Firecrest

Formatt Hitech Firecrest Ultra Landscape ND filters.

Mother Cap in the Peak District during gale winds with the Formatt Hitch Firecrest Ultra Landscape ND filters and the Fuji Film Xt2. Feb 2018

What are these filters all about and why would I go out and spend a load of cash kitting myself out with some?

Let me start this with a bit of a journey in my own photography equipment purchases and how I got to writing this today, so bear with me and read on.

I found myself starting to shoot less of the abandoned buildings I had always shot  and was spending more time shooting landscapes, but I think it was after about 2 years of shooting them I decided to mess about with some filters…

I started of as most people do with the EBay special £15 filter kit, I was well chuffed with my purchase and then it arrived. I was a little miffed at the fact the graduated line on the filter was wonky, not even all the way across as it was shown in the picture and when I held it up to the sky it turned the sky purple, very purple, so much so the filter kit went into the bin.

£50 on a filter kit?

I knew I wanted to have a play about with some filters, so I then nipped to Wex where I am lucky enough to only live a few miles away from and purchased a load of filters in the form of a landscape kit. It cost me just over £50 and I got 2 adapter rings and a holder with it as well.

Now these filters I enjoyed, I had a 1, 2 and 3 stop graduated filter and neutral density filters. The Graduated filter if you did not know is for making the clouds more evident in the shots by darkening the usually over exposed sky and the ND filters can be used for things more like smoothing out the sea or making a waterfall go all milky. These were great fun and I learnt a lot about them and how filters work and create different affects within image making. It did not take long to unfortunately find out that if you stack 2 or 3 of these filters together you start to get a very odd colour cast and your top spec lens starts to produce results that are as sharp as a kids toy knife. As you can see in the shot here, the trees have no definition in them in the middle of the shot and the clouds are looking a rather interesting shade of purple.

Taken using a cheap budget set of filters in Suffolk at Sunrise on a Canon 6d with a 17-40mm lens

I found the filters I was looking for.

So I looked about online and read a good few magazines and I came across the company that produced some nice looking filters that were at the top end of my budget, they were made by a company called Formatt Hitech Filters. They are a small UK based company, so I asked about and nobody had a bad word to say about them.  I took the plunge and got myself a Soft grad and ND filter set in the kits they do, from memory the filters them self cost me £300 and the filter holder Wex had in the used section for £20.

This proved to be a purchase I liked a lot, the kit was what I had been hoping for. For the 1st few trips out I went on I was genuinely blown away by the difference in the results to the previous filters I had been using. I still think that from those 1st few weeks I produced some of my most favourite photos.

.9 nd resin filter to slow down the water to a 4 second exposure and a .6 soft grad to reduce some of the light that was ruining the image at the top of the bridge.

As a example, the thing that I liked about the image above was the amount of detail that is retained within the brickwork and stones, something I had not been able to see before while using the cheaper filters, the biggest difference had to be the colour that was let through, everything seems to be as it should be.

After using these filters for a year and being honest, with the resin filters I would say that if I took photos in different all different types of locations the colour would be very nice in them. It goes to show you get what you pay for.

Welcome to Formatt

After about a year of shooting with these filters and having just completed my Degree in Photography I was asked if I wanted to join the team at Formatt Hitech Filters as a ambassador

Now I get the fact you will be thinking I am only writing this as a thank you for them giving me a ton of gear to play with (please refer back to the last part, re I spent £300).  I bought the gear, I had to save up my hard earned cash for it. I knew through my photographic training, reading reviews till I was blue in the face I was about to make myself a well informed decision to make 1 last purchase. I would then stick with a brand of filters I knew would produce the results I required for my work.

I went ahead and purchased some of their filters, I tried some of them out and I liked what I saw when it was in the back of the camera, on my screen and in print on a clients wall. I would not have joined the team if I did not believe in the product as it was only through me using the equipment and tagging them in a post and then by pure chance they decided to have that initial chat with me.

The few and I mean few filters I have been given to play with by the company get passed around on my workshops for people to have a go on.  To this day I have not met one person who has been disappointed, they can then get to see what the difference is between a filter that costs £15 or £150 in the case of the newest Formatt Hitech Firecrest Ultra Landscape ND filters on the market.

Firecrest and Firecrest Ultra

 Sitting way above the resin filters that thousands of photographers  have in there bag are a glass type of filter called the Firecrest and the new on the market Firecrest Ultra. They are a step above anything else I have ever had the privilege of playing with. The Firecrest 3.0 ND or 10 stop was one of the 1st filters I was  given to play with in this range, it blew my socks away, the sharpness and the colour that was achieved with shooting with it. It was not long after I got my hands on that filter I went and bought myself the 16 stop ND. If you want to be able to shoot a 6 min exposure at noon, this is your filter.

Firecrest 2 stop grad, 10 stop ND and the polariser allowing for a exposure of 240 seconds on the Fujifilm XT2
Sunrise using the 3.0 Firecrest ND and also the 0.6 nd  and the resin 0.6 soft grad to allow for a nice long exposure of 125 secs (2min and 5 secs).
Shot at sunset on the Fuji X-T2 WITH THE 10-24mm lens and using the Formatt Hitech 100mm filter system with the resin 3 stop hard grad and the 10 stop Firecrest allowing for a 160 second exposure

And then we have the fun that is the Firecrest filters

Here is my 2p’s worth on the Formatt Hitch Firecrest Ultra Landscape ND filters. I print a fair bit and I also shoot with a fairly high resolution camera. When you print you start to see details in the image that you will never see on the monitor. I don’t print big, I think my biggest prints in the last 2-3 years have been A1 in size, but I know that they look good. The work needs to look sharp and have no hidden imperfections in it, or these get amplified when the image is made bigger, this is the problem with cheep filters and why all I now have in my kit bag is a mixture of the Firecrest and Ultra filters.

The  Firecrest Ultra have no cast whatsoever, regardless of what subject you are shooting, you get no stray colours in the shots, ssubtle tones you see with your eye remain there when you get home and upload images to the PC. The biggest thing to consider is the detail and sharpness you get from shooting through these filters, when you are shooting on a camera such as the Fujifilm GFX or even the Nikon D850 you are going to get that sharpness you are used to. No oh it might come out all right…. It will come out all right

I was told the Ultra filters were going to be good, but it was not until I had to replace my 3.0 ND  filter I realised how good. It was at this point I pushed the boat out and went for the 6 and 13 stops as well. It is all great being told this is great and this is amazing by somebody on a blog, but I was being told this by people who I personally knew so was excited about it all and my only gripe is that I waited far to long to get my hands on them.

If you don’t want to cough up the money for some filters and think this is just a marketing ploy, then feel free to join one of my workshops or even join me out shooting on morning on the beautiful Norfolk coast and I will let you have a go on them., just don’t drop them as I kind of like them….

I have included some RAF (raw) files as they were taken and also some slightly tweaked in Lightroom shots as screen grabs, the after shots are just shadow lifted and highlight dropped and cropped with a drop of clarity, there is no white balance or tint adjustment at all, anything else I do to edit I take into Photoshop after this part of the editing process so it is all very basic.

Southwold Pier with the New range of Filters Firecrest Ultra. I used the 10 stop ND and a 3 stop soft grad and the circular polariser for a 20 second exposure
The edited shot
How Hill wind Pump with the Firecrest Ultra 10 stop ND and a Firecrest 3 stop soft grad allowing for a 80 second exposure.
The edited shot
Southwold pier. This was shot with the 6 stop Ultra, 3 stop soft grad and a circular polariser giving a 5 second exposure on the Fujifilm UK X-T2 and 10-24mm lens
Southwold pier zoomed into 100% or 1:1 ratio so you can see the before and after. This was shot with the 6 stop Ultra, 3 stop soft grad and a circular polariser giving a 5 second exposure on the Fujifilm UK X-T2 and 10-24mm lens
The edited shot

What Formatt Hitech Firecrest Ultra Landscape ND filters do I have in by kit?

The filters of choice for me are the following:

The .6 (2 stop) and .9 (3 stop) Firecrest Graduated 100 x 125mm filters for correcting the sky and the clouds within the shots.

The 1.8 or 6 stop Firecrest Ultra 100 x 100mm filter is for using with subjects such as waterfalls or streams or at the first light of sunrise or last light at sunset when you need a shutter speed of around 1-3 seconds.

The 3.0 or 10  100 x 100mm filter is the one a lot of people will use for getting subtle cloud movement on a day when you can see the movement in the clouds is fairly evident, so when you use the filter you get that lovely streaked movement and smooth water in your shots

The 13 stops Firecrest Ultra 100 x 100mm Filter is perfect for during the day in the UK. I have found this filter will usually give you a exposure of up to 2 mins of a typical British not to bright day. It is perfect for removing people from the streets in your architecture shots right through to having the smoothed of sea shots

The 16 Stop Firecrest 100 x 100mm filter is the big one. This filter will allow you to shoot 5-8 min exposures during the middle of a sunny day very easily. Perfect for if there is a few fluffy clouds about and next to no wind as you will get that shot you long for

The 105 mm ultra slim Firecrest Circular polariser and adapter ring cuts back on the unwanted reflection from water and also adds that much needed punch to the clouds and sky

I still use the Metal 100mm 3 slot filter holder and wide angle adapters as I just like the feel of it

I also have the Firecrest 100mm Holder with built in polariser and adapters, If I have to travel light this is the kit I will go for as it fits into a much smaller bag

This is my thoughts on the Formatt Hitech Firecrest Ultra Landscape ND filters in a nut shell.

Remember you can always grab a bargain by using my discount code DIBSM10 on the Formatt Hitech website when getting your filters.

If you ever have any questions about them then feel free to just comment on here or ask

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Swapping over to the Fuji X-T2

Back in early September I borrowed my friends Fuji X-T2 and a few lens to see what all the fuss was about. I knew how nice the colour came through in their images as I had got myself an X30 for a family holiday in 2015, so I had been keeping a careful eye on what they were manufacturing since then.

Having shot Canon since 2009 and all my equipment being set up for that I did not think that after a weekend of playing with the XT2  I would find myself putting all the Canon gear up for sale just a few weeks later. I even had a 5d MK4 sat there waiting for me to buy and collect from Wex Photographic where I work, but to be honest I think after seeing how well the Auto focus and ISO performed and let’s not forget how much less the weight of the Fuji is in comparison to the Canon that order got cancelled and I found myself parting with my money for a whole new experience with the Fuji system.

2 days after it arrived and I had only had time to mess about with it in the house due to work and UNI commitments, but on the Friday I was running a workshop with the model Bernadette Lemon taking centre stage and managed to find time to take a few handheld shots with various lens. One thing I found easy to use was the Wifi and the fact that all the dials are just in the right place to allow quick use, just like they are with the Canon I had been using.

From this I instantly realised that the A/F on the camera is reliable and also not a problem to be using either .

Shot with the Fuji 14mm

Shot with the Fuji 14mm and a Bowens Light and beauty dish off frame to the left

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Shot handheld with the Fuji 14mm and lit using the Westcott Icelight 2

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Shot on a tripod with the Fuji 56mm @f/1.2 and lit with the Westcott Icelight 2

Next stop with the Camera was a Full Day Landscape workshop I was running with my 2 good photography mates on the Norfolk Coast with Through the lens workshops. I will hold my hand up here and say when I like to shoot landscapes I am probably like the rest of you all and like to spend plenty of time composing and thinking about the shots I am taking, quality over quantity and all that…..

We had paying customers on the session so the time aspect was not going to happen and since that session time nor the weather has been on my side to get out and have a real play about and shoot my favourite style of photography. All the shots I took were with the Fuji 10-24mm and using a selection of different Formatt Hitech filters.

The thing I really struggled with on these shots was getting the focus pin sharp so that when I go into the shots in Photoshop and zoom into 100% the focus is bang on. Some were really good and I was happy with, some were just ok and below what I would be happy to print off. But hey I have just changed camera system completely and I reckon it will just take a bit of getting used to.

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Shot using the Formatt Hitech Filters .6 resin grad

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Shot using the Formatt Hitech Filters 3.0 firecrest nd to slow down the water and a .6 resin grad

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Shot using the Formatt Hitech Filters .6 resin grad

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Shot using the Formatt Hitech Filters 3.0 firecrest nd to slow down the clouds .6 resin grad

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Shot using the Formatt Hitech Filters 3.0 firecrest nd to slow down the clouds .6 resin grad

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Shot using the Formatt Hitech Filters .6 resin grad

If I am honest I will say when I got home I was a little worried about how well the focusing had performed, I was having a few doubts about what I had done buy moving over to Fuji. But in for a penny and in for a pound as they say. The fact that I had got images as sharp as I like did reassure me a little that the camera is going to do what I wanted it to do, so all I needed was a little more time to go out and shoot some more and get up to scratch with how I want the images to look.

I  just purchased the fully manual Samyang 12mm f/2 lens for shooting astronomy images over the winter and landscapes and I am a bit of a wide angle junky so this lens will sit well in the kit bag. I look after my gear so the fact that it is not weather sealed is not an issue for me in the slightest. So what is the 1st thing you do after 12 hrs at work, you take the lens and photograph anything that will let you. In this case it was the dog that I had just woken up. I used the Icelight2 in my left hand to illuminate her and held the camera and focused the shot with my right hand and captured this.

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Samyang 12mm, @f/2, 1/200th sec, iso 400 and handheld

My next trip out was scuppered by even more rain so I opted for a day of photographing church interiors instead of some nice landscapes with the autumn colours. This time round rather than just relying on my eye for the focus being spot on I used focus peaking, I highly recommend this to anybody that uses manual focus a lot. I set it to red high and away I went with photos just how I like them.

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Shot with the Samyang 12mm at f/8 on a tripod

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Shot with the Samyang 12mm at f/8 on a tripod

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Shot with the Samyang 12mm at f/11 on a tripod

So for me did I make the right choice…….. Well, one week after the camera getting delivered I could not be happier. You just have to remember….Like any new bit of equipment or software we use for work, you have to get used to it and this camera is no exception to that. You can’t just expect to pick it up and get the results in an instant. Reading the manual (something I have never done before) was a great help to me even though I am dyslexic.

Customising the Q menu is so straightforward.

Using the wifi is easy and as I shoot a lot of events over the year and I can see this will be very handy for myself and my clients with social media.

The flip out screen is well designed and handy, you dont have to get yourself into funny position to see the screen and that is a blessing.

The dual slot sd cover is nice and rigid and the rest of the camera feels like it is built like a tank.

But the 2 most important things I like the most about the camera are the Quality of the images you can produce if you put your mind to it and the weight of the camera system in comparison to my old 5dmk3.

And I would just like to say thank you to the few mates who I have pestered quite a bit over the last few weeks with some questions being very daft but needing to be asked and answered… So if anybody reading this has any questions you would like to know (remember it is just my opinion) then feel free to send me them over

 

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