Is a lens hood or CPL filter better for your camera?

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Should you choose a lens hood or CPL filter, and are there any differences between each type?

A lens hood and CPL filter are not the same and are designed for different purposes. Most photographers, especially those shooting outdoors, will have both a lens hood and a CPL filter in their camera bag.

Many photographers keep a lens hood on their camera at all times. Although a lens hood doesn’t offer the same level of protection as a UV filter, it can still protect the lens in cases where the camera gets dropped or knocked. A lens hood is mainly used to prevent stray light entering the camera from the sides. This helps to reduce lens flare.

Although some photographers claim that a lens hood can help to boost colour saturation and contrast, if you really want to make a difference to the colours in your photos, you should opt for a CPL filter instead.

A CPL filter cuts out polarised light from entering your camera. The filter works best when positioned at a 90-degree angle to the sun. Photographers use a CPL filter to darken colours to make objects appear more vivid and intense. Aside from increasing colour contrast and saturation, this filter banishes reflections and glare on non-metallic surfaces, or through glass. The filter also reduces atmospheric haze in far away subjects, thus boosting clarity.

Image—Sebastian Breuninger

Unlike a lens hood, photographers don’t tend to leave a CPL filter on at all times. It’s also worth noting that the filter alone can cut out around 2 stops of light. This means you’ll need to compensate for this when you put the CPL filter on your lens. Alternatively, you should remove it when the light level gets too low.

If you own a wide-angle lens, a CPL filter doesn’t work as effectively, as it lets in more than 90-degrees of light, giving an uneven colour distribution. Similarly, if you use a lens hood on a wide-angle lens, the hood tends to be shorter than normal, so it might not offer the same level of protection or flare prevention as longer types.

A lens hood and CPL filter can be used simultaneously, but not always. It depends on the design of your lens hood and how it mounts to the camera lens. If you have a petal-shaped hood, you should be able to easily reach the CPL filter to turn it. If you have a longer hood, look for one that has a slot or hole in it, so that you can reach to gain access to the CPL filter and rotate it accordingly.

Whether you choose a lens hood or CPL filter is pretty much down to how you use your camera and in what situations, but whether you use one or both of these, always purchase good quality products for durability and to enhance your images.

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