What to Look for in Lens Filters
- Canon RF 15–35 mm f/2.8L IS USM (82mm filter thread)
- Canon RF 24–70 mm f/2.8L IS USM (82mm filter thread)
- Canon RF 24–105 mm f/4L IS USM (77mm filter thread)
- Canon RF 70–200 mm f/2.8L IS USM (77mm filter thread)
- Canon RF 85 mm f/1.2L USM (77mm filter thread)
Photo by Sjo via iStock
What types of filters should I buy? What features are important? What brands do we recommend? Photographers touch base with us asking these questions (and many more!) on a frequent basis.
Make no mistake - there are lots of different filter brands out there. Many of them are excellent too. But how do you cut through all the noise and decide which filter system is right for you?
To be honest, choosing a filter system is a bit of an advanced skill.
Over the years, I’ve tested dozens and dozens of filter systems, and in that time I think I’ve developed a solid system of determining if a filter system is worth my hard-earned money or not.
That being said, in this quick buyer’s guide, I want to share three things I look for when investing in a lens filter system.
What to Look for in Lens Filters: Build Quality
Lens filters have hard work to do, so you want to invest in filters that are well-made and will stand up to the rigors of shooting in tough conditions for years to come.
Some filter housings and filter holders are made of plastic, and by and large, they simply do not offer you the durability you want out of a filter system. Others are made of materials like aluminum, which are highly durable, but also extremely lightweight.
The H&Y K-series filter holder pictured above and below is one such example. I was introduced to H&Y filters about two years ago and have enjoyed using them ever since.
This K-series holder is constructed of aircraft-grade aluminum, so it can stand up to some bumps and bruises along the way without weighing down your camera bag.
In addition to looking for a durable holder, you want to buy filters that have shatter-resistant glass. Again, H&Y delivers with square and rectangular filters that feature materials like Corning Gorilla Glass III that won’t shatter if you accidentally drop the filter.
One such filter is a drop-in 95mm circular polarizer that comes with the K-series filter holder kit. In addition to being impeccably built, the SCHOTT glass in this filter gets an HD polishing technique that improves light transmission.
On top of that, filters like the circular polarizer shown above, have multiple nano coatings that make the filter water-repellent, scratch-resistant, and oil-repellent. This is not something you will find on lesser filters!
Something else I look for when examining build quality is how the filter holder system helps prevent light leaks.
In cheap filter systems, there are no such light-blocking components in place. But high-quality systems like those from H&Y include foam seals that prevent light leaks.
It’s these things - durable materials, thoughtful construction, and a commitment to quality design that set good filters apart from the bad ones.
What to Look for in Lens Filters: Convenience
A second critical feature to examine when looking at lens filters is their level of convenience.
Now, I know what you’re thinking...how can one filter system be that much more convenient to use than the next?
In the case of my H&Y filters, like the 2-stop soft-edge grad pictured above, the answer to that question is simple - this system is magnetic, which makes using it an absolute breeze.
With a magnetic frame, the filters stick in place in the filter holder. Once they’re in position, they can be locked in place to prevent any movement.
But don’t think that this means you can’t use traditional square or rectangular filters in this type of filter holder…
In fact, the K-series filter holder accommodates most 100x150mm and 100x100mm filters from various brands, including H&Y, NiSi, Formatt-Hitech, Lee, and others. All you need is to add the H&Y magnetic frame and you can instantly convert your glass into a magnetic system!
This means that you get the convenience factor in two primary ways - first, you can use magnetic filters to make the process of adding and removing them a quicker process, and second, if you already have traditional filters, you can reap the conveniences of being able to use the tools you already have.
On top of all that, this filter system employs a drop-in design, which makes adding and removing filters (like the 5-stop ND and polarizer combo filter shown above) a quick, simple, and convenient task.
For example, if you want to tackle some long exposure photography, just focus on your subject, drop in an H&Y ND filter (10, 12 or 16 stops available) into the filter holder and away you go! No need to unscrew the ND filter, focus on the subject and then screw the filter back on to take the image.
What to Look for in Lens Filters: Utility
A final feature that I look for in my lens filters is utility. I want something that maximizes utility so I can get the most out of the filter holder and its filters that I possibly can. I have multiple lenses that have varying filter thread sizes, so I need a filter system that adapts to different-sized lenses.
In the case of the K-series holder, it can range from 67mm up to 82mm with the included adapter rings. This means I can use it on all of the following lenses:
Obviously, I’m a Canon shooter, but you can use this system with any other system from Nikon, Sony, Olympus, or other brands.
Between this type of utility, top-notch convenience, and superb build quality, I’ve found exactly what I need in my H&Y filter holder system. If you look for these features, I think you’ll be able to find the right filter holder and filters for your needs as well!
Stay tuned for a comprehensive two-year review of my H&Y filters coming up in the next few weeks!