How to Use Step-Up & Step-Down Rings for Screw-in Lens Filters

If you don't have a screw-in filter that's the right size for your lens, step-up and step-down rings work as size adapters.

Camera lenses come with different lens diameters at the front of the lens. Chances are, if you’ve got a couple of lenses in your camera bag, you’ll need a couple of different-sized screw-in filters to fit them.

Ideally, you’d have a set of perfectly sized filters for the diameter of each lens in your kit. But that’s not practical or cost-effective most of the time—good-quality filters aren’t cheap! Carrying three or four polarizer filters, for example, can be pricey and cumbersome.

So if you don’t have a specific filter size that you need for your lens’s diameter, a good option is to use a step-up filter. They’re also sometimes also called stepping rings or adapter rings. Not to be confused with lens adapters (or lens mount adapters), which let you put one type of lens mount on a camera body that has a different style of lens mount.

All step-up or step-down rings do is adapt the diameter of the filter to match the lens diameter. They don’t have any glass or electronics, so they have no bearing on the optical quality or features like autofocus.1

Things Worth Knowing About Step-Up & Step-Down Rings

  • Step-Up/Step-Down rings don’t work well with lens hoods, so you’ll likely have to do without the hood.
  • As with regular filters, don’t over-tighten them. If you do, there’s a good chance you’ll damage the lens’s thread. If they do get stuck, you can use a rubber band or filter wrench to undo them.
  • There’s no optical quality to the filters—there’s no glass in them—so I’ve never seen the need to get expensive ones. The one caveat to that is that I much prefer metal filters to plastic ones—they’re just more durable, especially the threads.
  • It is possible to stack these rings to get to a size that no single ring can do, but it increases the chance of vignetting. And it’s less than ideal to push the filter glass further away from the lens itself—it just increases the risk of optical issues from dust or smudges on the filter.

Where to Find Them

You can but them individually or in kits like this one.


  1. An exception to the optical quality is if you’re using a filter that’s smaller than the lens diameter, in which case there’s a strong chance you’ll get vignetting around the edges and corners of the frame.

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