Removing Stuck Filter - Sandra McDowell Photography

Removing a stuck screw mounted filter with rotating front elements.

Variable ND Filter

Ultraslim Circular Polarising Filter

Twice this has  happened to me now.  The first time with my variable ND filter and soon after with my circular polarising filter.  The main problem being the front elements of these filters rotate with the mounting ring being ultra-slim making them difficult to grasp.  

The first time was extraordinarily frustrating.  I was on holiday with 2 days remaining  and was limited to taking photos with my 40-150mm as i had  the variable ND filter stuck to my 12-40mm lens.  Certainly not ideal for the lovely vistas I had hoped to capture.  Returning home I had a stop over in London and the friendly team at the London Camera Exchange soon had the filter off. I didn't see what magic they performed.  They did give some advice in relation to using variable filters . . always rotate in the opposite direction of the mounting threads.  This way you might avoid inadvertently tightening the filter.

Second time was with the same lens but a circular polarising filter.  This wasn't as frustrating as I tend to shoot landscapes, however I knew I couldn't keep it on indefinitely.   I also don't have access to a local camera store to help and tend to use good old google and YouTube to find solutions.


Removal Tactics Trialed

Disclaimer : You try these at your own peril. I'm not a professional camera repairer and am simply recording what I tried on my own equipment and don't wish to be held responsible for any damage to equipment belonging to anyone else.


1. Filter Wrench

Filter Wrench YouTube Clip

After my first experience of a stuck filter, I invested in some filter wrenches.  However I just couldn't seem to master the art of these tools and my filter remained firmly in place.


2. Extreme Cold

Freeze it. YouTube Clip

I once had to remove a tripod head stuck onto a pre-loved tripod I had bought. The only method to work for me was placing the tripod head into the freezer.  Therefore I was sure this was the solution and tried this next.  I put the lens in a freezer bag and placed in the freezer, but to no avail . . the filter didn't budge.


3.  The Jar Trick

Elastic Band YouTube Clip (scan forward to 01:40)

This looked like the next obvious answer. However I have to admit I only had skinny bands and didn't try it with a thicker band.  The learning here is perhaps the importance of the band thickness.  I think the band needs to be thick to stop the rotating front elements from moving.  I will invest in a thick band and put it in my kit bag as I'm thinking this one might just be the best solution in the field.


4. Cable ties

Cable Tie Only YouTube Clip

Cable Tie & Elastic Band YouTube Clip

I had a similar problem to using the thinner elastic bands, I had difficulty in getting the cable around the vary narrow rim.


5. Duct Tape

Duct Tape Method YouTube Clip

I liked the duct tape as it bound the rotating elements to the inner ring.  I also liked the idea of keeping the lens cap on to give extra grip as well. However when I applied pressure I found the duct tape rotated.


Success! Combination of 4 and 5.

Taking the lead from the combination of the cable tie and the elastic band, I thought I would try a combination of the duct tape and the cable ties.  After 2 months, at last,  I had released it.  Another lesson, don't keep filters on the lens permanently, only attach when the situation arises.

Duct Tape and Cable Tie

Tape binds filter and lens cap and cable tie grips to filter rim.

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