PolarPro QuartzLine Filters Review
April 22nd, 2019
I was introduced to the company PolarPro near the beginning of 2019 when they reached out to me to see if I had any interest in reviewing some of their products. I get a lot of review requests (most of which I turn down), but I do take the time to do a quick investigation of each company and their products. I could quickly tell that the PolarPro QuartzLine were the makers of very serious, premium camera lens filters for traditional lenses and for drone lenses. I agreed to take a look at three of their filters (all 67mm filter thread, in this case), including what I consider to be the most important filter (a circular polarizer), second important filter (ND1000 ten stop neutral density filter for long exposures), and finally, a filter that was new to me: a combination ND/CP-L filter (I chose an ND-64 six stop neutral-density component). After spending several months with the PolarPro filters and carefully scrutinizing them, I can safely say that they are the nicest filters I’ve used to this point (and that includes using dozens of different filters). Find out why the QuartzLine is worth the money by reading on…
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PolarPro QuartzLine Filters Build and Design
First impressions matter, and PolarPro gets really high points for presentation and amazing packaging. Inside the box you get three different things in addition to the filter itself: 1) a nylon pouch carefully branded to identify what filter goes in it 2) an extremely nice hard case with soft touch outer materials and a custom molded interior for the filter. It is also branded to let you know what filter is inside and 3) a microfiber cleaning cloth with a photograph screen-printed on it. This is the nicest packaging I’ve seen for any filter, and it immediately sets the PolarPro QuartzLine apart as being well branded and well executed. The filters aren’t cheap, but you immediately feel like you are getting value for money.
I particularly like the careful attention to detail on identifying the packaging for each filter, as this means that when you are reaching for a filter with identical packaging you can still easily identify which filter is within.
But what about the filters themselves?
Here’s a quick look at the bullet points of what sets the QuartzLine apart according to PolarPro:
- Fused Quartz Glass Element – Resolves up to 400MP sensors
- Brass Frame – Smooth threading and increased durability
- Perfect Color Neutrality – New coating process for zero color shift
- 16 Coating Layers – Anti-scratch / anti-oil / hydrophobic coatings
- Lifetime Warranty – Built for a lifetime of adventures
So why are these things important?
The first bullet point is basically the reason for the name. The quality of the optical glass in filters is obviously the most important element of the whole package. A good filter is supposed to add value or versatility to a photographer without introducing negative elements like reduced sharpness or ghosting from light bouncing around. A cheap filter can make a great lens perform like a terrible lens, so this is a big deal. The quality of the glass in the QuartzLine is extremely high due to it actually being made from 99% pure premium quartz. PolarPro claims that is has the lowest refractive index of any filter glass on the market (1.456). What’s also useful is that this is glass is particularly tough, which helps with the long term value due to the additional durability of the QuartzLine filters and also helps performance in extreme temperatures. As you can see from PolarPro’s bullet point on this point, they clearly feel like the clarity from the filter is exceptionally good.
Not only is the frame made from brass, but PolarPro filters look different from every other filter due to the brass/copper look to the frame. This is a bit of a risk/reward approach, as it is certainly non-traditional and potentially polarizing to their audience. I personally think it looks pretty cool, though it certainly doesn’t just “blend in”.
The practical value of brass beyond it being a premium material is it allows for smoother threading than aluminum, is tougher, and, as you can see from the photos above, allows for very deep knurling. The ridges/knurling on the sides of the PolarPro QuartzLine filters is the most robust that I’ve seen, and that’s really important in assuring you can always loosen a filter due to being able to get a great grip on it. I’ve struggled with jammed filters before where my fingers were sliding due to the smooth surface of the filter, but that should never be an issue with the QuartzLine filters; the grip is fantastic!
We’ll examine the claim of color neutrality in the “Performance” section below, but suffice it to say that the QuartzLine filters do live up to this hype – even with the “heavy” Neutral Density filters.
One of the better indicators of the long-term durability of the QuartzLine filters is the incredible toughness of the coatings. There are 16 layers of coatings on these filters that are incredibly hard and resistant to scratching (along with oils and water).
They are also designed to resist internal ghosting and reflections along with helping with the clarity and color fidelity of the filters.
The final bullet point regarding a lifetime warranty is somewhat self-explanatory, but also points to PolarPro’s confidence in the construction of these filters. They are fairly expensive, but should be a one-time purchase. I literally had the glass pop out of the frame one of my cheaper filters years ago during a shoot, fall to the ground, and shatter. I’m fairly confident that won’t be happening with these filters!
I’ll also note that the filters themselves are carefully branding so that you can tell from the sides and from the front which filters they are:
It’s this attention to detail throughout that sets these filters apart from many others that I’ve used.
One unique aspect of the PolarPro ecosystem is that they have an accompanying app for your smartphone to help you get the best out of your filters (and photography). It’s a surprisingly polished app with a lot of helpful tweaks and a great interface. It has basic photography information keyed to your location, from weather to sunrise/sunset to unique weather events. Even more useful, however, is that it will tell you when “golden hour” is for the day and how long it will last.
It also has some useful calculators. One is to help you choose the right shutter speed for video work and what type of filter you (potentially) need to get you down to the targeted zone. The second calculator is even more useful, as it allows you to easily get the correct exposure time when using a neutral density filter. Very useful, and a nice perk that comes along with the purchase of the filters.
PolarPro QuartzLine Performance
We’ll take a quick look at the individual filters, their purpose, and how they perform. I’ve used a lot of different filters over the years, and here are some of the things I look for:
- Color casts | some filters (particularly ND filters) tend to introduce a color cast to images. Obviously the more neutral the better here.
- Vignetting | this primarily comes down to the thickness of the filter
- Reflections and flare | some filters introduce more flare artifacts when shooting into a backlit scene.
- Clarity | putting a bad filter in front of a good lens is like smearing Vaseline on the front of the lens.
While there is some debate on this issue, I’ve personally moved away from using UV or protective filters. Most good lenses released in the past few years come with good, hard protective coatings on them that are resistant to scratching. It’s been well documented that digital sensors aren’t affected by UV light like film was, so that’s also a moot point. I’ve found that UV filters often introduce a weak link into flare resistance, for example, and I don’t consider the trade-off worth it. That shouldn’t be the case with these filters, so you make your own decision about how much you need one.
Here’s a look at the filters I did use, however, and my thoughts.
QuartzLine Circular Polarizing Filter
A circular polarizing filter is, I believe, the most important filter in a photographer’s kit. It can be used to help eliminate reflections and glare depending on where you rotate it to. Take, for example these two photos with a coach in the background. The leather surface of the couch is reflecting the sun from the window in the back. Because of the polarizing filter, I can choose how much of the reflection is there. (This was shot with the Samyang AF 35mm F1.4 lens with the QuartzLine CP-L mounted on it.
The difference in the two shots is simply the angle of rotation I dialed in with the filter. I will often use a CP-L to control the amount of reflectiveness on shiny surfaces like water or glass, too.
A CP-L can also be used to intensify a sky, giving photos a more contrasty look. I’ve done that with this shot taken from the balcony Wyndam SeaWatch Plantation resort I stayed at in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. This shoot looks further up what they call “the Strand” there.
Here’s another lovely example with minimal processing that shows how a good circular polarizer can really help enrich colors (the last two shots were taken with the Tamron 28-75mm F2.8 RXD lens and the QuartzLine filter).
I felt like the “everyday” images really “popped”, like suddenly I had high end Zeiss glass on there!
I used it also while shooting some portrait images (on the Tamron 28-75mm) and found that I had good results even in challenging backlit situations.
QuartzLine ND1000 Filter
Neutral Density filters are designed to limit the amount of light that reaches the sensor. There are a number of applications for this, including trying to set a certain frame rate for video, trying to lower shutter speed to sync with flash units or to use wide aperture lenses in bright light, or, most commonly, to allow for long exposure photography. Often a long exposure allows for a more visually interesting image where dynamic elements (skies or water) are smoothed out. Case in point is this photo underneath a pier. Without a filter, the chop and movement of the water makes for a slightly busy image.
Add a ten stop ND1000 filter and you can use a much longer exposure time, which smooths the water and creates a more visually interesting image.
My primary concern with ND filters (particularly “heavy” ones like the 10-stop ND filter I’m testing here) is that lower quality glass can introduce color casts (I’ve seen magenta and cyan casts most commonly). What you can see when we put the images side by side is that despite the filter reducing 10 full stops of light, the color balance has remained nearly identical.
This is fairly rare in my experience. There is a new flare artifact, but this is probably more due to the long exposure with the sun in the frame than from the filter itself (any natural flare is intensified by the long exposure).
Here’s another shot that shows how beautiful and natural the colors are even when using the ND1000 filter. The crop shows that the excellent clarity from the high end glass means that no detail is lost due to the filter.
I’ve not used this particular filter with any really wide angle lenses as of yet, so I’ve not encountered any issue with additional vignette. The filter’s bezel is nice and slim, though, so this shouldn’t be a major issue. This is another excellent filter that is useful for when you really want to limit the light that reaches your sensor. Here’s a few more:
PolarPro QuartzLine ND/CP-L Filters
A filter that I’ve not previously used in a combination Neutral Density/Circular Polarizing filter. This kind of filter is most useful for video work (where one wants both the advantages of a circular polarizer and to reduce the amount of light hitting the shutter) or to avoid stacking filters. I’ve frequently stacked an ND and CP-L filter in the past, and the problem with this approach is that you run much more risk in introducing additional mechanical vignette due to the thickness of two rather than one filter being used. One final advantage is that the light loss of the CP-L filter is calculated in the tally (in my case, it was not an ND64 filter + a circular polarizer and its light loss [1.3 stops, in this case], but rather an ND64 filter’s six stops exactly). This allows one to more precisely calculate what the final shutter speed should be instead of just “eyeballing it”.
PolarPro sell these combo filters in 4 different combinations, from an ND8 (3 stops) to ND1000 (ten stops). Choose the filter that best suits your purpose.
I found for general purposes the ND64/CP filter gave my images a somewhat heavy, brooding quality (in the lighting conditions of this outing).
This was not the best application of the filter, however, and I feel that the best moments for this filter will be in those settings that you want to lengthen exposure and reduce reflections but not to an extreme degree. You can intensify a sky or something similar without going full on “long exposure”. This shot, for example, is handheld:
Price and Conclusion
The PolarPro QuartzLine filters are very impressive. Filters are a really great way to expand the potential of both your gear and your artistic potential. Filters allow you to control and shape the light beyond the options granted you by your camera. The QuartzLine filters are premium in every way – from presentation to build to price. The three 67mm filters that I tested ranged from $179 for the Circular Polarizer to $229 for the ND1000 to $239 for the ND64/CP filter. Not cheap, though I feel like the price will be justified for those that A) demand peak performance or B) work in challenging conditions where they need better durability. The lifetime guarantee on these filters far exceeds the 1-5 year warranty that I’ve see for other filter brands. You will have to determine for yourself whether or not you want to make this kind of investment in filters, but, if you decide you do, I’m confident that you won’t be disappointed.B&H Photo | Amazon | Amazon Canada | Amazon UK | Amazon Germany | Ebay
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Keywords: PolarPro, PolarPro Filters, Quartz Line, PolarPro Quartz Line, Polar Pro, Filters, Review, Dustin Abbott, Circular Polarizer, UV, Neutral Density, ND1000, ND64 CP-L, Long Exposure, App, App Review, Reflections, Sample Images, Video Test, Quartz Line Reviews