot spots and washed out areas.
You must pick the right size of polarizing filter to fit your lens. And this type of filter doesn’t work with every kind of camera, including smartphone cameras. We’ve collected some ideas to help you use polarizing filters properly.
With a DSLR lens or mirrorless camera lens, you’ll often screw the filter into the end of the lens of the camera. The filter has threads that match the threads inside the edge of the lens. A smartphone or fixed lens camera won’t have the threads needed to screw on the filter.
Manufacturers create specific filters to fit specific lenses. You can’t just buy any polarizing filter and add it to any DSLR or mirrorless lens. It has to match the diameter of the lens.
Each lens should have its diameter marked in millimeters on the front end of the lens. The number usually will be signified with a circle and a diagonal or vertical line through it. It usually will not have “mm” next to the number. Common sizes are 52mm or 67mm. The lens may be marked like ϕ52 or ϕ67.
Other cameras make use of a filter bracket. This attaches to the end of the lens and holds the polarizing filter in front of the lens glass. You don’t have to worry about the diameter of the filter fitting your lens with a bracket. This is a nice feature when you’re using lenses with different diameters with your DSLR. You don’t have to buy different sizes of filters for each lens when using the bracket.
Some photographers keep lens filters attached to the lens at all times. This protects the lens from scratches. After all, it’s cheaper to replace a filter than a lens.
Some photographers think of a polarizing filter like sunglasses for the camera. In fact, for basic cameras that can’t accept actual polarizing filters, some people will hold sunglasses in front of the lens to try to achieve the polarizing effect. But polarized lens filters has a few features you need to pay attention to that sunglasses don’t have.
Circular vs. linear
All polarizing lens filters are round in shape, but you can purchase either a linear or a circular filter. This term refers to the way the filter works instead of the shape.
The linear filter blocks glare better than the circular filter. However, it’s also more expensive.
Even though it doesn’t work as effectively, the circular polarizing filter is more commonly used with cameras. The circular filter allows you to use the autofocus and auto exposure features of your camera. The linear filter inhibits the measurements the camera uses to set these automatic features, leaving them ineffective.
When using a circular polarizing filter, you often can change the way the filter affects your photos by just twisting it a little bit inside the lens. This alters the way the filter blocks the light, ensuring you can find the right level for each photo.
Some polarizing filters have a color tint in them, which can result in incorrect colors in your photos. Look for a polarized lens filter that is color neutral, so it doesn’t affect the quality of the images.
With certain lenses, a filter with a thick rim can cause vignetting in the image. This is the loss of color quality and image sharpness at the edges of the photo. Thinner rims on the polarizing filter are preferred to avoid vignetting, but these filters usually cost more.
A polarized lens filter will provide the best results when you’re aiming the camera’s lens at a 90º angle to the sun.
Polarized lens filters typically don’t have a high price tag, especially compared to the cost of a lens. That’s why some people will use an inexpensive filter as a protection for the lens glass against scratches. (If you’re only seeking lens protection, UV lens filters are even cheaper than polarized lens filters.)
The least expensive polarized filters will cost $8 to $15. These filters will have wider rims, which may cause some problems with vignetting when used with a wide-angle lens. Additionally, they may not have high quality glass. However, they will work fine for everyday, amateur photography.
The majority of photographers can have an acceptable level of image quality with a mid-range polarized lens filter. These models will cost $15 to $40. Expect a good quality of glass in the filter and small thickness in the rim.
A high-end polarized filter can cost anywhere from $40 to $200. These filters will have very thin rims, outstanding glass, and excellent build quality. Only advanced amateur and professional photographers can take advantage of the quality of these high-priced filters.
We also should mention that the polarized lens filters will have varying costs based on the diameter of the filter. One model of filter can have a price difference anywhere from $25 to $50 between small and large sizes.
Understand that using a polarizing lens filter blocks some of the light in the scene from entering the lens. You’ll need to adjust for the use of the filter in the camera’s settings.
Polarizing filters are not useful in every photographic situation. For example, you don’t want to use them for indoor photos. We’ve collected some tips to help you figure out which types of photos work best with a polarizing filter.
Photographs of foliage. Sunlight can reflect off certain types of leaves. This may cause washed out green colors when photographing a group of trees. With a polarizing filter, the green in tree leaves will be more vibrant.
Photographs through glass. When trying to shoot an object that’s behind glass, the reflection can cause problems with the photo. The polarizing filter cuts down on the glare and reflection, making the object clearer.
Photographs of shiny objects. Anytime you’re photographing an object that reflects light, a polarized lens filter cuts down on the glare. This results in fewer hot spots and better overall quality.
Photographs with sky. Photos with a lot of sky in the scene may seem hazy on a bright day. This leaves the sky a weak blue color with little detail from clouds visible. The polarized lens filter deepens the blue in the sky, while maintaining details.
The five polarized lens filters we’ve chosen as the top picks should meet the needs of quite a few photographers. However, if you’re seeking a few other types of features, we have some additional suggestions of high quality filters. The Gobe Japan Optics Slim Polarized Filter has an especially thin rim. This means it’s good for use with wide angle lenses, helping photographers avoid vignetting. Another thin-rim polarized lens filter is the ESDDI Polarizing Filter. It can’t match the Gobe’s quality, but it’s offered at a very low price. If you like the Breakthrough Photography X4 polarizing filter but want to save a bit of money, consider the Breakthrough Photography X2 Polarized Filter. The X2’s quality doesn’t quite match the X4’s quality, but the X2 is still a high-end polarized lens filter that will produce excellent results. GoPro Hero camera users will want to consider the inexpensive TELESIN CPL Polarizing Filter. It’s made only for certain GoPro cameras, and it uses a thin rim.
Q. How does the polarizing filter work?
A. When shooting scenes where the sunlight creates a glare, the polarizing filter blocks some of the reflection. When sunlight strikes certain surfaces, it reflects and causes polarization. The polarizing filter absorbs some of this reflected light, reducing the effects of the glare. It also increases the details found in skies, bodies of water, and forests.
Q. How does a circular polarizer filter differ from a linear polarizer filter?
A. The two filters look the same, except for the way the circular polarizing filter is designed. The circular filter contains what’s called a quarter wave plane, which is not included in the linear filter. The quarter wave plane slightly changes the way it absorbs the polarized light, allowing for more accurate autofocus results and auto exposure measurements. You’ll need to use manual focus and set the exposure manually when using a linear polarizing filter.
Q. How does a polarized lens filter differ from some other types of filters?
A. A UV filter eliminates haze in the atmosphere, including heavy humidity in the air. A neutral density filter blocks significant amounts of light from the scene, allowing you to shoot scenes like solar eclipses safely. Some filters have color tints in them. A yellow filter is called a warming filter, while a blue filter is called a cooling filter. Color filters can add certain moods to a scene.
Q. What are the most common types of glare you’ll block with a polarizing filter?
A. Glare spots from water, glass, and other reflective surfaces can cause a problem in your photograph. These bright white spots are distracting in the final image. They also cause a loss of detail in those areas of the photograph. But the polarizing filter reduces those effects.
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