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One of the most common questions we receive here at Digital Camera Gear, is 'Which camera filter is right for me??". We will be covering the 3 main types of camera filteres and how they are used in the field.
A lot can be said about the technicalities of how they work but to keep this post brief let me head straight to the benefits of using one.
Polarising filters change the way that your camera sees and treats light. Particularly – when using one you’ll notice a change in how your camera sees reflections and glare. As a result it also has the ability to change the vibrancy of some colors in shots.
Let’s look at a few areas where polarising filters can have have the biggest impact:
Another benefit of fitting a polarising filter to your camera (or any kind of filter) is that you put an extra level of protection between your expensive lens’s glass and anything that might scratch or damage it. A UV filter is probably a more appropriate filter for protective purposes (they are cheaper and have less impact upon your shots when you don’t want the polarising effect) but a polarising filter is definitely more preferable to break or scratch than your actual lens.
When you see a polarising filter you’ll notice that it looks quite a lot like a sunglasses lens. The filter is dark and works by cutting our some of the aspects of light (similarly to sunglasses). As a result less light gets through to your image sensor and you’ll need to either use longer shutter speeds, a larger aperture or to beef up your ISO setting to account for this. The difference that you’ll need to account for is 1-2 stops. It’s for this reason that you won’t want to use a polarising filter at night.
UV Filters filter out the UV light that can cause a blueish haze on your pictures. They are most commonly used as lens protectors and serve this purpose well, with the added bonus of blocking UV light. A UV filter can be left on all the time as a lens protector/filter and it does not have any effect on how much light enters the lens.
The UV filter took the impact and saved this lens from going in the bin
Neutral Density Filters
One filter that is in the camera outfit of many professionals is the neutral density filter, or ND filter as it's better known. The filter is less appreciated by hobbyists and the reason it probably has little appeal is its looks - a plain, dull grey filter. Not colourful, no star effect, no gradation, no multiple image glass...just plain grey. And what does it do? Reduce the exposure? Hmmm I can do that with my camera...it's pointless! Well actually it isn't, and that's why the ND filter is a necessity for the professional and often found in the enthusiast landscape photographer's camera bag.
The ND filter may be plain grey, but it's a neutral grey so whatever light it lets through isn't affected in colour, just in brightness. So why would you want a filter that reduces the exposure when it can be done using your camera's shutter speeds or apertures? This depends on a few things. Firstly you may have a fully automatic camera. If so, the ND filter will give you a small amount of manual versatility. Or you may have been taking pictures in low light using fast film and then ventured out into bright sunlight where it was physically impossible to take a photo because your camera's fastest shutter speed was flashing, even though the aperture was adjusted to the smallest setting.
The ND filter will reduce the light and allow the shot to be taken. Using an ND filter in this way is not its primary benefit though. Have you seen those shots of waterfalls that look ethereal with blurry cotton wool water? Well the chances are an ND filter will have been used. Here the filter is used to reduce the shutter speed so that blur occurs. If you are out in a bright location the shutter speed will be at least 1/125sec and ideally you need 1/15sec or slower. So pop on the necessary ND filter and you'll gain the effect you're after.
ND filters come in a variety of ratings. The NDx400 or ND400 is my favourite, with 9 stops of light. This essentially means, to get a correct exposure, the shutter will have to remain open for much longer to achieve a well exposed image. I love this filter as it provides great effects on water, or any moving object.
To view our range of filters, please click HERE
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