Are Lens Filters Universal?

I’m very grateful to live in an area that is very picturesque. I’m surrounded by endless mountain and sea views, and this sparked my love for photography. Landscape photography in particular.

When I first started with landscape photography I soon discovered lens filters and how they allow you to be creative and capture that landscape photo in spectacular fashion.

But the very first question I had was whether or not lens filters are universal. Will one lens filter fit on all my other lenses?

Join me as I have a look.

Are Lens Filters Universal? Yes, lens filters are universal in the sense that a filter designed for a lens with a specific diameter will fit on any lens that has the same inner diameter, regardless of the brand or model of the lens. The lens should also have a filter thread in the front that allows the filter to be attached to the lens.

For example, if you have a lens with an inner diameter of 52mm, then a lens filter with a 52mm specification will fit on your lens and any other lens that shares the same diameter specification.

How Do I Know What Filter Fits My Lens?

Lens filters come with a diameter specification, and this is usually very visible on the packaging and even on the lens filter itself.

Below is a photo of a Hoya lens filter that I bought many years ago. You will notice that on the box it says 52. This refers to the diameter that the filter will fit onto.

Lens Filter Packaging

In addition to this, they have also indicated the diameter on the side of the lens as per the photo below.

Lens Filter Diameter

Ok, so this filter is designed for a lens with a diameter of 52mm. Important, I said diameter of 52mm and NOT a focal length of 52mm. The diameter of the lens and the focal length are two very different things.

To find out what the diameter of your lens is, simply look for it on the side of the lens. Normally near the back of the lens. The diameter of the lens is usually indicated by a (⌀) sign, followed by the actual diameter in millimeters as shown below.

Lens Diameter

Diameter and Focal Length

I often get asked by people whether a specific filter will fit a specific lens. More often than not, they get this question wrong in the sense that they often give me the focal length of the lens instead of the diameter.

I question that I often get is: What size filter fits an 18-55 mm lens?

And my answer is always: Well, it depends on the diameter of the lens.

See, in the example I used above, 18-55mm refers to the focal length and not to the diameter of the lens. An 18-55mm lens might have a diameter of 72mm, and an 18-55mm lens from another brand might have a 52mm diameter.

So, when you are enquiring about a filter and whether it will fit your lens, always quote the diameter of the lens and not the focal length.

Conclusion

Hopefully, now you have a better understanding as to whether or not lens filters are universal, and also, how you can determine if a filter will fit on your lens.

The supported diameter is usually visible on the filter’s packaging as well as on the side of the filter itself. And the lens’s diameter can be found on the side of the lens and it is usually indicated by a (⌀) sign followed by the actual specification.

Lastly, as I mentioned, don’t confuse the lens’s focal length with its diameter because these refer to two very different things. The lens’s diameter is what you should be focused on as focal length has nothing to do with the filter.