When we think about filters, most of us think of the UV “protection” filter that the salesperson that helped us when we purchased our cameras and lenses. As we get to know more people who take photos we quickly learn that there are two views on the usage of UV filters: those who are never caught without them, and those who would never let one near their lenses.
There are many good arguments for and against the usage of these protective filters:
- A filter will protect the your lens from damage
- It is easier and safer to clean a filter than the front element of your lens
- A lens is carefully designed and coatings are very carefully researched as not to affect the performance and colour rendition of a lens, a filter will affect this performance
- Adding filters can lead to vignetting (light fall off in the corners)
- Poor quality filters can introduce glare and reflection
There are many qualities of filters and many different manufacturers, so if you decide to use filters, what should you buy? I have used UV filters on most my lenses, and have always stuck to the better quality filters. What do I look for?
- multi-coated glass to reduce the chances of glare and reflection and maximise light transmission
- thin filter rings to reduce the chances of introducing vignetting
- UV or NC filters as they dont introduce colour casts or warm the image like a Skylight filter.
The other filter that comes to mind for many of us is the Circular Polariser (aka C-Pol or C-PL). This is the first of the creative filters and is essential for reducing or increasing the amount of reflection, it is a filter whose place in your camera bag is undisputed. As with a UV filter it is desirable to get something with a thin ring and multi-coated.
Other than these basic filters there is a large number of “creative filters” that can help you get more out of your images and spend less time in front of the computer. Traditionally, soft focus, warming, colour correction and star cross filters were very popular, but the arrival of digital has rendered these filters useless. However ND (Neutral Density) and Graduated ND filters have remained as vital items in a landscape photographer’s kit bag.
Once again there are differing qualities in creative filters, but to add to the confusion there are different style and materials. With creative filters it is best to purchase square filters so you can use them with any lens (with an appropriate holder and adapter ring), and the best filters are made from glass, cheaper creative filters are made from resin and are easy to scratch and can have unwanted colour casts.