Review: Hitech 67mm Filter System

Why I went with Hitech

When I found out my college roommate’s bachelor party was going to take place in the famous Yosemite National Park (Ansel Adams, anyone?), I knew I had to get my gear ready for landscapes.  I normally shoot portraits only, so my landscape gear was lacking.

I have a LEE filter system for my Nikon D700 system which I love, but I didn’t want to haul 2.25lbs for the D700 body only.  So first step was to get a smaller camera system.  I sold my Olympus OM-D E-M5 when I got back from Italy because I wasn’t in love with the aspect ratio.  I felt like 14mm wasn’t all that wide and cropping from 4:3 to 3:2 made it even worse.  I heard great things about the Fuji X system so I decide to give it a try and bought a gently used Fuji X-E1 and 18-55mm f/2.8-4 off of Craigslist.  I also got a Fuji 35mm 1.4 for casual shooting, but that’s for another post.

I got the camera ready, but now I needed some filters.  I knew I wanted graduated filters because all serious landscape photographers use them.  Yosemite National Park is known for its amazing landscapes, I knew I had to get some so I wouldn’t have any regrets of cheaping out after coming back.  So the hunt began.

I’ll be honest, I mainly settled on the Hitech filters due to price.  When I searched for LEE filters for the D700, the price differential wasn’t very big, so I went with LEE.  However, with LEE’s Seven5 system costing significantly more (and harder to find in stock), I decided to give Hitech a try despite mixed reviews on their larger filters.  I figured with the entire system being so cheap, it would be a small gamble.

I ended up buying the following for the Fujinon 18-55mm f/2.8-4:

  1. 58mm Adapter ring
  2. Hitech 67mm filter holder
  3. Hitech Graduated ND soft edge set (1,2,3 stops)

Positive: pretty nice packaging, that’s promising…

Adapter ring, holder, and filters as shipped.

Adapter ring, holder, and filters as shipped.

Adapter Ring

You would think that an adapter ring is a pretty simple thing and you can’t possibly mess it up right?  Nope, Hitech manages to get this wrong.  There are two major design flaws here:

  1. There’s no filter thread on the front.  This usually isn’t a big deal, until you realize…
  2. The lens cap that came with your lens won’t fit.

I had no problems with the LEE adapter rings, they’re more sturdy and the lens cap actually fits.  This way, you can just leave your adapter ring on all the time, and mount the filter holder when needed.

Other than that, it does its job, but it doesn’t want you to forget about its existence, so it rejects your lens cap with defiance.

Fuji X-E1 with 18-55 and Hitech Adapter Ring mounted.

Fuji X-E1 with 18-55 and Hitech Adapter Ring mounted.

Filter Holder

Where do I start?  You’d think with LEE filters as the industry standard, it would make sense to rip off the design or at least improve on it.  Good artists copy, great artists steal right?  Formatt Hitech decided not to be an artist at all.  Take a lesson from Samsung will you?

Front screws

The first flaw with these screws is that you have to loosen them to be able to get a filter to slide in.  At its tightest, you risk scratching your filters because there’s so much friction.

The second flaw is, these little screws come off very easily.  How did I find this out?  When I got to Yosemite and was ready to use these filters for the first time, one of the screws went missing in my bag.  As I went digging for it, I ripped a hang nail and my finger bled like crazy.  What a great first experience!

Blood inducing filter holder with loose front screws

Blood inducing filter holder with loose front screws

 

Mounting screw

The first flaw is that this is a screw at all.  The LEE filter uses a spring loaded knob where you just pull and let go to mount the filter holder.  This allows it to have just enough friction to hold it in place, while still enabling you to rotate it without much effort.  The screw design just slows you down, sometimes forcing you to over tightening it in fear that it will fall off because it’s too loose.

Formatt Hitech filter holder screw mount

Formatt Hitech filter holder screw mount

Another reason why this is a bad design: when the screw tightens up with the adapter ring, the whole mount shifts slightly, so the filter is no longer flush and perpendicular with the lens mount.  Not a horrible flaw, but still a flaw.

The main reason this is a flaw, however, is that it chews up your adapter ring for breakfast and spits it out when it’s done.  This is what I’m referring to:

Abusive relationship with the filter holder

Abusive relationship with the filter holder

ND Graduated Filters

So, the adapter rings sucks, the filter holder isn’t great… please let the filter themselves redeem their horrible siblings.

Well, the filters aren’t TERRIBLE.  The filters are high quality enough where they won’t soften your image, so that’s good.  My images came out nice and sharp, full of detail.  My only gripe with the optical quality is the purple color cast.  I think the two pictures below sum it up pretty well:

Left: without filter, Right: with 3 stop soft edge ND grad filter

Left: without filter, Right: with 3 stop soft edge ND grad filter

Thankfully, Lightroom makes it pretty easy to fix this.  Just use the graduated filter adjustment, set the exposure to zero, and shift to green until it looks right.  So overall it’s not a HUGE deal, although it is a little annoying having to fix every single image if you used the filter.  If you’re a dedicated landscape photographer, I would recommend the LEE filters for time savings alone – not to mention sanity while setting up and breaking down the system.

Conclusion

I know I’ve said a lot of negative things about this system, but for the price, it’s hard to beat.  It basically comes down to how serious you are about using ND grad filters.

If you’re just using ND grad filters for a trip or two and it’s not normally your thing, I would ( with hesitation) recommend this system for the price alone.  I paid about $100 for the entire kit: adapter ring, filter holder, and a set of 1, 2, 3 stop soft edge ND grad filters.  Although to be honest, I only used the 3 stop filter, so you could save some money and just get the individual filter.

However, if you use these ND grad filters on any regular basis, you should consider LEE filters instead.  They are well designed, built better, and the filters themselves have minimal (if any) color cast so you don’t have to fix it in post.

Fuji X-E1 with Formatt Hitech 67mm filter system.  3 stop soft edged ND grad

Fuji X-E1 with Formatt Hitech 67mm filter system. 3 stop soft edged ND grad

 

If you liked this review, please consider using some the links provided in this review to give me a small kickback so I can write more articles like this one!  Thanks in advance!

 

Below are some pictures taken with the combo above.  Prints are available for purchase here: http://society6.com/mrkon

8 thoughts on “Review: Hitech 67mm Filter System

  1. Hi Eric,

    Great intro to ND filters. Im an amatuer photographer moving away from just portraits to landscape. Can you confirm the approach you took in the example photo above. Did you have the filter angled across the top of the scene ND expose on the rocks below? I use a Fuji X-Pro1 after selling my 5D kit in favour of a smaller and more portable setup.

    Your photos are stunning! I’m off to Mexico and Cuba soon and I want to pick up a filter set so it was great to read your experiences!

    Thanks in advance, Ian

    • Thanks for the comment Ian! You are correct, I had the ND filter angled across the top and exposed for the rocks. If you are just getting into landscapes, the fuji and this filter system is a great way to start. I can’t imagine hauling my D700 at Yosemite, I was already tired from the Fuji system :)

      Have fun on your trip, please link back when you post some pictures, I’d love to see what photos you come back with!

  2. The first time I read your review, I thought you were being too critical in consequence of a poor first impression and a self-inflicted injury. So I bought a Hitech holder and some filters. The holder arrived with the screws loose in the box. The screws were not long enough to accommodate two filter holders plus an accessory ring (though the dealer said that longer screws were available and promised to send me some -still waiting). Worst of all, the 85mm length left me with only about 5 millimeters of filter to hold, which left little room for vertical adjustment and made it a real struggle to remove them from slots that were too tight. I regret to say this, but the Hitech Filter needs some serious re-thinking. I robbed a bank and bought Lee instead – terrific!

    • Thanks for the comment!

      If you can afford it, Lee is definitely the way to go. Landscapes normally aren’t my thing and I only intended to use it for one trip, so I was able to get away with a cheaper kit. :)

      I too am disappointed that the screws are able to come all the way out so easily. Super frustrating if you’re changing filters often.

  3. Hello Eric (Ian and Peter),

    I just came across this review and wanted to respond. Firstly, in the interests of full disclosure I should advise that I am the global sales manager for Formatt-Hitech. That said, whilst of course I am proud of my products, “biased” implies a weighted opinion not necessarily in tune with popular opinion. So whilst I cannot claim impartiality, what follows will be, in my opinion, realistic. Secondly, thank you for taking the time to write this review. Whilst it is not always favourable, it is well written, impartial and without emotion. My standpoint on reviews overall is that whilst the positive reviews make for nice reading, it is the critical reviews that can help us grow.

    The simplest approach is tackle each of your points in turn, starting with…

    Adaptor Ring

    No there is not a filter thread on the front, the sole purpose of our adaptor ring is to give something to attach the holder to hence no thread. If for example you wanted to use a UV protection filter, this has a front thread hat you can attach directly to your lens and then screw the adaptor ring into. On the lens cap front, no point dancing around this; no you can’t attach your lens cap. whilst the thread sizes are by their nature universal (77m on a Canon lens is 77mm on a Nikon), the lens caps are not. My understanding is that Lee produce a one size fits all adaptor ring cap however we do not. One for the product development team I guess! On the sturdiness front, all of our lens caps are in machined aluminium and are pretty sturdy (I have one next to me now and it gives the impression of readiness against whatever I care to throw at it).

    Filter Holder

    On the screws front, it is a case of getting used to the system. On my personal set for example, the only time I touch the screws is if I am removing the spacers, other than that they are set to provide enough tension to hold the filters in place, but loose enough to allow me to slide a grad as and when required, none of my filters are scratched. Naturally if the filter is packed with the screws loose, vibration could result in them coming off completely and I agree that searching for one of the blighters in a bag would be a frustration Truly sorry about the torn hang nail (worst pain on earth) and resultant blood loss – landscape photography should not be a contact sport (that said Colby Brown who we work with recently cracked a few ribs!). My best advice on this is to pack the system with the screws tightened – I wouldn’t consider this bit an inherent flaw with the system.

    Mounting Screw

    An interesting one which has come up before, although always from photographers who have switched to us from Lee. An element of this comes down to personal preference and in a large part, what you are used to, Our decision to produce a screw securing system rather than spring loaded came down to flexibility. A spring is either secure, or it’s not – there is no middle ground. So the fact that you can rotate the holder with the spring in its “secure” position, I would consider a fault. With the screw system, secure is secure – it’s going nowhere. Alternatively, loosen the screw a quarter turn and the system will still hold, but allows freedom to rotate. But as I say, a lot of this comes down to personal preference and what you are used to. When getting into a new car, it doesn’t take long to get used to the fact that reverse gear is now push down and top left when you were used to pull up and bottom right.

    On the massacred adaptor ring, honestly, I have no idea how the damage in your photo happened. It would seem like a cop-out to say you fitted it incorrectly, but I cannot work out how the damage happened. I have had a play around with mine and cannot replicate the damage. The screw braces against the vertical edge of the adaptor ring rather than “pinching” it in place. Maybe the adaptor ring you have is not the right size for the holder – you have my email address so please feel free to come back on this.

    ND Graduated Filters

    As a rule “[not] TERRIBLE” is a productive standard to operate to however we aim a little higher. That said, colour cast is the thorn in the side of any filter manufacturer. If we take our Prostop IRND long exposure filters for example, they are almost perfectly neutral delivering a flat attenuation of light across the spectrum and are markedly more neutral than the Big Stopper which, excellent as it is (once it has finally arrived (7-10 days delivery on our Prostop IRND by the way)) is known for it’s cool blue colour cast. Correctable, but present nonetheless. On the standard ND, we aim for complete neutrality however variance of sensitivity between cameras is something we cannot accommodate.

    I was speaking today to a dealer in Vietnam who has noticed a marked difference in the IR sensitivity of a Canon (5D I think) and the equivalent Nikon. Generally setting a custom WB after a few test shots will correct a large amount of the cast. The strong cast in your images however is unusual.

    On the dedicated landscape photographer point, I again think it comes down to an element of what you are used to. My contacts list and Facebook page (feel free to connect: https://www.facebook.com/james.stamp1) is full of photographers that shoot landscape with my filters – if there was a clear superior alternative, they’d use it.

    Summary (yours and mine),

    As covered at the start of this epic (which I fear may be longer than the original review) I appreciate the open and impartial tone of your review. That said I would challenge that we are not the manufacturer of choice for the serious photographer – I feel, on the strength of the unsolicited feedback I get, that we are more than a “cheaper” alternative to Lee. Our filters are all manufactured in the UK, using the highest quality optical resin to exacting standards and whilst we are less expensive and more readily available than Lee, this is not down to an acceptance that we are an inferior product it is simply that we want our products to be affordable – the quality will speak for itself.

    Peter -sorry to hear that you had a disappointing experience with our product and in turn one of our dealers. I have not heard of a problem such as yours before so would welcome the opportunity to discuss the issues you had. Please come back to me using the email address info@formatt-hitech.com. This is not my direct email but your query will reach me.

    Kind Regards and Best wishes to all,

    James.
    Global Sales Manager
    Formatt-Hitech Ltd

    • Hi James, thanks for the comment. I trust I’m not alone with these issues. My main issue with the adaptor ring is with the lens cap. When I don’t need the filter, I’d like to take the filter holder off and put on the lens cap WITHOUT unscrewing the adapter ring. I agree that the adapter ring’s main purpose should be for holding the filter holder, but what’s the harm in making it fit a lens cap? You just need to machine the inner part of the ring to the same diameter.

      As for the damage on the adapter ring, the locking screw is either too long or the hole in which the locking screw is too close to the adapter ring. So this is either a problem with your product design or your manufacturing process/tolerance/quality control.

      You’re right, functionality wise, it does the same thing as Lee, it’s just not as polished of a product. There is a reason why Lee charges more and people are still buying them over Formatt Hitech. When people use the product enough, the time and frustration they save mounting/unmounting, putting on lens caps, switching out filters, rotating filters, or finding loose screws (which I’ve never had to do with my Lee filters), the extra money they spend is worth it. Whether you choose to improve your product based on customer feedback is your call, arguing on the internets won’t change how your product is designed/functions.

      Fujifilm is listening to customer feedback and doing great, I suggest getting in touch with your engineering team to address these issues if you are really aiming to increase sales. I’d be happy to update this review if you send me an improved version to test.

      Thanks,
      Eric

      • Good Afternoon Eric,

        I think it’s a little harsh for you to call me out on arguing on the internet when that is the forum you chose to air your thoughts on our products. Unless of course you wanted your review to go unchallenged but that seems a little one-sided. You have my email address but choose to continue the discussion in the public domain.

        Whether you are alone in these issues is hard to quantify, I can confirm you are the first person that has brought the issue of lens caps and ruined adaptor rings to me (well you didn’t bring it to me, I found it, but that’s neither here nor there). If the problem is a larger one it’s the first I’ve heard of it. If you can send me a photo of your adaptor ring in the holder I might be able to get the bottom of the damage. My adaptor ring I’ve had for over a year is almost pristine. I think the problem is more likely your usage than the product, I cannot sent images in this response but I again invite you to contact me direct and we can share images and work out the issue. As a customer who has spent money, you are entitled to a working product or a refund. The question is whether you would prefer a resolution or an argument.

        On the lens cap and within that your implication that I would rather argue than listen; in my first response to you I wrote “One for the design team I guess!”. I have already raised this with our designers and we are looking into it. That’s me listening to my customers. However from an engineering perspective it is not as simple as you have suggested.

        I’d be interested to see your stats on Lee sales vs our own – I presume from your statement you have this information and weren’t just guessing. Or do you just “know” that Lee sell more filters than us? Are you talking turnover or unit sales?Assumption in the absence of facts is an interesting thing.

        Anyway, on the two points that primarily annoyed you; lens cap and adaptor ring. Lens cap I am working on, I think it’s a good idea and I’m glad you raised it and solving the adaptor ring problem is over to you to send me more images. I am sure that if I can demonstrate that the fault was not in the design, you will update your review accordingly as promised.

        Finally I agree with you that back and forth in this domain is not going to solve anything so if you wish to contact me direct about the faults I will deal with them as I do with any complaint. But I won’t continue the discussion here as there is nothing more to be achieved.

        Kind Regards,

        James.

        • Hi James,
          This review is based on my personal experience with the product, nothing more, nothing less. At the time of writing, I found zero reviews of this particular product (the 67mm version). I assume this is either because it’s too new and no one has really used it, or no one bothered to write a review about it. I felt the need to write this review because there were none out there when I was shopping for filters, and I would have found it useful in making my decision. That said, I still probably would have gone with your product based on price alone because I’m not typically a landscape shooter and just needed it for one trip.

          I based my complaints on my prior experience with the Lee filter holder, which took me a few months to track down a retailer that actually had it in stock (most were backordered 3-4 weeks) – so I assume they are doing pretty well for themselves. I found the Lee filter well designed, manufactured, and pleasant to use.
          When you say, “My understanding is that Lee produce a one size fits all adaptor ring cap however we do not,” it sounds like you’ve never used Lee filters? If that’s the case I would suggest picking up a set for the sake of competitive analysis. My 77mm lens cap fits their 77mm adaptor ring.

          I’ll email you about resolving the issues I have, I just wanted to make it understood that what I write is from a real customer’s perspective. Even if you have the most perfectly designed product in the world, if I receive a faulty sample – I’m not going to be happy with it. If you try to tell me otherwise, I’m not going to believe you until I see it.

          “I am sure that if I can demonstrate that the fault was not in the design, you will update your review accordingly as promised.” I made no such promise. To me, if you cannot manufacture something within the right tolerances to have it work “as designed”, then you should consider changing your design to work within those tolerances. Also, to be clear – for the sake of complete transparency – I will only amend my review, I will not change what’s currently there to account for sample variation.

          Please do understand that I wrote this review in sincerity hoping for better competition with the Lee filters as well as letting prospective buyers make an informed decision when shopping for filters. I did not have this information available to me – as stated in the review, I made a small gamble going with your filters because I knew nothing about them. I understand it’s not the most favorable review, but at least it’s honest.

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