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A good quality filter need cost no more than  ten pounds yet it could easily save you several hundred pounds in repair bills, and it might even improve the look of your video movies. If you've got a camcorder fit a filter, if you know what's good for you...



Filters are amongst the most underestimated and under-used camcorder accessories. They're the first line of defence for the camcorder's lens, against dirt, dust and scratches; the cost of  a replacement lens assembly and labour charges can easily run into hundreds of pounds! Filters can do more to change the quality and appearance of a video movie than almost any other gadget, some of them can create the kind of special effects that would otherwise be impossible this side of a fifty-thousand pound computer system.


There are few, if any, technical differences between the filters originally developed for still cameras, and those now aimed at the camcorder market, which means -- in theory --  there are several hundred different types available. In practice only a handful are used in video movie-making, though there's nothing to stop anyone experimenting with the more exotic ones. There are a number of mechanical considerations to take into account. The first and most important one is the diameter of the screw thread on your front of the camcorder's lens barrel. The seven most common sizes are: 27, 37, 43, 46, 49, 52 and 55mm. 27. 43 and 55mm sizes are less widely used these days, though 27mm is apparently making a comeback, thanks to Canon's UC series of palmcorders. However,  the bottom line is that there are filters and adaptor rings to fit just about every camcorder ever made.


Older camcorders, with front-focusing lenses, where the whole lens barrel rotates, may have difficulties with some types of photographic filter,  where the effect change as the filter turns. Some types of filter can can interfere with the working of TTL (through the lens) autofocus, white balance, and even exposure systems though on  camcorders with manual overrides it needn't be a problem.


The three most popular filters for camcorders are ND (neutral density), Skylight and UV (ultra-violet), they're also the most useful as they can be left on all the time, to protect the lens. Neutral density or grey filters are used to reduce the amount of light entering the lens, to control exposure, and decrease depth of field.  These filters are rated by their light blocking factor, i.e. x2, x4 and x6.  Skylight filters are used to reduce haze and the amount of blue in the picture. This improves colour balance on brightly-lit outdoor scenes, and gives the picture a slightly warmer feel; the two strengths reccommended for camcorder use are 1A and 1B. Ultra violet filters also reduce haze but they have no significant effect on colour rendition. 


Other types of filter worth investigating are: polarising and special effects filters. Polarising filters are useful because they can help to eliminate annoying reflections from shiny surfaces (water, windows etc); it's best to use circular-polarising filters on camcorders, especially those with rotating front-focus lenses. Of the multitude of special effects filters the most interesting ones are the classic cross-screen, which pinpoints spots of light with multi-pointed stars; diffraction filters, like cross-screen filters but the starbursts are in vivid colour; multiple-image filters, which create a kaleidoscope effect of repeated images; and diffuser or soft-focus filters which make all or part of the picture look misty or fuzzy.


The quality of filters varies somewhat but it's clear from the prices that you get what you pay for.  There's not a lot of point in paying over the odds for ordinary camcorder filters, the UV, ND and Skylight filters we've seen are generally well made and adequate for normal machines; owners of high-band equipment may feels it's worth spending a little extra, though. Several accessory companies market camcorder filter sets, though according to some dealers we've spoken to they're not very popular and there are fewer of them of late; it seems video movie-makers prefer to make their own selection. 


We simply haven't the space to list every size and type of filter on the market, so here's a brief summary of what's available, together with representitive prices from a broad selection of the major accessory companies marketing filters suitable for camcorders:




High quality optical glass filters from Japan. Aico cover all of the popular sizes, with the exception of 43mm, though they do include the very rarely used 58mm size in their camcorder range. They have UV, skylight, circular polariser,  ND (x4) plus 4 and 6-point cross-screen  filters in all sizes; 8-point cross screen, and 3, 5 and 6-face multi-image filters are not available with 27mm threads. Prices for UV and ND filters start at 5.00, rising to 30 for the more elaborate effects filters.


AICO INTERNATIONAL  Aico House, Faraday Rd, London Road Ind Est,             

Newbury, Berks RG13 2AD. Telephone (0635) 49797




CZ market a wide range of quality Japanese glass filters both under their own name, and the  Regent brand. They have ND and skylight filters to fit most camcorders (no 43mm ND).  Polariser , UV and effects filters less than 46mm are very thin on the ground, so there's little to interest palmcorder owners. Prices are generally quite reasonable, with a 43mm skylight filter costing as little as 3.86, a Regent 46mm circular polariser sells for just over 15.


CZ SCIENTIFIC INSTRUMENTS PO Box 43, 1 Elstree Way, Borehamwood

Herts WD6 1NH. Telephone 081-953 9456




Many of Hama's extensive range of filters feature 'high-transmission multicoating' or HTMC, which involves four separate coatings on each side of the glass, to improve image sharpness, contrast and saturation, as a result they're a wee bit more expensive but that could be money well spent, especially if you're using high-band equipment. As an example a 46mm ND filter costs around 9.39, the same size polariser is 18.99. Incidentally, Hama's filter catalogue is well worth having as it contains plenty of useful advice, hints and tips.


HAMA Unit 4 Cherrywood,  Chineham Business Park, Basingstoke,  Hants RG24 OWF Telephone (0256) 708110.




Introphoto market the well-known Hoya brand of filters and like Hama many of their products have multiple coatings, to reduce flare, ghosting and improve colour balance. Their skylight, ND and UV filters cover all of the most common thread sizes, but their special effects filters mostly start at 46mm and above. Prices are very reasonable, consideriong  the higher than average quality. Their  46mm skylight is priced at 7.17, a ND filter (same size ) sells for 9.87 and a circular polariser costs 19.62. Another well-produced catalogue, full of useful information


INTROPHOTO Priors Way,  Maidenhead, Berks SL6 2HR.

Telephone (0628) 74411.




As usual Jessops have all the popular sizes and types covered, though they've nothing to speak of with a 43mm thread, and no 27mm ND or UV filters, though there is a skylight 1A and circular polariser. Prices are very competitive with a 46mm UV filter costing just 3.49, and a circular polariser for under 10 .


JESSOPS Jessops House, Scudamore Road, Leicester LE3 1TZ

Telephone (0533) 320033





Cokin are one of the best known manufacturers of photographic filters, and now they're making a name for themselves in the video field. In addition to their very extensive range of individual filters with 37 and 46mm threads, Cokin have put together a number of kits, specifically for video applications.  There's two types, the first based on their  A-type holder, (originally designed for SLR cameras) there's twelve kits in total, each containing four filters, geared towards a specific task or subject. They include portraits, still life, wildlife, architecture, mountains and snow, and  fashion. The second type comprises threaded filters. Cokin filters can be pricey, but not as expensive as you might think; for example a 37mm UV filter costs 7. 99, a camcorder kit containing 46mm UV, ND and polariser filter is actually quite good value at 27.99.


JOHNSONS PHOTOPIA  Johnsons of Hendon Ltd, Hempstalls Lane, Newcastle,

Staffordshire ST5 OSW. Telephone (0782) 717100





An unassuming range of filters and kits, covering most popular thread sizes, though the 43mm selection is a little sparse. Variable quality but good value, including a kit containing a skylight, ND, soft spot, starburst and colourburst filters for 16.50. Other examples are a 46mm ND filter for 3.65, and a circular polariser for 11.30.


SRB FILM SERVICE, 286 Leagrave Road, Luton, Beds LU3 1RB

Telephone (0582) 572471




Vanguard have UV, skylight and filter kits for 37, 46, 49 and 52mm thread fittings.

The kits contain UV, polariser and diffuser filters, plus a 37mm step ring. Prices are

low with their  46mm skylight filter priced at around 3.50, and the three filter kit (46mm) selling for just under 20.



GUARDFORCE  Unit 13 Thame business Centre, Wenman Road, Thame,

Oxon OX9 3XA. Telephone (0844) 213667




Vivanco have put together a useful, rather than extensive range of camcorder filters, concentrating on the most popular types and sizes, including the elusive 43mm fitting. The range also features  high-performance multi-coated types, which are aimed primarily at high-band users. Prices are a tad above average but they're of the highest quality, and very well packaged. A 46mm UV or skylight  starts at 9.99, rising to 13.99 for the multi-coated versions; a circular polariser will set you back 27.99, the same sized multi-coated variant is 41.99.


VIVANCO Unit C, ATA House, Boundary  Way, Hemel Hempstead HP2 7SS

Telephone (0442) 231616




R.Maybury 1993 2505













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