Formatt-Hitech ProStop IRND Long Exposure Kit
Joel Tjintjelaar Signature Edition review
By Charles Paul Azzopardi
Recent years have seen the ascent and rise of the neutral density filter as a powerful and versatile tool for the fine art photographer, elevating the status of this art to new heights in terms of creative options. As an established and longstanding photographer specializing in long exposure, I have ample and extensive experience with neutral density filters, and one always has to strive to get the best digital negative in-camera on-location to ensure to have all the quality available for the heavy digital post-processing required in this genre. Any equipment which can ensure you get the result you envisioned in your third eye is a boon in this area more than anywhere else. This is where the Formatt-Hitech ProStop IRND JT Signature edition filter kit comes in.
Formatt-Hitech have been attempting to topple Lee Filters as the established and go-to brand for high quality neutral density filters. They have teamed up with the one artist who all players in the long exposure field consider a pioneer who elevated this genre to a new, before-unforeseen level of excellence, Joel Tjintjelaar, a multi-award winning fine-art photographer from the Netherlands. The combination of the renowned artist and the technical expertise of Formatt-Hitech is a force to contend with in this case, and the match has resulted in a sublime result.
When considering a neutral density filter, several considerations come into play. Ease of use, reliability, cost, quality, colour cast and IR filtration come immediately to mind. We will go through each in sequence, but the IR filtration qualities of the ProStop IRND filter are what it was specifically developed for. Unlike film, today’s digital sensors are adversely affected by light outside of the visible spectrum – especially when using higher density ND filters of 10 stops of filtration. Infrared contamination causes black areas of the image to appear various shades of brown and purple. The ProStop IRND filter is designed to eliminate the infrared contamination, increasing the quality and contrast of images due to the extremely even reduction across the infrared spectrum.
Formatt-Hitech Prostop IRND filters and pouches
The kit – packaging and contents:
The kit I am testing includes the following items, including the square resin version of the filters:
- 100 mm ProStop IRND 10
- 100 mm ProStop IRND 6
- 100 mm ProStop IRND 3
- 100 mm Aluminium Holder
- 77 mm and 82 mm Wide Angle Adaptors
- Exclusive Joel Tjintjelaar long exposure technique booklet
- Long exposure conversion chart
The Pro Stop ND filters come packaged in a pouch with padded protection, ensuring their safety during transit to you and protection out in the field. They come in a 1.5 mm thickness and with a gasket all around the resin filter to minimize light leakage around the filter holder.
The 77 mm and 82 mm ultra wide angle adaptors are two of the commonest filter threads in use on the ultra-wide angle lenses which are the star lenses of long exposure work, and the kit thus comes packaged with two out of the box, broadening your options. Joel Tjintjelaar added his touch, seen in his technique booklet and long exposure conversion chart to aid in getting the exposure right when taking into consideration the ND filtration.
It is imperative to assert that having three different densities of filtration in one kit broadens’ once options considerably, seeing the different filter densities can be stacked. Thus, with the JT Signature edition kit an artist can use 3, 6, 9, 10, 13, 16 and even 19 (although vignetting would be evident at 19 stops), so ensuring your desired filtration range whatever the quality and intensity of light you are faced with out in the field.
I tested these filters under different conditions over the course of a couple of weeks. I used my go-to lens for landscape work, the Canon 24 mm TS-E f/3.5 L II coupled with a Canon 1D-X; the filters were used shooting seascapes in Malta, as well as a long exposure advanced workshop in Rome, Italy whilst shooting long exposure architectural photography.
Having used the first iteration of the Formatt-Hitech 10 stop ND and the Lee Big Stopper, I can compare side-to-side the RAW files out of camera. The first version of the Formatt-Hitech 10 stop (no longer in production) shows an overt warm colour cast, whilst the Lee Big Stopper has an evident and notorious blue, cold colour cast, which although might be of use if you want your images to have a cold atmosphere and feel, can be quite problematic to tackle in post-processing if unwanted.
Warm colour cast of previous edition of the Formatt-Hitech Prostop filters
Blue colour cast of the Lee Big Stopper
The ProStop IRND filters used in the JT Signature Edition, as shown, have a neutral colour cast and accurate tonal reproduction in the shadow regions, with minimal IR contamination.
Colour cast of the Formatt-Hitech Prostop IRND
A lot of work went into Formatt-Hitech’s new iteration of the ProStop IRND filter. The addition of a gasket to reduce light leakage, together with the new resin formulation aimed at reducing IR has proven to be an innovative idea, also ensuring that the filter, as tested, is the most neutral in terms of colour cast of the ND filters tested.
As I have mentioned earlier in the review, I spent many a week and took over 300 shots under different conditions whilst testing the neutral density filters. The end-result is that the Formatt-Hitech ProStop IRND filters in the JT Signature edition kit produce outstanding results with a neutral colour cast and tonal reproduction up to the standard of the Lee Big Stopper, but I will go even further and say it has surpassed it hands-down, especially when taking into deliberation other considerations.
The Formatt-Hitech ND ProStop IRND filter system born out of the wedlock between Formatt-Hitech and Joel Tjintjelaar is available from stock from Formatt-Hitech’s UK factory with a fast turn-around time, whereas the Lee Big Stopper has a waiting list going back to several months, severely impeding access to this filter.
The cost of the JT Signature edition is abreast of the cost of the Lee Big Stopper coupled with a Lee holder system and adapter ring, but at the same price-point the JT Signature edition trumps the Lee system by broadening the creative options to three densities available in one kit (3, 6 and 10 stops of ND with the JT Signature kit, 10 stops only with the Lee Big Stopper), together with the holder system and a 77 mm and 82 mm ultra wide adapter rings, two of the commonest filter threads used in long exposure photography.
And lest I forget, although resin is still prone to scratching unless you are careful with your kit (you should really be careful and caring for your artistic kit, whichever it may be), the Lee Big Stopper is entirely made of glass. One mis-step and you see the end-result below (that is my filter please note, blown away by a buffet of wind and not by my lack of perfectionist care of my photographic gear).
Broken Lee Big Stopper filter
Formatt-Hitech are a boutique filter manufacturing company based in Wales, UK. Formatt-Hitech differentiates itself from other filter manufacturers in four key areas:
- Rigorous application of science in the development of new filters.
- The most advanced computer controlled manufacturing in the industry.
- We use only the highest quality materials.
- Manufactured in Aberdare, Wales, UK.
About the author
Charles Paul Azzopardi is a cancer doctor by day and an avid long exposure and monochrome photography specialist & committed enthusiast the rest of the time, with an ongoing drive to learn even more. For more info on Charles: www.charlespaulazzopardi.com or check Charles’ Facebook page