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Using a polarising filter on a Leica M

Method One - use two filters

Wondering how to use a polarising filter on your M rangefinder without spending big-$s on a swing-out Leica Universal Polarising filter? Try the following technique (adapted from an original method by Jim Brick ):

  1. Buy two polarising filters: one a good quality B+W or Heliopan which fits onto your lens, the other a nasty $5 cheapie of any size which you will hold in front of your eye
  2. Before mounting the good p/filter onto your lens, "calibrate" it to the hand-held filter by placing a small dot on the outer rim of each filter such that when the dot is in the 12 o'clock position, both filters give the maximum polarisation effect. Of course you'll only need to do the dot-calibration once.
  3. Mount the quality p/filter onto the lens and turn it so the dot is pointing straight up in the 12 o'clock position
  4. Hold the cheapie filter in front of your eye with the dot at the 12 o'clock position as well
  5. Now turn the cheapie filter CW or CCW until you get the amount of polarisation you like - note the new position of the dot (10 o'clock? 8 o'clock?)
  6. Transfer the dot-position to the mounted p/filter and take the photo!

Easy! Of course this method will not give you exact correspondence between what you see with the cheapie filter and what actually ends up on film, but you'll be surprised at just how close the result will be. Moreover, you'll save yourself a lot of money over using the Universal Polarising filter and won't be bedeviled by the U.P.'s mechanical unreliability.

Commercial solution

For a more elegant (and expensive!) solution, Robert White UK sells "Kenko Rangefinder Polarisers". This is an accessory shoe mount polariser viewfinder with graduated numbers around the rim. Look through and adjust the polarisation via the VF, then transfer the number to the calibrated lens-mount polariser (sold as part of a set, or else calibrate your own!)

Method Two - use a drilled-out step-up filter ring

In May 2002, Stefan Randlkofer sent me the following tip:

I tried out the tip with the two polarisers with my m6, but wasn't very satisfied with the handling.
I didn't want to spend big $$$ for the leica one, so I decided to make one myself. I used a Heliopan 77/46 adaptor (HELIOPAN Nr. 149 E77/46) and drilled a window into it. As it is made out of brass, it is very easy to work with, but also very easy to warp - so be careful. You can overcome this problem by clamping them between two sheets of plywood with a piece smaller than the outer diameter of the adaptor. If you drill some small holes, a regular fretsaw does the job.
I bought a B+W 77mm linear polariser. Screwed together they fit nicely into the plastic box supplied with the filter.

Click here to see a picture of this modified filter ring (JPEG 64k bytes).

A few notes

  1. This appears to be a home-made version of the official Leica #14286 "Adapter for polarising filter E67/E49", which was released for the Tri-Elmar M back in 2000. No doublt Mr Randlkofer's "hack" is way cheaper…
  2. Keep in mind this technique only works for E46 lenses. For the more typical E39 size you'll need to use an additional E46/E39 step up ring.
  3. For those who hate a DIY approach, have a look at Photo Equip's FilterView - it uses 77mm Polariser filters and comes with adapter rings to mount onto E55, E46 & E39 Leica lenses. See <>. Alternatively, have a look at the Lutz Konermann designed 77mm "Step", same idea and $US 175.
  4. See this website for more ideas on how to use polarisers with the M.

Method Three - #13352

In June 2006 Eliot Rosen noted the following:

If you are using E39 lenses, the previous generation Leitz/Leica 13352 swingout polariser - which also includes a built-in lenshood - can usually be found in nice condition for $ 125-150. I have one and it works quite well. There are many lenses for which it can be used, including 35/2, 35/2.8, 50/2, 50/2.8, older generation 90/2.8, 135/4, 135/4.5 lenses.

I have one of these. Although it is well made, the polarising film has de-laminated in the centre of the filter glass, making it unusable unless I have a tech replace the polarising filter. I suggest you keep an eye on this when buying mail-order, online etc.

Any difference between using a circular or linear polarising filter?


Circular polarisers were created to work with SLR cameras which have their lightmeter behind an semi-surface-coated viewing mirror. This mirror reflects most of the light towards the pentaprism (and the photographer's eye) and yet also allows some light through to the lightmeter. Its the passage/reflection through semi-silvered glass which mucks up lightmeter readings when you try to use a standard linear polarising filter on such SLRs.

OTOH the M lightmeter takes its readings from the diffuse light reflected back from a circular grey patch on the shutter curtain. So with no beam-splitting semi-silvered surfaces in the light path, it therefore doesn't matter what kind of pol. filter you use.

Mind you, using a Polariser on any rangefinder camera is a strain. For the occassional shot it's okay, but if you find you're using one a lot, then clearly it's time to end the guesswork and break out the SLR.

A note about possible broken links

This FAQ has over 900 external links. Over time it is inevitable some of them will break. If you are bothered by this, see this detailed topic elsewhere in the FAQ.

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