Owning and using lens filters is one of the marks that distinguishes a casual or novice smartphone photographer from a serious mobile 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 cell phone 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, controlling 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 using a polarizing lens filter for your phone:
- 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 makes things darker, just like your Ray-Ban sunglasses, and that can be extremely helpful.
After all, long exposures are practically impossible during the day. The photo is invariably too exposed. As a result, without an ND filter, mobile long exposures are only really doable 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.
It’s worth noting that if you want to use a higher-quality mounted lens, then that 37mm gets thrown out the window because you’ll need a filter mount to go around the lens in a manner that doesn’t cause vignetting. If this sounds like you, then consider a 67mm filter mount. In the case of the smartphone camera lens filters discussed in this post, we’ve chosen a variety of options and provided mounting options for each.
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 or through glass
- Increase resolution in telephotography by reducing haze
- Increase or decrease contrast
- You look more impressive with fancy gear
3 Best Filters for your Smartphone
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Best Quality Phone Camera Filter Option –
Moment 67mm VND Filter Set–
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 set includes two filters (one 2-5 Stop and the other a 6-9 Stop) but you will need to purchase the Moment Filter Mount to attach these. With all these stops available to you I’d challenge you to find a situation where you can’t get the shot. While this set is going to run you a pretty penny, it should be the only filter set that you need to create cinematic videos on your cell phone.
The hard stops on both ends of the filter make sure that, even if you don’t know what you’re doing, you can’t screw things up and the filter’s anti-cross polarization design is great for a smartphone’s smaller screen. The filter’s case is a great combination of protection and professionalism as the rugged metal outer shell easily unscrews to show off the high-quality microfiber cleaning cloth and filter constructed of German Schott B270 Pro Cinema Glass.
Seriously, I bring mine with me on every shoot. Even though I try to shoot during the blue and the golden hours, sometimes it’s nice to have the peace of mind that I can shoot past the ideal lighting because I can manufacture my own.
Best Budget Phone Camera Filter Option –
Gobe UV + CPL Filter Kit –
Are you looking to try multiple smartphone camera filter types at the same time? Well, Gobe offers a solid selection of camera lens filters for an affordable price with this kit, but has other variants of the same kit worth checking out too.
While these aren’t top-quality mobile filters, they’re more than sufficient for people looking to explore the effects that lens filters can have on their phone photography. The Gobe Filter Kit would also be worth considering for those looking to add an additional type of filter to an already existing collection as these aren’t as expensive as some others. The equipment in this kit should be suitable for almost any smartphone and will give you a chance to test the effects of these less useful filter types provided you have a filter mount that’s compatible. Gobe does offer their filters in 11 different sizes. While we recommend a 67mm filter mount so that you could add mounted lenses if you so desire, any of Gobe’s options will suffice for the base phone camera.
- UV Filter
- CPL Filter
Best Deal Phone Camera Filter Option –
Moment 37mm Cine ND Phone Filter Bundle –
So, this is a deal if I’ve ever seen one. If I was looking to see what adding a smartphone camera lens filter would do for my photos and videos, then this would be where I would start.
Do note that you’ll need to pick-up the Moment M-Series Case to mount these and you won’t be able to use any mounted lenses simultaneously. You may also consider a different Moment filter with their Filter Mount as this way you’ll be able to use a Moment lens and filter at the same time.
While there are limitations to the 37mm mobile filter mounts this price point is just too good to pass up. Again, this is not for the seasoned professional, but instead is ideal for someone looking to get into the mobile photography game as a whole new world of photo and video capabilities will open up.
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 (use step up rings to go wider). The obvious benefit here is recycling the camera filters you use for your traditional camera. For the hardcore among us, it’s a nifty way to utilize higher-end filters on our smartphones without any headache.
LENS FILTERS FOR CELL PHONE CAMERAS
So, you know that adding a mobile camera lens filter can change your mobile photography and filmmaking in immeasurable ways, you know which type to choose for what situation, and you have an idea as to which options on the market are worth checking out. All that’s left now is to get out, shoot, and tag us in your work on Instagram using #photoswithphones to be featured on the site. Be sure to also comment down below to let us know which smartphone camera lens filter you’ve settled on!
1 thought on “Smartphone Camera Lens Filters: A Beginner’s Guide”
Great article, thanks! Since tech changes so quickly… Do you have any updates?