Separate Stuck Filters and Step-Up Rings With This Simple Trick

Separate Stuck Filters and Step-Up Rings With This Simple Trick

Step-up and step-down rings are useful for attaching filters to multiple lenses with differently sized filter threads, but when they get stuck, they're almost impossible to separate, which can leave your filter completely unusable. So, use this quick tip to separate them with ease.

Most lenses have filter threads on the front to allow for filters to be attached. But the diameter of these filter threads varies depending on the size of the lens. If you're using screw-in filters and own multiple lenses with different filter thread sizes, you'll have to purchase multiple filters of varying sizes to fit each lens. However, you can save yourself a lot of money if you use step-up and step-down rings.

Lens sizes for filter diameters

The filter thread size changes depending on which lens you use: my telephoto lens has a 77mm diameter thread, whereas my 24mm has a 49mm thread.

These rings adapt the size of the filter's thread size to the diameter of your lens, meaning you only need to purchase one expensive filter and simply use the cheaper step-up or step-down rings to use them on all your kit. But there's a catch.

These rings are a workaround, and because of their slim profile and fine thread, they sometimes get stuck on the filter, or if you're using multiple rings, they can stick to each other. You'll find yourself shredding fingernails and straining your fingers at first trying to remove them. I know because I did this for a few years. Sure, you can reach for the pliers, but they're likely to damage the screw threads or misshape the rings themselves. 

Straining fingers on filter rings

Trying to separate the filters or rings from the edges is a good way to strain your fingers and grind down your nails.

There are specific filter and ring grippers that are specifically designed to separate stuck rings, but it's just another expense and space taken up in your kit bag. I've found a much better solution, and it lies in the palm of your hands.

1. Use the Whole Hand

Step up and down ring in palm of the hand

The first step is to place the step-up and step-down rings (or filter) in the palm of one hand.

Simply place the stuck rings in the palm of one hand. What we're looking to do is place pressure on the edges of the rings and increase surface area.

2. Bring the Hands Together

Hands together in a prayer position

Press both hands firmly together in a prayer position.

Now, place your hands together in a prayer position. Press your hands firmly together and make sure you're in contact with the edges of the rings as tightly as possible.

3. Turn the Hands

Twist palms anti-clockwise

With the palms firmly pressed together, twist them both counterclockwise.

Now, gently turn your hands in opposite directions. Remember: "lefty loosey, righty tighty," or in other words, turn them both counter-clockwise. The added surface area is placed on the rim of the rings, plus additional pressure should be enough to loosen the rings easily. If you find that your hands are too slippery, pop on some rubber gloves for increased grip.

There you have it. Your filters and step-up/down rings are now free and ready to be used again. Just remember not to over-tighten them when putting them back on the lenses, and if you're screwing in the filter once the step-up/down rings are already attached to the lens, be sure not to add additional screwing to the rings; just hold the edge of the ring slightly as you do this.

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12 Comments

Dustin Wood's picture

Or if your hands can't do that, get a standard rubber band to use as a grip and gently twist.

sam dasso's picture

Or perhaps spend few dollars and get Fotga filter removal tool.

Dustin Wood's picture

Oh shoot. For $10 and it's a pretty specific size and for something that hopefully only needs to be used once. Had a co-worker who cross-threaded her filter and then tightened it. She tried, I tried, and could not get it off the lens. I then grabbed a rubber band and had zero issues getting it off.

sam dasso's picture

Well, I just like to have tools. I have just about every Ryobi tool and most of them I used once or twice, but if I need a tool - I have it.

PAUL KING's picture

Fotga filter removal tools are total junk and don't work anyway. Inexpensive, disposable rubber gloves work every time with no damage to anything. I always keep a disposable nitrile glove or two in my bag.

Chris Jablonski's picture

Swot I do. Works. Keep a few in my pockets always. Old, stretched ones can be easier to get on without snapping off. I bought filter wrenches, but these work much better for me.

Steve White's picture

Simple set of filter wrenches -- lightweight plastic, less than $10 for a kit. I've used them several times and they always work. Keep them in the bag.

Rick Rizza's picture

Does people really tighten their filter that hard? I always loosely attach my filter, never once it detach by itself.

John Hubble's picture

Try puting them in the freezer for 10 minute, differential contraction can avoid the need for a lot of force

David T's picture

Hmm interesting trick. Although I would have assumed that metal contracts faster than the glass - doesn't it crack?

Andrew Urban's picture

plus 1 on the freezer trick, it works!

Patrick Smith's picture

The best thing that’s worked for me tens if not hundreds of times over 22 years is dropping the stick filters on a table or something similar. Making sure it lands flush so starting out at about 4-5 inches and if needed working up to a foot. I’ve never once damaged a filter or broke one, not even a scratch or bent ring, nothing. I don’t know about this technique with the hands but I’ll try it, not sure it will work with 82mm-95mm filters but whatever.