Different Types of Lens Filters

Everything You Need to Know About Lens Filters

Have you ever thought of enhancing your photography skills? How about investing in camera lens filters? This camera lens filters guide is here to teach you everything about camera lens filters. So, let's understand what exactly are camera lens filters and why you should use them. Choosing a camera lens filter is quite difficult. We hope this camera lens filters guide can help you choose the right one for your specified purpose. Later in this article, we shall also look upon the various lens filters & their effects on the final image.

Camera Lens Filters Explained in Detail

Camera lens filters are mostly used to reduce reflections and to protect your camera lens from potential damages. They also help to reduce the amount of light that enters the lens (either fully or partially depending upon your lens filter size & quality). You can choose from different types of lens filters for various photography purposes. Correctly choosing a camera lens filter becomes important because using an incorrect lens filter can hurt the image quality. In this camera lens filters guide, we will explain how to use different types of lens filters such as neutral-density filters, polarizing filters, UV filters amongst many others! By the end of this article, you will learn all about lens filters & effects to help you figure out which one is the right choice for you. We have also summarized up a camera filter to lens size chart to help you choose the right lens filter. Camera lens filters explained -

What is a Lens Filter and What are the Different Types of Lens Filters?

Lens filters are available in different sizes. The most popular camera lens filter is the circular screw-on filter. We will examine each camera lens filter in detail later in this article. The different types of camera lens filters available are -

  1. Circular Screw-on Filters

    This is the most prevalent camera lens filter. Circular screw-on filters can be mounted directly on the lens filter thread. The most common types of circular screw-on filters are UV filters, neutral-density filters, color correcting/enhancing filters, and polarizing filters.

  2. Square Filters

    This type of filter is the most popular choice for shooting landscapes. A filter holder is directly attached to the lens filter thread. Square filter types can hold more than one filter. 3×3 and 4×4 are the most popular square filter sizes available.

  3. Rectangular Filters

    Another popular choice among landscape photographers with a similar mounting system for square filters. Rectangular filters are more flexible and can be moved up and down as per preference. 4×6 is the most popular size used by photographers. Although, smaller and larger rectangular filters are also available.

  4. Drop-in Filters

    Drop-in filters are used inside long telephoto lenses. Due to their structure, only clear and polarizing filters can be as drop-in filters. Click here for a summarized camera filter to lens size chart for your better understanding.

Let Us Look at Each Lens Filter & Their Effects

  1. UV Protection Lens Filters

    UV protection lens filters aka Haze filters are designed to cut down the harmful effects of airborne pollutants such as haze and moisture that can ruin your photograph. UV protection lens filters are available in varying strengths depending upon their respective UV coating. Heavier UV coating filters have a warm (amber-like) appearance. High-quality UV protection lens filters can be permanently mounted on your camera lenses with minimum impact on the image quality.

  2. Skylight Filters

    A substitute for the UV protection lens filters, skylight filters can help to reduce the excessive blue cast (often appearing in outdoor photoshoots). You can choose from two strengths, namely 1A and 1B. Skylight filters have a magenta tint appearance (preferable for photographing skin tones). Keep in mind that using a skylight filter as your lens protection can compromise the image quality of your photos.

  3. Polarizing Filters

    Polarizing filters can add depth to an image by saturating its color and reducing reflections. These filters have a rotating mount that is easy to attach to any camera lens. Polarizing filters are best suitable for shooting landscapes. Be careful while using this filter with an ultra-wide-angle lens as it may result in uneven blue shades in your photographs. Polarizing filters are best known for making clouds pop out from darkened blue skies. They are also used for saturating colors and eliminating glare/reflections from glassy, watery, or any polished surfaces.

  4. Colour Correcting Filters

    Colour correcting filters (aka color conversion or color compensating filters) are typically used for correcting or enhancing the color scheme of your scene. This filter is mostly used for correcting indoor lighting by making your scene look gloomier or sunnier. Some other colored filters are great for bringing out certain hues in your chosen scene.

  5. Close-up Filters

    Close-up filters (aka macro filters) are generally used for macro and still life photography without having to use a macro lens.

  6. Special Effect Filters

    Special effect filters are used for different purposes. The most commonly used special effect filters used by photographers are -

    1. Starburst Filters

      A twinkle-like effect is added to light sources such as streetlamps or Christmas lights. Starburst filters are available for turning light sources into two, four, six, and eight-pointed stars.

    2. Multivision Filters

      Multivision filters create multiples of subjects that result in a kaleidoscopic effect. You can also rotate the front element of the filter to play with the effect. Circular multi-vision filters create circular duplicates, while linear multi-vision filters create them in a linear line.

    3. Diffusion or Soft Filters

      They allow you to create a soft-focus effect. Most popularly used for artistic still-life pictures and portraits.

    4. Center spot Filters

      This type of filter is similar to diffusion filters around the edges but is clear in the middle. Popular for keeping your subject sharp and getting a dreamlike-soft effect on the background. Avoid models that have a manually created hole (instead of clear glass) in the center. It may ruin your final picture by producing a visible ring in the image.

What are Neutral Density Filters and How to Use Them?

Neutral-density filters are designed to absorb excessive degrees of light as it passes through the lens. Neutral-density filters are also available as variable-density filters. You can infinitely adjust and rotate this filter just like polarizing filters. Neutral-density filters are mostly used in situations where you need to create a motion blur (rivers, waterfalls, or moving people). They are also used in large apertures with flash to avoid any overexposures.

Neutral Density Filters vs Graduated Neutral Density Filters

Graduated neutral-density filters (aka GND filters or ND grad) are clear on one end and gradually increase their density onto the opposite end. Graduated neutral-density filters are routinely used to balance scenes that contain extreme exposures.

A neutral-density filter typically does not need adjustments. You can use your camera's metering and the focusing system even when this filter is attached to it. This filter allows you to shoot with slower shutter speeds without overexposing your image by reducing the intensity of incoming light. Neutral-density filters are most suitable for landscape, flash, and street photography.

Graduated neutral-density filters balance out the exposure between the bright sunny sky and its darker foreground. GND filters are available in three common types - reverse, soft-edge, and hard-edge -

  1. Reverse GND Filter

    Unlike regular GND filters that transition from dark to light in the middle, this filter transitions from dark to darker on the top half. It gradually becomes all clear on the lower half of the foreground.

  2. Hard-edge GND Filter

    This filter has a neutral grey half that sharply transitions to clear at the center. It is mostly used to balance out high-contrast scenes to create an evenly exposed image.

  3. Soft-edge GND Filter

    This filter is best used if the horizon is not perfectly straight or flat. You can also opt for this filter if the hard-edge filter creates a noticeable midline in your photograph.

Camera Lens Filters Can be Used for Multiple Purposes Such as

  1. Protection

    The most affordable types of lens filters are those that are clear. Camera lens filters are great for protecting the front lens element. The clear glass does not negatively affect your images. Protective lens filters also eliminate the possibility of scratches, cracks, and dust accumulating on the surface of your camera lens.

  2. Colour correction/enhancement

    Colour correcting filters can alter or enhance the color scheme in your images. They can correct the color temperature and contrast to get a more vibrant photo.

  3. To Achieve Accurate Exposure Levels

    Camera lens filters are a great option for achieving even/accurate exposure settings if you are working with difficult lighting conditions. Ideally suitable for outdoor shoots (during daytime) especially when using fast shutter speeds as they may not be enough to avoid overexposure.

Let Us Take a Close Look at Lens Filter Size & Quality

Investing in high-quality lens filters is the ideal choice. A poor quality camera lens filter irrespective of the size/type can accidentally cause lens flares or image distortions. Given the variation in lens filter size & quality, if you own multiple camera lenses, you will also require filters of different sizes too. A few things to keep in mind to help you compare different camera lens filters to find the right option -

  • Check out the seal type, glass type, the material of the retaining ring, and the coating.
  • Cheaper filters tend to have retainer rings made from aluminum. Hence, are more likely to have problems with the threading or may dent in a short span of time.
  • Brass retaining rings are far more durable than aluminum ones.
  • As for the color or polarizing filter, check for the polarizing material and the color film between the two glass layers. In high-quality lens filters, that material would be bonded to the glass layers. This helps to keep out the air and other impurities.

Characteristic Differences Between Various Types of Lens Filter Material

Filters are made from various materials such as glass, plastic, resin, polyester, and polycarbonate. Glass filters are expensive but of the highest quality. They also tend to break easily. Resin and plastic filters are a much more economical option than glass; they also don't break easily. Polyester filters are of high quality. However, they are quite thinner than resin or glass filters. Hence, they are more easily scratched. This makes it not so suitable for fieldwork. Polycarbonate filters are scratch-resistant and tough, making them a good alternative to plastic or resin ones.

Step-up vs Step-down Rings

Filters can be expensive. Hence, buying a single standard filter (77mm) and investing in step-up rings makes it an affordable option. Make sure you use step-up rings because step-down rings can often cause vignettes and other issues. Step-up rings are available in various sizes for both circular as well as square filter holder systems.

Conclusion

Lens filters are an important accessory for photographers, cinematographers, and videographers. A low-cost and low-quality camera lens filter can have detrimental effects on your photos. While professional-grade filters can be used effectively to enhance your pictures. We hope this camera lens filters guide has given you a brief idea about the different types of lens filters available in the market. If you still have questions about camera lens filters or choosing a camera lens filter, you can let us know in the comments.

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