If you would have asked me 2 years ago which filter bands to buy, I might have recommended Formatt Hitech. I thought they were good. I owned a full set. They were neutral and the quality met my tolerance level. And I was a fan.
But that didn’t last because every Hitech filter I had purchased since over the course of 2011 and 2012 had a very strong colour cast. It was a level of frustration that made them unusable in my opinion and I eventually tossed in the towel and replaced Hitech with a different brand.
With a bit of self doubt and convinced I might have been missing something or possibly wrong, I kept this half written review as a draft for the past year. However, I have noticed many photographers I respect now promoting them in a positive light. Have they improved? Was I wrong? Or could there be marketing dollars at work?
Did Hitech change their filter manufacturing process?
I own 10 Hitech filters that are a mix of graduated and solid neutral density filters. Both 85mm (cokin-p) and 4×5 (cokin-z) in size. Here is a brief purchase history that will explain how I was but can no longer be a fan.
May – June 2010: I bought my first set of 85mm Hitech filters. I had no issues with them and I was very willingly recommending them as alternatives to the more expensive brands that my friends were using. They were very acceptable to my tolerance levels for less money.
May – Sept 2011: Started upgrading to the larger Cokin-Z 4×5 Hitech filters and ordered 3. All had very bad magenta colour casts. This was my first big and surprising disappointment.
Sept 2011: I tried twice to get in contact with customer service about the difference between the small and large filters but nobody ever responded. I concluded that the larger filters were simply not as good as the smaller ones.
However, after a tumble on some ice and breaking one of my 85mm…
Apr 2012: I ordered a replacement 85mm for the one I broke. Same store, same part number, but very different. This new 85mm showed the same problems.
After purchasing 4 Hitech filters in a row that I would consider not very usable, I officially gave up and switched to a different brand. The photo below illustrates my frustration. These two filters are the same part number but visually different and much worse in real world use.
My Question to You
So I want to ask: has anyone purchased Hitech filters in the past 12 months? Are they any better? It has been annoying looking at my expensive set of filters I can’t use but then also reading positive praise for them online and in magazines. It leaves you scratching your head in disbelief.
I’m confused and customer service has still yet to respond after another attempt again this past month. Filters have a limited use in my workflow and I prefer not to use them. But when I want them, I need them, and therefor continue to carry them everywhere. For something used on select conditions, it’s frustrating to know how much money I have spent on unused filters.
I think it’s important to mention that this is anything but a controlled technical review. It’s simply an observation and an opinion. I am not sponsored by any brand but it’s no secret that oopoomoo has an eBook all about filters. After reading our eBook on possibilities, the next question is often, what brands.
Real World Use
The above observation is all well and good but means nothing without examples. In the following set of images, you’ll see that the longer the exposure, the stronger the colour. I suppose on a positive note, in certain conditions, it might add a nice colour to sunsets.
And although much of the colour cast in solid neutral density filters can be corrected with white balance – that becomes much more difficult with graduated neutral density filters.
Ok, a few examples. For these examples, I’m using the 4×5 filters in a cokin-z holder.
Lee vs Hitech 2-stop hard-edge
The difference may not be very big in this example but the blues are darker and the yellows are a muddy and blocked up orange.
Lee vs Hitech 3-stop soft-edge
I mentioned earlier that the longer the exposure, the more noticeable. Stepping up to 3 stops and the Lee filter does a very good job of maintaining the colour from the example above. It’s a different story with Hitech as it falls further towards magenta.
Lee vs Hitech 3-stop soft-edge with Hitech 4-stop ND
If I add a 4-stop solid Hitech ND filter to the mix, the colour goes out to lunch. The Lee+Hitech maintains a bit of the blues but the Hitech+Hitech is more purple.
Lee vs Hitech 3-stop soft-edge
And finally, here is an example of stacking two grad filters. Again, no surprise. The Hitech shows an increase of magenta.
Do I have a conclusion? Maybe. If anything, it’s frustration. While the colour cast is most noticeable during certain lighting conditions at longer shutter speeds, some may actually prefer the added colours. Personally, it’s much easier to add than remove and it’s more troublesome than useful. Add the zero response from customer service to help explain the inconsistencies, has forced me to abandon Hitech as a preferred brand.