Best Polarizer Filter
Polarizer filters remove non-metallic reflections that are a result of polarized light. This simple tool is extremely valuable when shooting outdoors and in areas with a lot of glass. It can make all the difference between a great picture and one that does not look good at all. There are two different types of polarizers; linear and circular. Here are the very best polarizer filters.
B+W 77mm XS-Pro HTC Kaesemann Circular Polarizer
EXUS 77mm CPL 77 Marumi Antistatic MC Slim Thin Filter Circular Polarizer
Hoya 77mm HD3 Circular Polarizer
Tiffen 77mm Circular Polarizer Filter
Singh-Ray 77mm Thin LB Warming Circular Polarizer
Heliopan 705839 58mm Linear Polarizer
Formatt Hitech 58mm Linear Polarizer
HOYA 58POL 58mm Polarized Filter
Tiffen 58mm SR Linear Polarizer
Tiffen 58WPOL 58mm Warm Polarizer Filter
German-made B+W XS-Pro HTX Kaesemann Nano circular polarizers are the industry standards when it comes to performance, optical quality, and being built to last.
Kaesemann ("encased") polarizers are sealed against moisture, which is important if you take your kit into humid environments, frigidly cold climates, or anywhere there are dramatic changes in temperature. The Kaesemann version also incorporates special polarizing foils designed to be efficient and extra transmissive, meaning they are designed to block only the bare minimum of light. Where some polarizers can cut up to 3-stops as they polarize, the B+W Kaesemann block just 1.5-stops, otherwise yielding the same polarizing effect; that's quite a technological feat!
Nano is B+W's marketing term for their proprietary process that adds an eighth layer of coating meant to increase the water beading effect making the filter that much easier to clean and keep clean. In fact, this is an upgrade to B+W's MRC process which doesn't include this last layer. Nano filters include every layer and benefit of B+W's traditional multi-coating (MRC) process, as well, so expect this filter to fight flare exceptionally well and be easy to clean and maintain.
This filter utilizes B+W's XS-Pro filter rings which are quality brass-made rings with an ultra low profile yet still retain front threads for filter stacking. Being made of brass they should bind to other filters less, resisting getting stuck together, and they have a very low thickness so they can be mounted on wide-angle lenses without the filter rings coming into view as you get out to the wider focal lengths.
B+W filters are made with industry-leading Schott glass, and the XS-Pro HTC Kaesemann Nano Circular Polarizer is no different. B+W has really shoe/horned every feature they could into this filter. The result is a circular polarizer that is the best of the best, every other manufacturer is playing catch up. In fact, B+W's circular polarizers might be the most counterfeited filters in the world, so be mindful to purchase them from reputable, authorized dealers.
Although Marumi have been around for over 60 years, they have recently become quite popular among professionals and the EXUS circular polarizer is a great example why.
In a popular comparison among the most respected brands of polarizing filters, the Marumi entry scored identically to the leader of this list, the B+W Kaesemann circular polarizer, for light transmission. This means it allowed the most light through after the polarizing process. That's remarkable for a brand many have unfortunately overlooked. It's a significant metric since the major downside to using polarizers is the light one loses when attaching them.
Being multi-coated against flare, Marumi have also included an anti-static coating which should reduce the rate at which you have to clean dust and grime on the filter. The EXUS coatings also defend against oil and water, making the filter a cinch to clean even if you happen to come across particularly resilient dirt.
The EXUS circular polarizer uses thin profile rings which still retain front threads. The rings are painted matte black to prevent unwanted reflections and are even ridged to further enhance their anti-reflection properties. Though the EXUS rings aren't made of brass, Marumi have coated the ring threads with Teflon to guard against binding. It's a solution that works quite well.
One of the most popular filters brands, Hoya has been producing quality photographic filters since the early 1940's. The culmination of all that knowledge is evident in their latest offering, the HD3 circular polarizer.
The HD3 is a step up to the very popular Pro1 line and, among other things, utilizes a higher light transmission design. Though more expensive, the benefit here cannot be understated. The more light that is allowed into the lens, the more photographic opportunities a photographer has. More opportunities means greater creative options, and that's worth something indeed!
Hoya filters have a well-documented history of being difficult to clean at times, but Hoya has since rectified these concerns with aplomb. In fact, the Hoya HD3 Circular Polarizers are extremely easy to maintain and clean. Having a whopping 16-layer (8 front, 8 back) coating process, the HD3 has dedicated layers to cleaning, not to mention an array of coats to cut down flaring and they do that job very well.
The HD3's filter rings are thin aluminum-alloy, matte coated to stop reflections and are front-threaded. Though they are aluminum, the rings are anodized to prevent binding, which is a concern for any non-brass rings. The ring profile is super thin so this filter gets along with wide-angle lenses.
Professional photographers have a love-hate relationship with Tiffen. Many of the company's filters have been much maligned, but their multi-coated circular polarizers are absolutely phenomenal. The Tiffen Digital HT Multi-Coated Circular Polarizer is the best circular polarizer Tiffen offers.
Boasting a 10-year warranty, the Digital HT Multi-Coated Circular Polarizer offers very high light transmission, which means this filter should impact exposure only minimally. These filters are coated against flare and scratching. The filter's exterior coat, on both sides, is also easy to clean. The Digital HTs have all the features you've come to expect from top-of-the-line products.
Tiffen use what they call ColorCore glass for this filter, which is optically pure and from a proprietary formula closely guarded like the Coca-Cola recipe. They take this very seriously and why not? ColorCore glass performs extraordinarily well against similar, upper-market products from industry luminaries like B+W and Hoya.
Singh-Ray have long been one of the most respected brands in photographic filters. Professionals around the world rely on Singh-Ray filters for their exceptional optic quality and no-nonsense approach to design, build-quality, and features.
Apart from their popular neutral circular polarizers, Singh-Ray also make a warming version that adds a touch of warmth to the image, like a kiss of sunlight. Most neutral circular polarizers tend to cool the image a bit, upping the blue intensity a bit. To counter this phenomenon, this filter adds a bit of red and yellow so the skin of a portrait subject may appear more flush and full of life. You might think that you could accomplish a similar effect in post-processing, and you would be right. However, consider that spending more of your time behind a camera and less time in front of a computer is chicken soup for the soul. This filter might let you get the color you want at the point of capture without having to take the time to fiddle with color sliders after-the-fact.
The Singh-Ray Thin Warming Circular Polarizer is made in America of the finest optical glass and is ringed with brass. This thin polarizer has low profile brass rings, so they don't bind as easy as aluminum rings, but the rings are so thin that they do not have front threads for stacking. So if you need to use more than one filter at a time, this filter can only be on the top-most of the stack.
In keeping with Singh-Ray's philosophy, this filter is not coated against flare, so be mindful when there are bright objects in or near the field of view. Your lens' hood is all the more important with this filter.
Though far more popular in Europe than in the American market, Heliopan nevertheless makes exceptional filters for all types of photographic applications. Their product catalog is so broad, in fact, Heliopan is currently the only manufacturer putting so many high-end features on a linear polarizer - the SH-PMC Linear Polarizer.
This is the only filter on the list coated against flare and for extra hardness. The Heliopan SH-PMC Linear Polarizer also has brass rings to protect against binding. Of all the materials to make filter rings out of, brass is considered the most desirable. The SH-PMC Linear Polarizer (like all of Heliopan's photographic screw-on filters) is made with Schott glass for top quality optic performance.
There is no linear polarizer on the market that offers so many features generally reserved for up-market, and more popular, circular polarizers. Heliopan products are not a readily available as other filter brands, but many of their products are worth the wait of a special order; the Heliopan SH-PMC Linear Polarizer is one of those.
Formatt Hitech came to prominence in the filter world during the vacuum that was left when Lee Filters had a difficult time meeting demand for the latter's popular 10-stop neutral density filter. Formatt Hitech, after trying different neutral density formulas finally found a winner and produced a viable replacement for the Lee product. Since then, Formatt Hitech have broadened their horizons, offering quality products across many different filter types. Their screw-in linear polarizer is another filter that adds to their growing reputation among professionals.
Formatt Hitech's Linear Polarizer conforms to the Kodak Wratten color standard, so you know what you're getting if you are familiar with Kodak's color standardization methods. Formatt Hitech license this certification from Tiffen, a filter maker with a long and storied history in Hollywood film productions. Formatt Hitech also take extra steps in the glass grinding and polishing phase during manufacture to ensure supreme flatness, especially at the edges where wide-angle lenses need filter fidelity the most. So if you are a landscape photographer on a mirrorless camera and often go wide with your shots, this filter might be worth investigating further.
Hoya produces this linear polarizer in their Philippines plant, just like many of their "professional" series filters. You are probably familiar with the Hoya brand as it's one of the most popular among professionals and enthusiasts alike. This filter uses the same glass as Hoya's upper-scale filters, so expect high image quality with this polarizer attached. The lowest priced entry in this list, the Hoya Linear Polarizer nonetheless has many of the hallmarks of Hoya's pricier filters, not just the glass.
Hoya began by using aluminum filter rings and not coating either side of the filter. Aluminum rings on a Hoya filter is nothing new since every one of their filters, even their priciest ones, use aluminum rings. That this filter is not coated might not be cause for alarm either, one simply needs to be careful when there is a bright light source in or near the frame of the image.
The lack of coatings, which can be designed to reduce flare, aid in cleaning, or hardening the glass surface against scratches, shouldn't affect your image in most situations with a little care. Be sure to use a lens hood whenever possible which is good advice whether your filters are coated or not. Lens hoods aren't just for reducing flare, they protect your valuable lenses from bumps and bruises as well. If you are looking for a low cost linear polarizer with high quality glass optics, look no further than the Hoya Linear Polarizer.
Tiffen is the oldest American filter manufacturer still doing business. Tiffen made a name for themselves in Hollywood being perhaps the largest supplier of filters used on multi-million-dollar feature films. Suffice it to say, Tiffen can handle your filtering needs, too. The Tiffen SR Linear Polarizer, sometimes labeled simply "Polarizer" without the "SR Linear," is Tiffen's most popular linear polarizer. It is neutral in color, unlike the warming version, and performs very well.
Though Tiffen sometimes come under fire for some of their other filter products, their polarizers are very well made and perform remarkably. This filter isn't coated against flare, so be mindful when dealing with bright light sources. Remember to use your hood at all times and you might find you don't miss coatings at all. However, if you find it's hard to control flare with technique, consider picking up Tiffen's coated circular polarizer which will work in all situations a linear will.
Similar to the other Tiffen polarizer on this list, the Tiffen Warm Linear Polarizer uses quality polarizing foils to achieve great results. Unlike the neutral linear polarizer, however, this filter adds Tiffen's 812 warming layer, which is a color enhancing filter, onto the stack. The result is that where colors in a scene may be washed out due to an overcast sky, this filter will add a touch or warmth to the color spectrum bringing the image into the warmer color space. So, for instance, if you shoot a portrait under clouds and your subject's skin ends up looking a little lifeless, this filter could add a little more punch to the skin's coloring. People tend to appreciate portraits done in a warm, sunlit color space, but if you don't have much sun to work with and still want that warmer coloring effect, the Tiffen Warm Linear Polarizer is for you.
It should be noted that Tiffen's 812 color filter is a very popular filter among Hollywood filmmakers, so you can be assured you're adding a color effect that's not difficult to work with nor gives you an undesirable reddening effect. It's a tried and true color filter and worth having in your bag as an option for when the sky isn't cooperating. When it comes to taking pictures of people or places you might not have the ability to retake, options are a wonderful thing.
No longer simply the "family photographer," I am now a published, award-winning professional portrait and wedding photographer with over 10 years in the business. I also have advanced interests in automobile, landscape, sports, astro, and lifestyle photography. I enjoy researching the latest tech, the newest gear, and learning new picture-making techniques in the never-ending pursuit of creating better images.