Tiffen Filters

Tiffen Filters

Why shoot with a diffusion filter?
Why will shooting with a diffusion filter make such a big improvement in the visual quality of your footage? Why do we call it “instant filmlook” and “instant magic”? Why do we shoot with diffusion filters almost all the time? There are several reasons. One is that video cameras have a built-in electronic edge sharpening process that is applied in realtime to lines of high luma and chroma contrast as you shoot. 35mm film is much higher resolution than video, and without this sharpening filter, video looks too “fuzzy”- exposing the natural low resolution of Standard Definition video. If your camcorder allows you to dial the “sharpness” down, try it- you probably won’t like it. But this sharpening filter, though a necessary evil, is a “video giveaway”- the “edge harshness” it produces is a key characteristic of video and informs your audience subliminally that your project “wasn’t worth shooting on film”. Tiffen diffusion filters, like the Soft F/X 3 filter, cancel out the “harshness” while still maintaining the sharpness of the image. Wow! That’s magic! How does it do this? Well, Tiffen has been designing filters for broadcast and film for 65 years, and they’ve won Academy Awards and Emmy Awards… and, well, maybe it is magic.

If you zoom in on fine detail with the Soft F/X 3 filter, like individual strands of hair, you see that the harsh “video edge” has been transformed into a smooth, beautiful image but maintaining sharp, crisp edges- still in perfect focus.

Facial wrinkles are softened, lights and windows take on a misty glow, whites, light areas and glints from metal, glass and jewelry “flare” or “bloom” outward subtly to produce a magical, dreamy, captivating look that entrances your viewers, allowing you to better tell your story. Which is the goal of DV creation in the first place- to put your viewers in a captivated state where they are experiencing your story and not merely “watching your edit”.

Except for video professionals, your viewers won’t be aware you shot with a filter- your footage will just look “beautiful” to them. People and objects will look much better than they do in real life.

(NOTE: You do NOT want to use a soft filter when you want people or things to look WORSE than reality- remove the diffusion filter for your gritty documentary or reality show- or your “before” shots!)

Since Tiffen filters are used in practically every feature film, your viewers will “smell the popcorn”- associating your project with the big budgets of Hollywood and not amateur productions.

For years, shooting commercials in Portland, I got choice gigs because my footage looked better than other production companies- even though their cameras were much more expensive. My secret? The Tiffen Soft F/X 3 filter!

Another advantage of shooting with diffusion is that your footage will compress better for web and CD delivery- and even DVD, because compression codecs have trouble with sharp, harsh, high contrast edges.

You could shoot without a filter and create a soft effect in post, but you can’t ever really get the same effect, render times will be very long, and you’ll be spending time in post tweaking your effect rather than being creative with your edit. That’s why, unless we really want a videoy look, we always shoot with diffusion.

Tiffen offers a range of filters. The number at the end indicates the “strength” of the filter- a 1/4 or 1/2 is the most subtle, a “5” is the strongest. But the numbers don’t really correlate between filter types- a ProMist 1 is as strong as a Soft F/X 3.


What filter should I buy?

    (no filter)
    Soft/FX 3


Warm Soft/FX 3

Soft/FX 3

We think the ideal filter to start with is the Soft/FX 3.
Dramatic magic for any interior or exterior shot.
43mm Soft/FX 3 List Price:$52.42 / Our Price: $39.95
58mm Soft/FX 3
List Price:$52.42 / Our Price: $39.95
72mm Soft/FX 3
List Price:$87.79 / Our Price: $66.95
82mm Soft/FX 3
List Price:$140.79 / Our Price: $112.30
Soft/FX 4

If you want to go a touch more dreamy, go for the Soft/FX 4. 58mm Soft/FX 4
List Price:$52.42 / Our Price: $39.95
72mm Soft/FX 4
List Price:$87.79 / Our Price: $66.95
Warm Soft/FX 3

This filter is a great choice like the Soft/FX 3 but with the warmer skin tones. 58mm Warm Soft/FX 3
List Price:$52.42 / Our
Price: $39.95
72mm Warm Soft/FX 3
List Price:$87.79 / Our Price: $66.95
Pro Mist 1/2

For a slightly “mistier” look than the Soft F/X 1, the ProMist 1/2 is just as subtle- and is the most popular motion picture diffusion filter. Creates special “atmosphere” by softening excess sharpness and contrast; creates pearlescent glow around highlights. Great for portraits and landscapes. 58mm Pro Mist 1/2
List Price:$58.53 /
Our Price: $44.95
72mm Pro Mist 1/2
List Price:$96.32 / Our Price: $73.95
Black Pro Mist 1

The Black Pro Mist 1 is similar to the Black Diffusion FX 3 but reduces contrast more- it will bring detail out of shadow areas, and help you avoid blown-out highlights. 58mm Black Pro Mist 1
List Price:$58.53 /
Our Price: $44.95
72mm Black Pro Mist 1
List Price:$96.32 / Our Price: $73.95
Black Pro Mist 1/2

Even more subtle than the Black Pro Mist 1. 58mm Black Pro Mist 1/2
List Price:$58.53 /
Our Price: $44.95
72mm Black Pro Mist 1/2
List Price:$96.32 /
Our Price: $73.95
Center Spot

An interesting diffusion filter is the Center Spot. This filter helps you simulate the shallow depth of field characteristics of 35mm film by maintaining perfect sharpness in the center area, while diffusing the periphery of the frame. In this way, detailed, busy, distracting backgrounds are softened, leading your viewer to focus on your subject, and thereby your story. Very trendy, very cool looking effect. Ideal for portrait or product applications. 58mm Center Spot
List Price:$34.53 / Our
Price: $25.95

Other filters

Gradient ND

Use a a gradient ND (Neutral Density) filter in the following situations: If, because of limited space or lighting, part of your frame is too light, while the other part is too dark. Put the gradient ND filter on and rotate it so the dark part of the filter is over the part of your shot that is too light- presto chango- your shot now looks perfect! Or say you’re shooting indoors with a window showing a sunny day in the shot. Expose for your subject, the window is blank white. Expose for the scene outside, your subject is way too dark. The gradient ND filter will solve this problem too. What if you have a person with a very dark complexion sitting next to a pasty white person? Gradient ND filter. Ever wonder how, in car commercials, they get a normal looking shot of the land, while the sky is dark and dramatic, rather than washed out like in your shots? The answer? The gradient ND filter. 43mm Gradient Neutral Density 0.6 List Price:$60.26 / Our Price: $14.48
58mm Gradient Neutral Density 0.6
List Price:$60.26 / Our
Price: $36.95
72mm Gradient Neutral Density 0.6
List Price:$96.05 / Our Price: $58.95
Circular Polarizer

Essential for outdoor photography; deepens intensity of blue skies; reduces or eliminates glare. 43mm Circular Polarizer List Price:$74.20 / Our Price: $35.35
58mm Circular Polarizer
List Price:$74.20 / Our Price: $33.95
72mm Circular Polarizer
List Price:$136.20 / Our Price: $62.95
UVP and ND 0.6 Twin pak or ND 0.9 – 58mm

Leave the UV filter on all the time to protect your lens from dust, moisture, scratches, and breakage- if a rock hits your lens, better it scratch a $16 filter than your lens! This combo also comes with the essential ND 0.6- what you need to bring exposure down to get shallow depth of field outdoors. 58mm UVP and ND 0.6
List Price:$29.16 / Our Price: $15.95

58mm ND 0.9
List Price:$60.26 / Our Price: $36.95

NOTE: when shooting in very bright conditions, like outside in bright sunlight, you’ll need to keep your iris open and use your camcorder’s ND filter and probably an additional ND filter to keep your depth of field shallow enough that you won’t actually see the pattern of the filter in your footage, which is possible with an extremely deep depth of field. That’s fine, because you want a shallow depth of field anyway!

What size filter do I need?
The Canon GL1, Canon GL2, and Sony PD150 use 58mm filters.
The Canon XL2, XLH1, XHA1 Panasonic AG-DVX100, and Sony HVR-Z1U use 72mm filters.
The Panasonic AG-HVX200, and JVC GY-HD100U use 82mm filters.