Digital camera filters

Written by Digicamhelp Editor

Filters help protect a digital camera lens. Some filters change the characteristics of light entering the lens.

FiltersDigital camera filters are transparent or translucent glass elements that are attached to the front of a lens. They protect a camera lens, change the characteristics of light entering it or add special effects and colors to an image. Filters help protect a lens from the elements, such as exposure to salt air. A digital camera may require a lens adapter to attach a filter.

Determining filter size

The size of the filter can vary from camera to camera. If you use interchangeable lenses, each may take a different sized filter. The size is determined by the lens diameter and is typically printed on rim of the lens, where the glass meets the threaded edge.

Filter types

With the variety of menu options found on digital cameras, many of the effects obtained using filters on film cameras can be more easily achieved digitally. Still, there are some filters worth considering.

Ultra violet and skylight filters

Skylight and UV filters are used primarily to protect a camera lens from becoming scratched, smudged with fingerprints or damaged by moisture and dust. They help prevent breakage if a camera is accidentally bumped or dropped. The best quality UV and skylight filters are multi-coated.

Polarizing filters

Polarizing filters help reduce reflections when taking photos through water and glass at an angle. They help eliminate blown-out areas caused by light reflected off shiny objects such as car paint and chrome, and reflections from street pavement and foliage. Polarizers deepen the color and contrast of skies when shooting outdoors.

A polarizing filter rotates in its mount so you can control the amount of light that reaches the sensor. There are two types of polarizers, Linear and Circular. Be sure to get the right type of polarizer for your digital camera. If not, it can interfere with some of the automatic functions the camera.

Hybrid filters

Hybrid filters combine the effect of two different filters in one ring: ultraviolet and polarizer.

Neutral density (ND) filters

Sometimes referred to as “sunglasses for your camera,” ND filters reduce the amount of light coming through a lens without changing the color. A ND filter helps eliminate bright, washed out areas in a photo. ND filters also let you to use slower shutter speeds and larger apertures (for less depth of field) than would otherwise be possible without them.

Infrared (IR) filters

Infrared filters remove visible light and only let infrared light enter the lens. Many digital camera users enjoy IR photography for the surrealistic affects created when using these filters.

Colored filters

Colored filters are used to correct color when shooting under of different light sources particularly when using color film. They are also used for controlling contrast in black and white photography and can be particularly useful when shooting digital photos that will be converted to black and white. Some colored filters are used to change the overall effect of an entire photo. Many color corrections can be made today when editing images.

Special Effects Filters

There are many special effects filters available for changing the visual characteristics of a photos. Examples of such filters include Star, Cross Screen, Soft Screen, Softener, Fog, Infrared and Intensifier Filters that intensify and enhance colors. As mentioned previously, some of these effects can be added to images when editing.


  • The article refers to filters for DSLR and interchangeable lens. Are there filters for other types of cameras such as Nikon P7000?

  • Joooohn, you are absolutely right. However, if a prime lens is used on a digital camera with a Crop Factor, also known as Focal Length Multiplier the effective range will be increased. For example, a 50mm prime lens on a DSLR with a 1.6 crop factor is the equivalent of a 80mm lens, often used for portraits. Take a look at our Crop Factor Conversion Chart for more information. If you’re looking for a prime lens with a specific focal length and for a specific need, make sure you check the cameras crop factor.

  • A prime lens is a lens with a set focal length, meaning no zoom. So a 50mm PRIME lens is a lens that is permanently set at the 50mm focal length.