Photo by DieterMeyrl via iStock
Let's face it...
Photography is expensive enough as it is, so after you buy a camera and a lens or two, you might feel your pocketbook complaining.
But there are accessories you need to enhance your ability to use your new camera and lenses to their fullest extent. This includes a quality lens filter.
Some lens filters are extremely expensive - like as much as a camera body! But you don't have to spend hundreds of dollars to get a quality filter. The filters I've listed below prove that point.
Best Budget-Friendly Filters: Circular Polarizers
Kenko Nyumon Circular Polarizer
Photo by Gary Gray via iStock
If you ask me, there is no more important filter to buy than a circular polarizer.
That's because a polarizing filter can have a positive impact on your photos in a whole host of ways.
They cut down glare off of non-metallic surfaces like water and they also help boost the contrast in the sky for a deeper blue atmosphere and whiter clouds.
Additionally, a polarizing filter cuts down on atmospheric haze so distant elements in the shot appear to be crisper, as shown in the image above.
If you're after a budget-friendly polarizer, look no further than the Kenko Nyumon polarizer shown above.
This filter is crafted using optical-quality glass that's polished and coated to repel everything from water droplets to the oils from your skin.
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On top of that, Kenko has smartly mounted it in a SLIM ring, that way there's less chance of vignetting occurring when using a wide-angle lens.
There's a wide range of sizes available as well, so virtually any lens you have, Kenko likely has a polarizer to fit.
And starting at less than $15.00, these things are easy on your bank account too!
Hoya Alpha Circular Polarizer
Another budget-friendly option in the circular polarizer department is the Hoya Alpha shown above.
Like the Kenko version discussed earlier, this filter helps eliminate polarized light by absorbing it, the effect of which is increased clarity and contrast in your photos.
This filter is made of optical-quality glass and is housed in a precision-milled aluminum frame.
Additionally, Hoya has manufactured the filter to have approximately 96 percent average light transmission and a 3-4x filter factor that reduces the exposure by 1.6-2 stops.
The only downside to this filter is that it is non-coated, so it might have trouble shedding rain, snow, and oils from skin.
Still, starting at about $27, this filter might be worth it given its low price point.
Best Budget-Friendly Filters: Variable NDs
Kenko Variable NDX
Photo by miroslav_1 via iStock
In another entry for Kenko, their Variable NDX filter can save you hundreds of dollars by offering a range of light-stopping power in a single filter that would otherwise require you to buy an entire filter pack.
Like the circular polarizer reviewed earlier, this variable ND filter screws onto the end of your lens and is adjustable by rotating the filter in the filter housing.
Rotate the filter one way to lighten the effect and the other way to darken the effect.
In fact, this single filter offers a range of 1.3 to 8.5 stops, which translates into a factor range of ND 2.5-450. It's even extendable to ND1000 for getting gorgeous long exposures even in broad daylight.
True to form, Kenko has constructed this filter with the highest-quality materials. That includes two pieces of polarizing glass that are mounted opposite one another that allows you to darken or lighten the filter as needed.
Additionally, this filter has no color shifting, so you get hyper-neutral color balance in your photos. That's not something all variable ND filters can claim...
This filter runs about $240, which might seem steep, but considering a complete ND filter pack with the same light-stopping power could set you back two or three times more, this is definitely a budget-friendly option!
Tiffen Variable ND Filter
A second option for budget-minded buyers looking for a quality variable ND filter is the Tiffen Variable ND.
This filter has a built-in rotating ring just like the Kenko filter discussed above. This allows you to have pinpoint control over how much or little light-stopping power the filter produces.
This particular model controls the exposure from ND 0.6-2.4, which is good for 2-8 stops.
Tiffen has developed what they call ColorCore technology, which helps ensure that their filters provide hyper-neutral results. This is good considering many budget variable ND filters have a distinct color cast.
What's more, this ColorCore treatment helps control the density of the filtration which results in better control with exact degrees of filtration for your photos.
At around $90 for a 77mm filter, it's a bargain as well!
Best Budget-Friendly Filters: Solid ND Filters
Breakthrough Photography 3-Stop Solid ND Filter
If it's an inexpensive ND filter you're after, the Breakthrough Photography 3-Stop ND filter is a great choice.
If you've never heard of breakthrough photography, you aren't alone. Though they don't have the name recognition of the other manufacturers on this list, their filters get high marks (about 4.5 stars on Amazon).
This filter has a uniform layer of MRC8 applied to the filter glass to eliminate flare and ghosting, both of which are often exacerbated when using long exposures.
This layer is also super tough, so it helps create a scratch-resistant protection on the filter glass.
This particular filter is the popular 3-stop version, which allows you to create long exposures that are seconds long during the daytime.
Breakthrough Photography uses H-K9L optical glass for these filters, so it's optical quality for excellent clarity.
The frame is precision-machined and coated in a matte black finish to eliminate reflections from the housing.
Add in a nanotec coating to repel dirt and water, and you have the makings of a top-notch ND filter without busting your budget (a 77mm version of this filter is just $89).