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Do I need lens filters?

Wendy Garrison , Oct 20, 2007; 06:05 p.m.

I see lots of different filters out there and was wondering, since I am new to SLR photography, do I really need filters and if I do, what one (or ones)? Is it best to have one when we go to Disney and I am taking photos in bright daylight all day? Thanks!


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Nick Bumgardner , Oct 20, 2007; 06:55 p.m.

Well I think the most common filter is a UV filter. A UV is often times sold as an upsale on camera lenses. People debate the relative importance of UV filters and you can read about that on this site.

Other common filters are polerization, red, yellow, 81a, 81b, cross cut,ND Grad, not to mention many others. Polerization filters work to reduce glare but also take away at least a stop depending on the one used, red and yellow are generally only used on black and white film. 81a and 81b are often times used on slide film to give it more pop.

My suggestion is that you shoot and shoot and when you come to a problem get a filter if required to fix it. You will learn what you need by shooting more and more.

Frank Uhlig , Oct 20, 2007; 07:00 p.m.

You need none needlessly, Wendy. Just use your camera as it came complete within itself. Enjoy!

Mendel Leisk , Oct 20, 2007; 07:10 p.m.

The primary purpose many have in mind with the UV filter is to get some protection for their lens front element, the UV protection is often secondary. B+W MRC UV filters are highly regarded: they are coated to minimize introduced glare and reflections. They tend to be very pricey and/or hard to find from local retailers, but more available and cheaper purchased online, say from B&H or Adorama.

The most reflection-prone situation is probably streetlights at night, and then you might want to temporarily remove the filter. Anyway, filters are one sure way to prevent fingerprints on your lens front element.

Here's some info:


David Haas , Oct 20, 2007; 07:48 p.m.

Wendy -

Having just been to Disney World this summer and Disneyland last summer, I can honestly say "Yes" to the you need a filter question.

The filter (get a nice UV) is a lot cheaper than a new lens. The first day we were at Disney World a youngster standing in line next to us decided "oh pretty toy" and put his fingers (sticky of course) on my $950 lens... actually he put them on my $35.00 UV filter. Saved by a piece of glass.

That's just one time that the filter has saved me... there have been others... but my advise is that the UV filter is a cheap insurance policy for your lenses.


Michael R. Freeman , Oct 20, 2007; 08:02 p.m.

Assuming that you are using a DSLR, the only filter that you really *need* is a good quality circular polarizer. That is one optical effect that can not be effectively recreated with digital imaging software.

You *may* want a clear protective UV filter for you lens(es). That's entirely up to you, and you'll never get a consensus here (or anywhere else) if you actually *need* one.

Dave Hollander , Oct 20, 2007; 09:07 p.m.

I agree with regard top the polarizing filter--critical for managing glare, particularly around water.

JDM von Weinberg , Oct 20, 2007; 11:00 p.m.

If film, you will eventually need filters for many different enhancements of the image. If you are digital or are scanning in the pictures, probably less need for filters, since many (but not polarizing) effects can be done in post processing in Photoshop Elements or whatever.

For Disney parks, definitely a clear or UV filter to protect lenses from sticky little fingers, as David says. Even other places, it's easier and safer to clean filter surfaces than it is to clean the front element of your lens.

For medium wide angle and up, polarizers (should be "circular" for digital and many through-the-lens exposure systems) are really helpful, but they only work at certain angles to the sun, and will produce uneven sky effects for very wide angle lenses.

Michel Latendresse , Oct 20, 2007; 11:04 p.m.

Although as Michael said most of the effects can be reproduced in PS it takes some work and often the results are not all that satisfactory. I would add to the list of must have filters, a set of Graduated Neutral Density Filters (to use when 2 parts of the photo have very different lighting like in a sunset for instance) and some plain Neutral Density Filters to control your exposure in bright lighting conditions.

Andy Aungthwin , Oct 21, 2007; 05:29 a.m.

I've only just become interested in portraits and have found that at around f3 in reasonably bright daylight the shutter speed is a fair bit higher than 1/500 sec.

To sync. with my D70 and in-built flash I sometimes need to add a polarizer which reduces the exposure by about 2 stops.

I have ND filters to do this, but am disappointed in that they produce a color cast. My polarizer doesn't, and as some have already pointed out it's great for a number of other applications.

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