LEE 85mm filter holder vs Formatt Hitech 85mm Filter Holder Review

LEE 85mm filter holder vs Formatt Hitech 85mm Filter Holder Review

LEE 85mm vs Formatt Hitech Firecrest 85mm filter holder, my review of both systems.

The LEE 85mm filter holder was just launched today so I am doing a side by side comparison between the LEE 85mm filter holder and the Formatt Hitech Firecrest 85mm filter holder.

I will be keeping this as accurate as possible and quoting the specs and lining up the pro’s and con’s of each system to give you not just my verdict but the verdict on which one is best on paper.

Once it’s best on paper that should also translate to being the best in the field. I will be doing a side by side test between these in the field also shortly. It’s not going to be a five minute review either I am going to use the LEE and Firecrest holder both for a few days and really get them into my work flow to see which one goes in the bin and which one goes in my bag.

I have the exact stats and differences between each system towards the bottom of the page if you want to skip the two reviews.

As the LEE 85mm system is the new arrival lets start with that first.

LEE 85mm filter holder review

Lee 85mm filter holder vs Firecrest 85mm filter holder

The new kid on the block today is the LEE 85mm filter holder and it is the latest in the line of filter holders from LEE. It is designed to replace their Sevens system holder which never really took off, so in this LEE 85mm filter holder review we look at the new 85mm filter holder.

Well firstly it uses 85mm filters as the name would suggest, so if you bought into the sevens system sadly you are out of luck using them in this holder.

So 85mm how much better is it?

Well a lot, if you are using an Ultra wide angle lens on a micro four thirds camera you would want to be using an 85mm filter holder. so that’s a big plus already for this system but then again the Firecrest holder is also 85mm.

The Filter Holder

The LEE 85mm filter holder is made from Aluminium to ensure its light weight and ultimate portability which is a positive and you can also put one, two or three filter slots with their modular design system which is just like the LEE 100 system holder.

There is a locking dial for locking the system securely onto the thread adapter, this dial has three different locking points, they are shown in the image below.

So this unit is light compact and fits in any camera bag all positives there then.

Will it fit your lens?

The thread adaptors come in sizes from 37mm all the way up to 72mm so if your lens thread size is in between there that’s good news for you if you’re considering this holder.

The kit actually comes with three popular filter threads 58mm, 67mm and 72mm so that’s good news.

Polarising filter

Not included with the LEE 85mm filter holder kit, ok, I am going to have to be honest here I tried to write this section now three times and I still can’t do it. I honestly can’t understand why the cpl is not in the kit and why it is still out in front of the filter holder.
Sorry rant nearly over but as someone that uses a cpl a lot I just don’t get that. If it is anything like the LEE 100 system then the cpl is going to be expensive yet again and something unsuspecting customers don’t think of when buying a system. Hence a nasty surprise afterwards.

Apologies for the rant but years ago I got caught with the LEE foundation kit and found myself regularly wanting to use a cpl so I priced the LEE cpl and adapter it was over €200.- !!! Now that really annoyed me so instead of buying the crazily priced cpl I actually bought another brand with a cpl in the kit for €150.- I am honestly very disappointed in LEE with this move. Ok I am done now back to the review.

Lee 85mm filter holder vs Firecrest 85mm filter holder

So the cpl and mounting adapter for the holder can be purchased if you need one at £199.99 yes £199.99 that’s not a mistake.

The LEE 85mm filters.

The filters available for the LEE 85mm filter holder system have a tab on them to make it easier to remove them from the filter holder.

The grad and most of the nd filters are made from resin where as the big stopper and little stopper are made from Lee’s traditional is made from glass. I seriously hope this is not exactly the same blue tinted glass they are now famous for?


The LEE85 system is priced at £199.99 including a 3 stop graduated filter. This filter is valued at £79.99 which means the kit price is actually £120.-   there are several kits available which include different filters and even the cpl also at £499.99.

My LEE 85mm filter holder review verdict is… I am presently more than a little disappointed, I was really curious to see what new developments LEE could come out with and apart from the three point locking wheel which can actually be done with the thumb screw on any other holder there was nothing new sadly. The one big question remains how will it fair against the reigning champion of the 85mm filter holders the Formatt Hitech Firecrest filter holder? Let’s have a look at that one next.

Formatt Hitech Firecrest 85mm filter holder review

Lee 85mm filter holder vs Firecrest 85mm filter holder

The Formatt Hitech Firecrest 85mm filter holder has been a round now for a bit so let’s see how this filter holder stacks up on paper.

I also have a slightly more in-depth Firecrest 85mm filter holder review here.

Formatt Hitech has informed me that the materials used in this holder have been chosen with two criteria in mind.

To be light-weight hence the Holder being made from aircraft anodised aluminium and the filter slots are made from a high-grade light-weight Nylon, incidentally, this Nylon can’t scratch either glass or resin filters so that’s a positive. So it’s compact and light weight with a small footprint also.

So lets look at what comes in the 85mm standard kit.

1.- Formatt Hitech Firecrest 85mm filter holder.

1.- 77mm Circular Polariser77mm.

1.- Ring adaptor for the holder to fit on.

1.- 72-77mm step-up adaptor.

1.- 67-77mm step-up adaptor.

1.- 58-77mm step-up adaptor.

1.- Carrying pouch

Will it fit your lens?

The Firecrest 85mm filter kit as standard will fit four lens thread sizes 77, 72, 67 and 58 mm with thread adaptors available from 37mm to 77mm thread sizes. So yes it will fit your lens if it’s between those sizes.

Polarising filter

Yes, there is a polarising filter included in the kit as standard, this should honestly be the case with all filter kits now I think.

You can use this cpl without the filter holder also so if you are running and gunning in the city you can leave it on without carrying any extra weight and bulk of a filter holder.

LEE 85mm filter holder vs Formatt Hitech 85mm Filter Holder Review

Firecrest 85mm filters

The range of Firecrest 85mm filters are glass filters not resin which is a major advantage. You can also buy the cheaper resin filters but I would recommend the glass Firecrest filters, Resin scratched too easily for me. Firecrest are also well known for their colour neutrality.

Firecrest 85 mm filter holder price £119.-

The head to head LEE vs Firecrest 85mm filter holder review

All these facts can be found on both the Formatt Hitech and LEE website.

Yes as some of you will know I am a Featured Artist, Photography Educator and Brand Ambassador for Formatt Hitech but these facts are all undeniable, there is clearly no comparison between the two products.

So my review may appear to be tainted in some peoples eyes but these are all the facts about both systems.

As we are on the subject and me being biased I would also like to say that if you would like to purchase the Firecrest 85mm filter holder I am delighted to be able to offer you 10% off all Formatt Hitech products with my discount code HAYES10 just enter the code at checkout. Yes I get a slight kick back if you buy a Firecrest product with my code but hey you get 10% off also. This slight commission helps me write blog posts and also helps me find more deals for you. The 10% discount code is valid all year round.

Special offer of 10% off with discount code HAYES10

Also check out the bottom of the post as there is a really good kit also from Formatt Hitech which saves you even more money and you can use the 10% discount code on that also 🙂

So back to the review.

The LEE85 system didn’t come out on top on a single point in this test. All the specifications below can be found on both the Lee and Formatt Hitech websites.

Specifications LEE 85mm system Firecrest 85mm Winner
Weight and size Practically no difference Practically no difference No difference
Lens Thread sizes 37mm to 72mm 37mm to 77mm Firecrest 85mm
Polarising filter included in the kit No Yes Firecrest 85mm
Max filter slots 3 3 No difference
Filters Resin mainly Glass Firecrest 85mm
Kit price incl cpl as it’s standard no £199.99 (no cpl)  £399.98 (with cpl)* £119.- Firecrest 85mm
10 stop filter price £99.98 (glass) £84.59 Firecrest 85mm
6 stop filter price £99.98 (glass) £84.59 Firecrest 85mm
Graduated filter 3 stop £79.99 (resin) £25.- (resin)  £91.95(glass) Firecrest 85mm
Polarising filter £199.99 Free in the kit at £119.- Firecrest 85mm
Thread adaptor rings £21.50 £12.- Firecrest 85mm

*The LEE kit also has a 3 stop graduated filter in the kit. Valued at £79.99 by LEE so the kit price is £120.- if you don’t included the added value of the 3 stop grad filter. Then again take the 10% off the Firecrest holder and it’s only £107.10

Before I even started this review there was clearly only going to be one winner here.

Have a look at the specs above the LEE85 system is just not at the races for 3 huge reasons. 

Firstly, no cpl in the kit and have you seen the price of buying the add on cpl afterwards? At £199.99 it’s more than a bit expensive.

Secondly, resin filters. Resin scratches so easily that is a real no go for me and when you are paying the price for glass filters then you can see why their advertising budget is so big (sorry LEE but it’s true).

Thridly, max thread size of 72mm? If you haven’t even got the cpl option then why not make it 77mm like the Firecrest filter holder?

If I was going to be really thorough I should add the Firecrest glass 85mm ND filters are available in 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9 and 10 stops also.

The Formatt Hitech kit costs less and let’s be honest about it they have far more advantages.

I could also have taken the 10% off all the Formatt Hitech prices you would get with my discount code HAYES10 but I didn’t.

I said earlier I would tell you which one would go in my bag and which one would go in the bin, I don’t think I need to answer that.

If you are going to buy the new LEE 85mm filter system then I wish you many a happy day out with it but I honestly don’t think this is a good filter holder at all. If it was released 3 years ago it would be ok but with the Firecrest 85mm filter holder out there it just isn’t at the races at all.

Apologies if this review comes across in the wrong way , I may appear to be annoyed with LEE and to be honest with you I am, I can’t see why any company would produce a filter holder like that in 2020. It just seems so dated technology wise and yes it may look cute but that’s not the point.

The days of people buying LEE products just because they were the best 5 or 10 years ago are rapidly coming to an end and product releases like this aren’t helping.

I could also have included the Nisi 75mm filter holder in here but I want to make a fair comparison and it wouldn’t have been very fair on the Nisi 75mm holder to put it in this review. I am now taking bets on when Nisi also drop the 75mm filter holder system.

So go enjoy which ever one you buy after all it’s your choice and I hope you are happy with them.

As I mentioned above there is a really good value kit available in both the USA and Internationally.

The Firecrest 85mm ND Starter Kit comprises the following:

  • Firecrest 85mm holder with polariser control wheel
  • 77mm Firecrest circular polariser
  • CPL rotates using unique geared system within the holder
  • 77mm, 72mm, 67mm, 58mm Step Rings
  • Luxury pouch
  • Firecrest ND 1.8 85x85mm (6 stops)
  • Firecrest GND 0.9 85x110mm (3 Stops)

So you get a 6 stop ND filter and a 3 stop graduated filter for £250.-

Normally that would cost    £119.- (kit), £84.59 (6 stop ND filter) & £91.95 (3 stop grad) giving a total of £295.54

Again use the discount code HAYES10  on the kit costing £250.- and it’s ony £225.- then, now that’s a huge bargain.

Special offer of 10% off with discount code HAYES10

To give a cost comparison the LEE85 develop kit is £264.98 with a grad filter and a 6 stop filter but there is still no cpl included… So it’s £39.98 dearer, not as good (resin grad filter) and has still no cpl.

See you out there,