This article is an overview of the Formatt Hitech Firecrest Filter Holder system and their neutral density filters.
Long exposure is one of those magical types of photography that once people start doing it, they nearly always fall in love with the technique. They then begin their quest for the right conditions to take those photos, along with the right gear. The filters you use are important and, so is the holder for them.
Long exposure photography is becoming so popular, but with it come lots of issues to deal with. The most important one is light and stopping any from getting into the camera that may ruin your images. Another one that you hear many complaining about is color casts caused by the filters they are using.
Have the right gear to get what you attempting is so important. Formatt Hitech has been listening to their users and has come up with a new holder system for their 100mm filters that addresses many of these problems.
Formatt Hitech Filter Holder
The new filter holder from Formatt Hitech is designed to completely enclose the filter so no light can get in around it once the filter is in place. It removes the need for the foam gasket on the back of the filter, as the holder has one on it to help seal the filter into place.
Formatt Hitech has put a great deal of thought into what you will need for long exposure photography, and along with the holder come some other surprises.
What’s in the box
This company does produce some of the loveliest packaging that I’ve seen. The boxes have a soft, almost suede feel. It is hard to throw them away, in fact, I haven’t been able to.
When the package arrives and you open the box you will see the holder, but you will also see an 82mm adaptor ring and a series of step-down rings. So often in the past when buying the adaptor rings you have had to make a choice about which lens you will fit it to and get the ring to fit that one. Formatt Hitech gives you the adaptor ring for the largest possible filter size and the step-down rings to fit other lenses.
Wrapped in paper, you will find a polarizer that fits into the adapter ring. This filter fits in the back of the holder system very neatly, and your neutral density filters then fit in front of it. There is a geared control wheel that allows you to turn the filter as needed.
The added benefit here is the ability to use the polarizer in the adapter ring on its own. You don’t have to attach the holder at all.
Using it for the first time
When you first open the box it can seem a bit overwhelming and when you try to use the system, it’s a little confusing. It feels like you will break it when you try to pull it apart, but it is designed for rough use.
If you still can’t work it out Formatt Hitech has a video which they recommend that you watch (see below). The brackets around the holder are often a little stiff to begin with, but they do get easier and loosen up with use. Watching the video will help you get past that.
Attaching the holder onto the adaptor ring can take some getting used to as well. It is bit fiddly, but with practice, you will get better at it, and faster. You can do it with one hand, it simply clicks onto the ring. It is quite durable and will take a lot of handling. The holder stays very firmly on the adaptor ring.
Why is it good to have a filter holder like this?
If you looked at the old filter holder that was available, even with the foam gasket, you could see gaps where it was possible for light to get through. When you want to create a perfect long exposure you need to make sure that there are no leaks. The benefits of this particular filter holder system is that it removes the possibilities of those gaps and creates a more light tight cocoon around your filter.
Out in the field, the system does work well. But, having to remove both brackets around the holder just to the change filter, or add one, is a bit harder and takes more time. The benefits the brackets provide in other ways (light tightness) certainly make up for it, though.
There have been a couple of instances of vignetting, but it is very slight and only seems to happen when the lens is very wide, for example at 24mm.
When you first use the bracket it seems like you can’t use graduated filters in the holder. However, there are sections at the top and bottom that can be removed that will allow you to use 100x150mm filters. There are vented end caps that allow the filters to poke through, while at the same time helping to retain that light seal.
The Format Hitech filters
It is logical that if you are going to use the holder then you should also use the Formatt Hitech filters as well. Their Firecrest series are very neutral and have no color cast, even when underexposing.
They are made in the UK using high-quality optical glass that is bonded together, so the coating is sandwiched between them. This helps to protect the filters and also makes them much harder to scratch. If you do scratch them then you are just doing it to the outside and not the coating itself.
Formatt Hitech filters aren’t cheap, with the filter holder retailing around $170 USD, but you do get quite a bit for your money. The filters are pricey, but if you love long exposure photography then it’s worth it. Plus, if you look after them, don’t drop them, you could have them forever.
They also sell kits, which can help you save money on the initial outlay. They all have the filter holder and various filters depending on what you are looking for.
Long exposure photography is an addictive style and many who start can’t stop. If you love it and want to get the best possible photos, then you have to consider the new Firecrest Filter Holder from Formatt Hitech. A holder that stops light from entering through your lens is a great start. Combined with the filters, you are on your way to creating some magical images.
If you want to compare to other systems have a look at these as well: