The best polarizing filters in 2024: top circular polarizers for photographers

The best polarizing filters are a practically essential tool for outdoor photography. Polarizing filters, or polarizers as they're commonly known, boost the vibrancy and contrast in your images by reducing unwanted reflections from surfaces and cutting out haze in the sky. It's an effect that can't be replicated easily with digital tools, which is why a polarizer is such a good buy for pretty much any photographer.

Even if you're using some of the best photo editing software, this is a difficult effect to achieve digitally. Much like the best neutral density filters, polarizers have stayed enduring popular in the digital age because they do something unique that happens at the moment of capture. In this guide, we've picked out the polarizers that have truly impressed our testing team – read on to see our picks.

Ben Andrews
Ben Andrews

Ben is the Imaging Labs manager, responsible for all the testing on Digital Camera World and across the entire photography portfolio at Future. Our go-to guy for technical insight, Ben is an expert at assessing the quality of photographic filters.

The quick list

The best polarizing filters

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Best all-round

Editor's Choice

(Image credit: Hoya Filters)
An all-around excellent polarizer in a range of thread sizes.

Specifications

Thread diameter range: 49, 52, 55, 58, 62, 67, 72, 77, 82mm

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent performance
+
High light transmittance
+
Extremely durable

Reasons to avoid

-
Not a budget option

This HD nano Mk II filter is a simply superb circular polarizer. Build quality is epic, the glass is toughened and the nano structure coatings are hard as nails. In our tests we found that there’s actually less of a darkening effect than usual. Compared with most circular polarizers, this Hoya delivers 25 per cent more light transmission, which equates to about half an f/stop. 

It’s not only a bonus when using the optical viewfinder of a DSLR, but also when you need to retain speedy shutter speeds under low lighting. It’s available in a wide range of popular sizes, overall performance is spectacular and it’s well worth the investment. 

See our full Hoya HD Nano Mk II CIR-PL review.

Best value

(Image credit: Angela Nicholson/Digital Camera World)
Offering solid value. formoney, Marumi's filters are resistant to staining.

Specifications

Thread diameter range: 37mm-105mm

Reasons to buy

+
Top image quality
+
Good water and oil resistance
+
Plenty of size options

Reasons to avoid

-
US pricing is high
-
Light transmission could be better

Marumi offers a slightly confusing four distinct ranges of circular polarizers, each with different glass/coating combinations. The DHG Super range gets a water and oil-repellent coating, which works well, easily beading away droplets and resisting fingerprints, albeit not quite as well as the Lee Polariser.

However, DHG Super polarizers don’t incorporate high light transmission glass, as found in Marumi’s EXUS polarizers, which may explain why our sample filter restricted light by half-a-stop more than the best filters on test. Otherwise, optical performance is excellent, with no drop in image sharpness, and no sign of color casts or vignetting. The latter is mainly thanks to a slim frame design that’s a whisker under 5mm thick. It screws very smoothly into your lens’ filter thread, and the polarizer’s front element rotation is also slick.

With filter thread diameters available in all common sizes from 37mm through to 95mm (and even an elusive 105mm option, if you can find it), there’s a DHG Super polarizer for almost any lens, and most are very well priced, in the UK at least.


See our full Marumi DHG Super Circular PL review

Best money can buy

(Image credit: Angela Nicholson/Digital Camera World)
LEE's glass quality is to die for – if your budget stretches far enough.

Specifications

Thread diameter range: 67mm-82mm

Reasons to buy

+
Super easy to attach/detach
+
Very high-quality glass

Reasons to avoid

-
Fewer thread size options
-
Somewhat pricey

For a long time, LEE Filters were only available as part of a holder system, requiring an extra attachment to get on and off the front of the lens. However, in 2021, the company finally relented and came out with the Elements series – circular filters designed to be quickly attached and detached from a lens without the need for a holder. 

Made from premium glass, the Elements Polarizer also has a useful adjustment ring to allow you to fine-tine the polarizing effect. It won't fit all lenses as its minimum thread size is 67mm, but it covers a range that includes a lot of optics. If you don't mind a slightly higher asking price, we would say that the Elements Polarizer is absolutely worth it. 


See full Lee Filters Elements Circular Polariser review

Best with NX filter holder

(Image credit: Angela Nicholson/Digital Camera World)
For users of Cokin's NX filter system, this is the ideal polarizer to get.

Specifications

Thread diameter range: None (NX Series holder required

Reasons to buy

+
Suitable for super-wide lenses (down to 16mm)
+
Slick control for changing the polarity of the filter

Reasons to avoid

-
Only compatible with Cokin NX-Series Holder

The NX-Series is Cokin's latest slot-in filter system, taking 100mm wide filters. The NX CPL has been specifically designed to fit into this frame system - so is best suited to those who want a range of different filters to use with their cameras, rather than just a polarizer. 

In our tests, we were impressed that the smart, low-profile aluminum holder is compatible with wide lenses (up to an EFL of 16mm). Cokin sells the NX-Series Holder and CPL filter separately, but they are also available together in a number of kits, including the NX-Series Starter kit which includes 72mm, 77mm and 82mm adapter ring plus a 100x100mm frame and a 100x143.5mm frame for holding Cokin Nuance square or rectangular filters (or other filters of the same size and 2mm thickness). See our full Cokin NX CPL review.

Best for versatility

(Image credit: Angela Nicholson/Digital Camera World)
The LEE100 range can be used with a host of different lenses.

Specifications

Thread diameter range: 105mm

Reasons to buy

+
Unparalleled optical quality
+
Versatile - can be used with lots of lenses
+
Unrivaled water resistance

Reasons to avoid

-
Comparatively expensive
-
Clip-on design could be more refined

Lee’s Polariser works in conjunction with the LEE100 100mm filter system. This is based around the LEE100 holder that attaches to your lens via a suitably sized adapter ring. The polarizer then clips to the front of the holder, leaving space for additional square filters to slide in behind.

This system means the polarizer is large at 105mm in diameter, allowing it to cover numerous different lens diameters. It’s also very easy to rotate, and it clips into the holder much more easily than trying to screw a conventional polarizer onto your lens. However, the clip-in mechanism is surprisingly difficult to detach again, requiring more squeeze than is comfortable. Another consideration is the combined filter, holder and adapter ring cost, which is significant.

But that said, you get what you pay for. Lee’s glass has no negative impact on image sharpness, it only reduces light transmission by just over 1-stop, and you needn’t worry about any sign of color casts. This is also easily the best filter for resisting fingerprints and repelling water, with droplets beading away perfectly. Lee even includes a high quality zippered pouch in which to store the filter.


See our full Lee Filters LEE100 Polariser review

Best for most users

(Image credit: Kim Bunermann/ Future)
Affordably priced, Tiffen's circular filter is an ideal starting point.

Specifications

Thread diameter range: 25mm-82mm

Reasons to buy

+
Good range of sizes
+
Very well priced

Reasons to avoid

-
Slight cool cast

Tiffen's hugely reliable filters are known among photographers for being a good affordable option, and so it goes for the firm's Circular Polarizer range. These filters are cheaper than most, and come in a good range of sizes from 25mm right up to 92mm. 

There's a slight cool cast to them, but it's not too pronounced, and light transmission and sharpness are generally very good. The high-quality ColorCore Glass construction is what gives the filters their excellent overall quality.

They're a little thicker than some of the others on this list, but not enough to really be a problem. 

Read our full Tiffen Circular Polarizer review

Best with Cokin's P-series

(Image credit: Future)

7. Cokin P-series P164

If you're using Cokin's P-series, this polarizer will slot right in.

Specifications

Thread diameter range: 48mm-82mm (requires holder)

Reasons to buy

+
Broadly compatible system
+
Affordable

Reasons to avoid

-
Warm color shift
-
Muddy edges

The well-established Cokin P-series range of filters is known for being affordable and offering a wide range of creative effects, including polarizers. Most of the range is square or rectangular, fitting into the mount via a P-series filter holder. This filter holder attaches to your lens with an adaptor ring, which is available for lenses with attachment threads of between 48mm and 82mm. 

The filter holder has three slots for filters. One fits circular filters, such as the Cokin P164 polarizer. However, there are also two central slots that fit square or rectangular shaped filters as well. The knurled outer edge of the P164 polarizer is designed to ergonomically allow easy rotation.

While the Cokin P-series is affordable, we did feel that the plastic holder felt a little flimsy in comparison to the Lee Filters holder, or the newer Cokin NX System. We also found that there was a slight warm color cast and some muddiness in darker areas. 

Best for high-end glass

(Image credit: Angela Nicholson/Digital Camera World)
If you've got a premium lens, Hoya's high-end filters are the best buy.

Specifications

Thread diameter range: 37mm, 40.5mm, 43mm, 46mm, 49mm, 52mm, 55mm, 58mm, 62mm, 67mm, 72mm, 77mm, or 82mm

Reasons to buy

+
Attractively priced 
+
Optically very good
+
Low profile filter ring

Reasons to avoid

-
Slight warm tone in images
-
Rotation not as smooth as some rivals

Designed to update the original Fusion One series, Hoya's Fusion One Next filters are premium, high-quality polarizers for those demanding the best in terms of optical quality. Constructed from 18 coated layers of glass to provide ultra-high light transmission, these filters also have a low-profile filter ring to make them useful even for super-wide shooting. They have a front screw too, so you can stack the polarizer with a UV or protection filter if so desired.

In our tests we noted that the Fusion One Next Cir-PL cuts out up to around 1.3EV of light so the camera settings need to be adjusted accordingly. We also like that this filter is available in such a wide variety of filter threads - with 13 different options currently available. See full Hoya Fusion One Next Cir-PL review.

How to choose polarizing filters

best polarizing filters

Before/after: Polarizers cut through reflections on water and glass, and improve contrast and colours of skies (Image credit: Future)

Thin frames
Generally, when you're working with filters, you'll want to look for a slim mount to ensure you get maximum versatility when shooting. This is because thick mounts can introduce vignetting and can be difficult to work around when you're shooting with a wide angle lens. 

Color control
If you're using a polarizer that's on the cheaper end, you can sometimes see color casts introduced into your images. This isn't ideal, but you can easily fix this issue in post-processing.

A clearer picture
Some manufacturers will use hydrophobic coatings to help repel water, but we'd still recommend being careful when using your polarizer around water.

Lighten up
Remember that polarizers can restrict around two stops of light, so make sure to keep an eye on your shutter speed. However, it's worth remembering that premium polarizers will often use higher transmission glass in order to help counteract this effect.

Maximizing value
One of the most frustrating aspects of owning several lenses is that, unless you've stumbled into a fantastic fluke, they'll likely be different filter thread diameters. However, that doesn't mean that you have to invest in a polarizer several times over to fit your different pieces of glass! Buy one to fit your lens with the largest filter thread diameter, and then use step-up rings to mount it to the others. Sorted! 

How we test polarizing filters

We use a combination of real-world and lab testing to inform our comments in reviews and buying guides. For photographic filters, we’re looking at a number of key things. First, the optical quality. Does the filter noticeably soften the image produced by a lens? This also means assessing light transmission levels and colour neutrality (i.e. if the filter introduces a warm or cool colour cast). For polarizers in specific, light transmission is a key metric, as they tend to have a notable darkening effect on images. We also assess a filter’s build quality – how robust the filter feels, how easy it is to use and how securely it attaches to the lens. 

FAQs

What are polarizing filters made of?

Polarizing filters are built around a specialized piece of material sandwiched between two pieces of glass. The material in the middle is usually a polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) plastic that has been stretched to force its molecules to align in long parallel chains. Dipping this material in iodine causes iodine molecules to attach to the chains, and this creates a structure that absorbs light waves which come in at a parallel angle to the chains, while permitting ones that are perpendicular. And there you have a polariser – a filter that blocks some light waves while permitting others. 

Why do polarizing filters rotate?

The reason polarizing filters rotate is to allow the user to modify which specific wavelengths of light they are blocking. The parallel-lines structure of the polarizing material means that it only blocks light that enters it at the same angle as the chains. Therefore, if you want to change which wavelengths of light the filter blocks, you simply have to rotate it so that the chains are at a different angle. 

Read more:

10 things you need to know about camera filters – and which ones to buy
Use a polarizing filter to cut through reflections
How to use polarizing filters for colorful cross-polarization effects
The best neutral density filters
The best ND grad filter kits
Best variable ND filters
The 50 best camera accessories 

Ben Andrews

Ben is the Imaging Labs manager, responsible for all the testing on Digital Camera World and across the entire photography portfolio at Future. Whether he's in the lab testing the sharpness of new lenses, the resolution of the latest image sensors, the zoom range of monster bridge cameras or even the latest camera phones, Ben is our go-to guy for technical insight. He's also the team's man-at-arms when it comes to camera bags, filters, memory cards, and all manner of camera accessories – his lab is a bit like the Batcave of photography! With years of experience trialling and testing kit, he's a human encyclopedia of benchmarks when it comes to recommending the best buys.