Your Guide to Buying Digital Camera Filters

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Your Guide to Buying Digital Camera Filters

Digital camera filters enable a variety of special effects to be produced as well as correcting images so they appear balanced and natural. There are various different types of filter available for use with digital cameras.

About Digital Camera Filters

Despite the capabilities of digital photo editing to colour correct and carry out other corrections, camera filters are still popularly used to alter the light coming into the camera lens and obtain clear, balanced shots.
Camera filters can be easily fitted to digital SLRs, and there are ways to use them with bridge and compact cameras too.

Choosing Digital Camera Filters

There are several different types of camera filter available. The first consideration is what type of camera is to be used with them, and whether they fit the camera. Once this is clarified, the next consideration is what effect is required.

Types of Filter

There are two basic types of camera filter – round screw-in filters and square system filters. Filters are also available in either resin or glass designs.

Round Screw-in Filters and Square System Filters

Round filters screw into the lens filter thread. This makes them convenient, being easy to use, adjust and transport, but they need to be the right size for the lens. They can also be more expensive, especially where different-sized lenses require additional filters. The screw-in system is a good design for protective filters and other filters which then don’t need to be moved once fitted. Usually the threads closest to the lens should be used for the best effect. Useful features include small screw-in arms for rotating the filter and marks on the filter for easy alignment.
Square, or system, filters can be a better option for several reasons. They are typically cheaper, and the same filter can be used for different-sized lenses. Neutral density filters are often used in this design to enable easy adjustments. Square filters need a filter holder and adaptor rings to fit to the lens. These can also be used for compact and bridge cameras.

Resin Filters and Glass Filters

Resin filters are typically cheaper than glass filters, as well as being more lightweight and durable. They are, however, more susceptible to scratching than glass filters. Both resin and glass filters are long lasting, provided they are well maintained.

Types of Effect

Filters are used for various purposes, including protection, colour conversion, and special effects such as diffusion and day for nigh


Protective Filters

The types of camera filter include protective filters such as clear and UV filters. These protect the lens against damage caused by dropping the camera, moisture, and scratches from cleaning, debris, or sand. Filters are cheaper to replace than lenses so can be a worthwhile purchase. However, some photographers do not use them because of potential issues with image quality, flare caused by reflections, and problems with autofocus, especially in lower quality filters.

Clear filters are transparent. UV filters block UV light, minimising resulting haziness. They vary with the extent to which they block UV. Strong UV filters also block some violet light. They are better at minimising haze but have a yellowish colour. Strong UV filters can also be used to warm images because of this yellow colour.

Colour Conversion Filters

Colour conversion filters are used to even exposure and balance colour in an image. Blue filters, for example, can be used with tungsten lighting. Colour correction filters can be used singly, or multiple filters can be used at once. They are less frequently used with digital cameras than with film cameras as digital cameras themselves have controls for colour conversion, and digital images can also be easily edited with photo editing software.

Polarising Filters

Polarising filters remove reflections from polarised light. They can be used to add saturation and to darken blue skies. Removing reflections can be helpful when photographing across water and through windows. Darkening blue skies can add contrast against clouds. These effects are more difficult to add with editing software.
There are both linear and circular polarising filters, with circular filters more often used. This is because linear filters can affect autofocus or beam splitting mechanisms. Check the camera manufacturer’s manual if in doubt as to which should be used.

Neutral Density Filters

Neutral density filters reduce light. They are often used to produce the effects of longer exposure, for example, to capture the effect of flowing water. They vary in strength.

Neutral density graduated filters work in a similar way, but only one side of the filter is treated. They are typically used in landscape shots where one section is darker than the other. Filters vary in the steepness of graduation, with softer filters used where there is less obvious distinction between sections and harder filters used where there is obvious distinction.

Neutral density filters of both types continue to be frequently used with digital cameras as the effects are much harder to add later.

Coloured Filters

Coloured filters allow more light of a certain colour to pass through. This has an effect on tone in black and white photography. Yellow and orange are popularly used to improve contrast. They are less frequently used with digital cameras than some other filters.

Infrared Filters

Infrared filters are used to block infrared light which some camera image sensors are particularly sensitive to.

Special Effects Filters

Various special effects filters are available. For example, diffusion filters are translucent filters used to reduce contrast and soften the image. This is a popular filter to use in portrait photography. Centre spot filters are a type of diffusion filter that only diffuses the background, keeping a spot in the centre clear and sharp. They have a simple design, with just a hole or clear glass in the middle of the filter.

Day for night filters are used to create a twilit effect in images taken during daylight hours. The image is underexposed, and the filter also adds a bluish tinge to simulate twilight. Some post editing may be required. Neutral density filters can be used to create a similar effect, but are not as convincing as they do not add blue.

Fog filters are designed to simulate the effect of blurred light during fog or other high humidity conditions. They reduce contrast and add a softened glow


Filters alter the light coming into the camera lens in different ways. They are used with digital cameras to provide several effects, many of which are not possible or very difficult to apply to images later with photo editing software. Filters can be used with compact and bridge cameras as well as digital SLRs, depending on the type of filter and the particular camera. The two basic types of filter are round screw-in filters and square system filters. Round filters screw into the lenses, making them convenient and easy to use. They are typically more expensive and can only fit a certain lens size. Square filters require an adaptor ring and filter holder. They can be used on different-sized lenses and are relatively inexpensive. Filters are available in both resin and glass, with resin cheaper but more susceptible to scratching.
Filters are used for various purposes. Clear and UV filters are used for protecting the lens, with UV filters also minimising haziness and strong UV filters adding a yellowish tinge. Colour conversion filters even exposure and balance colour. Polarising filters remove reflections from polarised light, adding saturation and contrast. Circular polarising filters are generally recommended as linear filters can affect autofocus and beam splitting. Neutral density filters and neutral density graduated filters reduce light, typically to produce the effects of longer exposure. Coloured filters allow in more light of a certain colour. Infrared filters block infrared light. There are also special effects filters, such as diffusion filters which soften the image, day for night filters, which create a twilit effect, and fog filters, which simulate the effect of blurred light.

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