- Significantly better quality product than Cokin P holders
- Cokin P adapter rings work with Formatt-Hitech holder
- 85mm may not be large enough for very wide-angle MFT lenses
- Finding good filters for good price still remains challenging
Why would you want to use filters? I have written a post how I use them for long exposures, and also differences between threaded circular filters and square filters.
Formatt-Hitech, as some other manufacturers as well, offer square filter systems in three different sizes: 67mm, 85mm, and 100mm. 67mm is too small for larger Micro Four Thirds lenses. 100mm may appear quite large for most situations although for super wide angle lenses (e.g. Olympus 7-14) it would be the best choice. I decided to go for 85mm as it suits most situations and is still relatively compact. In fact, I currently do not have any lens that 85mm would be too small for.
Cokin P holder for comparison (do not buy)
A bit of background. After deciding to go for 85mm filters I bought a Cokin P compatible plastic holder, in fact two different models – and both were dreadful. Full-plastic construction without any adjustments, meaning filter fit is very tight and thus tricky to use on the field. These are pain to use even after I did some filing and small modifications. Cokin’s polarising filter solution is also very odd and unpractical. I have not read many good things about their filters either.
Anyway, the filter size is the same so they are compatible, as are the adapter rings.
Formatt-Hitech filter holder
Formatt-Hitech’s holder system consists of aluminium threaded adapter rings where the aluminium holder is attached to. The holder itself contains detachable bits that form the slots for filters. With a set of these bits and a set of screws you can build the holder for 1-3 filters. I have place for two filters in my configuration as I never use more than two and lower stack is less likely to cause vignetting.
Threaded adapter rings are screwed on the lens as seen below. I have used a circular polariser there in between.
Note that Cokin P adapter rings are almost the same size and work as well. The diameter is slightly smaller and they are also a tad thinner as I have tried to illustrate in photo below (although it is not so obvious here). This causes the holder to be slightly off-center which in extreme case may cause vignetting more easily on one side. I have one Formatt-Hitech adapter but the rest are Cokin P. All of these are made of aluminium.
Holder and filters
Holder is then tightened on the adapter ring using the small screw on the side, as seen below. Filters are just slided in the slots. Filter stack tightness can be adjusted with four thumb screws – filters may also be of different thicknesses.
While this may not be the sturdiest solution, it is very practical. Basically you
- Screw the adapter ring on
- While camera on tripod, compose your image, set focus, and adjust polariser if used
- Load the filters in the holder, the holder in your hand
- Only then attach the holder on the lens
Adjusting focus or polariser is tricky if you have very dark ND1000 filter on. Playing with filters while the holder is on the lens and camera on a tripod is not a joy either.
Formatt-Hitech offers their own circular polariser solution which is another adapter stacked in front of the filter stack and then using a “standard” 95mm (threaded filter of this size is not very common) threaded filter. Below is their own product photo for the filter holder.
However, I decided to opt out of this. Firstly, buying this extra adapter ring and so large circular polariser is going to cost quite some money. Secondly, this setup is certainly going to cause vignetting with wider lenses.
After getting the Olympus 12-100 this is likely going to be the only lens I use filters with. Therefore, I bought 72mm circular polariser for that lens and use the polariser before the adapter ring. Even that stackup is just at the limit not to cause visible vignetting at 12mm focal length.
Third reason why my setup is better when using my favourite 10-stop ND filters – first you focus and adjust the circular polariser and then quickly attach the holder with the ND filter. With Formatt-Hitech’s solution you would need to slide the filter off when adjusting polariser as you cannot see anything with 10-stop filter on.
Vignetting can be an issue when stacking enough filters. As mentioned above, when I use circular polariser before the adapter ring and use two-filter stackup, it is just at the limit not to cause visible vignetting at 12mm. Wider than that and you would need to take something out.
I would like to buy a wider lens at some point but then need to reconsider the filter solution. At the moment I cannot say how much wider you can go by just taking the polariser off.
At the moment I have following filters in my kit:
- Kood ND8
- Haida ND1000
- Formatt-Hitech Graduated ND8
- Formatt-Hitech Reverse graduated ND8
All of these filters are budget models. Haida ND1000 is the only glass filter, the rest I assume are resin.
My favourite filter and the bargain of this system so far has been the Haida ND1000. I have not seen any hit in image quality or significant colour cast in this glass filter. Given it is ND1000 and had relatively low price tag, I am very pleased with it.
Kood is a decent filter as well. My experience in Formatt-Hitech filters is a bit mixed. I had one ND16 filter but that was basically unusable due to very bad magenta cast. The graduated filters I have are ok. I also must say all these are resin filters unlike their expensive Firecrest series.
Along with two threaded filters, below are shown Haida ND1000 and graduated filters which can be useful in landscape photography where sky is significantly brighter than foreground.
I do recommend Formatt-Hitech filter system if you opt to go for a square filter system. It is not perfect but good. Build quality is good as well. If you use ultra wide angle lenses, it is better to go for the 100mm system.
Choosing a filter holder may be relatively easy but finding good filters without spending a fortune will be trickier.
It is also worth considering going for circular threaded filters, especially if you do not have many lenses. They are more robust to use but adjusting focus and polariser with very dark ND filter on can be difficult, and screwing the filters on and off for that is not convenient either.