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Thread: Wratten Gel, Acrylic, or Glass Filters?

  1. #1

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    Wratten Gel, Acrylic, or Glass Filters?

    Ansel Adams preferred using Wratten gel filters by Kodak. He stated in his earlier Camera book that they have very little optical affect (aside from their color influence), but that they can be a bit reflective.

    I would suspect that the best filters are B&W multi-coated glass filters, as they would be the least reflective and transmit the most light. But for non-reflective situations, I'm wondering how the Wratten gel filters would compare?

    And, how would Wratten gels perform compared to "B" quality filters made by Tiffen, etc?

    In terms of their optical quality, acrylic filters, like those made by Lee, etc., are a mystery to me. How do they compare to either gel or glass filters?

    Your insights would be appreciated. I have a ton of filters, and I'm interested in paring them down to the few that I need for black and white film.

  2. #2
    Big Negs Rock!
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    Re: Wratten Gel, Acrylic, or Glass Filters?

    Hello Neil,

    I've used the filters for lighting in front of the camera. I know the Great American Market filters are of optical quality. I've used others too with no problem.
    Mark Woods

    Large Format B&W
    Cinematography Mentor at the American Film Institute
    Past President of the Pasadena Society of Artists
    Director of Photography
    Pasadena, CA
    www.markwoods.com

  3. #3

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    Re: Wratten Gel, Acrylic, or Glass Filters?

    I used to use the acrylic ones, mounting them behind the lens. I could see no better or worse performance than high quality B+W ones mounted in the front. They are lighter and more compact. And require careful handling. People do look down on the lowly Tiffen filters but I've never had a problem with those either so long as I am not shooting into the sun.

    Fred Picker had a line somewhere, newsletter or somewhere else, and if I may paraphrase: 'After you expose with a filter, take a second negative without it so you have one to print.' There is some truth to that.

  4. #4
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Re: Wratten Gel, Acrylic, or Glass Filters?

    I used to follow the AA approach till I joined this forum. It was a long time ago but I seem to remember someone (maybe Sandy) showing some data that the best glass filters had better transmission than gelatin. Maybe someone else knows where this data is at and can share it.
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    at age 68
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  5. #5
    Kirk Gittings's Avatar
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    Re: Wratten Gel, Acrylic, or Glass Filters?

    Fred Picker had a line somewhere, newsletter or somewhere else, and if I may paraphrase: 'After you expose with a filter, take a second negative without it so you have one to print.' There is some truth to that.
    What does that mean?
    Thanks,
    Kirk

    at age 68
    "The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
    But I have promises to keep,
    And miles to go before I sleep,
    And miles to go before I sleep"

  6. #6

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    Re: Wratten Gel, Acrylic, or Glass Filters?

    I took it to mean that he thought that many times he looked at his filtered negatives and concluded "oh, wish I hadn't done that."

  7. #7

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    Re: Wratten Gel, Acrylic, or Glass Filters?

    Gels are nice as they are so thin, that they don't refract as thicker glass filters, but they are fragile to dust/moisture/handling, and can blow away in the wind!!! Better in the studio...

    The plastic filters are pretty good now, but require a holder that is larger and some care is still required to handle and store...

    Glass filters refract more, so they need to attach to the front threads with zero error, and can be an issue with UWA lenses... But the toughest, and most compact filter...

    One warning about the MC glass filters:

    These filters tend to fog over more easily during exposure to high humidity from moisture, and are nearly impossible to clear the fog while out in the field, until they dry out in a dryer atmosphere...

    I'm fine with glass...

    Steve K

  8. #8

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    Re: Wratten Gel, Acrylic, or Glass Filters?

    Quote Originally Posted by Kirk Gittings View Post
    What does that mean?
    Picker was too picky. I respected the guy but found him to be a bit of a bore.

  9. #9

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    Re: Wratten Gel, Acrylic, or Glass Filters?

    I find any filter to work okay as long as accompanied by an effective lens hood. But maybe I'm not discriminating enough.

    My preference though is for gel or glass.

  10. #10
    Drew Wiley
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    Re: Wratten Gel, Acrylic, or Glass Filters?

    Well, Ansel Adams also smoked and preferred steak for breakfast, and drove a gashog vehicle back when gasoline was around a dime a gallon. I use true Wratten filters in the lab sometimes, due to the huge selection of special types once available. But their are expensive, fragile, and do in fact slightly degrade image quality if you're speaking about fully modern lens usage. Ansel's lenses weren't anything like today's. Polyester filters like Lee sells affordably will consipuously degrade image quality. Cast acrylic filters won't, but again are fragile, expensive, and prone to reflections. Sandwich-style Tiffen filters are so-so. They attract condensation easily; but they do have a big selection. I personally buy only high-quality multicoated glass filters. You don't generally need very many of them
    if you understand what you are doing. You will pay somewhat more for those in brass mounts, which are less likely to bind threads than aluminum mounts. But
    optically, multicoated Hoya filters are superb at a reasonable price. Or even single-coated glass filters can be obtained for a relative bargain, and work just fine
    if you shade your lenses. Labrat has everything backwards. Any decent glass filter produces no refraction. They're plano-parallel. And they are FAR more resistant to moisture than plain surfaces. I shoot in the mountains and along the shoreline all the time. Five out of the last six vacations I used view camera in blizzards, sleet, rain, hail, and hell at high altitude. And here at home it's foggy most of the year. Only multicoated glass will do for me outside the lab, and even there I prefer MC glass whenever a given type is available.

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