Owning and using lens filters is one of the marks that distinguishes a casual or novice photographer from a serious camera slinger. They allow you to take shots in a wider variety of situations and even improve the quality of your photos without the need for post-processing.
They’re also a relatively inexpensive accessory that’s easy to integrate into your kit! Below is everything you need to know about camera lens filters – and how the savvy smartphone photographer can use them to their advantage.
What is a mobile phone camera lens filter?
A camera lens filter is a transparent material that alters the characteristics of the light that meets the lens, and eventually, the sensor.
They were developed long ago for use with analog or film cameras when editing was either impossible or impractical. Despite that, they’ve aged incredibly well. Lens filters are not only useful in modern photography but, in many cases, still a better option than post-processing with a digital image!
There is an intrinsic difference between a physical filter and a software filter (like the ones slathered all over Instagram posts). Namely, editing the light that hits the sensor is less “damaging” to the photo than editing pixels in post-processing.
No matter how good the software, a computer won’t be able to accurately predict and modulate an image to equal the real-life counterpart. That’s why you should preferentially use a light hand when editing and instead rely on superior photography skills.
A lens filter helps you accomplish that.
Types of Camera Lens Filters
Traditional camera lens filters come in two types: screw-on and friction (or square) filters.
Screw-on is precisely what it sounds like – the filters screw on to the end of your lens. A friction filter is a “box” of sorts that is attached to the lens, and then different square filters can be slotted in and out or even combined.
For camera phone filters, the preferred method is a one-size-fits-all clip-on lens that will go directly over the camera (or sometimes on top of phone camera lenses). These have the benefit of being supremely easy to equip and remove.
There are many different types of lens filters, but here are a few of the most common and widely-applicable ones. Most of these come in varying strengths as well. If you’re not sure, lean towards the less powerful versions until you get a good idea of their effect.
UV / Haze Lens Filters
These filters help to reduce the amount of interference from UV light, as well as ambient conditions that amplify the light. They tend to make an image a little warmer.
For example, when shooting near a large body of water, across far distances, near snow, or in a place with a lot of air pollution, the light will usually be reflected and wash out the photo. UV, or haze filters, cut out the amount of ultraviolet light that gets to the sensor.
Polarizing Lens Filters
Just like your fancy sunglasses, polarizing lenses change the way light enters the sensor (or your eye, for that matter).
There are a few things you’ll immediately notice when trying one out:
- Reduced, or removed, glares and reflections. Now you can see into windows or clear water!
- Rich, saturated colors. Try looking at clouds or mountains.
- Landscapes look better every time.
While most polarized lens filters come in grades, there are some that you can twist to choose the level of polarization manually. These lens filters are a must for any photography that gets done outdoors, really – bright beaches, reflective cities, and sunset shots all benefit.
Neutral Density Filters
These are particularly nifty lens filters for photographers that like to do any kind of slow shutter or wide-aperture work. A neutral density filter (ND) is essentially just a gray filter that reduces the total light that enters the sensor. It just makes things darker, and that can be extremely helpful.
After all, long exposures are practically impossible during the day. The photo is invariably too exposed. You can also adjust your aperture, or f-stop, as much as you want without fear of a similar problem. Without an ND filter, these techniques are only really usable during the morning or evening.
Not anymore, baby! Long exposure all day!
Are there camera lens filters specifically for smartphones?
Yes, there are! In fact, there are a fair few lens filters made just for phones.
That’s necessary because traditional camera lens filters are usually made to fit a particular lens dimension (often 62mm). These aren’t going to fit on your phone camera’s clip-on lens. Most phone lenses, and thus the filters, are 37mm.
Fortunately, since phone lenses are often clip-on, it means that most of them are compatible with just about any phone. Yup, you can use the same lens for iPhone and Android, as well as the same lens filters.
What are the benefits of using phone camera lens filters?
The chief reason for using a camera lens filter is that it broadens your pool of possible photographs in a given situation. By adjusting the light that the sensor receives, you have more potential pictures.
Here are some more advantages of using camera lens filters:
- Reduce or eliminate the need for editing (saving time and picture quality)
- Manipulate light levels to take pictures at any time or in any place
- Reduce glare in a reflective environment
- Take pictures that can see into the water
- Increase resolution in telephotography by reducing haze
- Increase or decrease contrast
- You look more impressive with fancy gear
3 Best Camera Filters for your Smartphone
Best Deal Phone Camera Filter Option –
You know who Moment is, right?
Well, their gear is legit across the board. So, it’s to be expected that any Moment smartphone camera lens filters are too!
This kit includes a Moment filter mount and a 16ND filter but does require that you already have a Moment phone case.
Moment sums up the purpose of their lens filters for phones by saying,
“Like sunglasses for your camera, they give you ultimate control over the light hitting your sensor, and that means slower shutter speeds, giving you that slight, cinematic motion blur in your clips.”
If that doesn’t inspire you to pick one up, then I don’t know what will. Do note that the link above will take you to a five-pack of ND filters. If you need a filter mount, then check out this option instead.
Best Budget Phone Camera Filter Option –
- HOYA Filter Kit: 1x Pol-Cirkular Filter, 1x NDX8 Filter, 1x HMC UV(C) Filter, 1x Filter Case
- Each Hoya filter is the result of research, know-how and complete precision facilities backed by full quality control
- Hoya's single layer coating decreases light reflection off the surface from approx. 9% to an average of 4-5%
Hoya Filter Kit –
Hoya offers a solid selection of camera lens filters for an affordable price with this kit.
While they aren’t professional quality lenses, they’re more than sufficient for people looking to explore the effects that lens filters can have on their phone photography. The equipment in this kit should be suitable for almost any smartphone and will give you a chance to test the effects.
- 1x Pol-Circular Filter
- 1x NDX8 Filter
- x HMC UV(C) Filter
- 1x Filter Case
You can choose between a 49 mm, 52 mm, 55 mm, 58 mm, 72 mm, and 77 mm options.
Best Quality Phone Camera Filter Option –
- 【ND & CPL filter 2 in 1】One filter has the ND and CPL filter features, it can not only reduce the amount of light entering the lens but also darken skies, manage reflections as the same time.
- 【No “X” cross on images】Say goodbye to the "X" cross on images, K&F utilize cutting edge technology you're going to say goodbye to this common issue with wide angle lenses and variable ND filters.
- 【Material】Made by completed professional optical glasses, Multi-layer coating, only allows 0.4% light transmittance and waterproof, scratch-resistant, which could protect your valued lens. For this 67mm ND filter，the lens cap/hood should be 77mm.
- 【Filter Frames】Filter Frames made by aluminum alloy, the serrated design of the edge of the frame makes it easy to install. There is 5 mark from Min to ND32 on frame, It is convenient for you to sure the ND filter stops.
- 【Note】This Filter is compatible with all 67mm lenses. Please verify your camera's lens thread size(usually marked somewhere on the lens barrel or printed underneath the lens cap) before ordering. The number is always preceded by a "ø" (diameter) symbol.
K&F Concept Variable Fader –
Control light like never before with the K&F Concept Variable Fader. You’ll notice much more control over the light – perfectly dark skies and no reflections included.
The kit includes an ND2-ND32 ND Filter and CPL Circular Polarizing Filter, which are great at mid-range distances.
According to K&F,
“[their] optical engineers developed new nano-coating layer technology, called nanotec, from the ground up to repel dirt, water, oil and other elements by beading rather than absorbing and smearing.”
Nanotec is noticeably impressive when out on a shoot because cleaning time gets cut in half.
How to Adapt Camera Filters for Smartphone Use
There’s an easy way to do this and a hard way.
The hard way involves scissors, tape, rubber bands, and frustration.
The easy way is to use the incredible new Moment Filter Mount
This lens mount isn’t a filter itself. It’s a lens mount that allows you to use any standard 62mm screw-in filter with your smartphone. The obvious use is recycling the camera filters you use for your traditional camera.
But, for the hardcore among us, it’s also a way to utilize really high-end filters (like Kaeseman filters) on our smartphones.
Last update on 2020-10-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API