The all new Firecrest Filters also as part of JT signature Edition kit with 3, 6, 10, 13 and 16 stops ND filters
Formatt Hitech recently updated the best selling Joel Tjintjelaar Signature Edition Long Exposure Kit with the addition of the brand new and most neutral filters in the world, the Firecrest Filters. You can order the new long exposure photography kit directly from their website by clicking here (edition #2 up to 16 stops) or here (edition #1 up to 10 stops).
This article will describe the various JT Signature Edition Firecrest kits that are available as of now, and I will also give you an extensive selection of 11 reviews I’ve found randomly on the Web and my own review with conclusions. But first let me start with the various Firecrest JT Signature edition kits that have become available as of now besides the still available JT Signature Edition Prostop IRND kits. The big news of course is that not only the Firecrest 16 stops ND filter will be part of the JT Signature Edition kits but also the brand new 13 stops besides the 3, 6 and 10 stops. This means in practice that you can basically shoot any long exposure photograph without stacking filters anymore in a very neutral way and under any light condition from more darker light conditions to very bright daylight, and keeping in mind that 16 ND stops usually is the maximum number of ND stops you will need for fine art long exposure photography. You can read more on long exposure photography and my preferred settings, preferred amount of ND filtration and preferred exposure times in conjunction with preferred aperture settings in my long exposure photography tutorial Guide to Long exposure photography 2014 edition here on my website or the eBook From Basics to Fine Art that I co-authored with Julia Anna Gospodarou
The first new kit consists of:
1. 3 stops, 6 stops and 10 stops Firecrest Filters.
2. Filter pouches.
3. Long exposure booklet.
4. Long exposure conversion chart.
You can choose between circular filters or rectangular filters. You can here (edition #1 up to 10 stops) to order the filters straight from the Formatt-Hitech website.
The second kit consists of:
1. 10 stops, 13 stops and 16 stops Firecrest Filters.
2. Filter pouches.
3. Long exposure booklet.
4. Long exposure conversion chart.
Again, this kit is available in either circular or rectangular format. You can here (edition #2 up to 16 stops) to order this kit from the Formatt-Hitech website.
Kit #1 vs Kit #2
What is more practical: kit# 1 or kit# 2? It really depends on your habits and preferences. I like to use exposure times of around five minutes and I do most of my shooting in the afternoon. To achieve such a long exposure photograph I will definitely need some dark glass. A 13 stops or 16 stops light reduction usually does the trick. When it gets darker in the late afternoon, I might need to take a step back and use the 10 stops Firecrest Filter instead. I rarely use a 3 or 6 stops filter. So for me, kit #2 is ideal.
If you rarely use exposure times longer than 1 minute, kit #1 might be ideal for you. If you need a longer exposure time, you can still stack up your filters for 13, 16 or 19 stops of light reduction but stacking filters will also come with increased vignetting. Which is not the case with the ultraslim circular Firecrest 13 or 16 stops filters.
Circular filters or rectangular?
In the past I always preferred the use of rectangular ND filters. It does take more time to setup, light leakage can become an issue, but there is no vignetting. The new Firecrest Filters are so thin that vignetting is almost no issue at all when you stack your filters. With the use of a single 13 stops or 16 stops filter, stacking won’t be necessary any more. No stacking means no vignetting.
So should you use circular filters instead? It depends. It is of course very convenient to travel with just one camera, one tripod and one filter. On the other hand, a small, little filter is easily lost. It can also be nerve racking to try and screw on such a little, expensive piece of hardware onto your camera when you want to shoot a seascape in bad weather with wind and rain. But my experience is that the very thin circular filter let itself screw onto the lens very easily.
A Selection of eleven reviews gathered from all over the Web
The statement ‘most neutral filter in the world’ may sound to many as just a marketing statement. But this statement is also based on various test results from various sources. You can read some of the reviews, including my own review, via the following links below, or just read the conclusions here. Note that I haven’t been looking for just the best reviews, what I present here are the reviews I found through my circle of contacts and the Google Internet search results from the first pages in a random order.
– An independent review by long exposure photographer Stuart Low. His conclusion, but I recommend reading the complete article: “Companies such as B&W* and Hitech Formatt have developed ND filters that surpass the Big Stopper and by some considerable margin. In particular, Hitech Formatt brought out the IRND range and more recently, the new Firecrest 16 stop filter – which has literally been a game changer for me. No horrible colour casts and accurate exposures are now the order of the day and with 16 stops to play with, the Firecrest IRND opens up many possibilities for long exposures in bright daylight. What’s not to like” and “The Firecrest ND is only a few months old and reviews are few at this moment in time so hopefully this will help if you are considering an ND filter. I have spoken with several other photographers who concur with me and are finding the results to be extremely good, surpassing all the problems that occur with the Lee BS. All have told me there is no colour cast in their images and the exposures are consistent with 16 stops of light reduction”
– An independent review by fine art photographer Julia Anna Gospodarou. Her conclusion, but again I would recommend reading the article yourself: “What I want to mention and even emphasize here is how this filter makes me feel. Yes, a filter can make you feel something. And in my case, working for some time with the Firecrest 16 made me feel inspired. It made me see the world around me in a new way, because it opened for me new creative possibilities, making possible some of the things that were not an option before. As I was saying earlier, it solved some practical aspects freeing my mind and giving me more time to think about the creative part of my work.” and “The first impression you have when you hold the circular filter in your hand is to wonder how can this filter be so slim and still cut off so much light. I’m sure all long exposure photographers will agree with me, especially those who started with regular circular ND filters that, if stacked, would give you a quite thick result. (…) The difference in thickness is mind blowing and what this change gives me besides the lack of color cast? It’s the lack of any vignette, no matter how wide the lens I use is. This practically makes your usable image area at least 15-20% larger”.
– An independent review by fine art long exposure photographer Jamal Alias on his blog. His conclusion, but please read the full article: “One look at the Firecrest 16, it looks like any ND filter that you might already have. However, once held, you feel a considerable difference in weight. It feels so light. All around, construction and quality is definitely there. Another noticeable difference would be the thickness of the filter. It is so thin which prompted me to do a side by side comparison between my other ND filters. What I like about the super thin construction would be using the filter with my CPL filter. As I need to stack the filter, being thin is better” and “I am definitely surprised at how neutral the results were. Here you can see and make a judgement for yourself. I am truly pleased with the results.”
– An independent review by blog Vistapanoramica.es, their conclusion after a very extensive and detailed test: “We have obtained a white balance of 6650, +20. Therefore, it is not really neutral but its deviation from the white balance of 1050, which means it’s going to get photos from a slightly cold dominant. What we do see is that there is a deviation towards green color which has required a correction of +38 from the photo 1. But it is much more neutral than the Bigstopper filter, and considering that is 6 stops more “dense” this filter is much more dense than the Bigstopper”
– An independent review by fine art black and white photographer Michael de Guzman. His conclusion posted on his Facebook page: “I am no expert in filters nor a product endorser and so this is not in any way an official review because I have no authority in any level on this regard. However, I just want to share my simple test to establish proof that FireCrest 16 Filter being neutral is not a hype. I used Nikon D800 with 24mm PS-E lens. My white balance was set to “Cloudy” on both short and LE shot. Please note that the images are straight from RAW and you can see the shot settings on the corresponding screenshots on ACR. The images were resized to 1024px with 72dpi and converted the color space to SRGB. In conclusion based on this simple test, I believe Firecrest 16 filter is indeed color neutral.”
– An independent review by black and white fine art photographer and educator Ian Barber on his blog. His conclusion: “I have to say that out of all the ND filters I have owned for Long Exposure photography, the Hitech 16 Stop Firecrest in my opinion out shines all the other makes. It’s neutrality is amazing for a filter with such high filtration.” and “Too early to say just yet but going from the only shot taken, the exposure was right on the money unlike the Lee Big stopper which had a tendency to underexpose around 1 full stop.”
– An independent review on Reduser.net, a blog for Red cinematography camera users. Their conclusion (seen from a cinematography perspective): “And it looks pretty damn good. Actually, what I should say is I haven’t seen this level of controlled performance from an ND filter set before. This is pretty amazing if you consider the density range” and “There’s no dominant color cast that I can see, which is fantastic. I’ll go out on a well supported limb here and say that these are the most neutral and consistent ND filters currently available.”
– An independent and extensive comparison between the Lee BS (10 stops), the Singh-Ray 15 stops and the Firecrest 16 stops on the blog from photographer and educator David Kingham ExploringExposure.com. Their conclusion: “The Singh Ray 15 did not correct well and would require more advanced methods using RGB curves to remove the red cast, a time consuming task. The Lee’s cleaned up quite well, which is due to the blue cast being easy to fix by just warming up the white balance. The Firecrest was also easily corrected using only white balance, quite impressive for a 16 stop filter! For reference the Lee Big Stopper required a large white balance correction, going from a Temp of 5000 to 9300 and a Tint of +5 to +19, the Firecrest on the other hand only needed to go to a Temp of 5400 and a Tint of +1, a very small adjustment.” and “When shooting with a Lee Big Stopper you need to adjust the white balance in camera to 9300 to ensure you do not need to make a large adjustment later on, when using the Firecrest there is no need to set your white balance like this, daylight is very close.” and finally “I was extremely surprised by Singh Ray, a company that typically makes the best filters on the market proved to be a disappointment here. This is good news for the consumer though as Singh Ray is also extremely expensive. The good news is the Firecrest is actually quite affordable and performed exceptionally! I would highly recommend this filter”
– An independent review by black and white photographer Tuan Nguyen on his blog. His conclusion: “When I saw that the Firecrest 16 could give me an exposure time of 6 minutes at ISO 200 and an aperture of f11, I knew we would get along real fine despite our earlier gasket issue. The resultant images were even more neutral than my old Pro Stop IRND. It was a great rush to be able to shoot in broad daylight for minutes at a time again. Most photographers fear scratching the coating, with the Firecrest they can rest assured as the coating is sandwiched between the glass.” and “As you can see there is no colour cast, and both look as neutral as I could hope for. I used to use Hoya, B+W and Tiffen ND filters which all had significant colour casting from magenta to blue. If you are someone that likes to have the opportunity to shoot long exposures during the day, and are looking for a single solution then why not take a look at Formatt-Hitech’s Firecrest 16, it could revolutionise your photographic experience.”
– A review in partly English, partly Dutch by a Dutch Nature photographer. His conclusion: “The Firecrest ND 16 sets the new standard for long exposure photography. The colors are amazing naturally, instead of the other brands. I always worked with the Lee Big Stopper, but the Firecrest will be my new favorite ND filter. Why? Simple: natural colors, no vignetting. There is only one imporant thing to mention. The Firecest ND 16 is only an interesting solution under light conditions. At more dark, cloudy conditions the exposure time rises to 15 minutes or even longer. A 10 stops ND filter is a better choice then. These are available too in the wonderful Firecrestline”. Note (JT): of course the comment that the 16 stops is only useful at more bright sunny conditions has become obsolete with the new Firecrest 10 and 13 stops filter.
– And finally my own review here on this website, you can take my objectiveness with a grain of salt but I am serious about the impact the new Firecrest filters had on me: extremely neutral and the best filters I’ve seen so far.
If you’re convinced and want to purchase these filters then just go to the Formatt-Hitech website.