The best polarized lens
Photographers of all skill levels love shooting images of nature on bright, sunlit days. But if you're just starting out with DSLR photography, you may find your photo quality doesn't quite match up to what a pro can do with the same scene.
Sometimes, this occurs because the pro photographer has more skill. And sometimes it occurs because the pro has better equipment. With a DSLR camera, the best way to improve quality in a scene where glare exists is with a polarized lens filter. Our favorite is the Schneider Optics B&W Polarizing Filter, which is highly scratch-resistant.
Considerations when choosing polarized lens filters
Finding a lens for your camera
You can find polarizing lens filters for use with mirrorless interchangeable-lens cameras and DSLR cameras. They do not work with point-and-shoot fixed-lens cameras or smartphone cameras.
When shopping for a polarized lens filter, you need to match the filter with your lens. The two have to be compatible.
First, find the lens with which you want to use the filter. The diameter of the lens is marked on the lens housing in millimeters. The number will be designated with "mm" or with a circle with a vertical line through it (ϕ). Then, select a filter that matches that number. The filter will screw onto the interior edge of the far end of the lens housing.
Even though polarized lens filters may all look similar, there are some key differences you need to consider. Once you find a filter that fits your gear, you can focus on the features that set these filters apart from each other.
A linear polarized filter will provide more effective light filtering than a circular filter, making them the best option for high-quality photography. However, these are pricier filters than circular filters. Photographers with some photography experience will make good use of a linear filter.
A circular filter doesn't have the performance of a linear filter, but it is easier for less experienced photographers to use. A circular filter allows the autofocus and auto-exposure systems of your camera to operate smoothly. With a linear filter, you typically have to manually set the focus and exposure. One advantage of a circular filter is that you can twist the filter a few degrees after it's installed in the lens, and you'll slightly change the way it filters the light.
The rim on the filter plays a significant role in its build quality and price. The rim holds the filter in place and contains the threads that screw into the lens housing. An aluminum rim is lightweight and durable, but it costs more than a brass rim. Thinner rims are ideal as they cause less vignetting in the photograph than thick rims.
You will want a polarized lens filter that has a neutral color tint. With any color in the filter, it will throw off the accuracy of the colors in your photograph.
For beginning and intermediate photographers, a basic filter costs $8 to $40. For professionals, you may need to spend $40 to $200 for a filter that's up to the job, as these filters use premium glass and lightweight rims.
Q. What's the main reason to use a polarizing filter?
A. A polarizing lens filter will remove some of the glare from the scene. Sunlight and other strong light will reflect off certain surfaces, such as a body of water. The filter reduces the impact of this glare.
Q. What are some of the best scenes for using a polarized filter?
A. Outdoor photos in bright sunlight benefit greatly from polarizer filters. The filter eliminates haze, creating a bright blue color in the sky. It also reduces glare on a body of water, bringing out the rich, blue color. Photographs of leaves are also a deeper green when using a filter.
Polarized lens filters we recommend
Best of the best: Schneider Optics' B&W Polarizing Filter
Our take: This filter will stand up to rough treatment better than others, resisting scratches to yield the best image quality.
What we like: Has a nano-coating on the surface to simplify cleaning. Multiple thread sizes available.
What we dislike: Pricier than other polarizing filters.
Best bang for your buck: AmazonBasics' Polarizing Filter
Our take: Excellent choice as a polarizing filter for an inexperienced photographer looking to try this type of photography.
What we like: Offers a good value. Outperforms other low-priced filters by adding multiple layers of anti-glare coatings.
What we dislike: Creates occasional color accuracy problems in the scene.
Choice 3: Hoya's Alpha Polarizing Filter
Our take: The quality of photos you can produce with this filter is higher than you'd expect to find at this price.
What we like: Mixes value and performance successfully. Uses an aluminum frame, so it weighs less than others.
What we dislike: It's difficult to adjust the filter on the fly.
Kyle Schurman is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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