My review of Formatt Hitech Firecrest Superslim IRND 4.8 ND filters – JUNK?

My first defective Formatt Hitech Firecrest IRND 4.8 Filter. Notice the soft spot on the ridge. Everywhere else is sharp. I could see a bubble or warp on the filter against the sunlight.

My first defective Formatt Hitech Firecrest IRND 4.8 Filter. Notice the soft spot on the ridge. Everywhere else is sharp. I could see a bubble or warp on the filter against the sunlight.

I have always believed that if you are an informed consumer that you could be counted on to make a smart purchase no matter the product.

It was with high expectations that I bought my first Formatt Hitech Firecrest Superslim IRND 4.8 ND filter.

My experience to date has been lousy with both the manufacturer and the product.

My reason for the 16 stop ND filter was to do long exposures. I had a few ND filters kicking around in my camera bag, a Tiffen comes to mind that cost me around sixty dollars. The Firecrest came in at around $170 U.S. quite a jump up from the Tiffen.

Normally I wouldn’t pay so much but I had read a few positive reviews one in particular by Joel Tjintjelaar who happens to have a line of filters named after him. BTW his photos are works of art despite. Worth checking out. http://www.bwvision.com/

When I found the first filter to be defective I contacted the people at 2filter.com and they graciously and quickly sent me a second filter which was said to be from a new batch that was defect free. When it arrived it was packaged differently than the first and was wrapped in red paper with a seal that said laughingly, Firecrest F214 04 Sep 2014 Quality Control.

Assuming that this filter was a great replacement I never bothered to test it out. Bad decision.

Defective firecrest filter

My second defective Formatt Hitech Firecrest IRND 4.8 Filter from a new batch.The center of the image is sharp. Every where else is fuzzy.

Fast forward five months, winter is over and I am out taking photos of grain silos on the prairies. I got an interesting shot on a windy day. The clouds were moving a lot and things looked wonderful in the camera display. However when I got home I could see that one silo was sharp and the second was blurred. I wrote this off as me being sloppy, camera shake, etc.

Curiosity got the best of me and I went out to my back yard to test the lens. The same thing. Sharp on one side, out of focus on the other. I tried different f-stops. Cleaned the filter. Shot without a filter and shot with a different filter. The Firecrest filter was crap and everything including my sixty dollar Tiffen filter was razor sharp.

As a last resort I brought the camera and filter inside and photographed a calendar on the wall. No wind. No camera movement. The result? All of  the letters on the right side of the frame are ghosted, haloed or whatever you would call it. It is like having a lighter out of aligned version of the original in back of the first. Complete garbage. This is quality control?

My dilemna? I wrote Firecrest TWICE with no reply.

My advice? Until Formatt Hitech acknowledges their awful quality control and makes good avoid them like the plague.

Dan

 

EDIT: I was contacted by a representative from Formatt-Hitech this morning (Tuesday, April 14). Stay tuned.

An otherwise good image ruined because of the defect on my second Formatt Hitech Firecrest Superslim IRND 4.8 filter.

An otherwise good image ruined because of the defect on my second Formatt Hitech Firecrest Superslim IRND 4.8 filter.

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~ by Dan Jurak on April 11, 2015.

25 Responses to “My review of Formatt Hitech Firecrest Superslim IRND 4.8 ND filters – JUNK?”

  1. dan, exquisitely useful and very well written, thanks!

  2. @ Peter as my girls would say, LULZ 🙂

  3. lulz? like a plural for lol? but i meant it – i love readking your stuff, and i love looking at your pictures! and no, i’m not asking for a chocolate cake in return … 😉

  4. Wait for the letter from the Formatt Hitech Fire… (whatever their name is) lawyers.

  5. @Zbigniew, Lawyers? I would hope that they would offer to send me a replacement filter so that I might give them a decent review. 🙂

  6. Interesting article Dan and thank you for sharing this information. I do not understand how this could happen with such a renowned company.

  7. @ Stephen, I am very surprised that a company that charges a premium for its products is so poor when it comes to taking care of its consumers. Right now I have a very expensive useless piece of glass that is no good to anyone.

  8. Dan, if it would be me I would write Joel about the negative experience. Nothing menacing or so, just out of the heart. It is worth a shot, trust me.

  9. @ Stephen, I did post something on Joel Tjintjelaars Facebook and did email him or at least filled out a form on his website and Joel Tjintjelaar has not responded to either.

  10. This echo’s everything I believe about hitech. I have purchased the same sky number twice, but received very different filters. Customer service takes no blame and keeps telling me the problems have been corrected and what I’m seeing is no longer valid. Thank you for confirming the variance continues.

    It took me over a year to get someone at Formatt to answer my questions but received nothing but denial.

  11. Stephen, the quality of their very expensive filters does seem to be hit and miss. I was contacted by someone in their quality control department that has assured me that the filter they send me will be tested beforehand but that there is a three week wait for materials before the next manufacture.

    Their reputation does not seem to be what Joel T and Julia Anna G, their biggest proponents seem to make of it. Joel has NOT answered my email or Facebook re the defective filters. Shame. Shame.

  12. Glad to see this review, Dan, as it backs up my own experience with a Firecrest filter. I bought a 77mm 16-stop last year and was shocked by how poor it was (very soft, especially in the corners, and a blue color cast). It went straight back to Amazon UK and I posted a negative review there. I hope that Formatt Hitech get their quality control sorted out as it’s a potentially great product.

  13. Tom, I received my replacement filter a couple of weeks ago and there is a marked improvement in quality. They must have had a bad run of filters at that time. I have three Firecrest filters that are fine but I had to replace two of them to get good working copies. A fourth is on order so I think that says what I think of them. They are very good if you get a decent copy.

    Thank you for visiting and commenting,
    Dan

  14. Dan,

    I know this is an old thread but I just had the identical issue with a firecrest 13 stop square filter. Came home an shined a very bright light through the filter and there are about five or six distinctive circular defects that appear to be from when they sandwiched the two pieces of glass together. It almost looks like air bubbles that were trapped in the glue used to bind the filter together. Exchanging for another and will see what happens. I have the 16 stop with no problems.

    Scott

  15. Hi Scott, I think that there are still quality control problems at Formatt Hitech. They have been months late in producing any new 13 stop ND filters.

    Good luck on the exchange.

    Dan

  16. Thanks Dan. I hope they can get me a new filter. I find the 13 stop is perfect for overcast long exposure where the 10 stop does not give enough time and the 16 stop is too dark. We shall see.

    Scott

  17. Scott, what you can do and I know that it works because I do it is to stack different filters to get the density that you want. For example if you have 10 stop filter, buy the 3 stop version and stack it. I do that all the time and the quality has not suffered.

    Dan

  18. I was speaking with an associate in the UK yesterday who said that Formatt has been purchased by a different company. No way of telling if the issues will improve under new management.

  19. That doesn’t surprise me in the slightest.

    I have had a 13 stop on back order for over six months from an online retailer. They send me updates every two weeks on the status of the order. I got another update today. NO FILTER.

    That’s Formatt’s loss as there are other ND filter manufacturers using newer technology that I am anxious to try so I will forgo the 13 stop Formatt and buy the other brand.

    Goodbye Formatt.

  20. Dan, aside from the positive reviews of the Firecrest filters by those who appear to be sponsored, I noticed a positive review by your fellow Albertan photographer, Brendan van Son:

    http://www.brendansadventures.com/review-formatt-hitech-16-stop-nd-filter/

    Perhaps the quality control issues you describe have improved? Any thoughts or have you still given up on this brand?

  21. Hi Harvey,

    If Brendan has positive experiences then good on him for writing about it.

    My experience was that of five Formatt Hitech filters I bought, three had to be returned because of defects. Formatt was very good about getting me replacements.

    Has their quality control improved? I don’t know. I haven’t purchased any in over a year and I haven’t been offered any for review.

    Dan

  22. Which other brands of ND filters have you had a more positive experience with? I have read some good reviews about the Hoya Pro ND line. Finding a manufacturer of truly neutral ND filters with good quality control is appearing to be an elusive objective for photographers.

  23. Harvey, the Firecrest filters that I have are very good. My problem was getting a good copy. My suggestion is to order them from a larger dealer that have more than one in stock and upon receiving it do a quick test by photographng a some kind of structure like a building with plenty of sharp edges and straight lines. If everything looks good then you have a very nice filter on your hands.

    The filters are so effective in fact in blocking infrared light that when I experimented with my ir modified camera to try out long exposures with the Firecrest images always came out black meaning that it was blocking ALL or MOST of the infrared wavelenght.

    There is another company, Breakthrough that claims to be really good but their selection of ND filters is so small to be laughable and wasn’t practical for me. You might want to research them.

    Dan

  24. Those are good suggestions. Thank you, Dan.

    I was reading about the Breakthrough filters but don’t know what to believe. On one hand, the following information from Breakthrough appears to discredit claims made by Formatt Hitech:

    http://breakthrough.photography/performance-gallery/

    On the other hand, there was a video review done by Fstoppers, comparing five popular brands of filters. Their subjective conclusion was that the Breakthrough filters are the most color neutral. However, I was not the only one who commented that the Breakthrough doesn’t look the most neutral based on the images displayed in the video. I also showed the video to another impartial viewer, who disagreed with the conclusion of Fstoppers. The Breakthrough appears rather Cyan and far from neutral to me.

    Overall, the more I read, the less I trust the claims of any manufacturers of filters. I am also beginning to question the reviews of some people, who may, or may not, be sponsored. Not to suggest that you (or any particular person) is sponsored; I don’t believe you are.

  25. Here’s the thing about colour neutrality Harvey. ANYONE with half decent photoshop skills can easily take out the color cast. It is almost as if the people at Breakthrough are too concerned about color when this isn’t the time people shoot transparency film anymore.

    I inquired about Breakthrough filters and received an email from the head of the company that left a bad impression on me. Enough said.

    I have absolutely no financial or other interest in any of the photo equipment or software that I might mention. If something sucks, like Formatts’ quality control did I will say so. Having said that, the good copies of Formatt that I have are great and I would NOT trade them for anything that Breakthrough Filters makes.

    Oh and as an aside about professional reviewers. I worked for a national newspaper chain for over thirty years. One of the things that they did was road tests of automobiles. The columnist told me that they could NEVER give a bad review to a vehicle because of the times that advertisers pulled their ads from the paper. If that can happen there it can happen anywhere there is an exchange of something of value, like getting FREE photo equipment. The same thing also applied to computer/electronics reviews. You would NEVER read about a bad product because the reviewer was receiving free merchandise to keep after reviewing.

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