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How To Safely Remove A Stuck ND Or Polarizing Lens Filter

In the world of photo and video, the lens acts as the “eyes” of a camera and in many instances you'll need to make adjustments this element in order to achieve the proper look. Most often this is done using a neutral density or circular polarizing filter which each have their own respective purposes and both will manipulate the resulting image to a certain degree.

Recently, I got myself into a bit of situation when I accidentally over tightened my variable neutral density onto my expensive Canon 24-70 f/2.8L II lens. When I went to unscrew it, I was unable to get the filter to budge, and my first instinct was to panic. How was I supposed to remove it without damaging the $2100 lens or the $150 filter?

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After researching on the Internet, it appears this is a common problem and since I have a tendency to over tighten my gear (tripods, monopods, quick releases, etc.) I wasn't all that surprised that I was one who ended up in this situation (and it has since happened on my Sigma 50-100mm f/1.8 lens). The real issue is with a variable ND or circular polarizing filter, the outer ring will always turn an infinite amount of times freely so twisting the inner ring to loosen the threads is much easier said than done.

Scouring the web for a solution, I found many people ended up making notches on the sides of their filters using a knife or box cutter in order to get a better hold of the filter with their hands. I ruled this out as it ran the risk of accidentally damaging the lens with a sharp knife blade right next to it and I also wanted to salvage as much of the filter's condition as possible.

After some brainstorming, I came up with the following solution, and it worked flawlessly for me. If I didn't want to physically alter the filter to get better traction, maybe I could alter the situation so my hands could get a better grip on the filter itself. At first, I reached for a microfiber cloth with the assumption that maybe it would give me better traction, but this wasn't the case.

I then remembered I had a textured “Jar Lid Gripper” in my kitchen that I use for opening jar lids that I've once again tightened too much (this is becoming a trend). While this should have worked, in theory, the 82mm filter was too large to get the necessary grip needed to remove the filter, so it wasn't going to work in this case (take note, this will likely work in some cases).

My “Jar Lid Gripper” was slightly too small for my 82mm filter

Right when I was ready to give up, it hit me there is one item that almost every household has that features a large area of non-slip material. This was of course a typical desktop mousepad. I grabbed the oversized gaming pad from my desktop, placed it over the filter with the non-stick side making direct contact with the filter, grasped firmly and started to turn.


Like magic, the filter finally began to unscrew from the lens, and I was able to remove it fully without any causing harm to the lens or the filter. Mission accomplished!

SEE ALSO: Rokinon Cine CV14M 14mm T3.1 Lens Review

Hope this helps anyone in the same situation and feel free to leave any alternative methods for future the reader's benefit in the comments section below.