My in-depth Formatt Hitech Firecrest Ultra Filter review.
Welcome to my Formatt Hitech Firecrest Ultra filter review, in this review I will be taking a serious look at these filters and hopefully managing to explain why they are so special. I will be looking very closely at their construction (huge advantage here), optical quality and colour Neutrality too of course.
Formatt Hitech Firecrest Ultra Filter Review
So, I thought it was about time I had a seriously in-depth review of the Firecrest Ultra range of ND filters and Graduated filters and how they have worked for me in comparison to their competition. The Firecrest Ultra range of neutral density filters is supposedly second to none, firstly for their colour neutrality and secondly for their unique design.
Yes all companies say their filters are colour neutral but did you know the range of Firecrest Ultra filters are used on Hollywood block buster movies where no expense is spared, so if they are good enough for high-end Hollywood studios then they should be good enough for me too.
On first inspection the neutrality is awesome, I have tried test shots both with and without filters on location and in the studio and can’t see any difference at all with the filters in place. So gold star there Formatt Hitech.
The standard Firecrest Formatt Hitech filters were good but these Firecrest Ultras seem to be another leap ahead again.
So is it worthwhile upgrading from the standard Firecrest ND filters? For me personally, yes it is, but it all depends on your budget I supposey.
There are new filters on the block also as the range of Formatt Hitech 100mm Onyx filters have been released but they are not as good as the Firecrest Ultra filters. I have a group test review of the difference between the Onyx vs Ultra vs Pro filters here if you are interested.
The Firecrest Ultra filters work perfectly in the new Firecrest Magnetic 100mm filter holder (review here) in the video below.
What is it that makes the Firecrest Ultra filters so good?
This question led me to discover exactly how serious Formatt Hitech really is about their filters…
Not only about their manufacturing process but also their customers, the people that invest and trust in their products.
So for me, I had to impartially have a look at filters again and they raised two concerns for me.
1. Colour neutrality, (let’s just go ahead and tick that box).
2. Longevity, the length of time we expect our filters to last. Something I am always aware of as let’s face it they aren’t cheap.
3. Yes, I said two concerns there wasn’t supposed to be a 3rd concern but then I did my research. I wasn’t expecting this one at all, it’s something I never really thought about
Before we go any further and for full disclosure, I should mention I am a Firecrest Featured Artist, Brand Ambassador and Photography Educator, now some will say my review will be tainted but I was already using their products anyway and purchased them with my own hard-earned money before I had any affiliation with the company.
So for me, it is an honest review and on the plus side you get 10% off with code HAYES10 and I get a slight kickback from sales made with my discount code which helps me to write articles like this.
So the best range of Hitech filters just got cheaper for you, so don’t forget discount code HAYES10 just apply the code at checkout in the promo code box and you get 10% off.
So let’s quickly talk about longevity and durability.
What makes Firecrest so unique is they are the only bonded nd filters on the market. Most ND filters are sheets of glass with a filter coating (nd costing) on them if you scratch that coating then the filter is ruined.
TheFirecrest Ultra range of Hitech filters is actually two sheets of the finest Schott Superwhite optical grade glass sandwiched together.
The filters are manufactured using a rare earth metal coating which is applied directly onto the polished glass using their advanced multi-coating technology. The coating is sandwiched in between two sheets of Schott superwhite optical glass thus making the coating scratch proof. Now that’s a fantastic feature to have in your filters.
Yes, I know some filter companies say you their filters are drop-proof. So you can drop them and they won’t shatter, that’s true as they are made of hardened glass which is firstly not optical grade!!! and secondly, if you drop the filter you will most likely scratch the coating rendering them useless anyway. So what’s the point of that then?
I can imagine most of you are probably sitting forward in your seats now and saying what the hell is he on about now it’s just a sheet of glass, glass is flat end of story.
Well, I just went and educated myself a little. After a discussion with the tech guru’s over at Formatt Hitech, I can tell you this information on how they produce the Ultra filters…
As I explained above… the hyper neutral filter coating is sandwiched between two plates of bonded glass making the coating impossible to scratch (unlike other manufacturers). Well, that’s a great design feature for someone like me that works a lot by the coast with sand, sea spray and the odd bit of seaweed flying at me.
The crazy unexpected added bonus of these processes is as the filters are manufactured of bonded glass they are also more resilient to impact than most of their competitors.
So harder to scratch and more resilient also, they are characteristics that already had my wallet half-open, but wait there is more… so let’s get back to optical performance.
I have to say they really went above and beyond with this final part of the process. As a photographer I love to be in control of my equipment and treat every single piece with both love and hate, we all know the more equipment you have in your exposure the greater the probability of imperfections in your final image.
So we stand there with our camera, lens, tripod, filters and filter holder all costing anywhere from €1,000 to €10,000 for most of us and this little sliver of glass you purchased for €80.- to €190.- or so has a huge input into your image… Now stop and think about that for a second. Yes I mean REALLY think about that…..
Remember when you purchased your camera and weighed up the pro’s and con’s of that specific model, the minute details we looked into, the model’s spec’s and if the next step up was worth the €300 or €1,000 premium.
I won’t even mention the lens we thought about and drooled over for weeks or months until we finally purchased the one we wanted. All of this purely because they were just that tiny little fraction better than the rest. Money always well spent in my mind though.
So why not look at filters in exactly the same way?
Theon high-end equipment is a little disappointing when you compare the difference a good set of filters can make versus an ok set and the price difference involved.
Back to the process… The final step in the ultra’s manufacturing process is something that I struggled to come to terms with for a while if I am really honest with you.
I seriously wondered what the hell is that all about. Ok so once the filters have been formed and by most manufacturers standards ready to ship, the perfectionists over at Formatt Hitech say no let’s go ahead and run another process known as “lapping and polishing” which involves grinding down the filters to ensure they are completely optically flat.
Yes, you read that right they actually grind down the finished product to as close to optical perfection as possible and then they are polished again. This process kills off any minute imperfections in the glass making them the sharpest filters and most optically perfect filters on the market today.
Ok, over the years I have flirted with Lee Filters the English filter company and Nisi from China but I then tried the Firecrest range, their attention to detail is what I originally loved about the Firecrest filters and where I found kindred spirits.
As photographers, we crave control and try to encapsulate in a single photograph what has appeared in our mind as sort of a warped dream which we dragged kicking and screaming from the reality we found before us.
This is our passion, our dream and our everything. So for me finding a company that not only gets that but also pushes the boundaries forward helping us to realise these dreams is nothing short of amazing.
So getting back to the question… a filter is a filter, right?
Well, that’s so very wrong, filters come in various shapes and sizes but also more importantly different qualities.
You get what you pay for, like with anything else in life it all comes down to the fact that quality matters.
Why cut corners on one of the cheapest products to purchase in your photograph, it just doesn’t make sense.
Money saving tips.
I have two tips for you here… firstly useto get 10% off and secondly buy a signature artist kit. Ok, it might seem a bit obvious to buy a filter kit but you would be surprised how many people buy filters separately.
Lets take the Elia Locardi filter kit for example if you were to buy all the pieces separately it would cost you £693.75 + £5.00 shipping £698.75
Elia Locardi complete kit with the 10% discount code is only £535.99
So by using the discount code and buying these filters in a kit you use the two tips above you buy this kit for only £535.99
That’s a staggering £162.76 saving and yes that is available worldwide and that is the price delivered to your door.
This is the reason why I advise clients to buy signature artist kits.
The potential savings are huge.
If you have any filter questions then please feel free to contact me via the form on the bottom of this page.
I have a list of the kits available below and my review of them and what’s in the actual kit also.
The final tip I have for you is… did you know the Firecrest 100mm magnetic filter holder in the above kits lets you stack ND filters so again let say you buy the Elia Locardi filter kit. That kit comes with two ND filters and one graduated filter. The four and ten stop ND filter in the kit can be used separately or you can stack them to get a 14 stop ND filter. Now how cool is that?
Before you go why not check out my tips and tricks section in the menu above or if you ever get to Ireland then please do checkout my one to one and Group Photography Workshops to help you to improve your photography.
So take the leap and let the “fire in” you will never look back.
See you out there,