Those of you who have followed my photography a while and my vlogs will know that I often never use filters which sometimes limited me particularly shooting in scenes of high dynamic range. I do exposure blend in my work which can get around this but there were times when I wanted to be able to capture a scene in a single shot, controlling the highlights while maintaining exposure in the shadows or being able to take that shine off some foreground rocks and add contrast to the scene: Enter Formatt Hitech.
PS: Throughout this review if you see a product or social media handle underlined that is a click-able link which will open in a new window for your convenience, aren’t I nice?
The kit I received off Formatt Hitech was their Firecrest 85mm ND Starter kit with an added 4 stop filter which I requested as this is the common filter I use for my seascapes. In this kit you receive:
77mm Firecrest circular polariser
Firecrest 85mm holder with rotating wheel on the side which cleverly rotates the polariser with ease (more on this soon)
77, 72, 67 and 58mm step up rings
Carrier pouch with soft padded inserts
85x85mm 1.8ND (6 stops0
85x110mm 0.9 GND (3 stop soft graduated filter)
This kit will run you £250 or roughly €280
I am not a technical reviewer I simply give my thoughts on using a product and some observations from an regular practicing photographer. So here we go:
The filter holder itself feels really well made, it’s solid and a nice weight that makes you feel like your holding a premium product and not something cheap and flimsy. Same can be said with the filters themselves. Made from high quality glass I really liked how easy cleaning them was. I shoot a lot by the sea so I often carry filter spray cleaner with me and with other filters I noticed the spray would smudge across the surface however with the firecrest ND’s the cloth wiped easy across and left no excess residue. The threads on the polariser screw in solidly into the step up rings and do not slip (once you have it aligned correctly of course).
Ease of Use:
I had never used a square filter system before so I was apprehensive about how quickly I would figure out how to set up the polariser with the holder and combine this with the ND’s but it was no problem. I needed a 67mm step up ring for my Olympus Mzuiko 12-40 F2.8. I then screwed the polariser into that and was pleased with how easy it was to attach the holder using the intuitive screw on the left hand side to loosen the clip in and out. You have to line the holder up until it slots neatly over the polariser and tighten. Takes no more than 5 seconds. The odd time I did not have it sitting on right but this was because I simply did not have them aligned correctly. I love how the holder has a wheel on the side to spin the polariser, though it may seem a small insignificant feature those small touches are what make a product both innovative and easy to use. I can confidently say after one shoot with these filters I was confident in setting up and using them. The holder itself features two slots for holding filters.
Value for Money:
I find this a tricky one to write about because any product is only worth what someone is willing to pay for it. However in photography, filters are more or less an essential piece of equipment. Going by the build quality of this kit and the customer service I have experienced so far from Formatt Hi-tech I would certainly say they are worth the advertised price tag. Take that with the caveat that I have no experience with any other square filter brand such as Lee or Nisi but I do know a premium product when I use one and I never mind paying good money for premium products.
Summary and Images:
So would I recommend these filters to a photographer in the market for a square filter system? Yes, most certainly. Now before you sharpen your pitch forks and light up the keyboard I have tried to make this as un-biased a review as possible. Yes I was sent the filters to use but I will always give my honest opinion and that honest opinion is I really did not find anything wrong or negative with these filters. Initially I thought that they were a bit tight when sliding into the holder but they loosened after the first use and now slide in with ease. The 85mm system is aimed at M43 and Aps-c users primarily, if you are a full frame user this review will still be beneficial for you however I would steer you towards their 100mm system. I am now going to show you some images captured over the past few weeks using these filters and what filters I used for each shot.
If you would like to see me use these filters in one of my vlogs please click here (and if you like landscape photography vlogs you might subscribe ;-) )
I hope you find this review helpful and if you have made it this far thanks for reading!
Thanks for reading and see you soon