Introduction to Filters for DSLRs - Digital Photography School

Introduction to Filters for DSLRs

What filters should I buy for my DSLR lenses?

The ‘filter’ question is another of the common ones that I’m asked these days (along side the ‘which lens should I buy’ question. It’s a slightly tricky question because the answer will depend upon the type of photography that you do, the type of lenses that you have, your budget and your ability with and willingness to use a post production software tool like photoshop to get similar effects to those that the filters can give you.

I personally only use two types of filters – UV filters and Polarizing filters. However I know photographers who make strong cases for ND grad filters and neutral density filters also. Let’s briefly explore each and talk about why you might consider them.

Polarizing Filters

I’ve written a more extensive guide to Polarizing Filters previously so won’t completely rehash it here. Polarizing filters change the way that your camera sees and treats light. Particularly – when using one you’ll notice a change in how your camera sees reflections, glare and even some colors. Polarizing Filters can give you deep blue skies, help get rid of reflections on glass or water etc.

As a result they’re a great filter for landscape photographers or anyone shooting outdoors (I always take one when traveling). I have one for each of my walk-about type lenses (my 24-105mm and EF 17-40mm) but don’t have one for my telephoto lenses which I use more for sports.

UV Filters

The main reason that I buy UV filters the for all of my lenses is protection of the lenses. Lenses are not cheap and the thought of scratching or cracking the front glass element is enough to send shivers down most photographers backs. I’d rather have to replace a $50 filter than a $1500 lens any day. UV filters are also great at keeping salt spray, dust and grime off the front of your lens.

Those still using film cameras will find UV filters handy also for cutting back the ultraviolet light. However most digital cameras have the ability to cut down UV and Infrared light.

Just be aware when buying a UV filter (or an alternative for protection might be a skylight filter) that the quality varies. I tend to buy higher end professional filters for my higher end lenses.

ND Graduated Filters

If you’ve ever shot a landscape image with impressive cloud formations in it and have gotten the image home to your computer to be disappointed in how the sky has blown out and lost it’s detail through overexposure (while the rest of the shot is fine) you’ll be a candidate for a ND Grad filter.

These ‘slot in’ filters look like a two tone filter in that the top half will look a little like sunglasses and the bottom half will look clear. The top half decreases the amount of light being let in (usually by 1, 2 or 3 ‘stops’) while the bottom half lets the darker part of your scene to be exposed normally.

You usually can buy these filters in a set of three (at different stop levels) and can get the the ‘graduation’ between the two parts of the filter either as ‘soft’ (the graduation is gentler) or ‘hard’ (where the graduation is more sudden).

Lastly – ND Graduation Filters are a ‘slot in’ filter and you need to buy an attachment to put on the end of your lens that holds them in place.

As I’ve said above – I don’t use ND Grad filters – but they will be something to consider for landscape photographers.

Neutral Density Filters

Neutral-Density-FilterI have had very little experience with Neutral Density lenses but do have one friend who swears by them. He shoots a lot in his beautiful garden and his goal is to get a well exposed flower with a nice blurry background. As a result he has to shoot at very large Apertures (to get the blur). The problem he faces is that on a bright sunny day this can lead to over exposed shots.

The solution is a Neutral Density Filter which cuts down the light getting into your camera. You can buy them at different levels (ie 1 stop, 2 stops, 3 stops etc).

This type of filter is useful in any setting where you want to use larger Apertures and/or slow shutter speeds in bright conditions.

One work-around that you might try in an emergency is to simply use a polarizing filter in such conditions as they also cut out light getting into your lens in a similar way. Keep in mind though that they also could impact other aspects of the shot (reflections, color etc).

What filters do you use (if any)? What advice would you give DSLR owners looking at purchasing filters?

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Darren Rowse is the editor and founder of Digital Photography School and SnapnDeals. He lives in Melbourne Australia and is also the editor of the ProBlogger Blog Tips. Follow him on Instagram, on Twitter at @digitalPS or on Google+.

  • http://werwin.deviantart.com Erwin

    hello! thanks not only for this post, but also for all the ones you share with us!
    i have a question, could you please help me?
    i own a canon eos xsi/450 and i found my dad’s old SKYLIGHT 1B filter, wich fixes perfectly on my 50mm lens, i’m interested on protecting my lens, but, i’m worried about the “color/temperature/etc” of the image will be affected right? what would you recommend me to do?

  • http://mrsergulcooksmrsergulbakes.blogspot.com/ Mrs Ergül

    Hi, I have a canon rebel t2i with the 18-135mm kit lens. If I want to get a UV filter for it for a start. May I know what’s the recommended brand and model? Am I able to get a decent filter for no more than 25USD?

  • Shane

    Hi, i have a nikon D90 with the 18-105mm VR and 70-300mm G lenses, since putting myself out and doing a lot more photography i have realised the capabilities of the 18-105. As with most people whose comments i have read i keep a UV filter on both lenses at all times, for proctection, i also own each a red and blue filter for the 18-105 for experimentation with 3D work, so possibly an article on the effects of different coloured lenses on both colour and monochrome photography? Also, i have recently invested in but not yet recieved an infrared, CPL and orange filter for interesting colour adjustment, landscapes and black-and-white work respectively, should i invest further in a set of ‘close-up’ filters?

  • Agroped

    What is the difference in performance terms between a polarizing filter for a DSLR camera and a film SLR,

    There is a considerable difference in price between these, but is it worth the extra cost?

    With thanks in anticipation,

    Agroped

  • JP

    “who here that uses UV filters to protect their lens has ever actually damaged their UV filter and saved their lens from a scratch or a ding”

    I once had my camera with a 50mm lens hit the ground (long story). Filter was shattered and bent. It was so bad that I had to cut the filter off of the lens. Although the filter was toast, the lens survived and I kept using it until I upgraded to a better version.

  • JP

    @agroped

    The difference is that you need the circular polarizing filter for auto-focus. So, even if you had an auto-focus film camera you would need the circular polarizer. If you focus manually, you should be able to get away with a normal polarizer.

  • MargoJH

    I saved the lens on my old Olympus OM1 with a UV filter when the camera slipped off my shoulder, Also dropped my C8080 & the filter shattered & had to be cut from the camera so that is 2 saves. All my cameras & lenses have filters

  • Jenny J. Smith

    I bought UV filter for my 2 lens and I noticed my pictures having a haze on them, I thought I wasn’t really knowing what I was doing then realized the filter were foggy. I was bummed!

  • Ausdoc

    Not easy to find filters for small lens sizes such as 49mm. I looked for a Skylight but ended up with a UV. Works fine. Then I tried adding other filters to the UV. Polarizers, Graduated NDs, Fader, Star etc. Several things became evident, (1) the camera not longer fits into the case (2) Dark corners on the wide angle shots called Vignetting (3) Increased noise (4) reduced light. So the moral of the story is; One filter at a time.
    Can anyone tell me (a) if using a step-up filter ring and a larger diameter filter will get rid of the vignetting?(b) where to buy secondhand reasonable quality filters in Australia?

  • Anonymous

    Can i use a polarizer on a 50mm f/1.8g lens? I have d7000 and im an amateur planning to buy 50mm lens and a cpl/IR/ND filters. Just wanna know if i can use CPL on a 50mm?

    And What type of lens do IR FILTERS are compatible of? Can i also use it with 50mm?

  • http://www.dreamstime.com/Rahela_info-resi242564 Rahela

    I have a question, as I’m a DSRL newbie: which ND graduated filter should I buy for Nikon D3100 with AF-S 18-105 VR lens – for the landscape (mostly seaside) photography?

  • http://michael.currin.co.za Michael Currin

    Nikon 18-105mm – polariser, yellow-green filter, yellow filter, blue filter
    Nikon 85mm f/1.8 – polariser
    Sigma 30mm – UV filter

    I prefer to keep a lens hood on as protection for my lenses

  • Ausdoc

    re: ND Graduated Filters. There are many shades of ND grad filters (ND 2-8 for example) depending on how much light you need to eliminate. Screw on filters are easier to work with in the field but you cannot control where the Dark bit ends, usually in the middle. Square Cokin type filters are much more flexible in this regard but they are bulky and fiddly and it is easy to damage them outdoors. I guess experimenting is the only way to find out what works for each situation. I find Polarizing filters will achieve reasonable results unless you have really bright sunlight. Avoid really cheap ND filters as they can affect Image Quality.

  • http://jackigail.com JackiGail

    Thank you for this blog, just purchased my first L series lens and wanted to fully equip it. After reading your blog I went on line to see the cost of Hoya filters. I found a sale and was able to purchase all three; UV, circular polarizer, and ND.

  • sathya

    hey i have canon powershot sx 40….i can add on filters..which filter is perfect and damn good for takinf POTRAITS AND LANDSCAPES….plss temme asap

  • Morgan

    What filter would be good for portraits and sports? I use a Nikon D32oo with a 5omm lens for portraits and a 3oomm Telephoto for sports and wildlife.

  • http://www.facebook.com/pages/Will-Elliott-Photography/131730973671273 Will Elliott

    Hey Darren, great and useful article!

    I use an FLD and polarising filter, both are of average quality and do the jobs very well, doing all of what you described in your article, I would very much recommend a UV filter for any camera, the protection is what you want!

  • Andrew F.

    With a neutral density filter will I be able to take long exposure photos in broad daylight??? I have been starting to play around with exposure and when I take it even when its pretty low lght, itr comes out overexposed. It has to be either pitch black or very close, so will a ND filter help me with this?

    P.S. I am using a standard 18-55mm lense.

  • Guy

    I have UV filters for protection, NDs and GNDs. Use the NDs to do intentional camera motion – my favorite is shooting fall trees while spinning the camera – need the ND to get a slow enough shutter speed. Will get a circular polarizer for my 16-50 f2.8 which I use most of the time.

  • Victoria

    I have eleven filters from my old Nikon SLR; they are 55mm. Are there any Nikon DSLRs that use this size filter? I’d prefer not to have to replace all of them.
    Thanks!

  • Andy

    popular and easy to understand,

  • vintage_photo

    I just bought a stepping ring from my local camera shop to use my uncle’s old 55mm filters…hope that helps!!

  • Victoria

    Yes, I have one of those too – but I think it’s 52mm to fit a macro lens that I no longer have. In any case I’m just going to hold onto everything for now. Thanks!

  • Rafaela

    hello

    my camera is canon 600D its crop

    my quetion is: their filter yellow-orange where use portrait or other landscape ? tell me please anything about filters i dont found good texts

Some older comments

  • Andrew F.

    September 9, 2013 03:32 am

    With a neutral density filter will I be able to take long exposure photos in broad daylight??? I have been starting to play around with exposure and when I take it even when its pretty low lght, itr comes out overexposed. It has to be either pitch black or very close, so will a ND filter help me with this?

    P.S. I am using a standard 18-55mm lense.

  • Will Elliott

    April 1, 2013 03:18 am

    Hey Darren, great and useful article!

    I use an FLD and polarising filter, both are of average quality and do the jobs very well, doing all of what you described in your article, I would very much recommend a UV filter for any camera, the protection is what you want!

  • Morgan

    February 20, 2013 07:38 am

    What filter would be good for portraits and sports? I use a Nikon D32oo with a 5omm lens for portraits and a 3oomm Telephoto for sports and wildlife.

  • sathya

    August 1, 2012 12:38 am

    hey i have canon powershot sx 40....i can add on filters..which filter is perfect and damn good for takinf POTRAITS AND LANDSCAPES....plss temme asap

  • JackiGail

    February 1, 2012 07:34 am

    Thank you for this blog, just purchased my first L series lens and wanted to fully equip it. After reading your blog I went on line to see the cost of Hoya filters. I found a sale and was able to purchase all three; UV, circular polarizer, and ND.

  • Ausdoc

    December 5, 2011 11:01 pm

    re: ND Graduated Filters. There are many shades of ND grad filters (ND 2-8 for example) depending on how much light you need to eliminate. Screw on filters are easier to work with in the field but you cannot control where the Dark bit ends, usually in the middle. Square Cokin type filters are much more flexible in this regard but they are bulky and fiddly and it is easy to damage them outdoors. I guess experimenting is the only way to find out what works for each situation. I find Polarizing filters will achieve reasonable results unless you have really bright sunlight. Avoid really cheap ND filters as they can affect Image Quality.

  • Michael Currin

    November 30, 2011 01:49 am

    Nikon 18-105mm - polariser, yellow-green filter, yellow filter, blue filter
    Nikon 85mm f/1.8 - polariser
    Sigma 30mm - UV filter

    I prefer to keep a lens hood on as protection for my lenses

  • Rahela

    November 11, 2011 07:32 pm

    I have a question, as I'm a DSRL newbie: which ND graduated filter should I buy for Nikon D3100 with AF-S 18-105 VR lens - for the landscape (mostly seaside) photography?

  • Anonymous

    October 13, 2011 09:23 pm

    Can i use a polarizer on a 50mm f/1.8g lens? I have d7000 and im an amateur planning to buy 50mm lens and a cpl/IR/ND filters. Just wanna know if i can use CPL on a 50mm?

    And What type of lens do IR FILTERS are compatible of? Can i also use it with 50mm?

  • Ausdoc

    September 25, 2011 05:39 pm

    Not easy to find filters for small lens sizes such as 49mm. I looked for a Skylight but ended up with a UV. Works fine. Then I tried adding other filters to the UV. Polarizers, Graduated NDs, Fader, Star etc. Several things became evident, (1) the camera not longer fits into the case (2) Dark corners on the wide angle shots called Vignetting (3) Increased noise (4) reduced light. So the moral of the story is; One filter at a time.
    Can anyone tell me (a) if using a step-up filter ring and a larger diameter filter will get rid of the vignetting?(b) where to buy secondhand reasonable quality filters in Australia?

  • Jenny J. Smith

    July 23, 2011 03:09 am

    I bought UV filter for my 2 lens and I noticed my pictures having a haze on them, I thought I wasn't really knowing what I was doing then realized the filter were foggy. I was bummed!

  • MargoJH

    July 1, 2011 01:38 pm

    I saved the lens on my old Olympus OM1 with a UV filter when the camera slipped off my shoulder, Also dropped my C8080 & the filter shattered & had to be cut from the camera so that is 2 saves. All my cameras & lenses have filters

  • JP

    July 1, 2011 06:16 am

    @agroped

    The difference is that you need the circular polarizing filter for auto-focus. So, even if you had an auto-focus film camera you would need the circular polarizer. If you focus manually, you should be able to get away with a normal polarizer.

  • JP

    July 1, 2011 06:12 am

    "who here that uses UV filters to protect their lens has ever actually damaged their UV filter and saved their lens from a scratch or a ding"

    I once had my camera with a 50mm lens hit the ground (long story). Filter was shattered and bent. It was so bad that I had to cut the filter off of the lens. Although the filter was toast, the lens survived and I kept using it until I upgraded to a better version.

  • Agroped

    January 4, 2011 05:04 pm

    What is the difference in performance terms between a polarizing filter for a DSLR camera and a film SLR,

    There is a considerable difference in price between these, but is it worth the extra cost?

    With thanks in anticipation,

    Agroped

  • Shane

    December 1, 2010 09:37 pm

    Hi, i have a nikon D90 with the 18-105mm VR and 70-300mm G lenses, since putting myself out and doing a lot more photography i have realised the capabilities of the 18-105. As with most people whose comments i have read i keep a UV filter on both lenses at all times, for proctection, i also own each a red and blue filter for the 18-105 for experimentation with 3D work, so possibly an article on the effects of different coloured lenses on both colour and monochrome photography? Also, i have recently invested in but not yet recieved an infrared, CPL and orange filter for interesting colour adjustment, landscapes and black-and-white work respectively, should i invest further in a set of 'close-up' filters?

  • Mrs Ergül

    March 24, 2010 12:51 pm

    Hi, I have a canon rebel t2i with the 18-135mm kit lens. If I want to get a UV filter for it for a start. May I know what's the recommended brand and model? Am I able to get a decent filter for no more than 25USD?

  • Erwin

    December 16, 2009 01:36 pm

    hello! thanks not only for this post, but also for all the ones you share with us!
    i have a question, could you please help me?
    i own a canon eos xsi/450 and i found my dad's old SKYLIGHT 1B filter, wich fixes perfectly on my 50mm lens, i'm interested on protecting my lens, but, i'm worried about the "color/temperature/etc" of the image will be affected right? what would you recommend me to do?

  • Krissikates

    November 23, 2009 03:45 pm

    A really helpful article... :-)

  • aimee

    June 12, 2009 04:44 pm

    friedchicken: i just got a cicular polarizing filter and a step up ring for my 18-200mm lens. i bought a 77mm filter for my 72mm lens because its cheaper to buy a new step up ring than it is to buy a new filter every time you buy a new lens! the ring works fine - its just another little attachment to the end of your camera that makes your lens slightly longer - the filter screws into the step-up ring with no worries at all!

  • Barbara

    March 13, 2009 08:37 pm

    I just have a rule I ALWAYS comply too when shooting without tripod: keep the carrying belt from your cam around your neck ALL THE TIME!!!!! Then it won't ever drop on the floor... well, maybe if you are very close to the floor but then the cam won't drop very hard anyway.

    Further, I won't change lenses any higher up then in kneeled position, holding them above the empty spot left in my camera bag. Or... seated and holding them above my lap. This way I won't damage any filter on my lens by dropping it either....

  • jmjstandin

    March 13, 2009 07:02 am

    I use a polarizing filter that I bought many years ago for my old film SLR - it can significantly improve many landscape photos. And I have UV or skylight filters on all my lenses for protection. I am temted to get a ND gradient filter to help get rid of blown skies. Even shooting raw, this would be useful.

  • Robbin

    March 13, 2009 12:41 am

    After shattering the UV filter while it was in the camera bag somehow (still not sure how), I will always use a UV filter on my expensive lenses. However, I definitely notice the difference when I shoot with my "cheap" 50mm lens which I don't both with a filter for because the glass is not right at the end of the lens, thus less likely for me to whack it into something. I'm pretty clumsy also so I like the added peace of mind (my camera has landed on the floor more times than I'd like to admit).

    I also have a circular polarizer for my traveling lens which I use as needed, generally only for eliminating reflections.

  • Catherine

    March 12, 2009 07:11 pm

    I have recently begun dabbling in photography again, and bought a Sony A200 35mm with a 18-70mm lens that is listed its abilities as F3.5 to F5-5.6. I'm frustrated by the limits of this lens. It can't take very close shots, and it's really not a good zoom lens. So, I am waiting to receive a filter that is apparently a macro filter. Is there such a thing, or am I confused about what I am buying??

    Thanks for your help!

  • FriedChicken

    March 10, 2009 10:06 pm

    Anyone used a Step Up ring?

    I know with a Step Down ring, there are problems.

    But a Step Up ring?

    I have a 18-55mm and 55-250mm lens. Would the step up ring make one filter compatible with the two lenses?

    And say I want to get a Macro, or something...

  • Topslakr

    December 20, 2008 11:17 am

    Red filters are typically used to increase contrast when shooting in black and white.

  • hannah

    December 20, 2008 06:19 am

    What about the rose colored filter that came with my tiffen set? What is the purpose of it?

  • dave l

    December 2, 2007 12:09 am

    i use a variety of sunglass lenses over the camera lens.

    cheap sunglasses.

    this trick is much better than nothing, and as well dumbstrikes slack-jawed bystanders, and stokes the envy of fellow shutterbugs who spent real money.

  • NormMonkey

    July 14, 2007 01:09 am

    @Tip Weiss: a circular polarizer is a linear polarizer with a quarter-wave plate (QWP) added. The QWP shifts linearly polarized light into circularly polarized light. Check out http://dpfwiw.com/polarizer.htm for more than you ever wanted to know.

    The important thing to know is that cameras with auto-focus and metering sensors behind the lens need circular polarizers or else you'll have trouble with autofocus and autoexposure.

    The arrow indicates the direction of polarization. It should be oriented 90° from the source of light (e.g., the sun). I find it's easiest to just rotate it while looking through the viewfinder (non-SLRs can see the effect on the viewscreen, although it might lag a little, so turn the polarizer slowly) and stop at the point where the effect is greatest.

    You'll usually see the sky darken, reflections fade, contrast increase, etc. at a certain point as you rotate. Like tuning an analog radio, keep turning until you see the effect reach its greatest and then start to recede, then turn back a tad.

  • Gerry Johnson

    July 7, 2007 05:26 am

    I thought the protection of the lens was hooey until I dropped a lens. It landed on the edge of the UV filter instead of the lens and cracked the UV filter quite nicely! No damage to the lens, thank goodness.
    If for no other reason I am a believer in putting a UV filter on every lens.

  • william rodriguez

    July 6, 2007 10:33 am

    Well, you do need a polarizer, period. I do not use UV filters. My best protection for the past 40 years has been the lens cap.
    I do recommend a graduated neutral density filter. I use the 2 and 3 stops often.
    A neutral density filter is useful and I would go with a 4 stops one. Your polarizer is a very effective neutral density filter if you only need 2 stops. I use it like that all the time.

  • lilos mom

    July 6, 2007 08:44 am

    Thanks, this is very helpful. I received three filters with my camera and I had no idea what to do with them.

  • Jakob

    July 4, 2007 07:31 pm

    Thank you for the brief overveiw. I have a consideration, though. Concerning the neutral density filters to be used for photographing flowers with a blurry background, it is stated that ND filters are needed to avoid blown-out images at large apertures.
    Is this correct? Accordnign to my understanding, shooting at maximum aperture will alos give you the fastest shutter speed, and therefore the least risk of over exposure.
    I would use the ND filter, (when i eventually buy one someday), to photograph eg running water, where the slower shutter speed would make the watersurface look calmer.
    But not for flowers.
    Is my understanding correct, or have I missed something?

  • Margo

    July 4, 2007 12:42 pm

    I always keep a UV on all my lenses. My Oly 8080 in my shouler camera bag when it was knocked off my shoulder. It was only a temporary cheap bag & the filter completely shattered but no damage to the lens or the camera mechanisms. The edge of the filter ring was bent & would not unscrew so ended up cutting it off.
    The filter was replaced as soon as possible

  • Print-Web-Design-Perth

    July 4, 2007 10:34 am

    Nice article. Being on a budding part-time photographer, I am finding myself taking more and more shots for clients here in Perth. They usually end up on business cards, brochues, postcards or marketing cards so getting the light right is quite hard when you do not have all the studio equipment on hand to complement our need. I tend to take the majority of the photos outdoors which always help and have a UV and Polarised filter on hand is always a great and inexpensive bonus - not to mention the protection it give the lens in the event of dust and grit flying around.

  • Tip Weiss

    July 4, 2007 10:04 am

    Great info. How does a circular polarizer work of differ from a standard one? I bought one and it has an arrow. Should the arrow point up?

  • Geneva

    July 4, 2007 04:50 am

    I have used my filters to protect my lens - in fact on a recent trip to Malta, one of my filters was smashed into a million pieces, but my lens was fine!

    Nice article!

  • Farzan

    July 3, 2007 11:30 pm

    This is a useful article; Thank you.

    I always use UV filter. Now I am planning to buy a polarizer filter and an Infrared filter. I have seen very amazing pictures taken with infrared filters. I searched the DPS for any article about Infrared photography but found nothing. I really appreciate an article about Infrared photography.

  • Andrea Kirkby

    June 29, 2007 05:32 pm

    I use polarisers very frequently. For architectural shots I have found they help reduce overexposure of light coloured stonework, as well as getting better depth of sky behind the subject. For landscape, polarising filters are absolutely vital. I find they also cut down haze.

  • KRIS

    June 28, 2007 06:31 pm

    Hi,
    I have a doubt. Are the Neutral Grad and Neutral density filters introdced after taking the meter reading for exposure?.
    The Neutral grad filter being a slot type must surely be positioned after setting the focus so that it does not move from its position.
    Please let me know.
    Thanks,

  • cwi27121

    June 27, 2007 08:18 pm

    Hi,
    i use a panasonic FZ-50 Prosumer seg camera and has a UV filter attached... I would like to Know a couple of things

    1) will attaching the UV filter affect indoor shoots/lowlight shots???
    2) do i need to removethe filters and keep when i'm not using the camera/travelling.

  • Darren

    June 27, 2007 01:16 pm

    PFJ - I'm sure a polarizer could be useful for sports, particularly outdoors if it's sunny and you want to get a nice blue sky or it's a water sport and you're trying to cut down glare from water.

    The down side of them is that they let less light in by a stop or two which can be a problem if you're shooting fast moving subjects and need to shoot at high shutter speeds.

    Keep in mind also that the 1.4 extender means you lose a stop of aperture also so your f/2.8 becomes f/4 - then if you have the polarizer you're letting even less light in.

  • Char

    June 27, 2007 12:02 am

    I have to admit I had to do a lot of searching about filters around the net, so this is definitely very helpful!

  • PFJ

    June 26, 2007 11:49 pm

    You say you don't use a polarizer for sports. Why?

    I recently shot an outdoor lacrosse tournament on grass in bright sun and used one on my 70-200 f2.8 + 1.4x for the first time. Was happy with the shorter focal lengths, but very disappointed in the sharpness at full zoom. Used monopod.

  • chi

    June 26, 2007 11:44 pm

    Great article, but yes.. please provide before and after pics for the noobies (me).

  • shroticg

    June 26, 2007 05:29 pm

    till now i was taking photographs without any filter except the all time UV (more to protect the lens) to slow down the effect of uv rays. now in my kit i want to add a polariser and a ND filter. otherwise many effects are already given in the camera itself and besides the photoshop is already there. there are many benefits after the introduction of DCs to the photographers. one more filter i would add is the cross screen filter for fireworks and night photography.

  • Stephen Newton

    June 26, 2007 05:03 pm

    I always use a UV filter for protection and although I've never damaged it you cvan bet your life the day I don't have one I will damage my lens. It's like insurance it's rarely used, (how else would insurance companys make money on it) but the one time you don't take it out something happens and you're stuffed.

    I have also recently shelled out on a polarizing filter and am experimenting with it. Sometimes it's great othertimes there's not effect. Still getting to grips with when to and when not to use it. I'll check out the other article you posted.

    That's all I use

  • Os

    June 26, 2007 12:42 pm

    Thanks for the article! Great stuff as always!

    One suggestion for the articles in future: Perhaps more sample photos can be take to support the explanation?

    In this article for example, a photo with and without the filter will help newbies like me understand the effects more clearly.

    :) Cheers!

  • Teewinot

    June 26, 2007 11:15 am

    Topslakr,

    Good question. I have 3 'screw-on' filters for my lens (UV, polarizer, grad ND) and they can all screw into each other...however, when I do this the corners of the frame have a vignette (at least at 28mm...not sure if this happens at all focal lengths or not). The filters end up creating a longer tube that is visible by the lens (using one filter is no problem of course...using two is when I start to see black in the corners). I'm sure it varies a lot depending on the camera, lens, and filter. I have no experience with drop-in filters...that may be the solution to this problem. Hope this helps.

  • MattyT

    June 26, 2007 09:13 am

    It's also worth pointing out that the filtering "systems" from Cokin and Lee are fantastic - I much prefer them over the screw-in variety.

    They are a little more pricey up-front but, given that you can use the same filters on all lenses (with just a cheap lens adapter for each lens) and use up to three filters at once with no vignetting, the benefits outweigh the cost IMHO.

  • Topslakr

    June 26, 2007 07:18 am

    Is it possible to use more then one screw on filter? Do most filters have threads on both ends? If you want to mix filters is that when you use the drop in ones?

    Topslakr

  • Jeff

    June 26, 2007 06:09 am

    I haven't noticed any degrade in quality with UV filters. Just as long as you keep them clean and dust free, it shouldn't affect the image as much. The only problem with UV filters is that sometimes, depending on your angle, you get ghost reflections of the light source when capturing lights at night time(eg. Christmas lights).

  • BayTaper.com

    June 26, 2007 06:03 am

    Anyone who has been shooting for a while could tell you about UV filters saving their lenses. Sure, it has the potential to affect image quality, especially if using a cheesy plastic one, and it can introduce more flaring too, but...

    Just take a look at your UV filter a year from now, or two, or three... Chances are the thing will be scratched and blurred to all get out. I have personally saved myself on numerous occasions (it isn't that hard to scrape the lens cap across the lens or do something much worse by accident), and if you've got any L-series glass (or similar), why would you risk a $1,500+ lens when you can protect it for less than $50 without much downside?

  • ian

    June 26, 2007 05:57 am

    @george. i've got that lens, and the hood for it is huge. not that i'd do it, but if i were to drop it front element first.. i'm sure that the hood would take the hit.

  • Mark Whitaker

    June 26, 2007 04:56 am

    That's a good summary of essential filters for DSLRs. Don't forget that lots of filters were originally to do (on a film camera) what you can now do post-production in Photoshop, so the ones listed above are all I've ever bought.

    Neutral density (ND) filters can also be used to get some really nice effects by shooting long exposures of moving subjects during daylight, especially if you buy a very dark one. Check out the ND Filters group on Flickr for some inspiration:

    http://www.flickr.com/groups/neutraldensity/

  • George

    June 26, 2007 03:27 am

    I use polarisers and UV filters.
    For landscape definitely need one(polariser) for those sexy deep blue skies, and I've yet to try neutral density filters, get those nice silk smooth waters.

    UV filters, just bought one for the protective nature of it. I've heard that buying a cheap UV-filter can degrade the photo quality, but too sure on that.

    Reply to Ian's comment: I think I remember reading a story on dpreview.com about some guy, dropped his canon 70-200 f2.8 IS on the floor, front element first, but lucky he had the UV-filter on it. It ended up cracking the UV-filter, and I'm pretty sure the lens wasn't damaged.

  • Paul

    June 26, 2007 03:11 am

    I've started a Thread for forum-members to post their best examples of how these filters can be used...

    http://digital-photography-school.com/forum/showthread.php?p=29400#post29400

    If you have shots taken that exemplify the filter put them here and hopefully people who read this threat will get to learn (plus you'll get people to see your photos!)

  • ian

    June 26, 2007 03:07 am

    who here that uses UV filters to protect their lens has ever actually damaged their UV filter and saved their lens from a scratch or a ding?

    i'm willing to guess very few if any. so why introduce a low quality (most people aren't willing to shill out big bucks for a transparent piece of glass that does nothing) piece of glass that only serves to degrade the quality of your lens?

    use a hood and be mindful of what you're doing and you'll be fine.

  • Harlan

    June 26, 2007 02:49 am

    Just a note that as long as you're not completely blown out, you can do a much better job of correcting contrast in a landscape in digital post-processing than you could with a graduated filter. UV, ND, and polarizing are still pretty useful for digital photography, though...

    And yes, most of the "ZLR" non-SLR large-lens digitals (like my Lumix FZ20 and its successors) take filters.

  • Andrew Ferguson

    June 26, 2007 02:49 am

    I have UV filters for both my lenses as a given. I'd be really hesitant to go out shooting without them.

    I just recently purchased my first polarizer, a Hoya 58mm. I got the 58mm so that I could use it on both lenses; I just have to use a 52-58 step up ring on one of the lenses.

    I'm not sure about a 72mm, as Graeme suggested, but I just saved myself $60 by going with the 58mm and a step up ring.

    So far, I've really been enjoying it. I've been having a great time taking photos with the sky prominent in the background. It makes a big difference. I haven't taken many photos of water to make the reflection-neutralizing aspect worthwhile, so I can't really offer an opinion on that just yet.

    And I have at least once already used the trick of putting on my polarizer to sub for a neutral density filter and cut excessive brightness.

  • AC

    June 26, 2007 02:26 am

    thanks teewinot. I was under the impression that non-DSLR camera cannot take in filters. Will look into filters for my camera!

  • Joseph N

    June 26, 2007 01:55 am

    Thanks for the explanation, really appreciate the refresher, I forgot about the filters. Then again I should start taking more pictures too.

  • chul

    June 26, 2007 01:54 am

    i have the same feeling about filters as you:
    uv - have one on every lens
    cp - have one for every lens
    nd - have one for my walkabout lens

    graeme ::: the one thing that you have to think about when using the step down rings is that it's quite cumbersome (and sometimes impossible) to use them if you're using a lens hood and/or a wide angle lens. but i did use a step down ring for a bit. i just got tired of how much of a pain it was to use it.

  • Derek

    June 26, 2007 01:51 am

    What I'd love to know is at what focal length do you start buying the low profile filters? I went with the recommendation from B&H and got one with the 17-85mm kit lense on my 20D, but as I look at moving on from that lens, I'm at a loss.

  • Graeme Smith

    June 26, 2007 01:40 am

    I've heard some photographers use a 77 mm polarizer so they can use it on all their lenses with a step up ring. That way they only have to buy one and can save money. So if you are buying one that is something to think about.

  • Teewinot

    June 26, 2007 01:35 am

    First of all, I don't have an SLR, but my camera (Olympus C8080) can take filters. That said, I have a UV filter on at all times (to protect the lens) and I also have both a polarizer and a Color-Grad Neutral Density (0.6) filter (i.e. half neutral density, half clear). My ND filter screws on to my lens so I don't need an attachment. I find the split ND filter to be really useful for sunrises and sunsets when one half of the frame has significantly more light than the other. Thanks for the article...it reminds me to get out and actually use my filters more often!!!

  • a.saliga

    June 26, 2007 01:33 am

    Perfect timing. I was just about to check the forums on this topic.

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