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:
Positive: pretty nice packaging, that’s promising…
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:
- There’s no filter thread on the front. This usually isn’t a big deal, until you realize…
- 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.
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?
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!
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.
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:
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:
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.
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.
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