Social Media is a wonderful tool for any photographer out there, not only does it allow you to get your images out into the public arena hopefully raising profile & generating print sales but more importantly allows interaction with other likeminded individuals.
It was during one of these interactions with a group of ‘Togs’ on Twitter that a friend (looks at Matt Holland @mihphoto) mentioned that Formatt-Hitech had just announced a new design of filter holder which at first glance looked like it ticked all the right boxes & they had a special introductory offer on which expired in a couple of days. Nothing like leading me into temptation!
Now, ‘procrastination’ is usually my middle name, however, I really liked the sound of what the Firecrest filter holder had to offer, having held back from upgrading to a set of Lee Filters because of said procrastination I was now in a mental quandary about my proposed purchase. But truth be told, my existing set of 85mm filters were no longer delivering the results I wanted & they had served me well for several years & as such the time had come to change.
Well, I mentioned I usually procrastinated about making a decision, now add ‘Indecisive’ into the equation & you get a decision makers nightmare (why does this only happen to me when dealing with photography based choices!!). My gut was telling me that I should purchase the incredibly well known & loved Lee Filters set, given it seems to be the choice of many well-known professional photographers, however, that was before Formatt-Hitech had introduced the newly designed Firecrest holder, so they didn’t have the choice that I did. Now Formatt-Hitech are also a well-known & respected high-end brand that manufacture incredibly well made Filters, that are also used by some of the top Pro’s out there, so this mitigated any concerns I had about purchasing from an unknown name.
So here we are 1 day before the Introductory offer expired, I was pressed into making a decision by a few of the ‘Togs’ asking me if I’d ordered yet & I thought to myself “ Why haven’t I pushed the button, I’ve done all my research & it is exactly what I want, so what is stopping me?” This was my ‘Eureka’ moment & I entered my Credit Card details on their website & clicked the Buy Now Button.
What's In The Box
A few days later, a well wrapped package duly arrived & I immediately unwrapped the outer paper to discover a really well designed box, with a fantastic long exposure cityscape adorning the front (yes, I know it is a only a box but attention to detail in things like outer packaging give great confidence that the actual product will also be incredibly well designed & made) . It was no surprise then, that when I opened the box, the holder was already packed in its (well made) holder & the component parts were also neatly packaged in their own individually wrapped packets. By far the most important one of these would be the in-built Circular Polariser, which was well protected within the actual packaging, so no damage could befall it during transit.
The thread size of the Firecrest Filter holder is 82mm, however, unlike the Lee system Formatt-Hitech supply step-down rings (adapters) to allow the holder to be used with 77mm, 72mm & 67mm lenses all within the purchase price) therefore covering the vast majority of existing lens sizes. When changing the lens, it’s just a matter of unscrewing the adapter & changing for the required size. In respect of attaching to the camera, once again this is simplicity itself, the circular polariser attaches to the filter holder by way of a spring loaded retainer of back of the holder, you then just slot the filter holder in & it fits into place with a satisfying click (these retainers can be tightened via a supplied alan key if they ever become lose). To date, I have found it easier to screw the Circular Polariser onto the lens & then click the holder onto that once in place. Now aside from the in-built Circular Polariser the Firecrest goes one stage further than other filter holder designs in so much that there are outer sleeves that literally slot around the end of the holder providing both protection for the innards & the actual filters. Once again, these are simple to slot on & off, however, to date I’ve not actually found a reason to remove these once they are fitted, maybe cleaning I suppose. There is also a built in gasket that butts up against the inner filter when fitted, this helps to prevent light leak, the bane of Long Exposure photography.
Now you would usually be pleased with everything that had been designed so far on the Firecrest, however, there is even more to this filter holder than that. Formatt-Hitech have cleverly designed the holder that it also comes with 2 removable end caps, so you can completely enclose the holder when using the 100mm x 100mm filters, this provides one more barrier & as such should prevent any form a light leak from the filter. There are 2 end caps supplied that clip in & out of the filter, the one described above for the one ‘Long Exposure’ shooting, the other allows the utilisation of a single filter, which provides one slot for you to easily slide the filter into position. The Firecrest holder has the capacity to allow the use of 2 filters at once & should you need to do this the end cap is completely removed allowing both filters to be slotted into position.
When out in the field it is an absolute joy to use, simple to attach to the lens and once attached is very sturdy. I’ve been trapesing across uneven beaches with the filter holder attached to the camera & have not been worried in the slightest about the propensity to drop off at any time. It really is that well made.
Changing filters is also incredibly easy, just slot in & out, even changing the end caps is very simple, once again these just pop out (they can only be fitted one way, which ensure that if using a single filter it butts against the internal gasket). Probably takes no more than 10 seconds to change the end caps.
Last but not least, the in-built circular polariser is fantastically well made and allows you to always have the benefit of the polariser available to you when the filter is fitted. Just turn the geared control wheel on the side of the holder & the polariser rotates. This enables the shot to be composed with the filters set up & then rotate polariser without altering anything else.
To conclude, at first glance paying £129.99 + Vat for a holder seems like a lot of money when you then have to purchase filters as well. However, the system takes all existing 100mm filters & as such users of other brand filters can purchase this in the knowledge that their existing 2mm thick filters will work with the Firecrest holder. Then factor in the in-built Circular Polariser , I’ll just leave this hanging out there - £169 for a 105mm Circular polariser in isolation from Lee Filters ! Suddenly the price looks incredible value & it most certainly is. Formatt-Hitech have clearly listened to demands of photographers & they have certainly come up with a very well designed, well made & versatile filter holder that ticks all the boxes.
Now I’m actually glad that I previously procrastinated, otherwise I’d have purchased the Lee set & missed out on this fantastic piece of kit, so the morale of my story is that on the odd occasion procrastination is good !!
Shaun Mills is a Mersea Island based amateur photographer who rediscovered his love for photography in his early 40's & now spends much of his spare time wandering around the North Essex backwaters with camera in hand looking for inspiration.
Shaun is quite happy rising pre-dawn to capture those magical moments during the 'Golden Hour' when light is at it's best and many of his images feature quite dramatic sunrises. He says 'I'm fortunate to live on Mersea Island, as I'm blessed with uninterrupted views to the East and 'Big Skies' which usually lead to a wonderful start & end to the day. I see it as my role to capture those images for those not as fortunate as myself'.
The joy of landscape photography is that no two images will ever be the same due to the passing of time, light, tide & wind. For this reason quite a few of his images are taken at Shingle Point, Mersea Island, however, they are always different in so many ways! Many of Shaun's images also feature the traditional Essex Oyster Smacks or Thames Barges that are moored in the estuary. They often provide a focal point to a dramatic sunrise or sunset in the background.
Shaun is also quite experimental in his approach to photography, particularly enjoying 'Intentional Camera Movement' which involves slowing the camera shutter speed & moving the camera to produce an abstract image, whilst still allowing the viewer to interpret the scene.
To see many more of Shaun's images you can follow him on Twitter, Facebook or via his website www.shaunmillsphotography.com