My recent move to a mirrorless system using Fuji X series cameras has been a smooth and enjoyable transition. One of the items of kit I had decided to get for the new system was a square filter system. The king of the squares is, of course Lee and they have recently introduced their new mirrorless filter system, Seven5. As befits the quality of Lee, the Seven5 is an expensive piece of kit so I went looking to see if there were any cheaper alternatives. The obvious candidate was the Cokin A series, recently rebadged for mirrorless but in my experience, the quality of their filters tends to be poor and they acrylic seems to scratch very easily. I did, however with a little more research come across a small British company producing good quality square filter systems. Like Lee, Formatt HiTech have a background in cinema lighting filters and have used their knowledge to apply it to photographic filters. They have also recently created a small square filter system for mirrorless based on their 67mm filters.
Not knowing anything about the company and having some concerns about delivery, I emailed them on a Sunday afternoon. I was pleasantly surprised to receive a reply within a few hours with the offer to work with me to get my order delivered. Encouraged by this I made an order for an Aluminium filter holder, two adapter rings, a set of 0.3/0.6/0.9 hard edge neutral grads and a six stop ND, an equivalent to the Lee Little Stopper. The prices were significantly cheaper than Lee equivalents, on a par with Cokin A series
Delivery was quick and well packaged. The biggest and most pleasant surprise was the quality of the aluminum filter holder. Despite it’s low price, it is a well designed and sturdy piece of kt, certainly well above the Cokin equivalent. It contains slots for two filters with thumb adjustable screws on the front of the holder. A spare set of these screw were also provided The filter holder drops directly onto a lens adapter which is secured by a single screw. The whole assembly is very quick to move from lens to lens and indeed to rotate on a lens.
The filters themselves are made from high grade acrylic and come in their own individual pouches to keep them from scratching. The name of the filter is also etched into the corners, helping identification. The quality feels very good and they slide very easily inside the filter holder. Although much thwarted by the British weather, I have had some opportunity to use the hard edge grads in the field, particularly to add some definition to the dull London skies.
Here a 0.6 Hard ND Grad helps the leaden London Skies
My initial impressions are very good, the color seems neutral the graduated section not shifting in any noticeable way even using the 0.9 ND. For cityscape work I find the hard edge grads perhaps a little too hard so I will make a further purchase of the soft edge graduated kit as well.
Here, the hard grad is a little too hard, clipping into the clock tower
I have not had time or any luck with the weather to investigate the 6 stop ND as yet. Hopefully during an upcoming photo tour of Belgium I can get to try this out. The few shots that I have done, whilst not demonstrating the ND effect very well do not seem to have any obvious casts. One thing I would say is that the 6 Stop is only really effective when the light levels are relatively low anyway. In brighter light the shutter speeds, even at smaller apertures are generally to high to get the full “big stop” effect. Formatt-Hitech do, of course have a ten stop ND in their catalogue too.
Using the 6 Stop Full ND filter
Another example of the 0.6 Hard Edge ND Grad
Some other items that may well be on my shopping list are a reasonably price circular polariser. This drops into a special 67mm adapter which in turn allows it to slot into the filter holder. A series of their color grads may also be a purchase, helping liven up the dull skies of the approaching northern fall and winter.
Overall, in the limited time and despite the poor weather conditions, I have been very impressed with the quality from this filter system. Given the price, it certainly seems to be several notches above the Cokin equivalent, using higher grade materials and better engineering. If you do not have a budget for Lee filters, then Formatt-Hitech are defiantly worth a look, not only for their mirrorless systems but also for their DSLR and medium format square systems.
You can find Formatt-Hitech here: https://www.formatt-hitech.com