Are the Formatt Hitech Firecrest Ultra filters worth it?
Well yes they are… I am presuming you are now asking yourself why is that then?
Well when you think that block buster movies like Star Wars with their enormously mind blowing budget and they spoecified the Firecrest Ultra filters to film their movies that just goes to show how much faith people have in these filters.
You may well be saying to yourself now that while you appreciate the significance to this what does that have to do with photography?
The answer is everything… these filters are colour neutral, super sharp and optically as perfect as a filter can be.
If you are sitting back thinking wow that’s a rather strong statement to come out with then give me 5 mins to explain exactly why I believe these filters are so good.
Btw the way I have also purchased Cokin, Lee, Nisi and other filters and the Ultra filters are by far the best I have ever used, they are the only filters I now trust for my photography.
So if you thought a filter was a filter then let me explain why filters differ and what exactly is the difference in them.
Before we get to that though let me just put this picture to you… you are standing there with your 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 can have a huge impact on your image…
Now just stop and think about that for a second. Then give it another second to sink in, filter maybe a significant investment but if you cut corners then your images will never be quite right.
I hope you can now see the significance of this investment and if you are spending less than €50.- on each of your filters then this article will show you exactly where you are going wrong. Yes I mean REALLY think about that….. is this the product you want to be cutting corners on?
Just a few quick things before we get started.
For the sake of transparency, I should add a few years back Formatt Hitech approached me as a user of their products and asked if I would like to be a Brand Ambassador for their products. As I loved the products and more importantly loved using them I gladly accepted and since then we have worked closely together and I am now also a Featured Artist and Photography Educator for Formatt Hitech. The good news in all this is they have given me a discount code HAYES10 to give all my clients and readers 10% off products on their website so it’s a win-win for everyone as you save 10% on premium products and I also get a slight commission for sales made with the discount code. Some will say my review will be tainted as a result but I was already using their products anyway and purchased them with my own hard-earned money before becoming an Ambassador.
My name and reputation are also worth a lot more to me than anything a filter manufacturer can offer.
For the latest discount codes and offers on Formatt Hitech products click here.
This is the first thing people look at when selecting filters and sometimes even the last thing.
The Firecrest Ultra filters colour neutrality is groundbreaking, I have tried shots both with and without filters on location and in my studio and can’t see any difference at all between the with and without filter shots (other than the light reduction of course). The normal Firecrest filters were good but these Firecrest Ultra filters are another leap ahead again.
The other thing to note is Formatt Hitech keep improving on perfection and these Firecrest Ultra filters are currently on Version 3 as soon as they can improve on the product they do it. So if you see a 3 year old Firecrest Ultra filter and try that the new ones will be better again.
They are at a stage now though where I think it’s going to be pretty impossible to improve on them. If anyone can do it though I think the perfectionists over at Formatt Hitech will be the ones to do it.
Is this colour neutrality worth the expense of changing to the Firecrest Ultras?
Well on it’s own the answer is no, it’s not, the standard Firecrest filter range was good anyway.
So I guess that’s it then, what else can a filter possibly do for you?
We all know they are a serious investment and something you don’t want to be purchasing too often. So they would need to be something special to loosen those purse strings.
So for me, I had to start all over again and impartially have a look at filters and the two concerns they raised for me.
1. Colour neutrality,
(let’s just go ahead and tick that box).
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. I will explain this below also…
3. Optical Performance
Yes, I said two concerns there wasn’t supposed to be a 3rd concern but then I did my research. Wasn’t expecting this one at all it’s something I never really thought about.
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 can tell you I was nearly thinking the same but then I went and educated myself a little.
After a discussion with the ever-helpful technical department over at Formatt Hitech, I can tell you this information on how they produce the Ultra filters…
The filter actually starts as two separate sheets of Optical grade hardened glass.
The special rare earth hyper neutral filter coating is sandwiched between these two plates of bonded glass making the coating impossible to scratch, unlike other manufacturers where the coating is applied to the outside of the glass making it easy to scratch.
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 on a daily basis.
Now I know a lot of manufacturers say their coated products have a scratch proof or scratch resistant coating. I can tell you know they still get scratched and when they do they are ruined as once the coating is damaged light leaks in through that scratch and ruins your photograph.
A scratch proof coating is a bit like having a water resistant watch and going swimming with it. The watch might survive the swim but it also may not whereas a proper waterproof watch will be fine.
The extra added bonus of this bonding processes is the filters are slightly stronger as a result of being made of two sheets of bonded optical grade glass.
The final step in the ultra’s manufacturing process is mind blowing and something I just could understand for a while.
I seriously wondered what the hell is that all about.
Once the filters have been formed and by most manufacturers standards ready to ship, the perfectionists over at Formatt Hitech 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. To my knowledge no other company in the world does this and produces a product to this level.
This process kills off any minute imperfections in the glass making them the sharpest filters and most optically perfect filters on the market today.
As you can imagine this manufacturing process is a lot more expensive than just coating the filters, hence the reason they are slightly dearer than standard filters but you money is being well spent. Again as I said earlier I can make the buying process a small bit easier with the Discount Code HAYES10 simply enter it at checkout to get 10% off.
So the Formatt Hitech Firecrest Ultra filters are harder to scratch, more resilient, colour neutral and Ultra sharp now that has my wallet completely open. This passion for creating something special is what drew me to Formatt Hitech in the first place and why I continue to stick with them.
As a photographer I love to be in control of my equipment and treat every single piece of my gear 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 anything I use has to work and be a worthwhile investment.
As I said earlier… 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…
Is this really the part you want to be saving money on?
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. Which is money always well spent in my mind. So why not look at filters in the same way?
The performance per pound on 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.
Ok, over the years I have purchased and flirted with Cokin filters, Lee Filters the English filter company and Nisi from China but settled for the sheer passion of the Welsh company Formatt Hitech. I am incredibly passionate about my photography and yes I am by far and away not the best photographer in the world but I love what I do and more importantly the equipment I use.
This is the sort of attention to detail that 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 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 a filter is a filter, right?
Same way as all cameras are the same, it’s all just a gimmick.
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.
Take the leap and let the “fire in” you will never look back.
Don’t forget the discount or promo code HAYES10 for 10% off all their products via the Formatt Hitech website at checkout.
See you out there,
Formatt Hitech Firecrest Ultra filter review 6th January 2020 Kieran Hayes Kieran hayes Photography 5.0 21 Formatt Hitech Kieran Hayes Photography https://kieranhayesphotography.com/formatt-hitech-firecrest-ultra-filter-review