Everything You Need to Know About Canon Drop-In Filters

I’ve written extensively in the past about screw-on and rectangular filters for camera lenses, but Canon’s super telephoto lenses have a front element that is simply too large to be used effectively with either of those two filter types. Instead, theses lenses feature a drop-in filter slot that sits behind the rearmost glass element. These are not to be confused with the gelatin filter slots found on the Canon 8-15 f/4 L fisheye, the Canon 11-24mm f/4 L, Canon 17-40 f/4 L and the Canon 14mm f/2.8 L II. Gelatin slots on those wide-angle lenses use pre-cut gelatin sheets that are extremely thin, whereas the drop-in filters for the super telephoto lenses use proper glasses filters.

The term “super telephoto” doesn’t have a specific focal length definition, so for clarity, these are the current Canon lenses that have a drop-in slot:

To my knowledge, all previous iterations of these same lenses also had drop-in slots on them. Smaller Canon telephoto lenses such as the Canon 300mm f/4 L IS, the Canon 400mm f/5.6 L, and the Canon 100-400 f/4.5-5.6 L IS II have a 77mm front thread on them which makes them easily compatible with standard screw-on filters.

Canon Drop-In Filter Types

There are three types of Canon drop-in filter.

Canon Drop-In Filter with gelatin holder

Until the launch of the Mark III super telephoto lenses, every Canon lens with a drop-in slot came with this pre-installed. Simply pinch the two filter buttons towards the centre of the lens and pull upwards to release it.

It is fitted with a clear piece of plastic that serves as a first line of defence against large dirt and dust particles entering the rear of the lens when there is no rear cap fitted. When you remove this filter, it’s a good idea to do it very gently so that you any dirt that has collected on it doesn’t get dumped into the lens elements!

It flips open so that you can clamp the gelatin into it.

Whilst I have personally never seen or heard of anyone actually doing it, you could use gelatin filters in this holder. Wratten filters can be purchased in larger sheets of various densities, and then cut down to the correct size. Generally speaking, these kinds of filters impart much more of a colour cast than a glass ND filter, and they can have more of an effect of image sharpness as well. For this reason, most don’t bother, and simply go on to use the 52mm drop-in adapter.

For this reason, starting with the Canon 400mm f/2.8 L IS III and 600mm f/4 L IS III, Canon stopped including the 52mm gelatin holder with the lenses, and instead began including the drop-in 52mm adapter which we will talk about next.

Canon Drop-In 52mm Adapter

This drop-in filter initially comes fitted with a clear glass 52mm filter. The clear filter can be unscrewed and then you can fit other kinds of 52mm filter in its place. The most commonly used filter is an ND filter, although anything that’s available with a 52mm thread size would work, if the diameter of the filter housing is small enough – see below note!

IMPORTANT: 52mm Filter Sizing

Unfortunately Canon haven’t made things that easy when it comes to finding compatible 52mm filters for these holders. I have been unable to get specific official size requirements from Canon, despite multiple attempts with various technical people, so some of this is a bit of guess work and my own measurements. Chime in using the comments if you have info to share!

There are two dimensions that are important to finding a compatible 52mm filter, other than the 52mm thread sizing of course!

  • The height of the filter (not including the height of the thread)
  • The diameter of the filter

Most people think of the diameter of the filter as being the quoted filter size, i.e. 52mm in this case, but this refers to the thread diameter. The actual filter diameter is a little wider than that. If it’s too wide, it’ll fit in to the filter holder, but you won’t be able to get the holder back into the lens. This will be the most common issue when trying to find a compatible filter.

The biggest clue we have as to the maximum size of filter that actually works, is the protective glass filter that comes with the 52mm filter holder in the first place. Obviously if you can find a filter that is the same width as that Canon one, or smaller, then it will fit. By my measurement the included Canon protective glass filter is 54mm wide.

To be safe, you need to find a filter that is 54mm wide or less. Unfortunately, this isn’t always a measurement that is available in filter specifications as most people simply quote the filter diameter.

In terms of filter height, this shouldn’t be much of a problem. The Canon clear glass protective filter appears to be about 5mm in thickness above the thread, and it’s easy to find filters that come below that measurement. From careful inspection, I actually think a filter that is up to about 7mm in thickness should work, but as I said above, it’s the diameter that’s going to prove more challenging.

Filters that are known NOT to work (without modification):

  • I really love the Breakthrough Photography filters as they are extremely colour neutral. Unfortunately one of their other features is a brass knurling around the filter to help grip them tightly to get them on and off the lens. This knurling is quite chunky and it means you cannot use the Breakthrough Photography ND filters in the Canon 52mm Drop-In Adapter.
  • I have also tested the B&W Slim 103M series ND filters and these are also too wide to fit into the lens.
  • I have also tested the Formatt-Hitech 52mm Superslim ND 0.9 – It is much closer to fitting than the others that I have tried, but alas, this is also too wide. If you want to go down the route of filing the edges of the filter to make it fit, this one would take the least amount of filing. I would estimate that it is perhaps less than 1mm too wide to fit.
  • Benro SHD IR-cut ULCA WMC ND8 filter (SKU: SHDND852) was tested by reader Kai Harrekilde (thanks!) and confirmed not to fit.

Filters that are known to work:

  • A comment at the bottom of this post from Victor Abyad confirms that the B&W F-Pro ND Filters work. I have not yet confirmed myself but Victor was kind enough to send photos of the filters installed in his filter holder for confirmation. Unfortunately, these filters seem to have been discontinued, though you may have some luck finding them in local photo stores. I believe they have been replaced by the filter mentioned below.
  • B+W Filter MASTER 803 ND Pro 0.9 +3′ MRC nano – This filter is confirmed to fit by Kai Harrekilde, and is currently available though major online retailers like B&H Photo. This is the current best option for Canon drop-in-filters.

More Reader Notes from Kai Harrekilde:

I just received a screw drop-in filter holder, and took my calipers to it judge if I could make the Benro filter fit like (commentor) ‘Basis’ mentioned.

The diameter of the screw-in holder is 53.8mm, and the inside diameter of my EF 300mm f/2.8L II USM is 54.05mm – so your advice about the 54mm is spot on. The ring on the filter I got (Benro SHD IR-cut ULCA WMC ND8) is 55mm in diameter. I’ll be returning it shortly, and have ordered the B+W ND0.9 MRC Nano Master today (this appears to be the successor of the B+W F-Pro ND filter mentioned by Victor Abyad in the comment section).

I noticed ‘Basis’ commenting (here) that filing down 3 bumps on each side, which was enough to make an ND filter from ‘Breakthrough’ fit. This will be a bit touch-and-go for some filters, as the slot is circular inside the lens. I measured the depth from the upper side to the bottom, and with the Benro filter (27.5mm diameter) it’s around 0.5mm too tall to fit (all the way around the edge). Admittedly, I did not take a file to the filter even though it’s a fairly inexpensive one, to test this.

PS: It seems that the screw-in filter adapter has gone into backorder at least all over Europe (where I am). This makes me suspect that Canon will be phasing out all drop-in filters going forward (read: RF lenses). As the RF 400/800 and RF 600/1200 lenses are really EF lenses with welded-on RF adapters and 2x TC’s, keeping the drop-in filter slot made sense. But the newly released RF 100-300 and the rumors of the RF 200-500 does not have the drop-in slot. (well spotted, Kai!)

PPS: I’m using the 3-stop ND filter for motorcycle racing photography when shooting under full daylight as I want to keep the shutter down to around 1/160sec (to get sense of speed in the wheel and surroundings) and a fairly low aperture (e.g. f/5.6-f/8) with an ISO 100.

Best regards from Denmark,

Update: I received the ‘B+W Filter MASTER 803 ND Pro 0.9 +3′ MRC nano’ (yes, it says all that on the package) and it *fits*. 53.96mm diameter and 5.77mm thickness (including the thread).

Do you have a 52mm filter that actually fits into the holder and into the lens? 

Please leave a comment below so that other people can be helped in this quest! Unfortunately the model of filter that I first found to fit, is no longer being manufactured so I’m trying to source a new filter that I can recommend to people for this purpose.

Why use an ND filter in such a long telephoto lens?

With wide-angle lenses, ND filters are typically used to blur the motion of water or clouds in landscape images, and sometimes to enable you to use a very wide aperture in the mid day sun for portraiture. You might consider using an ND filter in a super telephoto lens for one of these reasons too, especially for portraiture with the 200mm f/2, but there are other reasons that are maybe more likely with such long focal lengths. Sometimes you might want to capture a slow shutter speed for a panning shot whilst photographing sports, and this would typically mean stopping the lens down to f/32 to get the slowest shutter, perhaps something like 1/30 of a second for panning with a fast car. Lenses suffer from diffraction at smaller apertures though, so they are sharper when used at something closer to f/8. By using an ND filter, such as a 6-stop ND in the 53mm drop=in holder, you can achieve the same slow shutter, but at a wider aperture. If you nail your panning motion for a perfectly sharp subject, you’ll be using the lens at its peak point of performance. Now, I’ll admit this this is only a small improvement, and it’s very hard to do with such slow pans anyway, but it is potentially a reason why you might want to shoot at a wider aperture with the ND.

52mm thread

The second reason you might want to do that is to prevent a multitude of dust spots from appearing on your image. As you stop the lens down towards f/32, every little tiny spec of dust will suddenly become visible in your image. If you’re shooting sports or events for a wire service, where time is of the essence, you don’t want to have to try and clean a ton of tiny specs from your image during the edit! Seriously, this can make a MASSIVE difference to your workflow if you’re trying out some slow shutter pans at an event. Camera’s have gotten a lot better at self-cleaning their sensors, but at f/32, no matter how much care you take of your equipment, you’re going to have little black spots all over your image. With a wider aperture, caused by using the ND filter, these won’t be visible.

The third reason you might use ND filters on your long lens if for shooting video. When shooting video, the optimal shutter speed is usually that which is twice the frame rate you are shooting in – sometimes called 180 degree shutter angle. This produces video that looks smooth and filmic, instead of being too jittery and “digital” looking. If you’re shooting video at 30fps, this means a 1/60 second shutter speed, but that’s quite slow for a bright sunny day and it would be hard to achieve unless you cut some light out by using an ND filter. For filmmakers, an ND filter allows them to maintain a nice wide aperture, but also get down to these slow shutter speeds.

I doubt it’s worth carrying around a lot of different densities of 52mm ND filters, I find that a single 6-stop ND filter is pretty much perfect for me for this kind of usage. I leave it in the filter holder and that means it’s ready at a moment’s notice. The filter thread on the 52mm drop-in holder is plastic, fiddly and easy to cross thread, so that’s another good reason to just pick one density of ND filter and install it forever. If I was constantly screwing different filter densities in and out, I’d definitely be worried about the thread’s longevity.

I like to use the Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 6-stop ND filters because they are extremely colour neutral, and a very reasonable price. You can use the coupon code ShutterMuse10 to get a 10% discount on all Formatt-Hitech filters purchased from either their US or international store.

Canon Drop-In Circular Polarizer

Drop-in circular polarizer

Circular polarizing filters are useful for cutting down reflections from water and foliage. The Canon drop-in polarizer has a small protruding wheel on it so that you can adjust the polarization effect when the filter is in place within the lens. In terms of super telephoto lens subjects, it would be unusual to try and use a circular polarizer for sports photography because the 2-stop light loss caused by the filter is often a problem in terms of getting a fast enough shutter speed. A polarizing filter can be very useful in wildlife photography though, especially when you subject has shiny skin/fur, or is often wet and living around water – an alligator, for example. At the extremities of the day when light is low, you do have to be wary of the light loss but when used correctly it can make a huge difference to your image, and is an effect that can’t be replicated in post processing software. I often find it to be useful when you’re forced into photographing wildlife in less-then-optimal lighting conditions with the sun high in the sky.

For this image I used the drop-in polarizer on my 400mm lens to remove a lot of the reflections on the water and really bring out the wonderful blues in the ocean.

Personally I’m a huge fan of mountain landscapes shot with a long focal length, I just can’t get enough of the compression effect and wonderful layers you can create. A polarizing filter can really help to cut down on haze in these kinds of shots, and it also removes the shine from wet rocks, and boost the blues in the sky. I love using mine with my 400mm f/4 DO IS II!

Mark I vs Mark II vs Mark III Drop-In Filters

When I was doing my own initial research to buy my drop-in filters I discovered that some are labelled with a Mark “I” designation, and some have a “II”. Later, along with the introduction of the new Mark III super telephoto lenses, Canon also quietly launched Mark III drop-in filters.

The only difference between the three types is the colour of the paint. When Canon introduced the the first of the Mark II IS super telephoto lenses (the 300mm f/2.8 L IS II and 400mm f/2.8 L IS II) they subtly changed the famous off-white colour of the lenses to be even more white, and less beige. The Mark II drop-in filters match the colour on all the newer lenses from that point onwards. For the Mark III super telephoto lenses there was another subtle colour shift in the lens paint, so we get new drop-in filters again.

As I said, there’s no functional difference, though, so if you can find a bargain on an older Mark I version or Mark II and don’t mind that it’s s slightly different colour to your lens, you can still use it. Below is the current super telephoto lenses matched to their correctly coloured filters.

W(I) Filters

W(II) Filters (Find at B&H)

W(III) Filters (Find at B&H)

Canon Drop-In Filter Case Options

The Canon drop-in filters ship in a circular, plastic protective case. It offers considerable protection, but it’s incredibly bulky and you certainly won’t want to carry them around if you have more than one drop-in filter. To my knowledge, nobody is making a dedicated third-party carrying case for Canon drop-in filters, but the MindShift Gear Filter Nest Mini ($24.99) is is a near perfect solution. The Filter Nest Mini has slots for four regular filters, but it will comfortably hold three drop-in filters, as well as one additional 52mm ND filter that you may wish to carry for your 52mm drop-in filter adapter. I’d guess that for most people, only two of the slots will get used: One for a drop-in polarizer and one for the drop-in 52mm adapter, and of course you can store the standard drop-in clear filter holder in there whilst one of the other two specialized filters is being used.

MindShift Gear Filter Nest Mini

The Filter Nest Mini is well padded, and the grab-handle is useful for clipping to some kind of tether in your bag so that you never leave your expensive filters behind when bags are being packed in a hurry. Perhaps I’m paranoid, but I always try and attach these kinds of small filter bags to my main bag in some fashion.

Note: MindShift Gear are good friends of mine, and if you spend more than $50 on their online store after clicking through one of my links, like this one, you’ll be able to select a free gift at the checkout point, such as the excellent House of Cards memory card wallet. I know the Filter Nest Mini doesn’t tip you over that $50 point, so perhaps consider adding a Filter Hive Mini to your order for your square filters, or even the full-sized Filter Hive.

The thing that makes the Filter Nest Mini the perfect option for this purpose, is the generous, and elasticated width of the filter slots in the case. There are lots of other filter cases out there with a similar form factor, but they generally won’t accept such thick filters in each slot.

Original Canon filter holder is too bulky!

Drop-In Filters for Other Brands

In case you were wondering, Canon aren’t alone in offering these kinds of filters for super telephoto lenses. Nikon also make a drop-in circular polarizer, much like the Canon one, but their lenses actually come with their version of the 52mm drop-in filter pre installed (Canon started doing this from the Mark III lenses onwards), and if you want the Nikon gelatin holder then that is an additional (and tough to find) purchase. You’ll also find a drop-in circular polarizer for the Sigma and Sony super telephoto lenses (it exists, but it’s hard to find).

There are no third-party drop-in filters for Canon lenses, so you’ll have to buy Canon’s ones if you want them.

Which Ones Should you Buy?

If you’re a wildlife photographer then I think the drop-in polarizer is a worthwhile investment. It’s not cheap, but it’s not hugely more expensive than most normal polarizers, and you are putting it in a lens that costs many thousands of dollars. I’ll admit that I don’t use mine that often, but when I do use it I’m always grateful to have it because, like I said before, there’s really no way to simulate its effects in post processing. A polarizer can completely transform the look of a subject such as a fur-covered mammal that has been out in the rain, or it can remove distracting water reflections around water fowl. If you are working in good light, it’s a great addition to your toolbox.

Where to Buy + a Warning!

These are a pretty niche item so not everyone has a good stock of them. I’ve also seen them mislabelled on many online stores, and even Canon’s own website actually uses the wrong image for one of them on its product page, which I think might be the source of much of the online confusion. They are very similar looking!! People seem to get particularly confused between the 52mm threaded holder and the gelatin holder. Here are the correct B&H links:

Photo of author
Professional photographer based in Yukon, Canada, and founder of Shutter Muse. His editorial work has been featured in publications all over the world, and his commercial clients include brands such as Nike, Apple, Adobe and Red Bull.

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74 thoughts on “Everything You Need to Know About Canon Drop-In Filters”

  1. Hi Dan – Do you find that all 52mm filters fit? It seems that one of my ND1000 filters is too thick and won’t insert in to the camera. I have some other filters on the way to test out, but I wonder what percentage of them will fit?

    • I have not experienced this issue myself, but I have had someone else comment to me about this. I did look for an exact specification but so far haven’t found one. I would say “most” should fit. Just get one this is designated as “thin” – ie it doesn’t have a thread on the front of it so you can’t stack it (but that doesn’t matter with these anyway).

  2. Nice article, Dan. Thanks. It is a bit difficult finding this information in a believable format. I wanted to mention another area that the ND/CP drop-in filters are important on the supertelephoto lenses. That is for video. Most often a shutter speed is going to be around 1/60 sec when shooting video. If shooting something on a very bright day, you will be faced with too much light, even with one of these long lenses. That is the primary reason I picked up a CP and ND filters for my 500.

    • Ah yes! That’s an excellent point. I’m not sure how I forgot to mention that people like to have 180 degree shutter angle. I will make an amendment at some point.

  3. Hi Dan. I purchased a Breakthrough Technology “ultra thin” ND filter and it is too big for my Canon 300mm IS II lens. It is only 3.6mm thick.
    I wrote to Formatt-hitech asking if they had a filter that would work. They said No. I contacted B&H awhile ago and they couldn’t say any filters specifically work. Everyone says “they all SHOULD work”. But if a 3.6mm thick filter doesn’t fit, why would the others when they are thicker?
    Am I looking at the wrong dimension? I don’t want to play the “buy & return” game because then I’m just guessing at what will work. The Formatt-hitech Firecrest you say you use is stackable. Therefore, it has a front thread. Yet you say later to look for filters without front threads. I’m very confused.

    • Hi Dee,

      Unfortunately it seems the model of filter I used is no longer available. They actually used to make one without a front thread, but no more. Anyway, that’s actually not the dimension that is causing you problems! If you look closely as you try and put the holder back in your lens, you’ll see that the filter is actually too wide, not too tall. As far as I can tell, a filter can actually be up to about 6 or 7mm thick and still work, but it can’t be more then 54mm in width on the top.

      If you get the original Canon protective filter that came with the holder you’ll see that it is thicker than your Breakthrough filter, but the Canon one is not as wide. That is the dimension that’s causing an issue. I have updated this post to include this information, but at this time I’m afraid I can’t help with a solution. I’ll continue to dig.. if you find one that is available and works, please come back and let me know here in the comments! Otherwise it might be a case of buying a bunch from Amazon or B&H and testing them all. They all have simple return policies and if you do the return quickly it’s basically free.

      • Also, just to confirm, I asked Formatt Hitech to send me the 52mm Firecrest filter and I can confirm that it doesn’t fit. It’s VERY close, but it’s a no go.

        I’m still working to try and find a solution… beginning to wonder whether filing the edges of the Hitech one would be the answer. It’s VERY close to fitting.

  4. Hi Dan,
    I’m close to 80 years young and using an old (very old) Canon FD 300mm f4L with a drop in filter, the “1x”. If I was to cover to opening the filter fits into is there any reason to use the 1x at all? Aren’t I just introducing another piece of glass for no reason?

    • The lens is designed and calibrated with that glass, so you should definitely leave it in there! It also acts as a barrier for dust and dirt that falls into the lens. It’s easy to pull the filter and clean it, but if it wasn’t there then the dust and dirt would find its way much deeper into your lens and potentially between more important elements.

  5. I found this article after I failed to insert a Breakthrough ND filter into my 400mm lens. I filed down 3 bumps from each side of the filter ring, which are culprits for the issue. They always stay at the same place when the filter is tightened, so that the entire ring doesn’t need to be filed. It’s also good that the filter is only a little larger sideways. I hope that we can make a bigger noise so the manufacturers will fix this issue in the future.

  6. Hello and thank you! This may sound like a silly question, but I have an old Canon 300mm f/2.8 IS and I can not remove the gelatin filter from the filter holder. All the screwdrivers I have, do not work, even though the size is adequate. Am I failing at something?

      • The optics of the lens are designed to include a filter at that position in the lens barrel. I suspect that if you simply removed the glass filter it would actually mess with the design and make your images softer. The filter is also there to catch large pieces of dirt and dust and stop them entering the more fragile and difficult to clean parts of the lens interior. You definitely do not want to shoot without a filter there!

    • I also have the older model Canon 300mm f/2.8 L IS and am wondering if the Canon Screw In filter holder for the new series II lens is compatible with the older model lens. It is not listed as compatible, but that isn’t surprising. If anyone has had experience with this I’d love to hear about it. Thankyou

      • If I had to guess, I would say that is is compatible. I used to own that same lens, and I don’t remember the drop-in filters being any different. However, I can’t make a guarantee. My advice would be to buy from someone with a simple return policy, like B&H photo. If you do that and test it, come back and let me know!

  7. I just purchased a 1997 canon 300, f2.8, non is lens from japan, and it came with a polarizer drop in filter. Do you know of a compatible uv filer I could use?

    • Di you mean that it came with the polarizer in the lens, and no other filers? Or do you mean that you have the standard drop in filter in the lens, and you also got an additional drop-in polarizer?

  8. I wish there was a way to install a variable ND filter into the C-PL drop in so that the little wheel would rotate the ND filter. That would make me a very happy camper!

  9. Hello, did you find that the default Gelatin filter that comes with the mark II lenses a little difficult to clean? I used a lens tissue and cleaning fluid and they seem to have left cleaning stains easily. Is it made of plastic?

    • Personally I have never done a “wet clean” with mine. In other words I just used a cloth, and had no problems with that. I’m guessing that the cleaning solution has damaged the filter in some way. Gelatin filters are not plastic, they are literally made of gelatin, which is animal bones processed in some way.

      You should just be able to buy a new sheet of clear gelatin and cut it to shape to fit in the holder.

      • I’ve managed to attempt to clean off the stains after a few tries, but I don’t think that piece was designed to be cleaned like the B+W filter. Probably might have left some small cleaning scratches that are visible with a bright LED torch light but otherwise it looks pretty clear when viewed through a window light source a.k.a. sky/outdoors. My guess is unless it’s a long deep scratch, otherwise these small scratches will not affect the image.

        Alternatively I might consider swapping it with the Screw filter holder. With regards to the screw filter holder, it comes with a 52mm filter that says PROTECT. Would using a UV filter from any other brand like B+W leave a color cast or something?

        • You could use the 52mm screw-in filter, yes. I would not bother with a UV filter, though. These big lenses don’t deserve to have filters put in them unless absolutely necessary. I’ve never heard of anyone bothering with a UV filter. Contrary to popular belief, they don’t do an awful lot, if anything positive.

      • Used a little air spray bottle on my filter recently with good results. Done often enough, should be able to maintain it well.

        Do you think there is a difference between the clear gelatine filter vs a clear protect filter? I recently acquired a 300mm f/2.8L IS USM II lens this week and wondered if it’s worth replacing with the screw in filter version.

  10. hi
    i have a 52mm drop-in polarizer from singh-ray it is great. I use it mainly on my 500mm/f4 lens. I am interested to get the adapter for the eos-r with the filter holder. but i could not find information, if it is compatible/fits in with my existing drop-in filter mentionned before. do you know this?

  11. Dan,

    I have a 300mm f2.8L lens Non IS The drop in filter is a 48mm in the original holder and I would like to find a drop in polarizing (rotating) to accommodate the lens. I have looked everywhere but have not found a supplier..Any thoughts?

    Thanks Will

    • You know what, I actually wasn’t even aware that the very early Canon lenses had 48mm drop-in filters until you mentioned it and I did some Googling. I’m going to have to research that a little and add a note to this article. Unfortunately, other than looking on eBay, I don’t have a clue where you might find one! Good luck on the hunt.

      • I’ve just bought an old EF 400mm f/2.8 L Mark II (non IS, made in 1997). The original drop-in filter holder is lost. And it’s also should be exactly 48mm. I’m looking for this holder for a week, but can’t find anywhere.

        • Are you sure the holders in that lens are different to the ones you can buy from stores such as B&H Photo? I was not aware that Canon had ever changed the size of the holders. I know they changed the paint colour, and this caused them to create new “II” versions, but actually on the paint is a very slightly different shade of white.

          Have you tried putting a new holder in your older lens?

  12. Actually there are third party options for 52mm drop in filters, I’m not sure how many options there are, but I know of at least one. Its made by or is called “KASE” and it’s a circular polarizer. Also it’s black in color, which isn’t a big deal to me, but might be for some, however worse than that is the price. Yes it’s cheaper, but right now you can get a pretty decent deal on CPL filters, much cheaper than Nikon’s are at the moment.

    • Interesting. I have never heard of the KASE filters before, but I do see them on a website. Also B&H is now selling one, a UV filter, for $649. For a drop-in UV filters?! Absolutely insane pricing haha.

      Thanks for pointing it out. I’m going to do a bit more research at some point and then I will update the article to include some info.

  13. Hello Dan, thanks for your tutorial. I am interested in taking creative photography using my canon 500mm f4 II lens. Viewing as example https: //lensbaby.com/products/omni-creative-filter-system. I do not know if there are any filters to insert in the 52WII gelatine holder. Thanks very much for your support.

    • It’s possible that he uses a lens that allows screw-on filters. For example, lenses like the Sony 200-600mm, Tamron 150-600, Sigma 150-600mm, all 100-400mm lenses. If you have a filter thread on the front of your lens, then options are greatly increased.

      That said, some (not all) of his work also looks like it has simply been created in Photoshop or other similar editing applications.

  14. Hey Dan, thanks for posting up the information about drop-in filters. There’s a specific question left unanswered, though: what is the behavior of filters like star-effect filters or soft-focus filters? I’m particularly interested in the Zeiss Softar filters, as I’ve used them before. Does the positioning of such filters toward the rear of the lens design make them behave strangely? I’m not sure what stage of image formation the filter position is at, so I’m not confident such filters will not create abnormal image artifacts. Would appreciate the favor of a reply (or additional information added to this article) if you have access to such filters in 52mm size.

  15. The KASE filter kit for the Canon EF f/4L IS ii has both the circular polarizer mentioned in the comments above and a protective **front** filter. I am using this lens to shoot birds at the shore, so the protective filter seemed reasonable to keep salt spray from the lens coating. The adapter that makes this possible permits a regular lens cover for the lens. Preliminary evaluations on the circular polarizer in the kit are that the quality is good. To be sure, this is considerably more expensive than buying just the drop-in filter, so I wouldn’t recommend it unless the lens needs protection. Everything included in a single kit: https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1541355-REG/kase_kef_600ii_uv_mc_cpl_150mm_cap.html

  16. I know this is years later. I tried the NiSi 52mm ND circular filter and it fits perfectly in the Mk 3 600mm f/4
    I’ve also ordered the FILTER NEST MINI you recommended (local supplier here in Australia) and another filter holder from Canon as per your suggestion. Many thanks for all your information and advise, greatly appreciated.

  17. Thanks for all the info! I bought and old Canon 400mm f2.8 and am getting a lot of Chromatic aberration on white surfaces, i soot baseball and get a green hue on white pants, would a polarizing filter help with this ? The lens has a gelatin drop in filter with a single push in button in the middle.

    • No, a polarizer will not help that. The best thing you can do is create a default editing preset to be applied when you ingest your images to Lightroom, or whatever you use. In this preset, make sure you apply the “remove chromatic aberration” option. CA is the easiest optical issue to solve in software.

  18. I have a B+W 52 102 ND 0.6-2 BL 4X MRC that fits just fine in my 300 2.8 L I
    S II. What I wish I could find info on is drop in filters for astrophotography.

  19. B+W XS-PRO and T-PRO mount both fit Canon Drop-In 52mm Adapter. And I also find out B+W MRC nano coating has less reflection than Canon 52mm PROTECT filter shipped with Canon Drop-In 52mm Adapter. Thus, I use B+W XS-PRO 007 Clear 52mm MRC nano filter to replace the default Canon 52mm PROTECT filter shipped with Canon Drop-In 52mm Adapter. In order to get a teeny-tiny slightly better image quality.

    • B&H Photo replied with an answer. Do not use any liquids to clean the gelatin filter. Only use a blower. Otherwise, if the dirt or smudge is impossible to clean, the gelatin filter is useless. Best to replace it with the 52mm Drop-in Screw in Filter with the Canon Protect glass filter where a liquid cleaner can be used.

  20. I have tried a Kenko Starry Night 52mm light pollution filter on a Canon 52mm drop in filter holder, socketed into my Canon EF 300mm f2.8 L IS. It fit perfectly.

  21. One more…
    Nikon Arcrest 52mm clear protection filter on a Canon 52mm drop in filter holder, socketed into my Canon EF 300mm f2.8 L IS. It fit perfectly, too.

  22. Thanks for sharing your very helpfull knowledge. One question is left to be answered: Does it matter in which direction I put the filterholder in the slot and which is the right way because it fits in both ways.

    Thanks in advance,


    • The manual for my RF 600 f/4 L IS USM says it does not matter: “To attach a drop-in filter, push the filter holder straight down into the slot until it clicks into place. The filter holder can be attached facing either forwards or backwards.” Notwithstanding, the Drop-In Screw-Type Filter Holder 52(WIII) with the included 52mm PROTECT filter came pre-installed in my lens and was installed with the filter on the lens mount side (male threads on the 52mm PROTECT filter toward the lens front element). The manual also has an illustration showing it oriented in this fashion. Hope this helps.

  23. I recently purchased Canon 300mm 2.8 non is lens from Japan.
    It has a drop in filter which has a screw thread. It says Canon 48mm Regular 1x
    Could anyone explain it’s main purpose?

  24. I recently purchased Canon 300mm 2.8 non is lens from Japan.
    It has a drop in filter which has a screw thread. It says Canon 48mm Regular 1x
    Could anyone explain it’s main purpose?

  25. I purchased the B+W 52mm Master Neutral Density 0.6 (2 Stop) MRC Nano 802M Glass Filter and it fits perfectly into the WIII Drop in filter holder. According to B+W there Master ND filters are 54mm in diameter.

  26. Hey,

    I just got an old 300mm 2.8 IS, mainly for motorsports use. It only came with the gelatin holder and, since I pretty much always shoot with a CPL but sometimes switch to NDs for occasional filming or high aperture panning, I figured I’d get a used 52mm screw in filter holder to suit both needs. The holder came with a Hoya ND400 which works great, but the 52mm Urth CPL I got does not fit in the lens, it’s a couple millimeters too wide. I *think* I could file it down to size, but I’m kind of reluctant to potentially destroy a relatively expensive filter when I could get a refund.
    My question is, would anybody know of a filter brand that makes a CPL that would for sure fit inside the lens on the 52mm screw-in holder? I have seen mentions of a bunch of NDs on this page but no CPL.

    Thanks a bunch for the extremely informative article and a potential solution to my problem!


    • In case anyone comes across this looking for the same thing as I was, a friend measured his Hoya Pro1-D CPL and it seemed like it would fit, so I got one and it does, although barely (scapes a bit going in). Not the most practical to have to take the holder out to rotate the CPL, but beats buying the CPL holder for now 😀


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