Cheap and Effective Filters (solar)




You can buy solar film (thin plastic sheets) at a very reasonable prices online. However, the sheet format isn't great for photography, telescopes or binoculars. You can by them as screw-on filters, but the cost gets a bit ridiculous and the size selection is limited.

This instructable is trivial, but that's where the beauty lies. Using cheap and readily available filter step-up adaptors and UV filters you can fit solar filters to your equipment.

  • Protects film from accidental scratches.
  • Wind protection to stop creases.
  • Holds filter flat and close to lens to stop internal light reflections that can create image artifacts.
  • Looks clean and professional.
  • Made using cheap and readily available parts.
  • Securely holds filters to reduce risk of them slipping and exposing your eyes to magnified UV.
    Important safety feature when using with telescopes or binoculars!
It is important to never scratch or crease the solar film since it might allow dangerous UV light to reach your eyes. If you mistakenly do so while following this instructable, don't try to salvage that section of film, just use a different piece.

This technique can also be used for colored gels!

Step 1: Materials

You'll need a few things you can get pretty cheaply.

  • A cheap, thin "step up ring adaptor".
    Used to attach larger filters to cameras. ($1.20 on ebay)
  • A cheap, thin UV filter. ($3 each on ebay).
    You don't really need the UV protection, you just want physical glass to protect the film.
  • High quality solar film.
    Do NOT go cheap here!!!! 8x8 on Amazon is $18, but it's enough to do a lot of filters. Also, you won't have to worry if you mess up the first attempt.

  • Clean, smooth surface that you can cut on.
    You will be sliding the filter film around on it and you don't want to scratch it. Non-corrugated cardboard, felt, or paper with cardboard under it.
  • Needle
  • Razor
  • Lens cleaning cloth

Again, do not buy solar film from unknown vendors. If you get sold something that isn't really cutting out the UV, then you will damage your eyes and not even realize it until it's too late. It's not as important with digital cameras that use LED screens, but anything involving your eyes and the quality becomes critically important.

Step 2: Step-up Ring Adaptor

What to buy a step-up ring adaptor that is meant to fit slightly larger filters onto your camera.

My camera is 72mm, it says right on the lens.

The step-up ring adaptor is so that I can put 77mm filters onto the camera.

The solar film fits in this buffer between 72mm and 77mm. The UV filter will fit the larger size (77mm) and will hold and protect the solar film in place.

Again, solar film protection is an important feature. If you're using the filter with a telescope or binoculars. You don't want any scratches or folds in the film and the glass UV filter is there to protect the solar film.

Step 3: Trace Solar Film

I experimented with a bunch of ways to cut the solar film and settled on one that works for me. Please suggest alternate ways to cut in the comment.

  1. Place solar film onto a large, thick piece of smooth cardboard or paper or felt cloth.
  2. Place the ring adaptor onto the solar film
  3. Use a needle to trace the outside (77mm) of the filter onto the film.
    Yes, this will be slightly too big

You can see in my second photo that I messed up a little, but that's ok because this circle is bigger than we need.

Step 4: Cut Solar Film

Now that you have a circle traced on the solar film, it's time to cut it.

You'll want to cut slightly inside the circle, but don't worry. There's room for error and if it will probably be too big the first iteration.

4. Place the edge of a sharp razor just inside the etched circle. It should dig into the cardboard under the film and say there.

5. Now move the film and leave the razor in place.
This is a similar action to using a bandsaw.

6. Slide the film around to cut out the circle.

Be careful to not scratch or crease the film.

7. Once you have the circle of film, see if it fit inside the adaptor ring (It probably won't).

8. Repeat the bandsaw technique to shave off a little around the outside until it does fit.

Step 5: Clean and Assemble

Final step is to place the solar film into the ring adaptor and screw on the UV filter.

Naturally, you should gently clean everything of dust first. Just be careful and DON'T use a strong blower on the filter, it will crease it.

Store your final filter in the UV filter case.

Manly Crafts Contest

Participated in the
Manly Crafts Contest



    • Frozen Treats Challenge

      Frozen Treats Challenge
    • Backyard Contest

      Backyard Contest
    • Classroom Science Contest

      Classroom Science Contest

    32 Discussions


    5 years ago on Introduction

    Great idea.

    Also, consider the Baader solar film.

    Ive used this stuff telescopically, and
    it works very well.

    3 replies

    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    That site has a scary instructable for using cardboard and tape to "secure" filters onto a pair of binoculars. (PDF)

    Would be nice if they updated it to use the technique I described here.

    BTW, I put this instructable under a public domain license. Sites can either link to it or just create their own white paper based on it.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Actually, the card board n tape method works pretty well.
    You make a card board cup that
    mates to your instrument with a friction fit.
    Also, since youre looking Up at the sun,
    gravity helps keep the filter on your instrument.
    Ive made 2 of these,
    one for my 3" refractor and
    one for my 8" reflector.
    The baader film works very well.


    Reply 5 years ago on Introduction

    Thanks! It's good to have choices since many sellers are perpetually out of stock.

    My filter usage is with OLED viewfinder cameras, but I plan to do one for my telescope and am looking for a better source than Amazon.


    1 year ago

    Thanks! I got all the required material (UV filter, up-converter ring, and solar film). HOWEVER, the instructions on Thousand Oaks Optical solar firm I received to build this DIY project indicates that their filter film must be the first element facing the sun, presumably, this means: not obstructed by another filter (such as the UV glass). What are your thoughts regarding that matter? I'm concerned that the glass UV filter element appearing before the solar film, may absorb heat / change the reflective properties of the "mirror like" surface facing the sun. Any thoughts about this?

    3 replies

    Reply 1 year ago

    What they are emphasizing here, is that the light must go through the filter before it goes through any lenses. Otherwise someone might try putting the filter on the eyepiece end of a telescope, which is extremely dangerous since the sunlight is now concentrated. It's tempting to do this since the eyepiece end is much smaller and therefore cheaper and easier to put a filter on, but DON"T DO IT!


    Reply 1 year ago

    Ultimately, I did place it in front of the UV filter lens - and actually, it proved to be a very effective construction. I took the idea presented here and did the following:
    - Removed the protective ring of the UV filter. This was a challenge, but ultimately, with four hands and two nails, I was able to unscrew the protective ring undamaged (there are two small slots in which one could put the nails and hold strong while someone else rotates the UV filter).
    - I then cut, with scissors, precisely per the UV glass size, the Thousand Oaks filter. It was very easy an I used cloth while holding the outside portion of the filter polymer.
    - I simply placed lens and then filter, and simply screwed in the protective ring.
    Overall cost for filter was exactly same as in description, but the first element to the sun was the filter, as required.
    Ah, one can remove the need for the step-up in this way - the whole lens is well covered by the filter.
    Worked very well for 2017's total eclipse - now, just in wait for 2024 ...


    Reply 1 year ago

    Reading other articles about photographing eclipses, I believe they're referring to the feature of some lenses that have a filter holder on the back end of the lens.

    Just my interpertation, though.


    1 year ago

    Also works well for cutting film: an Exacto knife and self-healing mat.


    1 year ago

    Just tested the one I made for my 500mm mirror telephoto lens and it works perfectly! To my amazement, I didn't scratch the film. A couple of comments:

    - My lens is 72mm diameter. The 72-77 step up ring on Amazon was ridiculously expensive, but the 72-82 step up ring was cheap. So I bought it, and the more I thought about it, the more I liked having the extra area that won't actually impact the shots. Gave me even more room for error in trimming the film to fit in the adapter.

    - I am not smooth enough to use the bandsaw technique. I did use the pin to draw a circle but then I used nice sharp scissors to cut the original circle and trim it down to fit. That left fingerprints on the film but I gently brushed them away with a microfiber lens cleaning cloth. I made sure I had no calluses or hangnails on my hands before handling the film.

    - A caution to anyone else who is new to using solar film. It is REALLY dark! I haven't been able to get the sun in the viewfinder on the tripod yet, I will need to practice. Fortunately I still have a couple of weeks before the eclipse. It was challenging to find the sun even handholding the camera, with the advantage of being able to look near the sun and then move the camera into roughly the same position. Be patient, compare the line of your vision to the line of the camera's vision, and keep trying.

    - And a question. One side of the solar film I bought (Thousand Oaks' product, bought on Amazon) is mirrored. Does it matter if that faces the sun or the camera? I tried it both ways and didn't notice a difference.

    This is great, and I managed to do this using some Thousand Oaks film bought on eBay and I am wondering if I got ripped off. My calculations show it blocks 1/67M of the light instead of 1/100k as it was specified to do. It's so dark you can't see anything through the viewfinder or holding the filter up and looking through by eye. This makes it really hard to aim it at the sun, and even then I was only getting an image when over 1 second, ISO 1600 and f6.3, which seems ridiculous to me. Could you post your typical camera aperture, shutter speed and ISO? Thanks.

    5 replies

    I got the attached photograph today at ISO 800, F11 and 1/8s with a 400mm and 2x on a APS-C sony A300, so 1200mm equivalent telephoto.

    DSC00309 (Custom).JPG

    OK. Too much rain here in SF to get a good shot of the sun, but I will try again soon. Forecast says maybe Sat.

    I really recommend using cameras that don't have a "through the lens" eyepiece, but instead use an OLED screen just for eye protection.

    Here are some older shots I took with my A77 using an IR filter only. Again, because it's OLED eyepiece it was safe. EXIF info is there.

    My newer Sony A6000 camera has a "Full Spectrum" conversion which basically replaces the internal UV/IR cut filter with a clear filter. This means it picks up light well into the infrared part of the spectrum. I haven't tried it with the solar filter, but I'm curious to see how it behaves.


    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    OK. I found my original set of photos I took for this article.

    This shot's information is:

    Sony A77

    ISO: 50
    6.3F @ 1/13th

    Focal Length: 250mm (using a Sigma 18-250mm lens)


    5 years ago on Step 5

    I would aim for the true color filter solar material myself. And you can always sandwich two UV filters together to give the solar filter material more protection.