A Beginner’s Guide to Lens Filters and Adapters

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Navigating photography equipment can be a daunting task for beginners at the start of their photographic journey. To help you choose the right gear, and take your photography to the next level, we’ve written a beginner’s guide to using lens filters, and lens adapters.

Lens Filters

Gobe UV filter with vintage Canon F-1 camera

What is a lens filter?

A lens filter is a camera accessory that is placed on the front of a camera lens. Different filters serve different purposes and photographers use a variety of lens filters to alter how much light or colour enters the camera lens. This creates a number of desired effects, many of which can’t be replicated using photo editing software. The most common and popular types of filters are Ultraviolet (UV)  filters, Polarising (CPL) Filters, Neutral density (ND) filters, and colour filters.

Gobe Variable ND Filter

Who should use a lens filter?

Lens filters are suitable for beginners, professionals and everyone in between. Anyone who is looking to improve their photography and experiment with different effects should read on and learn why lens filters can be so valuable.

Why use a lens filter?

For the space they take up in your camera bag, a lens filter is probably the most powerful tool in your kit. Once you’ve familiarised yourself with your camera settings, and the effects that ISO, shutter speed, and aperture have on your photographs, lens filters open up another new world of experimentation. 

While ultraviolet filters play more of a protective and utilitarian role, they can be the difference between the heartbreak of a ruined lens or an unusable image and keeping your gear and photographs in mint condition. Neutral density filters allow you to experiment with motion blurring, slow shutter speeds and dealing with excessive bright light. And finally, a circular polarising filter will cut out unwanted reflected light such as sunshine bouncing off water or glass, and enhance the colour and contrast in your photos. So why use a lens filter? Why not?

How do lens filters work?

A lens filter is a simple piece of equipment than can protect your camera lens and help improve the quality of your photographs. Filters screw onto the end of your lens and affect the amount and the type of light that goes into your camera to make your photograph.

Gobe UV Filter with vintage Nikon F and Canon F-1 cameras

Ultraviolet Filters

A UV filter cuts out ultraviolet light, which can give your images a cold or blue tint. It will help you capture truer colours in your photographs.

Gobe CPL Filter with a vintage Nikon FM-2 Camera

Circular Polarising Lens Filters

A CPL filter polarises the light going into your camera, which cuts out reflected light. If you’re shooting the sea and the sunshine makes the surface look silver, a CPL will cut that out so you capture a more accurate colour.

Gobe Variable ND Filter with a vintage Hasselblad

Neutral Density Lens Filters

An ND filter decreases the amount of light entering your camera. This is useful when you’re shooting in super bright conditions – like you encounter on a cloudless day in the mountains – or if you want to experiment with some motion blur or shallow depth of field in bright conditions.

What are the different types of lens filters and when should you use them?

There are so many different types of lens filters, but there are three that rule them all – the three that form the core of our lens filter product range – ultraviolet filters, circular polarising filters, and neutral density filters. When you use certain lens filters depends on the conditions and the effects you want to achieve in your images.

Example of UV filter cutting out haze
UV FILTERS

UV lens filters stop ultraviolet light reaching your camera sensor. That means the haze and cool blue hue associated with ultraviolet light won’t affect your image, which will make your photographs look clearer. A UV filter doesn’t affect your camera settings at all. That means you don’t need to change your ISO, shutter speed or aperture to accommodate it. Because of this, many photographers leave a UV filter on their lens more or less permanently. If you happen to damage your lens, there is a huge difference between the cost of replacing a lens filter versus replacing the entire lens.

WHEN TO USE A UV FILTER

We recommend you have a UV filter on your lenses all the time. It doesn’t affect your camera settings, protects your lens glass, and helps cut out UV haze.

A CPL filter used in studio to alter reflections
CPL FILTERS

A CPL filter polarises light, which cuts out reflected light bouncing off water or glass. As with polarised sunglasses, a CPL filter gives you the sensation that you can see through the glare of reflected sunlight. If you’re shooting the sea and the sunshine makes the surface look silver, a CPL will cut that out so you capture a more accurate colour. A CPL can make the sky look more dramatic and colours look more accurate and saturated.

WHEN TO USE A CPL FILTER

When it comes to using a CPL filters, it depends more on the conditions you’ll be photographing in. If there’s a lot of glare while you’re shooting and you’re including sky, water (like the sea, lakes or rivers), or glass in the frame, a CPL will help you cut out glare and improve the contrast of your images.

Example of ND filter to change depth of field
ND FILTERS

An ND filter decreases the amount of light entering your camera. You may wonder why you’d ever want that. Well, this is useful when you’re shooting in super bright conditions – like you encounter on a cloudless day in the mountains. An ND filter allows you greater flexibility and control over your camera settings when you’re shooting in bright conditions. For example if you want to use a lower aperture for a shallower depth of field, or a slower shutter speed to experiment with some motion blur.

WHEN TO USE AN ND FILTER

An ND filter is a great option if you’re shooting in very bright conditions, or if you want to achieve motion blur. Without an ND filter, you may need to use a very fast shutter speed, a low ISO and a small aperture. But by limiting the amount of light coming into your camera, you can have more freedom with your shutter speed and ISO in bright conditions.

Where do you use a lens filter?

Our lens filters are designed for use in the wild outdoors. When you take your camera into the wild, you’ll encounter variable conditions, unpredictable light, a high chance of wind, dust, dirt and rain, and when you do, you’ll want lens filters to help you regain some control over your photography.

Lens Adapters

Gobe Lens Adapter attaching old glass to a new body

What is a lens adapter?

A lens adapter is a product that allows you to connect lenses with a different lens mount to your camera. It means you can connect Nikon lenses to a canon camera body or, perhaps more interestingly, vintage lenses to your camera body.

Gobe Lens Adapters with a vintage Pentax lens attached to a Fuji X-T1

Why use a lens adapter?

So why would you want to use a vintage lens on a digital camera? Because great quality vintage lenses are so much cheaper than their modern counterparts. While a professional lens for a digital camera will cost thousands of dollars, you can pick up super high quality vintage lenses for hundreds of dollars, or less if you know where to look. And with the right lens adapter, you can shoot with great quality lenses without the expense. Which really begs the question, why not use a lens adapter?

Gobe Lens Adapter with a vintage Canon lens attached to a Fuji X-T1

Where should I use a lens adapter?

You can use a lens adapter wherever you usually shoot – it opens up more creative possibilities. If you have a photography adventure planned, you can take your digital camera and an analogue if you have one and, with the correct lens adapter, mix and match your lenses. With so many different combinations it makes you reconsider your perspective and framing, and can open up creative opportunities.

Gobe Lens Adapter with a vintage Canon lens attached to a Fuji X-T1

Who should use a lens adapter?

Anyone who’s looking to experiment with their photography, or photographers on a budget, should consider a lens adapter, especially if you already own an analogue camera, or have some analogue lenses. And even if you don’t, you can browse our lens adapters by camera body and see which vintage lenses you can start looking to buy. If you’re interested in shooting with better lenses, but don’t want to spend thousands on a new lens, a lens adapter is your cheaper alternative to quality lenses.

How do I use a lens adapter?

To use a lens adapter, simply treat it like you’re mounting a lens to your camera. Start by removing your lens and storing it safely. Install the lens adapter to your camera, and then mount your lens to the adapter.

More questions?

If you have any questions about lens filters or lens adapters that weren’t answered in this guide, head to our FAQ section which contains dozens of our most frequently asked questions on these topics. 

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