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…
- Neutral density (ND)
- 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?