REVIEW: Tiffen HDTV/FX filter

We received over for a test the 52mm version of Tiffen's new line of ultra-contrast filters, the HDTV/FX. The filter comes in various strengths (from 1/4 to 6), and we review one with strength #3. The HDTV/FX filters are available in professional sizes 4x4, 4x5.650, 6.6x6.6, 138mm and 4-1/2" and also available in screw-in sizes 52mm-82mm for the digital still photographer and videographer.

This particular filter is a combination of two older products made by Tiffen, their Contrast filter and the Digital Diffusion/FX filter. The contrast filter simply removes contrast, so the final image looks more like traditional film, while the diffusion softens out the image to, again, achieve that elusive "film look" that every Indie cinematographer is so passionately looking for.

still images

The "soft" look that the filter brings to the table might or might not be what everyone is looking for, but the contrast abilities will help out in many situations, e.g. harshly sunny days, a bride on a white dress on a dark background etc. The filter helps evening out the look and provides better shadow details. Some users think that using a video editor in "post" to change the contrast will do the same thing, but this is not true. While the softening of an image can be achieved in "post" quite easily with the right software filter, the contrast results are not great. Changing contrast on "post" will undoubtedly lead to some loss of quality on your image and so a hardware filter that does the job while capturing the image is always more preferable.

As with all filters, use with care and only when they are needed. We coupled this filter with an ND-6 filter during our tests under a very sunny, warm day and we got pretty good results. In fact, using both these filters, we were able to start getting some background blur on just 30% of our zoom level, while without any of the filters we wouldn't get a background blur before 80% of the zoom level. Depth of field is an important step towards the ultimate "film look", and so we were happy to see these two filters working together so well on our Canon HV20 and achieving a look that it's not so "video".

- Download the video above in 720p format (shot with the HDTV/FX3, ND-6 filters and towards the end a polarizer too). 180 MB

- Download a short 720p comparison video with and without the HDTV/FX3 filter. 22 MB

- Download a short 720p video with the HDTV/FX3 & ND filter, which exhibits a bit of the "film look". 11 MB