Phase plates (PPs) are beneficial devices to improve the phase contrast of life-science objects in cryo-transmission electron microscopy (TEM). The development of the hole-free (HF) PP, which consists of a thin carbon film, has led to impressive results due to its ease in fabrication, implementation and application. However, the phase shift of the HFPP can be controlled only indirectly. The electrostatic Zach PP uses a strongly localized and adjustable electrostatic potential to generate well-defined and variable phase shifts between scattered and unscattered electrons. However, artifacts in phase-contrast TEM images are induced by the presence of the PP rod in the diffraction plane. We present a detailed analysis and comparison of the contrast-enhancing capabilities of both PP types and their emerging artifacts. For this purpose, cryo-TEM images of a standard T4-bacteriophage test sample were acquired with both PP types. Simulated images reproduce the experimental images well and substantially contribute to the understanding of contrast formation. An electrostatic Zach PP was used in this work to acquire cryo-electron tomograms with enhanced contrast, which are of similar quality as tomograms obtained by HFPP TEM.