If you’re beginning your photography journey, or you’re simply beginning your research on lens filters, this guide will point you in the right direction.
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It can be hard to know where to start with lens filters. With so many options available, which is the best lens filter to choose? The simple answer is, it depends – there are no right or wrong lens filters for beginners. A lot depends on where you’ll be photographing, and the quality of the lenses you’re using.
To help get you started, these are some of the lens filters we recommend every photographer should strive to include in their camera kit.
An ultraviolet (UV) lens filter is really useful for any photographer, whether you’re a beginner or a pro, so easily makes it onto any best lens filter list. This must-have filter protects your camera lens, keeping it free from dirt or scratches. Plus, it can remain on the camera at all times. Replacing a UV filter is far more economical than having to get a new lens if it gets damaged. So, from a financial point of view, protecting your lens with this filter makes complete sense.
UV filters are handy if you own an old film camera, as they cut out sunlight radiation. Although modern digital cameras reduce UV glare themselves, UV light can sometimes cast a blue haze over an image. UV filters can, therefore, reduce this haze and enhance image quality by sharpening objects and improving the contrast.
You can find different strengths of UV filters, depending on the level of exposure. Consider a high UV level if you take shots at high altitude where UV light is stronger.
A circular polarising lens (CPL) filter is arguably the best lens filter for a beginner photographer interested in capturing landscape scenery.
A CPL filter works by limiting or controlling the amount or type of light waveforms that enter the camera. This gives it the ability to reduce reflections, haze and glare. It can also boost colour saturation and contrast, for a cleaner and crisper shot. These effects can’t be manipulated in digital post-production.
This filter really comes into its own when shooting sky, foliage or water. Skies can appear more saturated and defined, resulting in a deeper blue and an intense whiteness of clouds. Foliage such as trees and hills can enjoy a rich and verdant tone thanks to the CPL filter. Reflections and glare can be eliminated from surfaces such as water or glass, enabling you to see right through them.
By twisting the CPL filter, you can vary the polarisation intensity, allowing you to experiment with different effects.
For beginner photographers who want to smooth out motion shots, such as moving water, traffic, people or clouds, a neutral density (ND) lens filter is just the trick.
This filter works by reducing the amount of light that reaches the camera’s sensor so that it’s evenly distributed. By letting you leave your shutter open for longer in brighter conditions, you can introduce movement or blur into otherwise static shots. This can create real atmosphere and drama.
Despite limiting light, this filter doesn’t affect the colour but does give you a more pleasing separation between an image and its background, as well as reducing the depth of field in bright sunlight.
One thing to consider is that there are various types or strengths of ND filters that let you manipulate shutter speed, according to the time of day or the amount of light available. ND filters are classified by their f-stop reduction. This is the ratio of the lens focal length compared to the diameter of the lens aperture. For instance, ND2 equates to 1 f-stop reduction, whilst ND1000 is 10 f-stops reduction – and there are lots more filters in between. The most popular filters are available in two, three or four stops. Generally, the bigger the stop, the longer the shutter speed. For a stronger, exposure-blocking effect, you can stack these filters.
There are also variations of ND filters, including graduated ND filters, variable and extreme ND filters. But, a standard ND type should suffice for any newcomer to photography.
There’s a lot of creative scope for using ND filters, and you can pick up some sound advice on the Gobe blog.
Quality and what to choose
We have three different ranges of filters: 1 Peak, 2 Peak, and 3 Peak. When deciding which filters are right for you, it’s best to look at the lenses you use. If you have an entry-level lens, our 1 Peak range is your best bet. It features our premium built quality and Japanese optical glass. If you have a mid-tier lens, try our 2 Peak range. And if you’re using a top quality lens, our 3 Peak range is made just for you. You can also experiment with our entry-level filters to see what you like. Once you know what you like, invest in quality and use them often.