The most fiddly items in my camera gear are the filters. Those are pretty much the only things I keep dropping while trying to screw then (except for my remote trigger falling once into a river, next time I'll buy the waterproof one).

Lenses used to be screw mount and now use a bayonet. Lens hoods used to screw on and now they use a bayonet. So, why do filters still have to be screwed? Bayonets are so much easier!

Obviously this only applies to round filters but square ones with a holder are really unwieldy for other reasons and quite bulky.

  • 4
    Hasselblad filters are bayonet :o) – user2719 Aug 3 '12 at 15:09
  • 1
    Didn't know that. Actually I have never even seen a Hasselblad. The others simply didn't catch up yet then? :) – Itai Aug 3 '12 at 15:48

There are quite a few possible reasons for this:

  • Cost. It's cheaper to cut a screw thread on the end of a lens than it would be to retool to make a bayonet mount.

  • Sealing. Some Canon L series lenses are only weather sealed when a screw on filter is installed. It's easier to make a screw thread watertight, a bayonet would require very tight tolerances or a rubber seal.

  • Compatibility. This is a biggie. Almost all camera manufacturers have their own line of lenses, thus switching to a propriety bayonet lens mount can reap commercial rewards (in addition to providing a better mechanism for mounting). In contrast lens manufactures don't always have popular filter product ranges, it would be an unpopular move to switch to a proprietary filter mount, as initially there would be very few filters available.

    Lens hoods tend to be made by lens manufacturers and often only go on only one lens. Filters are near universal. There's usually an outcry when manufacturers update a lens and use a different filter size, imagine what would happen if an update suddenly rendered all your filters obsolete. Even if a bayonet to screw adaptor was offered, it wouldn't be feasible for all lenses due to vignetting issues.

  • Stacking. Unlike lenses, filters are often stacked, so all the increased costs of a bayonet mount on the lens and compatibility issues also apply to the filters themselves.

Except in some extreme cases (Hasselblad can do what they like, once you've laid down $80,000 for a camera body, filters are loose change) there are standards which will never change, even when a technically superior solution is offered. Look at the standard accessory shoe. Despite being almost a century old Sony stand alone in offering a different design. Despite the Sony iISO shoe being superior in many ways no other manufacturer has followed suit and their decision is largely unpopular with Sony users.

  • To be fair, Sony is more-or-less stuck with Minolta's decision; they can't simply obsolete a quarter-century's existing accessories without alienating their existing customer base. (And yes, it is a better mount than the ancient hot shoe, even though it annoyed me to no end that I couldn't use my existing excellent 360PX flashes with the Maxxum/Dynax/Alpha when it came out. The system was the Nikon CLS of its day, but with cables and TTL/OTF.) – user2719 Aug 3 '12 at 17:51
  • I decided to just deal with it, but the rumor is the next Sony Alpha camera will have an standard hotshoe. – Josh K Aug 3 '12 at 20:22

A well treated thread lasts for ever. Unless you over-tighten whatever you screw in, a thread won't wear out for years. Any form of clip mechanism is prone to breaking or weakening over time. It is also easier to produce a thread that conforms to a set specification.

And finally, screwed filters have been used for ages - they are established, they work and many would be very annoyed if they had to replace filters or lenses to get the "new stuff" to work. (though there would possibly be adapters around if that happened)

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