Real Life Review – Are Hitech Filters Any Good?

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.

Why?

Hitech Filter Colour Cast

Two Formatt Hitech 85mm filters showing a strong magenta colour cast. Both of these filter are the same 2 stop soft graduated neutral density filter purchased 2 years apart. Why are they so different?

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.

2-stop hard-edge Hitech

3-stop Lee neutral density filter + 2-stop hard-edge Hitech graduated neutral density filter

2-stop hard-edge Lee

3-stop Lee neutral density filter + 2-stop hard-edge Lee graduated neutral density filter

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.

3-stop soft-edge Lee

3-stop Lee neutral density filter + 3-stop soft-edge Lee graduated neutral density filter

3-stop soft-edge Hitech

3-stop Lee neutral density filter + 3-stop soft-edge Hitech graduated neutral density filter

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.

3-stop soft-edge Hitech

4-stop Hitech neutral density filter + 3-stop soft-edge Hitech graduated neutral density filter

3-stop soft-edge Lee

4-stop Hitech neutral density filter + 3-stop soft-edge Lee graduated neutral density filter

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.

3-stop soft-edge Lee filter

2-stop Lee soft-edge neutral density filter + 3-stop soft-edge Lee graduated neutral density filter

3-stop soft edge Hitech filter

2-stop Lee soft-edge neutral density filter + 3-stop soft-edge Hitech graduated neutral density filter

Conclusion

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.

About the Author

I am a designer, artist and photographer living in PEI and the co-creator of the Photographer's Guide to Prince Edward Island. I have helped design this website and the many oopoomoo ebooks. Stop by and say hi on Facebook.

34 Comments

  1. Tim Ball
    December 5, 2013

    Hi Stephen,
    When I first tried Hitech (85mm “P”) in 2000, the set I got all had the Cokin-like brown purple cast and I returned for refund.
    Next, I got a lovely neutral set of Chromatek, but then their replacements were rather cyan, so..as good things were being said about them…
    In 2010 I tried Hitech again, and they were a lot better, just a little on the cyan side of neutral. However, I had to return one with a slight “moire” in the resin, i.e. it distorted the image, and another replacement was more cyan, like the 2nd Chromatek.

    This lack of consistency is such a pity as Lee are so expensive, and don’t do an 85mm, “P” size, anyway.

    Will keep an eye on comments here, to see what others have found.

    Reply
  2. Dima
    December 5, 2013

    Hitech were the first filters i bought when i stared shooting landscapes in late 2011. I got 2 complete sets of both hard and soft 4X5 grads as well as the 4 stop ND

    I experienced the same issues shown here, even more severe, and when the exposure times approached 30 sec, the color casts were almost impossible to eliminate.

    In certain conditions, namely, grey, colorless sky, i was getting a slight cyan tint.

    Just like you, i gave up and moved on to Lee.

    Reply
  3. Marion Faria
    December 5, 2013

    I bought a Hitech 10 stop ND filter last year to take with me on trip because it was reasonably priced and since I don’t often use a 10 stop, it seemed like a good idea…forget it! Not only was there a color cast, it was so bad, I had to convert the images to b&w to render them usable…

    Reply
  4. Ian McGillvrey
    December 5, 2013

    I’ve been using both Singh-Ray and Lee filters but when I bought the Lee SW150 kit for the Nikon 14-24 I couldn’t find any solid ND options more that 3 stops. Hitech had a 10 stop filter in that size (150mm) so I went ahead and ordered it. Sadly, I have yet to take a usable photo with it. The colour cast is extremely blue and it is inconsistent from the center out to the edges. I’ve tried many times to correct the files and just can’t bring them back to being usable. It seems like there’s a loss of contrast and sharpness as well. I’m not impressed at all with it. This is my only experience with them, and I’ve since seen similar reports on this filter form others online (even Marion’s comment above). I’ve heard very good things about the new IRND versions but haven’t tried any yet.

    Reply
  5. Hitech Filter Review : Something Changed for the Worse | Focused on Light | PEI Photography
    December 5, 2013

    […] much hesitations, last night I press published on the oopoomoo blog asking a very simple questions. Are Hitech Filters Any Good? You can see the full review […]

    Reply
  6. Markos Berndt
    December 6, 2013

    I actually like my hitch filters, I have the full line of there soft and hard gradual neutral density and ND filters. Granted they are the pre-2008 crop of filter so I only see a slight magenta coloring which isn’t to bad and is easy to fix in Lightroom. I never was able to order the more expensive filters from SIngh-Ray due to the high cost, so Hi-tech has fit the bill, but I am afraid to order them now as it seems the magenta color cast is worse, so I will take care of the ones I have and hope for the best.

    A nice write up Stephen, I have been waiting for a good review on this product.

    Reply
  7. Mike
    December 6, 2013

    Thanks for this review, Stephen! I was considering moving to HiTech to save money on filters, but now I think I will just continue selling body parts for cash to buy the Lee filters… I ordered a Big Stopper a couple of days ago and can’t wait to shoot with it. :-)

    Reply
  8. Stu Dale
    December 6, 2013

    So after reading your article my question is ‘What do I purchase?’ Cost is a big consideration for me but if the less expensive filter is flawed why take the chance. Are there other sources of good quality reasonably priced filters?

    Reply
    • Tim Ball
      December 6, 2013

      In 85/86mm “P” size I haven’t found any!

      Chromatek are cheaper than Hitech but on a par quality wise but also not as deep.

      On close examination both the above, including Kood, degrade the image very slightly. Not sure how Lee or Sing-Ray compare for that.
      I check with/without the filter on a Prime Zeiss 100mm lens focussed on a distant, fine twiggy tree. Without filter the twigs are distinct, with filter they are indistinct! Never ever heard anyone else comment on this aspect of resin filters, but every one I’ve tried so far does this, and some are much worse than others, which I return!

      So I’ll second your question! Anyone…?

    • Tim Ball
      December 6, 2013

      Just checked, Cromatek (I spelt it wrongly above with “Ch”) no longer do the 85mm “P” size, only the 100mm and the 75mm series. So now HiTech (and Singh-Ray, in US) are the only ones offering the “P” size.
      I have found the distributors of HiTech in UK, Teamwork, are good at accepting returns for unacceptable filters though.

  9. GTALensRentals
    December 6, 2013

    I use Singh-Ray and if I use only one filter at a time, it’s not bad , as soon as I stack two of them or more I see a strong magenta cast. It seems to me from the comments above it’s no clear winner with these filters. Whenever possible exposure blending it’s the way to go. It’s more work but the results are consistent.

    Reply
    • Darwin Wiggett
      December 8, 2013

      I get no colour stacks stacking two or more Lee filters…

      There are drawbacks to exposure blending (time and knowledge in the computer), problems with movement of the subject (blowing grasses, branches, clouds, moving water) between frames, lens flare is actually increased without a grad because the super bright sky spills light across the darker land when you expose for the land making the scene more washed out( with filters this wash out is eliminated).

      In the end you go with what works best for your creative vision, there is no right or wrong – but it does help to know the pros, the cons of each approach and when it comes to buying gear how it actually performs in the field. Thanks to Stephen for his frank review here!

  10. Andrew Kulin
    December 8, 2013

    I own 4 Hi-Tech ND10 filters, Cokin P-sized/85 mm. I almost exclusively use Singh Ray Filters and my cameras are Canons, EOS 40D and 7D. I notice magenta colour cast issues with the Singh Ray ND-4 filter with my Canon gear which is not supposed to be an issue (either learned this from Darwin or the Camera Store in Calgary where they recommended not using the Singh Ray ND-5 for that reason). I also see magenta colour-casts when stacking Singh Ray graduated filters with my gear. So I see similar results with top-tier filters as reported above.

    Backstory:

    I purchased a Hi-Tech ND-10 from B&H in 2011 +/- and honestly did not like the end result – was too blue-green and I could not come close to correcting with LR 3 (LR 4/5 are much better now with more range available in the WB sliders), so I found this filter usable for B&W only.

    Then I read somewhere that someone else had a similar problem, they contacted Hi-Tech, Hi-Tech they sent them new filter which met their requirements. So I e-mailed Hi-Tech in June/July 2012 and they sent me a new ND-10 filter free of charge. I tested it out and it still had a cast (the greenish cast was gone, it was bluish but was better than the original). I let them know this, more out of a courtesy/FYI to them to make them aware that their filters still had cast. Believe it or not, they then sent me a 3rd filter (also free of charge). It was better still but still had colour-cast issues (bluish, but less than in the 2nd copy).

    I left it at that for about a year, and this past May (2013) began looking at ND10 level filters again and was considering screw on filters (less convenient workflow for me) by Singh-Ray, Heliopan, and B&W MRCs (and all expensive), but also learned that Hi-Tech had released an updated ND10 with an IR filter (IRND-10). At the time I could not find any 3rd party reports on this newer version so once again I contacted Hi-Tech to ask some questions, and in the end purchased an IRND-10 filter from them at a discounted price.

    The IRND-10 filter is by far the best of the bunch. There is still a slight-moderate bluish cast but it is more easily correctable and end result looks closest to scene with no filter (greens and pinks are still a bit off). I have available a few screen captures that provide comparisons which I will attempt to upload to the Facebook site. The Lightroom adjustments for Temperature (Blue-Yellow) and Tint (Green-Magenta) for the series of outdoor shots of the backyard are:

    No Filter: 4950K / +12
    ND-10 #1: 9000K / +137
    ND-10 #2: 13750K / +129
    ND-10 #3: 9700K / +105
    IRND-10: 6450K /+59

    And finally just for fun, to calculate how long of an exposure I can now get with my ND-10 filters:

    No filter = 1/30 second exposure
    1xND-10 = 30 second exposure
    4xND-10 = 1162.2 years +/- exposure

    Reply
  11. Martin Chamberlain
    December 9, 2013

    I use HiTech 100mm Soft edged grads and NDs. I don’t notice any colour cast. The ones I currently use are several years old. My only real issue is that the plastic is prone to scractching. I’ve been storing them in the original plastic pouch that they came in but I wouldn’t recommend that as they tend to get fine parallel scratch lines.

    My 100 x 150 soft edged grad shattered in sub-zero temperatures when I dropped it and I’m waiting for another currently on order. Let’s see whether that is still as neutral as the others.

    Reply
  12. Ian Parr
    December 12, 2013

    I have a set of 2010 vintage Hi-Tech 100mm hard edged grads and they seem relatively neutral compared to the 3 stop solid ND that I bought at the same that does have a magenta cast issue.

    I’d say the grads are OK for my purposes but I’ll try Lee at some point in the future.

    I carry the filters in a CD case.

    Reply
  13. Achim Sieger
    December 14, 2013

    Stephen,

    i purchased a set of Hitech Reverse ND Grad filters (0.3 / 0.6 / 0.9) in 2012 that were far below my expectations. Holding the filters against a bright white surface showed some kind of “waves” in the graduated part that indicate a really low quality production process. In one filter i could even see stripes from ink drops in the graduated part. Color cast was strong magenta.
    After that experience i decided to stay away from Hitech products.

    When Hitech released their new ProStop IRND solid ND filter series that are supposed to be the most color neutral filters on the market, i decided to give it a try and bought a 6 stop 100x100mm resin filter.
    To express it in the right way this filter is the worst shit i have ever purchased. It produces a strong color cast that is not correctable by adjusting the white balance.
    Images look like you’ve shot through a thin brown filter foil.
    I’ve never experienced such color cast with my Lee Big Stopper that is even more dense.

    My overall experience: stay away from Hitech. Lee filters are the most neutral filters on the market and currently i don’t see any alternative that meets the Lee quality.

    Best regards
    Achim

    Reply
  14. Richard Wong
    December 20, 2013

    Unbelievable that those two filters could have such an obvious color cast and still be marketed as graduated ND filters. I’ve been using Singh-Ray GND filters for ten years and have never found a compelling reason to switch brands (other than for price perhaps).

    Reply
  15. Hitech Pro IRND filters
    January 17, 2014

    […] de URL niet verandert als ik deze aanduid in het drop down menu. Verder heb ik reeds deze conversatie gevolgd en ook andere getuigenissen gehoord die minder positief waren. Dus heb ik mijn zinnen dan […]

    Reply
  16. Paul
    March 13, 2014

    Lee filters aren’t all that good either… a few of mine have a warm tint and my big stopper has a very blue cast to it.

    Reply
  17. Christopher Strattan
    June 16, 2014

    I own a fair number of filters and have been collecting them since 1980. As both a still photographer and film & digital cinematographer I use them on a fairly regular basis. I find that I use them more often for cinematography than for still work and own more than 100 specialized 4X4 and 4×5.65 filters for that purpose. Most of my filters are Tiffens. I have a few B&W and Cavision (from Canada) filters, but only one made by Hitech. It is a 4X4 Reverse ND 0.9, soft edge glass filter. Or, at least it appears to be glass. I have no idea how this filter was made, but it is 4mm thick glass with the edges carefully sealed and nicely finished. There could be a resin section sandwiched between two pieces of glass, but I have no way of knowing. I use this filter ONLY FOR CINEMATOGRAPHY so I can not report how it reacts in long exposure situations. However, for “real-time” (1/60 sec.) exposures in digital, IT APPEARS TO BE COMPLETELY NEUTRAL and I’m completely satisfied with the optical clarity as well. If anyone out there knows of any reports on how these different filter companies actually manufacturer their filters, I would love to know more about the actual manufacturing process.

    Reply
    • Stephen DesRoches
      June 16, 2014

      Christopher: This video is the only one I know of that touches on the manufacturing process.

    • Christopher Strattan
      June 16, 2014

      Stephen,

      Thank you so very much! I’ll check it out.

      Chris

  18. fred corcoran
    October 6, 2014

    i wish i saw this article last week…i purchased a 100mm hitech 1.5 nd for a specific job which i shot on saturday. exposures were all consistent at 1 sec @ f16 just after sunrise.i was shooting architecture and in particular a red brick heritage listed building.i thought the images were a little “lively” on the camera back but i put it down to the warm autumnal light.when i processed the raw files i couldnt believe my eyes.i always shoot with a daylight white balance for exteriors and i had to correct the magenta cast by a value of minus 45 before i got a neutral balance.spoke to my supplier who told me its not uncommon with hi tech filters,wish i knew that when i purchased it.he suggested a lee little stopper and agreed to take the hi tech back.why a supplier is knowingly selling a filter that is faulty is beyond me.i dont live in a city and all my purchases are couriered to me so it takes time (which i dont have) and money to get things in the first place.thankfully i was able to correct in post otherewise i faced a 6 hour roundtrip to reshoot one building.

    Reply
  19. Ruben
    January 29, 2015

    Thanks!
    I’m new on SLR photography and needed to see your article for choosing filters.

    Reply
  20. Archie McCafferty
    April 1, 2015

    Hi everyone,

    I just received my 4 stop reverse graduated filter a couple of weeks ago, and was able to test it recently.

    Just holding the filter told me this is a quality product – the laser gold lettering and product code on the bottom section of the filter is a nice touch!

    Another observation is the rounded edges which make insertion and removal from your filter holder effortless.

    The filter itself fits precisely into my filter holder with just the right amount of resistance – instilling reassurance that it won’t fall out!

    In use the reverse gradation is spot on level and shooting seascapes, easy to align to the horizon.

    Reviewing my images I can confirm that the filter does exactly what it’s designed to do – the evenness of exposure confirmed the light reducing value of 4 stops in the darkest section of gradation and with no color caste when used alone, and minimal caste when used in conjunction with other filters.

    Having previously used filters from Cokin, Lee, Hitech Formatt and Singh Ray, I testify to the Progrey filter being a match to some and considerably better than the rest!

    And I’ve left the best bit for last : the Progrey is the cheapest of the 100 × 150 reverse grads available!!

    You can check out my images (flickr user name: archie0) and those of other Progrey users on flickr.

    Thanks Progrey for great filters and filter holder systems!

    Kind regards,

    Archie McCafferty

    Reply
  21. David Henderson
    April 22, 2015

    I’ve used Hitech filters for maybe 15 years . Its not right to suggest that Hitech suddenly got worse. They have for the entire time I’ve used them been quite capable of turning out ND grads that are a long way from neutral, in either direction magenta or direction blue. I deal with this by ordering direct from the factory by phone, stressing that I’m a professional photographer and won’t accept major defects and that I want them to understand that I’ll return them for replacement if IMO they have colour casts. I’m in the UK so this is easy. . I hope this means that someone actually takes a look at the filters before they mail them to me, but in reality I’m not so sure. About 50% of what I’ve received across the years have gone back for replacement. Further I’ve kept every single ND grad I’ve ever bought from Hitech and the colour variation amongst those I’ve kept (ie after replacement) is quite considerable and seeing them together on a Lightbox is quite scary.

    About ten years ago I called Hitech and talked to the guy responsible for Quality Assurance. He went through with me the process they say they use to control the colour of the dye batches and finished product. And indeed this seems to me able to result in a considerable homogeneity of product but it seems to me that it all goes out the window if they have good processes in theory but nevertheless fail to apply tight tolerances and in essence prove themselves capable of sending out just about anything. They need to improve and by a lot.

    However I should warn that Lee as well as Hitech are quite able to send out filters that will impart a colour cast. I’ve seen a lot of magenta clouds from Lee too, and maybe similarities between the two brands should not be a surprise since they both demerged from Kodak at a similar time. I haven’t tried Singh-Ray who have many supporters in N America , though I have heard that they also may carry a cast. They are also enormously expensive , made from (I believe) the same material as Hitech and Lee, and maybe most importantly for me, are not sold in the UK. I carry six Hitech ND grads, that will soon require replacement. I will approach this with trepidation for I have little faith that they are making serious and effective efforts to ship satisfactory product. Pity because I like the product very much when its right and indeed prefer their gentler graduations to those of other brands.

    Reply
    • Darwin Wiggett
      April 22, 2015

      Thanks for the insightful comment… great to know your process for getting more consistant quality from your filters.

  22. Glenn Tamblingson
    August 18, 2015

    Graduating within the world of Grad ND filters –

    A majority of people who learned photography before digital started with or learned on a Pentax k1000 – it sure wasn’t the best but you learned the basics.

    Most of everyone who has tried grad ND filters started with Cokin of Hightech. They sure aren’t the best but you learn the basics.

    Last year I moved up to Schneider Glass ND grads. I’ll never go back. Not only are they really neutral with no cast, they are very durable. When I got them I went out the same day and shot sunset directly towards the sun with almost no flare. After using them for over a year, there is no sign of wear.

    If you want to see what they do, go to my FB page of Glenn Tamblingson Photography and see the posted photos. Most landscape shots are done with the grads – my motto is “Don’t leave home without them”.

    Good shooting and God bless!

    Reply
  23. David Henderson
    August 18, 2015

    Don’t know how I got this thread sent to me, but I do have something I can contribute.

    I’ve used Hitech ND grads for well over a decade- ever since I grew out of Cokin in fact. I like the softer graduation that they provide for both hard and soft filters and it seems much less likely that you’ll get the tell-tale line across the picture that indicates clumsy placement. Originally I used them with MF 6×6. Then with FF Dslrs- and I’m nowhere near relying on exposure blending .

    But, I’ve always had an issue with neutrality with Hitech. To be fair I’ve seen magenta clouds with Lee GNDs too, and even seen some whinges about Singh Ray- though in neither case as frequent or as extreme than I’ve seen with Hitech’s CR39 grads. My practice is to examine them on receipt, and if not acceptably neutral, send them back for replacement, making it clear that I’m making professional use of the product and that neutrality is not to me negotiable. I live in the UK so this is easier for me than most, and I buy direct from Formatt, and call them to say what’s coming back and why.

    I’ve even , a few years ago, picked up the phone and asked their QA head. I got a story about historical variations in dyes affecting all brands but now behind them, and a description of their QA process which actually sounded terribly plausible. What I can’t follow is that if they understand-as they say they do- how to measure and identify non-neutrality, why do they send out what they do? Its as if they know how to eliminate this problem but find it more expedient to have wide tolerances and low wastage.

    I’m still using Hitech , but mainly because there are as yet insufficient scratches to make a difference to my pictures- and indeed photographs seem quite resistant to this. Next time I’ll try something else unless I hear that things have improved and by a lot. Certainly, if upgrading to latest generation glass filters I wouldn’t go with Hitech unless they made demonstrable improvements in neutrality.

    I’ve retained every Hitech filter I’ve kept- bearing in mind that not a few have gone back for replacement. So these are the ones I’ve deemed “acceptably neutral.” A few years ago I put them all- 1-3 stop, hard & soft filters, on a big light-box. the extent of variation in colour of those I kept is very surprising – from cyan to brown via magenta- though clearly rather less in extent than those I sent back.

    Reply

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