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Photography Question 

B+W Brand filters

Can you tell me what a B+W brand 52E FL-D filter is?

Can you also rank order the folowing filter brands in terms of quality: Nikon, B+W, Heliopan, Cokin, Tiffen, Hoya, Vivitar?

Thank you

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2/1/2001 8:55:49 PM

Jon Close
BetterPhoto Member Since: 5/18/2000
  FL-D is a color-balance correction filter (FLourescent to Daylight). It is used when shooting under flourescent lighting without a flash to remove the greenish cast. I assume the "52E" refers to 52mm ring diameter.

With regard to "ranking" these brands, I find that selling price is a pretty good indicator of quality. I assume B+W are very good, but they are too expensive for me. I use Tiffen and Hoya filters and have no trouble recommending them. They are very effective and I haven't experienced any measurable image degradation.

You can read more about these filters at:


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2/3/2001 12:32:55 PM

John A. Lind
BetterPhoto Member Since: 9/27/2001
Jon's reply answered what the FL-D filter is for. You asked about B+W, and how some of the filter manufacturers rank . . . so here's a little more about them.

Heliopan and B+W are among the finest made. Both use Schott glass with dye in the glass for nearly all their filters, and the coated ones are phenomenal. Schott is one of the original companies within the Zeiss Foundation. Schneider-Kreuznach, which owns B+W, is (IMO) a very close #2 behind Carl Zeiss in lens making. Their fame is in cinema and projection lenses at which they are among the world's finest. S-K also makes world class medium format camera lenses.

Others major names such as Hoya, Vivitar and Tiffen are not "bad." They are a cut below Heliopan or B+W, but the coated ones are still much better than the cheap "generic" ones. You will pay for quality filters though. Things to consider with filters:

1. Filter ring:
The best are made of brass followed by aluminum. However, aluminum can "gall" when threaded into aluminum or brass threads making it very hard to remove them. Aluminum rings don't cause as much problem in polycarbonate. B+W and Heliopan are brass. Tiffen is aluminum. I don't know what the others are currently using.

2. Flatness and parallelism:
The best filters have their surfaces ground and polished dead flat. (Obvious exceptions are special effects ones.) The front and back surfaces should be absolutely parallel and the ring should hold the filter so that it will be exactly perpendicular to the filter threads on your lens. Anything other than this introduces aberrations and can accentuate flare. Parallelism can be more of a problem with "sandwich" type filters which have the filter gel sandwiched between two pieces of plain glass. The "sandwich" types can also separate with age although the newer ones are more resistant to this.

3. Stability:
Stability of the color for color correction, warming, cooling, and Black & White use is important. It should not fade or shift. Properly done, dye in the glass tends to be more stable than the "sandwich" types.

4. Coated vs. Uncoated:
An uncoated filter _will_ reduce contrast. Whether you notice readily this will depend on whether the lens is multi-coated or not. There is much hype about multi-coated filters versus single-coated. A single coating achieves about 90-95% of the improvement a multi-coating can versus no coating. Uncoated filters are also prone to flare. Related to light transmission, 90-95% of flare resistance is also gained with a single coating. Consequently I don't worry much about SC versus MC, but do want it at least a single coating.

The main question with filters is how much degradation they introduce compared to the quality of the lens they're put on. A filter introduces yet another glass element into the optical system, and all light must pass through it to get to the film. If you have world-class multi-coated lenses, you don't want generic, uncoated filters on the front. It defeats the quality of the lens.

Most of mine are Heliopan because they're easier to get locally than B+W's, but I have a few of them, too. There are a couple of older Vivitar "VMC" and Hoya "HMC" filters still in the bag. They are very good also, although first preference is for Heliopan or B+W. After doing some comparison shots using ISO 64 and 100 slide film, then projecting it on a 50" screen, I gradually got rid of all the uncoated ones. The first ditched were the "generic's" bought when I first started 20 years ago.

If budget is a consideration, and you live near a large camera store (which has at least some pro customers) look through their used filter bin for Heliopan's and B+W's in excellent condition regularly. They usually get snapped up quickly. Found a few of mine this way . . . but also was very finicky about perfect glass and rings without dents or dings ("brassing" of the ring finish does not matter).

-- John

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2/4/2001 2:03:49 PM

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