Here are four camera filters you (maybe) still need for digital photography

Jun 15, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

Here are four camera filters you (maybe) still need for digital photography

Jun 15, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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Filters were once common to all but compact and disposable cameras for shooting a vast array of topics. I’ve got about 20 here that I can pick from when I’m shooting black and white film, for example. But aren’t filters all just irrelevant now with digital photography where we can change the colour and contrast in post?

Well, no, not all of them. In this video, the team at DPReview TV takes a look at four filters that they say you still need for digital photography. Personally, I’m only really inclined to agree with three of them, but have a watch for yourself and make up your own mind.

The four filters featured in the video are…

  • Polarizers
  • Neutral density (ND)
  • UV
  • Graduated ND.

I have a number of polarizers and way too many neutral density filters, which I use for both photography and video work. I have a few graduated ND filters, although they tend not to come out as often as they used to. Usually, if I have a need for one, I’m shooting landscapes, and in that situation, I prefer to just bracket multiple shots from a tripod and then blend manually in post for more control.

As for the UV filters… I still have a couple but I haven’t really used them in years – at least not with digital cameras. Most digital sensors have great UV protection already, as do the coatings used on many lenses, so there’s never been a real need for their intended purpose with digital – which is also mentioned in the video. And they can cause all kinds of unwanted flaring and ghosting issues that you wouldn’t get if you weren’t using one.

But as for the “protection” argument, I don’t buy it.

Optical glass is much tougher than filter glass. Anything that’s going to kill (or even scratch) your front element is likely going to smash a filter to pieces, potentially causing more harm than good anyway. Trying to clean up glass dust, and the scratches that can cause is probably going to do more damage to your front element than not using a UV filter would have. And anything that’s really going to kill your lens, well, a UV filter isn’t going to stop it.

The only time I ever use them on digital is to help keep the front element clean, as opposed to protecting it from damage. And it’s a rare occasion. Sometimes you find yourself in a situation where you’re being sprayed with mud while shooting (Motocross guys will know what I’m talkin’ about!), and it’s just easier to clean off the filter than the front element of the lens.

But if you want to use UV filters, well that’s entirely up to you. For the other three, I think it’s largely going to be situational. Depending on what you shoot, you might never need to use any of them. But when you do find yourself in a situation where you need a polariser or a neutral density filter, there really is no digital-post-magic alternative.

Do you agree with this list? What other filters are essential for you?

[via DPReview]

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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6 responses to “Here are four camera filters you (maybe) still need for digital photography”

  1. Adrian J Nyaoi Avatar
    Adrian J Nyaoi

    UV and graduated filter?
    UV unless flare is what you want
    Graduated, can be done post

    1. Don Barnard Avatar
      Don Barnard

      Adrian J Nyaoi post production can’t give detail that isn’t there… a graduated filter is one of the few filters you should buy.
      Same with a polarizer… and an nd

  2. Ian Hylands Avatar
    Ian Hylands

    ND and circular polarisers are still essential for me. I tend to jump between the vari nd and square but I can’t imagine shooting without them.

  3. Shachar Weis Avatar
    Shachar Weis

    UV filter is totally useless

    1. AAF:Richie Avatar
      AAF:Richie

      I think he undersells the protection aspect, depending on the type of photography you do the extra protection can be essential.

  4. Paul Ford Avatar
    Paul Ford

    None use photoshop! Actually one UV to protect front element.