Screw-on vs Slot-in ND Filters: Which Is For You?

One of the great advantages of digital photography is the ability to apply filters to photos – both in the camera and using software on a computer later. This makes carrying effects filters a thing of the past for most photographers in most situations. But if you want to shoot long exposure you will still find a use for the neutral density (ND) filter.

Sunset LE Example

You can start with one filter, but if you intend to regularly shoot long exposure you will want more. Before spending any money you will have to decide whether screw-on or slot-in filters work best for you


screw on ND

Screw-on filters are the most common type of filter and in many ways the easiest to use. They screw directly onto the camera’s lens. Among the advantages of using them are:


  • Screw-on filters are usually made of glass and metal. They are relatively durable and hard to scratch. They can stay on the lens when it is removed from the camera for storage.
  • Because they screw onto the lens there is no need for special brackets to hold the filter. The bracket is an additional cost for slot-in filters.

Everything has a downside, and screw-on filters are no exception. Here are a couple of them:


  • Each filter only fits one size lens, so you if you have different size lenses you have to buy a filter for each size lens you want to use the filter on.
  • If you buy multiple filters screw-on filters are more expensive, even if you add the cost of the mount for slot-in filters.

Slot-in Filters

slot-in ND

Slot-in filters are different than screw-on. They don’t have threads and generally won’t stay on the lens when it’s off the camera or the camera is in a bag. They do have some advantages over screw-on lenses, though:


  • Slot-in filters mount to the outside of the lens and are compatible with multiple lens sizes, so one filter can be used for most of your lenses except telephoto and other specialty lenses.
  • Most mounts have slots for three filters so effects can be combined. If you don’t have the correct ND filter you can combine filters that create the density you want.
  • The filter can be moved in the mount so the filter effect is where you want it on the photo. For example, when shooting a scene with high contrast, such as at dawn or dusk, a graduated ND filter can be moved up or down so the bright and dark areas blend together smoothly.
  • Once you have the holder, slot-in filters are usually cheaper than similar screw-on filters.


  • They are usually made of acrylic or plastic, and more prone to scratching than glass screw-on filters
  • Without the mounting bracket slot-in filters are difficult or even impossible to use.
  • They are slower than screw-on filters. The holder has to be fastened on, the filters put in the slots and adjusted for the shot, which takes time.

Neutral density filters help create exciting long exposure photographs. Whether you choose to use screw-on filters or slot-in, you will find them an exciting addition to your photographic toolkit.

About the author:


Kevin Choi is a freelance photographer who has a love for landscape and wildlife, the founder of CaptureTheMoment, and has been carrying Nikon with him since 2008. He never stop dreaming, so as you would too. You can find him on:





1 reply
  1. Gary
    Gary says:

    Hallo Kevin! Love your article on ND Filters, got the screw-on variety but your comment that it is prone to scratches is indeed true. Just loving landscape photography after a “crash workshop” near my place here in the Philippines. Thank you very much.
    Do check my shots if you have time.


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