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.
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.
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.