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Gear Reviews

One Purchase that Can Save You Hundreds of Dollars on Lens Filters

By Anthony Thurston on April 27th 2014

Lens filters are expensive, or at least they are when you buy quality filters. The problem with lens filters in my opinion has always been that you will no doubt own many lenses with many different sizes of filter rings.

For most people, this means buying multiple lens filters to fit their various lenses. The problem with this is it gets expensive, especially when you are buying top quality filters. But, why should you spend hundreds of dollars for the same exact filter when you already have it in another lens size?

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Step Up Rings, The Ultimate Discount on Lens Filters

Many of you may have heard of step up rings, but if you were like me, you never really considered them. But I am here to tell you today, that for $20 you can buy a quality set of step up filters that will allow you to fit any filter onto almost any lens.

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As you can imagine this can save you hundreds – even thousands if you like to use a lot of filters – of dollars on different size lens filters for your various lenses.

20140427-IMG_5010Now, obviously, you don’t want to put a 52mm filter on an 82mm lens. So the key is to purchase filters in the largest size needed by your lenses (in my case 82mm). Then just use the step up rings on your smaller lenses to bump them up so they can use your larger filter.20140427-IMG_5014

It is as simple as that and can save you loads of money on filters that are redundant in your camera bag. I would definitely recommend, given how inexpensive they are, that every photographer have a set of step up rings in their camera bag.

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As you can see in the images used in this post, I am now able to use my 82mm filters, required for my Sigma 24-105mm F/4 DG HSM Art, on my Sigma 50mm f/1.4 which only has a 77mm filter thread.

Yes, it is simple, and yes many of you may have already known about this. I have known about this for many years, but only recently did I finally pull the trigger on these step up rings, and I am happy that I did.

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As I said above, I recommend that every photographer have a set of these in their bag. They are inexpensive, and allow you to only buy one filter size, saving you a lot of money in the long run on filters.

I purchased my set on Amazon for $20, which included step up rings from 26mm all the way up to 82mm as well as step down rings in that same range. I am very happy with both the build quality and the ease of use on these step up rings.

If you are interested in grabbing some step up rings of your own, B&H has a great set of normal photo lens sizes for just $12.95, and for that price, you really have no excuse to not own a set.

Anthony Thurston is a photographer based in the Salem, Oregon area specializing in Boudoir. He recently started a new project, Fiercely Boudoir to help support the growing boudoir community. Find him over on Instagram. You may also connect with him via Email.

Q&A Discussions

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  1. Mike

    I just got a set of step up and down filters last week – awesome stuff :)

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  2. RH6194

    I’ve used them and I will agree that they can save you money if you are on a tight budget. However for the most part, I only carry three filters. I have a UV filter on every single lens that stays on permanently to protect the front of the lens…so I need one of those for each lens anyways. Then I carry a circular polarizer and a ND filter.

    Beyond that, I used Tiffen Dfx 3.0 which has digital emulations of every glass filter Tiffen makes. I will add them as I find a need to during post. This is FAR less expensive or inconvenient than carrying and changing a bunch of actual filters all the time.

    I know…the “purists” out there are going to crucify me because the final image is not all “in camera”, but I don’t care. At the end of the day, all I really care about is what the final image looks like…that’s what the client is paying for! I’ve never had one yet ask me “what kind of filter did I use on that shot”?

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  3. Chad

    I didn’t know they existed! I like how they all store attached together. I just ordered the same kit off of amazon for $14. Can’t go wrong. Thanks for the review! Awesome job.

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  4. shamb

    If you do get a big set of step up/step down rings, screw each step up into its corresponding step down before attaching them to real lenses – that way you quickly burn them in and weed out any tight/loose ones without damaging your lens threads.

    Another use for step up rings is that they protect your lens – many lenses now have plastic filter threads, so putting a cheap step up thread on it (and leaving it there) makes sense if you use filters often (and if you are into video DSLR use, you will forever be screwing/unscrewing ND filters and low contrast filters on!).

    Finally, you will also need to buy a set of filter removal tools to combat stuck filter threads (dont use your hands – as a previous poster has mentioned, trying to unscrew anything with force changes its shape and makes the matter worse!). A set of filter removal tools is very cheap (they are essentially ‘C’ shaped plastic clamps) and a no-brainer.

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  5. Brad

    I’ve been doing this with my filters but one problem I’ve had is that the step rings can get sort of stuck on the filter so that I cannot get the ring off without taking some pliers to it.

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    • Mike

      Try wrapping an elastic band around the filter to give you more grip – or use your washing up gloves!

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    • Daniel

      Sometimes less is more…

      when you grasp/squeeze the filter (or step ring) hard, you are actually changing it’s shape from a circle to an oval, which in turn makes it seem tighter.

      Try un-threading them with a lighter touch.

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    • Prime

      Have you tried using one palm over the stuck ring and another of the filter and turn. This have been my most successful way of getting them unstuck. It uses much lesser force and I think it helps separate the threads just enough to turn easily.

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  6. Lukas

    I’m using 82mm filters myself with a few step up rings, the only real downside for me is that I can’t use the lens hoods with the adapters!

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    • Anthony Thurston

      Have you tried those generic screw on rubber lens hoods? Just buy one for an 82mm filter size and you are good to go.

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  7. Stephen Harman

    Another approach is to get the Cokin filter system and an the attachment ring for each size lens and slide that on as you need filters.

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    • Anthony Thurston

      I am personally not really a fan of slide on filters, I prefer standard “screw on” filters. But, to each their own. :)

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  8. Shi Zheng

    Having a huge stack going from 58mm to 82mm for example gets annoying and finnicky after a while, I’d prefer just getting something like 58 to 82 step up ring for about $2 and get one for each size I need

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    • Anthony Thurston

      That is another alternative as well. I like to have the individual steps, acts almost like a lens hood.

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    • Messaoudi

      Totally agree!! Not to mention the Vignetting problem caused by such a stack ( ….and I speak from my own experience here)

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  9. John Lee

    As much as I like step up rings it becomes a real hassle when doing a headshot session and you find yourself not only swapping lenses but swapping filters as well
    They do help keep costs down but in some cases having more than one filter really comes in handy

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