A Guide to Buying Filters for Your DSLR Camera

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A Guide to Buying Filters for Your DSLR Camera

In the days of film cameras, filters had a great many uses for photographers who relied on them to produce certain effects with their photographs. These days, many people use editing software on their digital photographs to create similar effects. However, camera lens filters can still have an important part to play in digital photography, and using them with a DSLR camera should always be considered when taking photographs. There are some filter effects that cannot be replicated by using computer software on the photograph during the editing process, and therefore, filters such as Neutral Density (ND) and Polarizing filters are still needed. In addition, however, other filters still have their uses, and some can be fun to use such as star filters. It can be interesting as a photographer to play around with a variety of filters and see what effects they produce.

What Types of Filter Are Available for DSLR Cameras?

Just as there are different makes and types of lenses, there are also different makes and types of filters available for DSLR cameras. Popular makes of filter include Hoya, Nikon, and B&W. There are some filters which are commonly used for digital photography such as neutral density, graduated neutral density, and polarizing filters. The table below shows some of the types of camera lens filters that are available for digital SLR's and details the effects that the filter can produce.


Circular and Linear polarizing filters

Polarizing filters help to reduce glare and improve colour saturation in a photograph. They are important for use in landscape photography in order to make the photograph more dramatic. They are particularly effective when taking photographs of the sky or some water as part of a landscape picture. The reduction of glare on any water in the photograph will greatly enhance the picture, and they will also have the effect of making skies look a deeper shade of blue rather than washed out. Polarizing filters work in a similar way to polarizing sunglasses: by reducing down the amount of reflected light that enters the DSLR cameras sensor. Circular polarizing filters are more suited to DSLR cameras than linear ones as they will still work with the cameras light metering and auto-focus options, whereas a linear one will not. Linear polarizing filters are, however, much cheaper to buy.

UV/ skylight filter

UV filters, or skylight filters as they are sometimes known, are less necessary for digital SLR cameras than they were for film SLR cameras. They work by reducing the amount of haze caused by ultraviolet (UV) light that reaches the camera sensor. DSLR sensors are a lot less sensitive than film SLR cameras sensors; therefore, the UV filter is not necessary for that purpose with a DSLR camera. However, many photographers do like to still use them with their DSLR as this type of filter is clear and can protect the front of the lens. It can be worth buying a UV filter just for this purpose since if it is scratched, it is easily and cheaply replaced, which is not the case if the lens itself gets scratched or damaged and needs to be replaced or repaired.

Neutral Density filter

The aim of a Neutral Density filter (ND filter), is to extend the exposure time, often for taking photographs of moving water, for example waterfalls or rivers, where the light is bright. Without such a filter, the photographer would need to use a very fast exposure time so that the picture wasn't overexposed. However, by using an ND filter, which reduces the amount of light that reaches the DSLR's sensor, a longer exposure time can be achieved, and therefore, different effects become possible in the photograph. When a short exposure time is used, photographs of water are sharp and "freeze-framed". Using a longer exposure with the aid of a Neutral Density filter means that the water movement is smoothed out and blur can be achieved to show the motion. This gives a very different feel to the photograph than when a short exposure time is used.

Graduated Neutral Density filter

Whereas a neutral density filter blocks a consistent amount of light, a graduated neutral density filter (GND) restricts the amount of light in a linear pattern. This means that the darker part of the filter can be used for bright skies, while the lighter part of the filter can be positioned to show the foreground, which will therefore not be underexposed. These type of filters can help create very dramatic landscapes, with overly dramatic skies and properly exposed foreground.

Star filter

Star filters create star-like effects from light sources in photographs such as candles, bright lights, and even bright reflections. They create points of light which look like stars, a little like the glare that people with glasses sometimes see from car headlights or lamp posts. Star filters can produce striking photographs, and there are different types of star filter available to purchase, such as ones that produce a 4 point star, a 6 point or 8 point star. 12 point star filters are also available but most photographers will caution the use of these as they can take over the rest of the image and detract from the other parts of the photograph.

Choosing a Filter Size

There are two types of lens filters: filters that screw on to the lens and front filters, which can be used in filter holders. Front filters can be used on any lens as it does not screw directly on to the lens and, therefore, does not need to fit the size of the lens. However, either holding the filter in front of the lens or using a filter holder with the DSLR can be trickier to use than a filter which screws on. When choosing a screw-on filter, it is vital to check the size and whether it will fit the lens it is to be used on. Common filter sizes include 49mm, 52mm, and 77mm. There is the option of purchasing a step-down or step-up adapter, which will allow the use of different size filters screwed into the step-up or step-down device, which is then screwed itself into the lens.

Where to Buy DSLR Lens Filters

Lens filters can be purchased in specialist camera shops, where the staff are usually knowledgeable and will be able to assist the customer with the purchase. The range on offer in larger camera shops can be impressive, and a variety of brands are often available. The staff will be able to guide the buyer to purchase the correct size for the lens they wish to use the filter with. Lens filters can also be bought in department stores with camera sections; however, the range offered is usually fairly limited in comparison to a specialist shop, and in general, the staff in a department store have less specialist knowledge. Buying a lens filter on eBay is another alternative option.

Find DSLR Lens Filters on eBay

To look for lens filters on eBay, head to the eBay homepage. Begin by opening the All Categories tab and clicking on the link for Cameras & Photography,, followed by Lenses & Filters.. From there, click on Filters and then tick the boxes on the left hand side under type, which will allow selection of certain types of filter only, such as Neutral Density or UV.. To further refine the search, use other options on the left side of the page. Alternately, try entering specific terms into the search bar at the top of any eBay page.


Factors to consider when buying filter for a DSLR camera include deciding what photographic effect is to be achieved, the cost of the filter, the make or brand of filter, and the size of the filter. There are many places to buy different lens filters for DSLR cameras, including specialist camera shops, second hand shops, department stores, and eBay. By searching on eBay, a range of different filters, makes, and prices can be found.

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