i3 - November/December 2016 - 48

Nat Tiffen
Founder, Tiffen Filters

Nat Tiffen wanted to expand his family's camera filter rings and
adapter business to include filters, but soon discovered that glass optics of the late 1940s
met neither the needs of the market nor his own standards.

S

o Tiffen
embarked on
a multi-year
research and
development journey
to produce quality and
affordable filters. The
result was a breakthrough,
revolutionizing not only
the camera filter and
accessory industry, but
also earned Tiffen two
Oscars and an Emmy for
technical achievement
and made his company the
dominant filter maker.
Tiffen was born February
19, 1925, in East New York,
NY. He was the next to
youngest of eight children
of Celia and Isadore, who
ran a dry cleaning store.
At 17, he was an airplane
mechanic for American
Airlines, at 19 a foreman
of a machine shop and
at 21 he had his own
machine shop.
His brother Sol, the
eldest had an interest in
photography. Nat and
another brother Leo had
pursued their own separate
careers but they united
in April 1946 to form the
Tiffen Company in a small
facility in Brooklyn, NY.
The trio manufactured
and sold lathe-turned
aluminum photographic
accessories such as lens
caps, lens barrels, adapter
and filter rings. Nat ran the
manufacturing, Sol the sales
48

NOVEMBER/DECEMBER 2016

efforts and Leo the office.
As their business
grew, Nat became more
interested in glass and
optics, but encountered
problems with then
current manufacturing
techniques that produced
filters with too many color
and thickness variations,
were expensive to make
and could only be sold
in matched sets. They
also were susceptible to
damage from handling
and usage, and quality
was difficult to achieve
or maintain.
After years of
experimenting, Tiffen
hit upon a new bonding
process that actually
enhanced filter refraction,
better withstood the
rigors of optical finishing,
grinding and polishing,
virtually eliminated lens
color and thickness

variations, were more
durable, and increased
the cost-efficiency of
small quantity runs,
even one-offs.
Tiffen had such
high confidence in his
innovative solution -
dubbed ColorCore -
that he offered buyers
a lifetime warranty. In
1950, instead of sourcing
glass from the west coast,
Tiffen moved the glass
manufacturing processes
and lens assembly under
his watchful eyes to the
company's New York
headquarters. In 1954,
the company moved to
Jane Street in Roslyn
Heights, Long Island, NY.
In the 1960s, Tiffen
made a concerted
effort to sell his filters to
Hollywood, and succeeded
after solving a filter
problem for the head of

Columbia Picture's camera
department. Tiffen worked
with Steven Spielberg,
Stanley Kubrick, and a
plethora of Hollywood
movie, TV directors
and cinematographers,
establishing Tiffen as
the go-to filter supplier.
In 1978, a fire destroyed
much of the company's
Roslyn Heights plant,
along with millions of
dollars' worth of products
and many one-of-a-kind
specially mixed colors
and discontinued filter
dyes. The Tiffen Brothers
treated this disaster as
an opportunity, however,
moving the company to
a new 40,000-squarefoot building - double
its previous space - in
Hauppauge, Long Island,
NY. Tiffen quickly picked
up where it left off, and
the company surpassed
previous levels of
production.
Today, the company
makes more than 4,000
items sold in more than
70 countries.
Tiffen retired in 1990, but
the company remained
in the family. Tiffen's son
Steve became company
president, and son Ira, sonin-law Jeffery and daughter
Barbara held various roles
in the company. Nat Tiffen
passed away on November
21, 2006.
n
I T I S I N N O VAT I O N



Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of i3 - November/December 2016

Contents
i3 - November/December 2016 - Cover1
i3 - November/December 2016 - Cover2
i3 - November/December 2016 - Contents
i3 - November/December 2016 - 2
i3 - November/December 2016 - 3
i3 - November/December 2016 - 4
i3 - November/December 2016 - 5
i3 - November/December 2016 - 6
i3 - November/December 2016 - 7
i3 - November/December 2016 - 8
i3 - November/December 2016 - 9
i3 - November/December 2016 - 10
i3 - November/December 2016 - 11
i3 - November/December 2016 - 12
i3 - November/December 2016 - 13
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i3 - November/December 2016 - 15
i3 - November/December 2016 - 16
i3 - November/December 2016 - 17
i3 - November/December 2016 - 18
i3 - November/December 2016 - 19
i3 - November/December 2016 - 20
i3 - November/December 2016 - 21
i3 - November/December 2016 - 22
i3 - November/December 2016 - 23
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i3 - November/December 2016 - 25
i3 - November/December 2016 - 26
i3 - November/December 2016 - 27
i3 - November/December 2016 - 28
i3 - November/December 2016 - 29
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i3 - November/December 2016 - Cover3
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