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Tank considerations

Chris_Homan

Member
Joined
14 May 2021
Messages
30
Location
St Albans
Hi All,
Just my second post so my apologies if this had been already debated to death (I did do a search though). I’m looking to get back into the hobby and currently looking at my options. My other big hobby is photography and I’m keen to combine the two. One of the tanks I’m looking at is of low-iron glass (Superfish Scaper 90) and I was wondering if it this glass makes any difference to making photos? Is there less chromatic aberration or less of a colour cast? Or any other benefits?

Keen to hear your thoughts.

Thanks,

Chris
 

ceg4048

Expert/Global Moderator
UKAPS Team
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11 Jul 2007
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9,455
Location
Chicago, USA
Hi,
The biggest factor, by far, to the color balance problem in photos is the lights. With typical fluorescent bulbs there is the ever present green cast, but is complicated even more with the so-called plant bulbs, or when using a combination of bulbs. LED gives similar problems. You must then either correct in post or do a custom color balance, which is usually an option on Nikon DSLRs. I'm sure the other brands have the same option.

Having said that, if you can afford iron free glass then definitely get it because of the effect it will have when you are viewing the tank with you own eyes.

Cheers,
 

MichaelJ

Member
Joined
9 Feb 2021
Messages
483
Location
Minnesota, USA
Hi @Chris_Homan, as @ceg4048 points out white balance is the key factor. The light usually emitted from an aquarium is so off-axis from the normal blackbody response (causing a severe cast) that it's almost impossible to get it right with just the cameras Auto White Balance (due to the assumptions about shooting conditions build into most AWB algorithms). If you shoot regular JPEG (where all the corrections are baked in) you will have to make sure you get the "custom" white balance absolutely spot-on otherwise it will be very hard to correct it in post. So I highly recommend shooting RAW and manually pick and apply the "correct" reference white. I would be using an x-rite color checker pushed up against the glass to capture as much of the ambient light from the tank as possible (attached phone snap is just to show the methodology) and use the whitest or 2nd-whitest patch as the white balance reference that I can easily pick and apply to a series of photos in my favorite photo editor (you can do the same in all photo editors that can deal with RAW files). In addition, if you shoot RAW you get a lot of additional leverage to correct tonality, colors, noise etc. but you probably know all this already being a big hobby photographer! Welcome to UKAPS.org ! :)
colorchecker.jpg


Cheers,
Michael
 
Last edited:

Chris_Homan

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Thread starter
Joined
14 May 2021
Messages
30
Location
St Albans
Thanks Michael,

Thank you so much! Would it be correct to say that for the purpose of photography, low-iron glass is not really an advantage? I can use a color chart for WB or set the white balance manually which could be all I need. However, from just looking at the two types of glass, it looks like the conventional glass does create a color cast that correcting white balance won‘t necessarily correct and that it may require an extra stop of exposure.
 

MichaelJ

Member
Joined
9 Feb 2021
Messages
483
Location
Minnesota, USA
@Chris_Homan Your welcome! Anything that interferers with the colorimetry and transmission such as iron rich glass is obviously a disadvantage for photography and viewing perception. However, for the common glass thickness in the 80-100 Liter range (~6mm) the greenish-blueish "tinting" caused by the iron oxide in the glass probably won't be that big of an issue vs. low-iron (~0.01% FeO) glass especially, at the customary color temperatures found in planted freshwater tanks (as opposed to say the high +12000 Kelvin reef tanks), but the loss of transmission might be, depending on general light levels and your camera gear etc.... But here is my thinking: Considering your pursuit of photography, the relative extra cost vs. the all-inclusive cost of setting up a tank in general, I would not hesitate to get the low-iron glass. You definitely do not want to set up your beautiful tank, with all it takes, and regret (or doubt) your choice of glass!

Cheers,
Michael
 
Last edited:

shangman

Member
Joined
13 Jul 2020
Messages
600
Location
London
I'm not a photographer, but I am a designer so share a love of aesthetics. Frankly the low iron glass makes for a much more beautiful aquarium, it melts into the background, especially with clear silicon. Of all the things that are worth paying a little more for in our hobby, low iron glass aquariums are definitely worth it. I generally like to be cheap, but this isn't something I would stint on if I had the option.
 

Wookii

Member
Joined
13 Nov 2019
Messages
2,185
Location
Nottingham
I have a couple of low iron glass tanks and one very old one from standard float glass. The slight colour difference isn't an issue when taking photos as far as I can tell, but the reflectivity is a major issue. The standard glass is much more reflective, presumably as a result of the lower light transmission (the light is reflected rather than passing through) making it very difficult to avoid taking a reflected image of yourself and the room when you photograph it.

Colour balance is a real issue with photographing LED lit tanks I've found, even more so with the single chip RGB based lights that I use. I struggled for a long time as I only really use my phone, so one trick I've found it take a white balance reading from light reflected off a nearby white/light cream wall, lock that white balance reading, and then photograph the tank. Not accurate enough for pro's, but produces an image for me that is much closer to what I'm physically seeing, and doesn't take up much time.
 
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