Photography / Hands-on Review

The Wisdom of Step-Up and Step-Down Rings

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At first glance, purchasing a step-up ring is a simple, straightforward transaction―all you need is a metal ring that enables you to use a filter with a wider-diameter thread size than the lens on which you want to mount it. What’s not so clear-cut is why there are so many choices for a lens accessory that, on the surface, is so simple and basic.

The answer to the above is that the materials used to manufacture the ring, i.e., aluminum, hard-anodized aluminum, or brass, as well as the finish of the ring, i.e., side knurled edges or a smooth, less graspable surface finish, can make a big difference in how satisfied you may or may not be with your choice of step-up ring.  


$5 or $50 for a stepping ring? Why?

Stepping rings are available from numerous manufacturers and can cost anywhere from a few dollars to well over one hundred dollars. Why, you may ask, does a step-up ring from one company have one price tag, while “the same ring” from other companies can cost upwards of ten times the price? The truth is that the rings are not the same.

Stepping rings, as mentioned above, can be made from a variety of materials, typically aluminum, hard-anodized aluminum, or brass. While stepping rings of all materials essentially perform the same function, rings of differing prices will often relate more to the performance, consistency, durability, and reliability of a given ring.

Aluminum rings cost less than, but are not as strong as, their hard-anodized aluminum counterparts. Aluminum is a softer metal and more prone to developing dings from impacts, as compared to brass―and brass generally costs more to manufacture. What is a bit confusing, is which of these materials—aluminum (plain or hard anodized), or brass—is best.

While stepping rings of all materials essentially perform the same function, rings of differing prices will often relate more to the performance, consistency, and reliability of a given ring.

Does it matter if the ring is made of brass or aluminum?

The product descriptions of the stepping rings typically contain the words “aluminum,” “hard-anodized aluminum,” or “brass.” Knowing what a ring is made of should be an important consideration when choosing stepping rings (and equally important when choosing filters). This is because if the threads of what you’re attaching are made of the same material as the stepping ring and are not machined to the same high standards, there's a risk of “galling,” or in the colloquial of camera-repair shops, you’ve got a jammed filter on your hands, as we explain below.

According to the rules of metallurgy, and Mrs. Zuckerman, my grade-school science teacher, it is possible, in some cases, to create friction between two pieces of alloy of the same hardness and composition, such as aluminum to aluminum, which could lead to galling. This typically occurs when trying to screw a ring or filter at an angle other than straight into the lens threads, and can be exacerbated by rings and filters that are machined to lesser standards.

"What’s not so clear-cut is why there are so many choices for a lens accessory that, on the surface, is so simple and basic."

The easiest method of reducing the likelihood of a jammed step-up, step-down, or filter ring is to buy items that are machined to the same high standards. It's worth keeping in mind that less expensive rings are most likely not machined to the same standards as premium rings, which can easily increase the likelihood of a jammed ring or filter.

The barrels of pre-autofocus film-era lenses were invariably made of aluminum, and in select cases, brass. These days, determining what a lens barrel is made of can be tricky. Kit lenses are often made from some form of polymer, while many premium lenses feature threads made of harder alloys, including aluminum, with forward edges made of other materials, which are not as prone to galling issues.

One helpful feature that select manufacturers incorporate into their rings and filters is side-knurled edges that make it easier to grip the rings or filters when attaching or removing them from the lens threads.

Choose the right rings for your needs

If cost isn’t an issue, brass rings are more reliable, last longer, are less likely to warp, and can be used with most other metal alloys with little fear of galling. For the record, I’ve owned the same set of brass step-up rings for more than 30 years, and I use them to this very day. It’s not that rings made of the same materials as the lens barrel or filter will jam every time you try to attach them. In fact, they may fail on you on the rarest of occasions; it’s just that it’s most likely to happen at an inconvenient, never-to-happen-again moment in time. And that's when you'll wish you had the right combination of rings and filters.

Ideal candidates for brass step rings are professional photographers who cannot afford product failures on the job, who vary and use different filters, who take them on and off all the time, and take every advantage to achieve their vision. A professional photographer is better served by using well-machined brass, which decreases the likelihood of galling, and helps protect their investment in filters and stepping rings. 

Why and when you would need a step-up ring

If you own an interchangeable-lens camera system, chances are you own more than one lens. What’s more, there's a good chance the filter thread diameter sizes of one or more of your lenses differ from the other lenses. For example, two lenses might have 58mm thread sizes, while the third lens might have a 49mm, 62mm, 67mm, or 77mm thread size. Then again, each of the thread sizes might be different. And the more lenses you own, the more likely this is going to be the case.

Once you go beyond the best-quality protector or UV filters to serve as basic protection, you may wish to use an additional filter such as a Circular Polarizer, ND, Graduated ND, etc.

"You could say stepping rings are a win-win solution that should please both your wallet and your gear-besieged shoulders and back."

The starting point for configuring a step-up ring system is to establish a pecking order from widest diameter thread size to the smallest. As an example, if you own three lenses—one with a 52mm thread, another with a 67mm thread, and a third with a 77mm thread—you want a filter to fit the widest diameter thread size, in this case 77mm, and a pair of step-up rings, 67-77mm and 52-77mm, to couple the larger 77mm filter to the smaller-diameter thread sizes.

Although thread size doesn’t affect image quality, it does have an impact on the number of filters and lens accessories you have to keep on hand, regardless of whether you are taking pictures indoors or out. Rather than purchasing multiples of every filter and lens accessory to go along with each of the thread sizes, consider purchasing a single, high-quality filter to fit the lens with the largest thread size along with step-up rings to adapt the larger filter to the lenses with smaller thread sizes.

It’s hard to knock the advantages of stepping rings. Simply stated, if you own lenses with varying filter-thread sizes, stepping rings weigh and cost less than multiples of comparable glass filters and lens accessories. You could say stepping rings are a win-win solution that should please both your wallet and your gear-besieged shoulders and back. While stepping rings can be stacked, it is best to use as few rings as possible to reduce the chances of vignetting or ghosting.

Why and when you need a step-down ring

The opposite of step-up rings are step-down rings, which essentially do the reverse: they enable you to adapt filter and lens accessories with smaller thread sizes to lenses with larger thread sizes. For example, they allow you to attach a 52mm filter to a lens with a 72mm thread size.

Step-down rings are not as widely used as step-up rings because, in most cases, the smaller filter sizes result in vignetting. The exception to this rule is when using lenses and filters designed for larger-format cameras (i.e. full-frame) on smaller-format cameras (i.e. APS-C and Micro Four Thirds). In these cases, the smaller image field will often negate any vignetting or image clipping.

For further reading about the filters to which you can apply step-up or step-down rings, click on the following links:

UV Filters Primer

Filters for Lenses

Filters for Landscape Photography

Discussion 49

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I have several 55mm filters from an older camera.  Can i use a 55mm-62mm Step-up ring adapter on a Zuikio 62mm lens that is on an Olympus OM-D E Mark 5 II camera without causing vignette? 

It’s very possible you could experience vignetting using a 55mm filter on a lens with a 62mm filter thread. Though, the more telephoto the lens, the less likely it would be to experience vignetting.

Hi,

I have a 72mm Canon 500D close up lens and really love the macro results.  I am wondering will it cause any vignettes if I attach the 72 mm close up lens with step-down ring on a 77mm lens.  I just recently upgrade to full frame camera and my new fx lens is 77mm.

Thanks,

Christine

Christine Lu wrote:

Hi,

I have a 72mm Canon 500D close up lens and really love the macro results.  I am wondering will it cause any vignettes if I attach the 72 mm close up lens with step-down ring on a 77mm lens.  I just recently upgrade to full frame camera and my new fx lens is 77mm.

Thanks,

Christine

There is a possibility that you could experience vignetting using a 72mm close up lens on a 77mm lens. The more telephoto the lens, the less likely you would be to experience vignetting. Though, for the biggest impact with the close-up filter, you would want to use more telephoto lenses anyway.

Thanks Christina.  I bought the step down ring and experimented it with my new lens.  Vignettes are there from 24mm to 50mm and no more vignetting after 50mm which is just fine for my macro shooting.

I have a sony NEX-3 and various e-mount lenses with 49 filter thread. Most Sony e-mount lenses have 49mm filter thread. So I have at least seven 49mm filters.

The Sony a7 camera I bought afterwards has a 28-70 lens with a 55mm filter thread. So my first intention was to buy some new 55mm filters for it. I looked the front element of the lens and I realized that it is much smaller than the filter thread. I used a 49mm filter very close to the from element and I discovered that it was much larger. I took some photos by holding the 49mm lens in front of the camera. Inevitably my first finger appeared in the photos but not the filter. There wasn't any kind of vigneting, shadow or extra distortion due to the filter. I took photos at the wide 28mm and the 70mm focal length with the biggest aperture and smallest. Everything seemed fine. My finger was appearing more at 28mm than 70mm but the filter was invisible in the photos.

Finally  I bought a very cheap black aluminum step down ring from 55mm to 49mm. It works perfectly and I avoided At least 250$ on Zeiss and B+W filters. The 55mm filters are not as popular as the 52mm and 49mm filter and they are much more expensive. 

Hi B&H,

I am looking to order BW filter (B+W 77mm XS-Pro Kaesemann High Transmission Circular Polarizer MRC-Nano Filter)

My query: I have Lee's 100mm foundation kit and a 77mm wide angle Lee adaptor for the holder. I believe the 77mm BW filter will have the same outer threading as that of the lens. So is it possbible/compatible that with the 77mm BW filter screwed on the lens first, can i then mount the lee 77mm wide angle adaptor to the BW filter?

Regards,

Bhavik 

The B+W 77mm XS-Pro Kaesemann High Transmission Circular Polarizer MRC-Nano Filter has a 77mm front filter thread.  So, you could attach the 77mm adapter ring to the front of the filter.  Though, this wouldn’t be the best option.  Circular polarizers need to be rotated based on your orientation to the sun.  So, constantly rotating the circular polarizer will also mean rotating the filter holder.

Thank you

Hi, I have an Olympus 37mm and another  one 58mm. I was wondering if I use a step up/down ring to attach my 58 mm filters to the 37 would that cause alot of vignetting?

As long as you are using Step-Up rings to attach your 58mm filters onto your 37mm lens (and not the other way around), you shouldn’t experience vignetting.

The term is "win/win."

And I agree: Step-up/down rings rule.

Hi, I have a canon 10-18mm lense and just bought a 52mm Hoya PROND 1000 filter. What do i need to be able to fit the lense filter on my canon lense? Thanks

We do not currently carry a 67mm lens (filter size for the Canon 10-18mm lens) attachment direct to 52mm filter step down ring. There are Step-Down Ring Kits available that will allow you to stack the rings to accommodate this pairing however the vignetting would be horrible. You would likely have a black ring around the image. It would be recommended to use a filter correctly sized for this lens. 

When using a stepdown ring, does it crop your picture size?

Using a step-down ring can cause vignetting.  Though, the risk and amount would depend on the specific lens in question and how big the difference in size between the filter threads. 

Can I use a step up ring like a 67 to a 77 to save from buying another filter mount ring for the Lee Filter holder? Or are the Lee Filter rings not threaded to allow this?

You could use a 67-77mm step-up ring to attach a 67mm lens to a 77mm Lee adapter ring.  Though, I would likely spring for a 67mm adapter ring so you don’t risk getting the step-up ring stuck to the adapter ring. 

Can you elaborate on this? I am looking to get one adaptor for Lee systems and use step up/down rings for the rest of the threads too.

With step-up and step-down rings, it’s not unheard of for the rings to get stuck.  If this happens you would end up striping the threads of both the adapter ring and the adapter.  I think it is safer, and will likely save you money in the long run, if you simply purchase two adapter rings. 

Hello, grettings from Colombia, if I have a Cannon Vixia HF R600, I can use this to use a UV filter? Thank's and sorry for my bad english

The Cannon Vixia HF R600 has a 43mm filter thread.  You can use any 43mm UV filter on the camcorder without the need of an adapter or step-up/step-down ring. 

I have a few 69mm Leica filters, that I am looking to see if I can adapt to use on my Olympus em1, 12-40mm lens, which uses a 62 mm filter.  What would I use?

Unfortunately, B&H does not carry a 62-69mm step-up ring, nor am I finding any combination of rings in our inventory that would enable one to use 69mm filters on a 62mm lens without causing significant vignetting.

Hello,

I have a Canon 6D with a 28-105mm lens and a set of 52mm Tiffen NDs and looking to step down from the 58mm lens thread to 52mm filters. Any idea if I will experience vignetting? Thanks!

You risk vignetting whenever using step-down rings, especially with wider angle lenses on a full frame camera.  With the 28-105mm on the 6D, you would likely experience vignetting at 28mm and the wider angles. 

I have a full frame camera and 24mm wide range lens which has 82mm diameter. Unfortunately I have polarizer filter with 77mm diameter (B+W xs-pro thin filter). Will I get vignetting when shooting with 24 mm? Or at least 28 mm shooing? Thanks,

Using a step-down ring to mount a 77mm circular polarizer on 24mm lens with an 82mm filter thread, you will experience vignetting, especially on a full frame camera.  You would likely still get vignetting when shooting the zoom at 28mm.

Would a 77-82 step up ring on a Canon 70-200 2.8 IS prevent me from using the oem lens hood?

Yes, stepping up to an 82mm filter on this lens will prevent you from being able to use the OEM hood.

If I use a step-up adapter that allows me to use a ND filter that is several MM larger than my lens do I reduce the chance of vignetting? I.e. if I use a 77mm 6 stop ND filter on my lens that normally takes a 62mm filter will that reduce the likelyhood of vignetting on the wider end of a 10-16mm lens on my aps-c camera? Or my 16-35?

Not necessarily.  If you can list the specific lenses you've got, and the camera, we can see if we have any solutions for best way to apply an ND filter to the lens without vingetting if possible.  I was not able to find any 10-16mm lenses from any manufacturer to enquire, and as far as 16-35mm lenses go, there are several in the industry and they all have different fitler sizes and requirements etc.  Let us know and we can reply back with more specific information for you. 

I am looking to use ND and GND filters on my sony a6000 with 10-18mm lens when I travel. I would also love to try this solution with my nikon d7100 with tokina 11-16. I am currently using the cokin z-pro system with the nikon but still get vignetting at anything below 14mm. 

Avoiding vignetting with super-wide lenses is always a challenge, and sometimes not avoidable past certain points.  A company called Fotodiox offers a Pro 100mm Filter Holder for Fotodiox Pro 100x133mm and Cokin Z-Pro (L) Series Filters, its compatible with the Cokin Z-Pro filters and adapter rings, but is more suitable for use with wide angle lenses, and is reversible.  This should be helpful for your Tokina 11-16mm lens, and should work well with your Sony 10-18mm.  See the link below for details.

http://bhpho.to/ZL6MgT

Hello there.Im new at photography and I do not know much about lens accessories.So,to make a long story short ,I recently bought a Leinox wide ancle conversion lens which is 52mm.I tried to use it on my 18-55mm(canon) lens but it does not fit properly,if I use a step up ring will it fit ? (please answer and im sorry for my bad english)

To mount a 52mm filter/auxiliary lens on the Canon 18-55mm lens, you would need a 58-52mm Step-Down ring.  Keep in mind, as there is already the risk of vignetting using auxiliary lenses on a DSLR lens, and the fact that the one you purchased is for a smaller filter thread, there is a possibility that vignetting will occur when mounting your 52mm add-on lens on the Canon 18-55mm using the step-down ring.

Are they reversible ?

No they are not.  There is a seperate product actually called a reversing ring.  They come in very specific size and mounts so unfortunately theres alot of popular options that are left out, however at the link below you can see all the current reversing rings that we offer on our website:

http://bhpho.to/1DbXLep

During my workshops and tuition sessions I often suggest that you buy one size of filter, usually 77mm. This in theory enables you to purchase only one of each high quality filter of your choice. So you might need a polarising filter, a neutral density filter and maybe a clear filter. If you buy one of each in 77mm and use step up rings they will fit every lens you own now and into the future. Thereby saving you money, weight and if you look after the filters they will last a lifetime regardless of what lens you use.

When you want to use a filter on a lens with a smaller filter thread size, you use the step up ring to attach the filter to what lens you choose. A step up filter ring is a simple glassless ring with a male thread for your lens and larger size female thread for your filter. The step up ring screws onto your lens and the filter screws onto the step up ring.

A downside of step up rings and larger filters is that they interfere with using the standard lens hood supplied with the lens. This can be easily solved by buying a collapsible rubber hood with a 77mm screw in thread and using this with your filters or shade the lens with you hat, hand, when necessary.

I have Canon EOS 75-300 (old lens from EOS Rebel - S era), a couple of Tamron and a Tokina lenses.  They are all made with polymer barrels.  However, I do use UV  ring filters on all of them (made of aluminum).  And I have an very old Yashica Electro-35 GTN with a metal lens barrel (probably aluminum). I use a Soligor UV(0) ring filter on it (probably anodized aluminum).  Don't think it is brass.  I am considering buying a set of 8 step-up rings. Obviously, all rings in the set will be made of same material.  Is it better for me to buy an set of aluminum rings, or brass. Because sometimes, I want to use the lens without UV filters.  So, polymer/aluminum, polymer/brass, aluminum/aluminum, or aluminum/brass?

If it were me, I would go for all brass in your situation.  Besides the fact that they will last longer over the course of your life/career with the lenses, they will be able to work well with any other various alloy/polymers you come across.  I also have brass adapters in my kit bag and over the course of my career have amassed a collection of various types of filters which I like to use, some are aluminum, some are brass, and some are/were mounted on plastic front lenses and I've had no issues to speak of with the brass rings. 

Does anyone know ehre I can buy a 60.5 - either 62 or 72mm step ring? It's for my anamorphic lens :)

Thanks

Unfortunately we do not have any 60.5mm - XX step-up options that we carry.  I was not able to find any options online either.  If you prefer, you may send us an email to askbh@bhphoto.com and list the specific lens you own that you are trying to adapt a filter to, and our agents there can research any possible work arounds for you. 

Is brass coupled with alumnium better than brass coupled with brass? In other words, it it better to always get brass rings? Or is it better to aim arrange different metals to be placed next to each other? 

When the budget permits and the option is available, I'd go with brass coupled with brass.  With aluminum and brass you run the risk of cross threading and thus a very difficult time seperating the two. 

I have both NIKON kit lens, a 50mm, a 105 macro ( not NIKON), a  70-300 NIKON zoom and a 80-200 MM made by Nikon.

The majority of them have polymer barrels. All the NIKON lens have aluminum UV filters  attached (made by well known manufactures). The 105MM  has a brass UV filter.

I have two questions , Is a brass step up ring the best way to go considering the above?.

My second question, I notice B+H sells brass step up rings, one manufacturer is more expensive then the other.  What is the essential difference between the two?

Yes.  For your 105mm lens I would recommend a brass ring to couple with its filter. 

With regards to the price difference, in this case price reflects the providence and quality standards from the two different manufacturers.  Heliopan is the higher end company making the expensive rings.  In general their filters are of the highest quality filters engineered and used by the most discerning of professionals and is manufactured in Germany.  They have very high quality product desing and egineering and quality control.  Sensei is the lesser expensive option, and is good quality, but is made in China.  They are more mass produced and as such are good but not as well made as the Helipoans.

Yeah adapter rings are great. I do find as a landscape photographer, I do want to always use a lens hood for protect and keep my lens and filter clean so I alway use a lens hood. Sometimes these rings prevent me ffrom using one. 

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