As a first time digital SLR camera buyer, I am wondering what filters I will need for my Nikon D5000 with the AF-S 18-55mm VR and 70-300mm GED VR lenses. When I had a 35mm SLR, I owned several types of filters, but sold all that long ago. Are filters still necessary in digital photography and do I need the expensive multi-layer coated filters? L.W.
The only filter that I use is the circular polarizer-an indispensable accessory for outdoor photography, with several benefits. This accessory can deepen the color of a blue sky, wipe glare from reflective surfaces (except unpainted metal) to allow the true colors to show through and reduce the effects of atmospheric haze so the subject will appear more sharply defined. Rotate the polarizer in its mount while viewing the scene through the viewfinder, or on the LCD screen in Live View. If it does not seem to have much effect, change your shooting position; you’ll get the greatest benefit when the sun is to your side.
Some photographers use UV filters on their lenses to protect the front element. That’s certainly useful when shooting in rain or in areas with salt water spray, but a lens hood should provide adequate protection in other circumstances. Others disagree, citing examples where a filter saved the front element of an expensive lens from scratches. They’re right of course, but if you decide to follow their advice, be sure to remove the filter in strong side or backlighting; that will minimized the risk of contrast-degrading flare.
Landscape photographers often use a graduated neutral density filter (with a clear half and a grey half) that makes it easy to darken a very bright sky when taking a photo. Warming and cooling filters are not necessary in digital photography, because you can achieve the desired effect with the camera’s white balance system or with image editing software. But regardless of the filters you buy, insist on superior multi-layer (anti-reflective) coatings for maximum light transmission and for minimizing flare. Serious shooters often use digitally optimized filters from B+W and Heliopan but if your budget is tight, check out Hoya S-HMC or Pro-1D series and the Sigma DG series instead.