I own a bunch of B+W polarizers of various sizes, including the Kaessemann varieties (super premium).
But as of 2012, I now prefer the Zeiss polarizers over B+W because the rings don’t bind as do the B+W ones; I’ve had endless trouble with high-friction rings on B+W polarizers (requiring so much force to turn that they unscrew themselves!). The B+W ones also can be uneven in force required to turn them.
The Zeiss polarizers are free of this problem, always turning freely.
I do also like the Heliopan polarizers, and I am forced to use those in the 46mm and smaller sizes for various Leica lenses, and the orientation markings are a great feature that the Zeiss polarizers lack.
Zeiss also makes a line of UV filters— excellent also. See my Filters page for buying links.
Jeff S writes:
I've recently tested a couple Zeiss Polarizers along with the B+W Kaesmann C. Pola MRC, and found slightly better contrast to my eye with the Zeiss.
Saw no noticeable image degradation. Also I much prefer how thin and light they are in comparison. This makes a difference, as it all adds up when lugging the gear around. Expensive, but worth it in my opinion.
DIGLLOYD: The Zeiss filters are definitely thin and light, and I like them a lot.
Rorbert B writes:
I noticed some time ago that in the Filters section of your Free Articles, no mention is made of Singh-Ray filters. In your most recent Blog re Zeiss polarisers, in which several alternative high quality polariser manufacturers are noted, Singh-Ray filters are to me, again, conspicuous by their absence.
My experience is that Singh-Ray manufactures high quality filters. I am curious as to why, therefore, this U.S. manufacturer has not received praise in your written material? Is it simply that you have no personal experience of use of their filters?
DIGLLOYD: As I show in Filters: Loss of Image Contrast With a Polarizer, even the highest quality multi-coated optical glass can degrade image quality under some lighting conditions. The last thing I want on my Zeiss or Leica optics is a filter when I don’t need one, and when/if I do, it will be plane-parallel optical multi-coated glass that performs equally well at 21mm or 200mm focal lengths.
I have not evaluated the current offerings of Singh-Ray filters, so I can make no evaluation on their current quality.
However, I own eight or so Singh-Ray graduated neutral density filters. The optical performance I observed with them some years ago was acceptable to me in most cases for film, and unacceptable in other cases (longer focal lengths) — yet digital makes higher demands. In particular and in regards to graduated neutral density filters:
- The awkward mounting system conflicts with my on-the-go hiking style.
- The acrylic material does not remain scratch free for long, nor do they remain perfectly plane parallel as does optical glass (they get stuffed into a pack along with my other gear, which I require to be durable).
- Not multi-coated to the quality level I desire.
- I have found no need for graduated filters with digital cameras (not saying they cannot be useful). Moreover, I find the look of a “grad” image artifical-looking and overused and abused— with an exception given to master 4X5 photographer Jack Dykinga, who showed me his dodge technique with a gray card, the only approach I have seen that produces a completely natural result free of any optical degradation.
Setting quality aside, the idea of a Gold-N-Blue polarizer and similar strays too far from reality for my taste (“just like having a bit of PhotoShop inside my camera” is not exactly an endorsement in my book). As an infrequently used tool, perhaps. But then I would not carry the thing for the sporadic use.
The Singh-Ray filter that piques my interest is the Vari-ND filter. This one could be useful, but I’d have to try one, and no one is sending me free samples. But even that is problematic for wide angle lenses (color shifts).