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

94 Comments

when using a step down from an 86mm to a 77mm with a CPL, is the vignetting less noticable or more?  being an 86mm filter isn't as common the price is much higher than other sizes so was trying to see if using the step down to use my B+W filters would be bad 

"Less noticeable" or "more noticeable" is subjective and dependent on your starting point.  To answer your inquiry, the smaller the number between the filter size and the lens' filter thread size, the less noticeable any vignetting will be.  As an example, if you had a lens with 82mm filter threads, but you had a 77mm filter, you would experience less vignetting using a 82-77mm step-down ring (it would be less noticeable) compared to if the filter was 67mm in size and you had to use a 82-67mm step-down ring (where it would be more noticeable).  More of the smaller filter is blocking light from reaching the outer edge of the larger lens front on the 82-67mm option, therefore, you would have more vignetting.
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In your specific case of an 86-77mm step-down ring (where the lens' filter thread size is 86mm and the filter you wish to use is 77mm in diameter), this would be a special case as the only size step-down ring we carry for 86mm lenses is 86-77mm.  As such, there are no other option to compare to for "more noticeable" or "less noticeable" in terms of vignetting.  In this case, it will simply be a case-by-case situation dependent on the lens you are using, its imaging circle, and how much the smaller 77mm filter may block the outer edge of the imaging circle.

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You would simply have to try the step-down ring and filter on your lens to see if you notice any undesired vignetting.  Due to its size, we only have two (2) step-down rings for you to choose from: the Sensei 86-77mm Step-Down Ring, B&H # SESDR8677, and the Cavision AR-D6 Series 86-77mm Step-Down Ring, B&H # CAAR7786D6.  My recommendation would be to simply purchase the Sensei step-down ring and try it on your equipment.  If you are not happy with the filter's performance on the larger lens, you know this combination does not work for your needs and you may return the step-down ring for an exchange or a refund (the Cavision step-down ring is a Special Order item, and as such, it cannot be returned after purchase; therefore, purchase the Sensei option for your test).

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https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/997635-REG/sensei_sdr_8677_86_77mm_step_down_ring.html

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https://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/1404320-REG/cavision_ar77_86d6_step_down_ring_front_77mm_thread_rear.html

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Hello Manzell

My concern/question:

I have one Tamron 150-600 mm lens with filter size 95mm

If I buy a 95mm ND 15 filter, and then if I would like to use it on a 24-70mm lens (77 mm filter) and on a 70-200mm lens (67mm filter) what process should i follow to avoid vignetting?

Thank you

PC

As the 95mm neutral density filter you own is much larger than the outer diameter of the other two lenses on which you wish to use the filter, you would not have any issues with vignetting; the 95mm filter will entirely cover the front of both smaller lenses.  You would only notice vignetting when using a smaller filter in front of a larger lens (or stacking multiple thick filters together).  The Sensei 77-95mm Aluminum Step-Up Ring, B&H # SESUR7795, would be compatible for use with your 24-70mm lens, whereas the Sensei 67-95mm Aluminum Step-Up Ring, B&H # SESUR6795, would be compatible for use with your 70-200mm lens.  The only issue with the above setup is your bayonet lens hood would no longer fit on the front of the lens when using the larger filter and step-up rings.

Had a question regarding these Filter Ring Adapters now I know this is an older post but recently picked up a sigma art 60mm for my sony that uses a 46mm filter thread, I have a canon 50mm 1.8 that uses a 49mm filter i was wondering if there was a ring out there that would make this work or if I should just purchase yet another cpl / nd filter, thank you for your time.

Assuming that your CPL and ND filters are 49mm, you can Sensei PRO 46-49mm Aluminum Step-Up Ring, BH # SESURPA4649 to attach them to your Sigma 60mm Art lens with a 46mm filter thread. One thing to keep in mind is that any lens hood you wish to use would not fit with this combination. 

https://bhpho.to/3jysL5N

 

I read above and agree Brass is be better that aluminum,  but now manufactures are coming out with titanium.  How does that compare to brass as a step-up or lens frame?

Titanium rings hold up a lot better in higher temperatures and would have added strength versus brass or aluminum rings. 

hi, i have a canon xf300 camcorder, am looking at getting a fisheye for it but there none with a 82mm thread which means i will have to use a step-down ring. the only one on the market is a 67mm thread.. so it would be 82-67mm step down. i am a skater so i don't mind to much vignetting but i don't know how much? and if i would be able to crop the footage? or zoom in on my camcorder? and if i were to loose quality by doing that?

i know its a lot but if anyone has experience with step-down rings with a fisheye lens i could use some help trying to get a set up!:)

Hi Mitchell -
There may be some severe vignetting and you may want to go this route only if the results are good enough for your project.  For the best results, I recommend considering using a high quality converter lens:
Century Precision Optics Super Fisheye Adapter for Canon XF300/XF305  B&H # CE0HDFESUXF 
The Super Fisheye Adapter for Canon XF300/XF305 introduces a wider view and an extraordinary degree of barrel distortion to the fixed 18x lens of the Canon XF300/305 HD camcorders. Make tall trees bend and loom and make close crowds menace – or put extreme-sports tricks and other physical astonishments right in the viewer's face.

The 0.45x Super Fisheye Adapter twists onto the bayonet of the Canon XF300/XF305 lens (where the sunshade goes) for quick mounting and without the damage that can result from repeated use of the accessory screw thread.

The Super Fisheye exaggerates the depth of expansive scenes, pushing out the far elements and pulling in nearby objects. In indoor spaces the effect can be one of distinct claustrophobia. Along with the distortion effect, the adapter simultaneously fits more into the scene. Compared to the lens's standard 60.7° horizontal view at full wide, the Super Fisheye offers a 103.3° horizontal angle of view at the wide end.

Hi.  I have a panasonic hvx200 with 82mm diameter and also have a opteka titanium series 0.3x HD super fisheye lens.  I was wondering if there was a step down ring to fit the fisheye onto the video camera without causing vignetting.  Thanks!

the camera has 82mm threads and the fisheye lens has 58mm threads.  Would the Heliopan 82-58mm Step-Down Ring (#406) work or cause vignetting? 

It seems it would cause vignetting but would it effect quality if i were to crop the video in final cut pro?

Hi Andrew - 
 

This would work but there would be vignetting.
 

Heliopan 82-58mm Step-Down Ring (#406) B&H # HESDR8258  

Key Features

  • Use 58mm Filters on 82mm Lens
  • Brass Construction
  • Matte Black Finish

I am contemplating an 85mm RF canon macro. 

I'd like to use it with the MR14ex2 flash. They are different filter threads. What can you recommend to make these two items work?

Thank you.

The MR14EX II requires lens mount adapters to fit.  In order to mount this flash to the RF 85mm Macro, you will need the Canon 67 Macrolite Adapter, BH # CAMLA67.

http://bhpho.to/34h1TAq

I really want the sigma 85mm f1.4 which has that monstrous 86mm front filter thread and I love using pearlescent filters. Unfortunately Tiffen only makes that in 82mm max. Will using an 82-86mm step down ring cause vignetting shooting on full frame?

I am experiencing vignetting on my canon 24-70 f2.8 shooting full frame canon 5d mark II with an 82-77mm step down ring

If you wish to use smaller 82mm filters on the Sigma 85mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art Lens for Canon EF, which uses the larger 86mm filter, then a step-down filter would be needed.  Unfortunately, we do not have an 86-82mm Step-Down Ring for your usage needs.  There is an 86-77mm step-down ring in our inventory, but we have no 86-82mm step-down rings listed in our inventory.  While we do not have an option for you, whenever you are using a smaller filter on a lens that has a larger filter thread size, you do run the risk of obtaining vignetting due to the edge of the smaller filter blocking light from the outer edge of the larger lens.  While it is not possible to test each lens, filter, and step-down ring combination, it is typically recommended to expect some vignetting when using a step-down ring, and if you are not happy with the filter ring, you may return the item within 30 days of your original purchase date for an exchange or a refund.

Hi, in the above example, like having 3 lenses with 52mm, 67mm and 77mm, it was suggested to get a 77mm filter, then get 2 step up rings, 52 to 77 and another on 67 to 77mm.

I was wondering if you can use a 52 to 67mm step up ring, and a 67 to 77 mm step up ring.  In this way, I can just stack them up. If i'll use the 52 diameter lens, then, ill use the 52 to 67, then 67 to 77, then add the filter.

Will there be a degradation in image quality this way?

There is no image quality loss with this method, but by using multiple rings stacked on top of one another you are in effect creating a hood around the front of the lens which may cause vignetting (darkening of corner) on wide-angle lenses.

Hi Shawn.  Thanks for the clarification.  I was thinking about the vignetting and also how it would not look as pleasing when using a single step up ring.

Hey Joel,

Stacking rings will not degrade your image quality, but depending on the focal length of the lens, your working aperture, and the thickness of the rings, you might see vignetting towards the edges of your frame. Run a test before you commit and keep in mind the wider the field-of-view of the lens, the more likely you vignette. Ditto the aperture - wide open you may not notice anything but close down a few stops and the edges might start going dark.

Hi Allan.  Thanks for your input.  I needed your answers to actually not get me to go this route.  I was thinking that it is actually doable in application but there's the vignetting to consider as well. 

Can lens hoods be used with step-up/down rings?

In some cases, a lens hood can be used in conjunction with step up or step down rings.  However, those types of hoods are limited to the screw-type rather than the bayonet type. Also, there may be a risk of vignetting if the lens is very wide.

is stepping up from 58 to 82 an impractical step to make? is there a point where it's a better long-term solution to have a second set of filters? thank you.

Stepping up from a 58-82mm filter size can be impractical if the lens has a wide angle focal length, which in turn may cause vignetting. That issue is less apparent as the lens gets longer in focal length. 

I have a 49-67 step up ring. One ring.  Will that degrade the performance of a CPL?  I heard it was better to have a couple step up rings so that the 49mm lens would see a wider portion of the CPL.  

In my experience, using a single step up ring with a CPL would not degrade the performance.  

Will using step-down ring from 55mm to 49mm cause vignetting? I have Sony 6300 with 35 mm f/1.8 lens and want to use ring for Tiffen Black pro mist 1/2 filter. Please help

It is possible that using a 49mm filter on a lens that has 55mm filter threads may cause vignetting as you are using a smaller-diameter filter in front of a larger lens.  As it depends on the lens' design and field of view, you would have to test the setup on your specific lens to see if the setup vignettes on your lens, but for that size difference, yes, vignetting is a possibility.

Hi guys! I am just diving into the tech side of photography and have already made my first purchasing mistake,thankfully it is not a major one for me. I love Breakthrough Photography products,so I will be getting more. However, I accidentally bought the wrong size thread for ND filter,in between purchases I was thinking about just getting a step down ring for my 75-300mm zoom lense. I want to know if vignetting might be an issue,if I am using for a zoomed picture detail anyway,instead of leaving on the wider setting? The whole point was to use the ND with the 75-300mm to capture detail in landscapes. Again,luckily this is temporary,and I even have the option of returning the filter,I just really would rather get practicing with it on my other lenses,which it fits. Thank you for the help,and I am humbled by the talent,help,and comradery on this page.

I am very new to photography. On friday, I will receive my new Canon 5d Mark IV from you guys! (thank you...) I am getting the Tamron 24-70mm 2.8 g2 lens. My sweet hubby surprised me with this huge upgrade from a rebel t3i but did not know I couldn't just use my old lenses. I have a few older lenses and am not sure of the compatibility. (They fit my old canon rebel t3i) The two are zeikos professional hd 0.18x super wide fisheye with macro and zeikos professional hd mk ii dslr mc af 4.5x telephoto. Can step down rings be used to attach these? (I think 82mm down to 58) What would be the downside to this? Also is it possible to use ef-s lenses from my rebel t3i? Sorry if these questions are very basic but the camera is a gift and I am trying to learn as much as possible. Thanks for any info or advise! :)

Hi Roxann,

While it is possible to get a step down ring such as the Heliopan 82-58mm Step-Down Ring (#406) B&H # HESDR8258, the add on lenses you have now may make it difficult to use autofocus and would cause a reduction in image quality.

I have a sony a7s with a 55mm lens and need a good nd filter and a step up/down adapter. What size should I step up to to avoid vignetting? The nd filter will primarily be used for video not photography. Also, any suggestions on good nd filters? The sharper the better but I can't afford probably higher than anything more than $120 or so.

For this inquiry, please e-mail us directly to askbh@bandh.com.  Thank you.  

How much vignetting can be expected stepping down with 72mm filter on a 77mm lens?  Thank you.

A few years ago I bought a Cokin NDGrad Kit from B&H and now I want to give it to my sister. The kit is for a 77mm thread lens and her lens has a 58mm thread. Is it possible to get step up rings to use that kit with her Samsung NX20 (also bought from B&H). I'm giving her things I don't use any more. 

Thanks in advance. 

Yvonne

Hi,

I want to attach a clamp with a 52mm filter thread (for my anamorphic adapter) to a 50mm lens with a 55mm filter thread. I was thinking about purchasing the Sensei PRO 55-52mm Aluminum Step-Down Ring at B&H to screw the clamp/anamorphic adapter onto the lens. My question is: will the step-down ring cause any vignetting? Camera sensor is S35.

Thanks in advance, with best regards.

Hi Witold - 

Any time a step-down ring is employed, there is a risk of vignetting.

Thanks for your reply.

I have a Canon EOS 5D camera with a 300mm zoom lens. I bought a solar filter to take photos of this summer's Total Solar Eclipse for the 300mm. Both have a 62mm thread. Now I'm thinking of purchasing a 500-1000mm f8 manual lens with a 67mm thread. Will this work safely with the solar filer with the 62mm thread using a step-down adapter ring 67mm (lens)-62mm (solar filter)?? 

Hi Ralph,

Good question. Usually, I would say that this would NOT work because you will get heavy vignetting. However, since you are photographing the filtered sun it might work fine. The sun will be the only thing in your shot, and if you keep it centered, vignetting will not matter because the rest of the frame is basically black.

I would test this out well before the eclipse just in case there are some adverse effects...so that you can get a larger filter in time for the eclipse, but I think you might be OK using it.

Cheers!

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. 

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