To study the three-dimensional (3-D) behavior produced by complex filters, we have extended the expressions for the axial and the transverse gain to the case in which the best image plane is not near the paraxial focus. Super-Gaussian phase filters are proposed to control the 3-D image response of an optical system. Super-Gaussian phase filters depend on several parameters that modify the shape of the phase filter, producing tunable control of the 3-D response of the optical system. The filters are capable of producing a wide range of optical effects: transverse superresolution with high depth of focus, 3-D superresolution, and transverse apodization with different axial responses. © 2004 Optical Society of America.