Optical Effects of Stacking Camera Filters

Optical Effects of Stacking Camera Filters

  • Filters should not be "stacked"-that is, placed over a lens more than one at a time-for a number of reasons. Among these is the cumulative effect of one aspect of reflected light: light is reflected from surfaces according to its angle of incidence (the angle at which the light ray approaches a surface).

  • When a light ray strikes a transparent surface-as when passing from air to glass-at the perpendicular, relatively little is reflected, but when it strikes at a lesser angle a higher percentage is reflected. With any one surface this effect is small, and it is not noticeable, in practice, with just one filter. But if several filters are placed over a lens (each filter with two such reflecting surfaces) the resultant light loss upon exposure may become quite noticeable.

  • Furthermore, there is a tendency for such light to be reflected repeatedly inside the filter, between its two surfaces. This light, now disturbed from its original image-forming path, may finally strike the film as internal flare that lowers image contrast. Because of the angles of incidence involved, these effects will be more noticeable with wide-angle lenses. Cumulative effects can be quite important.

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