Neutral density lens filter and polarising lens filter - two essential items for your digital SLR camera

In the age of digital photography many photographers argue that lens filters are no longer needed since all filter effects can be done in the photo editing stage by using some piece of photo editing software, such as Photoshop or Photoshop Elements. 

Photo editing software has negated the need for many photographic lens filters but not all of them, and two different lens filters should be in the kit bag of all digital SLR camera owners. The lens filters still needed in digital photography are the neutral density lens filter and the polarizing lens filter. 

No photo editing software can replicate the effects created by the neural density lens filter or the polarizing lens filter, therefore the effect has to be captured in camera. This means the neutral density lens filter and the polarizing lens filter are two essential bits of photography equipment. 

The neutral density lens filter and the polarizing filter are two essential filters all digital SLR camera owners should have in their kit bag.

A selection of photographic filtersCredit: yackers1

Neutral Density Lens Filter for digital SLR cameras 

Digital photographers use the neutral density lens filter to block out some ambient light in order to reduce the shutter speed and create longer exposures. Have you ever seen an image of a fast flowing river where the water looks smooth and milky? Have you ever seen an image of a landscape where the clouds are all smooth and silky? Well, you create these effects by increasing the exposure time and most of the time you will need a neutral density lens filter to achieve this. 

All neutral density filters consist of a piece of glass that is 18% gray in colour, therefore if you use a neutral density lens filter there will be no effect on the colour, contrast or saturation of the image. 

Many professional photographers will argue you need to spend a lot on a neutral density lens filter to achieve the highest quality digital photographs however this is not the case. Some manufacturers, such as Singh ray and Lee produces neutral density filters that are over a hundred bucks, which is nothing less than daylight robbery. These top of the range neutral density lens filters are very good quality and can be used to capture some stunning images, but they are way over priced. 

Fortunately, you don’t need to spend anywhere near a hundred bucks to buy a good quality neutral density lens filter. If you look at manufacturers like Kood and Hama you can pick up a neutral density lens filter for much less. The price you pay for a neutral density lens filter will depend on the filter thread size of your digital SLR camera lens. The larger the filter thread the more expensive the neutral density lens filter costs. Larger lenses have a filter thread of 77mm and to buy a neutral density lens filter this size can be bought for less than fifty bucks.   

In order to get the water in this fast flowing river to appear smooth and milky I had to use a neutral density filter to create a long exposure. Turning fast flowing water in to a blur using photo editing software is not possible, therefore it is an effect you have to create in camera and using a neutral density filter is the only way of achieving this.

A view from the Trout restaurantCredit:

In order to keep costs down it is advisable to buy a neutral density lens filter for your largest lens and then buy step down rings to allow you to use the neutral density lens filter on your other digital SLR lenses. 

Cheaper neutral density lens filters can sometime create a small colour cast, however this is barely noticeable. If you are the sort of person who wants everything perfect you can remove the colour cast using Photoshop or Photoshop Elements photo editing software when you are processing your photographs. 

polarizing lens filters for digital SLR cameras 

Digital photographers use a polarizing filter on their digital SLR cameras to reduce the effect of glare and reflections from water, glass and shiny surfaces such as metal. polarizing lens filters also increase saturation and make colours stand out, an effect achievable by removing the haze and visible moisture in the air. 

polarizing filters consist of two pieces of glass and you achieve the polarizing effect by rotating the top piece of glass. The more you rotate the glass the stronger the effect is. polarizing lens filters are only useful on sunny days, and when you are at a ninety degree angle to the sun. polarizing lens filters are not useful on dull or overcast days. 

Once again, many photographers are under the impression that the more you spend on a polarizing lens filter, the better the image quality will be, but this is not the case. Once again, Lee and Singh ray produce very expensive polarizing lens filters that professional photographers consider superior. These polarizing lens filters are very expensive and really not worth the money. 

This image was taken in the midday sun. In order to retain some colour in the sky and make it look blue I had to use a polarizing lens filter. The polarizing lens filter also ensured there were no harsh reflections from the water.  

Boats in the harbour at Koycegiz in TurkeyCredit:

Kood and Hama also produce polarizing lens filters and these are a fraction of the cost of the polarizing lens filters made by the likes of Lee. The polarizing lens filters made by Hama and Kood are very good and the image quality is spot on. I needed a cheap polarizing filter for a cheap digital SLR lens I bought for a vacation so the Hama and Kood brands were on my shortlist. I ended up buying the Hama but that’s only because the Kood brand was not available in the size I wanted. This is not such a bad thing because I don’t know how I would have chosen between Kood and Hama if they had both been available. 

When you are buying neutral density lens filters or polarizing lens filters for your digital SLR camera never be talked in to spending a lot of money as there really is no need. The salesman may tell you that expensive polarizing and neutral density lens filters produce better images, and the truth is they do but the difference is marginal. So, unless you are going to print your digital photographs in A3 size, or larger, you are not going to notice the difference in image quality. 

So, if you want to buy cheap neutral density and polarizing lens filters for your digital SLR camera look to Hood filters or Hoya filters.