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Controlling the Light: Finding the Best Filters for Your Camcorder

written by: Shawn S. Lealos•edited by: William Springer•updated: 8/27/2011

When shooting videos on your camcorder, there are many options available to make the look of it the best you can. Filters can both protect your lens and improve the look of your video. Here are your options and what they will help you with.

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    Most videographers know you can’t just buy a video camera, take it out of the box and start shooting amazing footage. Sure, most video cameras will offer solid video for the amateurs trying to capture their memories, but there is a lot to learn about better quality cameras to help a person produce the best footage possible. Just learning how to adjust the light settings, the f-stop or even how to manually focus the camera will produce some great improvements on your video quality.

    Many high level camcorders offer a user interchangeable lenses and that is something that, while it can be rather expensive, can allow a videographer to achieve almost any look he is attempting. Another option with these camcorders is the opportunity to add filters to adjust the look and feel of your video. These filters can help you simply add a warmness to the video or change the look entirely. Here is a look at the best camcorder lens filters and the options they will allow you when shooting your next video.

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    UV Filters

    uv-filter The most important camcorder lens filter you need to invest in is a typical UV filter. Camera lenses are extremely expensive and certain camcorder lenses can run thousands of dollars. The UV filter is often referred to as a protection filter and that is simply because they protect your lens in a number of ways. First of all, its main job is to protect the camera from UV rays. However, the bigger advantage to using a UV filter is to protect the camera lens from dust, moisture, scratches and other damages that might occur when shooting. As I said earlier, a camera lens can cost thousands of dollars for more expensive cameras and normally over $100 for smaller generic cameras. However, a UV filter runs around $25 and that is well worth the investment to protect more expensive parts.

    Tiffen makes a variety of UV protection filters that run from $3.98 and up depending on camera. Nikon makes a series of screw-on filters for their cameras that cost from $30.00 up to $109 on Amazon as of August 2011. Canon also offers a variety for around the same price as the Nikon filters.

    Amazon.com offers UV Filters.

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    Polarizing Filters

    polarizing-filer The next filter to consider for your camcorder is the polarizing filter. Of all the filters to choose from for aesthetics, the polarizing filters are possibly the best camcorder lens filters you can choose from. A polarizing filter is what helps a photographer get a clear blue sky look in their photos when they take a picture, eliminating the haze that light waves cause. The same holds true for videographers. A polarizing filter helps eliminate the haze, cuts down on glare, eliminates much of the reflections from surfaces like water and glass and can help work as a ND filter in sunlight.

    When choosing a polarizing filter, there are many choices and the option for the buyer is what is more important, quality or price. Arguably, Hoya offers the best quality polarizing filters on the market in my mind. They are a bit pricier than other options, ranging from $30 to well over $100 at Amazon as of August 2011. However, Zeikos offers a solid budget polarizing filter for consumers, costing as low as $7.69 with some as much as $20 as of August 2011.

    Amazon.com offers Polarizing Filters.

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    Diffusion Filter

    diffusion-filter The diffusion filter is used to soften the look of what you are shooting, and this is an important option when shooting close-ups of faces. These filters can be used to create romantic video shoots by diffusing harsh light, while never lessening the contract and sharpness of the video. This filter also helps eliminate blemishes in video work and helps the subject stand out better from the background. Now, it is important to understand the filters before purchasing them because different brands use different diffusion techniques in their filters. The diffusion filters in many brands, such as Tiffen and Cokin have various levels of diffusion, some of which create a sunset gold color. The level of the filters normally determines how powerful the diffusion effect will be. You also want to be careful when using these filters because they can distort your background with certain models.

    Diffusion filters range anywhere from $99.95 for a Tiffen 72mm Diffusion filter to $11.95 for a cheaper Hoya 52mm filter.

    Amazon.com offers Diffusion Filters

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    Colored Filters

    color-filters Using colored filters can be fun when shooting video and can also be used to add certain effects to shots. If used straight up, a colored filter can help give you an “arty” look to your film. You can use a red filter to show a dangerous blood type scene and this is normally only used as an aesthetic choice. However, colored filters can be invaluable in another area of filmmaking and can be one of the best camcorder lens filters when shooting in black and white. Now, if you shoot in black and white, you might end up with a video that looks almost grayish if you are not careful. However, when using a red or yellow camcorder filter, a black and white video can look crisp and clean. Here is what you can expect from colored filters:

    • Yellow Filter: This will make anything that is yellow, red or orange appear lighter.
    • Red Filter: This is a striking addition and works great in black and white night shooting. Blues and greens are almost black while pinks and oranges are almost white.
    • Blue Filter: This is the opposite of the red filter and makes the blues and greens lighter and the reds and oranges lighter.

    Amazon.com offers colored filters.

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    Regardless of the lens filter you decide to get for your video camera, understand that it is only a tool. It can be added or removed until you get the exact look you are going for. These are used to help improve your video work and should never be used as a crutch. A lens, much like any other addition, is an artistic tool and it is up to you to decide which one will help make your video masterpiece look the best it can.

References

  • All photos from product pages on amazon.com
  • From author's personal experience.