FORMATT-HITECH FIRECREST 85MM FILTER HOLDER REVIEW
THE LITTLE BROTHER GOT BIGGER: THE FORMATT-HITECH FIRECREST 85MM FILTER HOLDER'S POWER
As a Fine Art Landscape Photographer, I use filters every day in the field: square Grad ND and ND filters, together of course with a polarizer, are my bread and butter. To use them on my cameras I don’t need just a holder, but a holder that makes my job as easy and as safe as possible.
Since for my landscape work I only ever used either the so-called “full frame” 35mm digital cameras or digital medium format cameras, I always had to use 100mm square filters to avoid vignetting, especially with my wide and ultra-wide angles. My weapon of choice when it comes to holders is the amazing Formatt-Hitech Fircerest 100mm holder: while not perfect, (nothing is!) it’s the best solution I have found so far, after trying Lee, NiSi, and other systems. Producing their new Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 85mm holder, Formatt-Hitech clearly based its design on the strengths of the Firecrest 100mm holder, a very good starting point already. However, rather than creating just a smaller copy of the 100mm holder, they improved in it many ways, and I was curious to try it out and see what difference the improvements made.
BUILD AND OPERATIONS
The new Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 85mm holder is built like a tank, while being very compact and lightweight. In use, the holder is extremely simple: screw the adapter ring with built-in polarizer on your lens, fix the holder via a turn of the locking screw, and you are ready to slide your 85mm square filters in the slots (remember, is always better to slide your ND closer to the lens, rather than your Grad ND). To regulate the amount of polarization, just turn the built-in wheel; to orientate your Grad ND filters, just turn the holder to taste. Done!
THE 100MM HOLDER’S STRENGTH
As mentioned above, the design of the new Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 85mm holder definitely capitalize on the strong points of the 100mm Firecrest holder. These points are:
1. Built like a tank, light but strong: materials used are aircraft grade aluminum for the holder and high-grade nylon for the slots. This choice of materials makes the holder both light, at only 110gr including the polarizer, and extremely strong, while ensuring that your filters won’t get scratched by the slots;
2. Integrated gasket seal to prevent light leaks (again, remember to always place the ND in the slot closest to the lens!);
3. Built-in circular polarizer sitting in the adapter ring;
4. Precision gearing allowing you to turn the built-in circular polarizer independently from the rest of the holder;
5. Step-up / Step-down rings included in the package to use your adapter with 58mm, 67mm, 72mm and 77mm lenses right out of the box.
IMPROVEMENTS AND DIFFERENCES
While the new Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 85mm holder’s design is clearly based on the Firecrest 100mm holder, it features some definite and very welcome improvements, which – by the way – I am looking forward to seeing in the next iteration of the 100mm holder as well. Let’s see what these are:
1. Improved filter slots. Personally, I definitely find this to be the biggest and most important improvement over the old Firecrest 100mm holder. The springs holding the filters in place are now pushing sideways on the filter rather than up-down, and this makes for a much easier insertion and sliding movement of the filters (fundamental i.e. for precise Grad ND placement), no matter any slight variation in thickness between filters. One of my gripes with the old Firecrest 100mm holder was that filters could become hard to push in and out and hard to fine-tune, especially in cold and wet weather, and the new slot design perfectly fixes the problem.
2. Improved locking mechanism. The Firecrest 100mm holder locks in place thanks to a “lip” which you then pull out to unlock it. This system works perfectly in terms of keeping the holder in place and allowing for easy rotation of the holder. While I never had a problem with it, I appreciate it that for some this is not the easiest solution when you need to remove the holder, especially with gloves and with either very cold or sweaty fingers. The new Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 85mm holder locks on its adapter rings thanks to the twist of a screw, which is much easier to find and operate than the lip on the 100mm holder. The new system definitely gives the impression of holding the holder much more solidly in place than the Firecrest 100mm’s one. My only nit with the new design is that it makes turning the holder slightly less easy, especially if you tighten the screw all the way.
3. The new Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 85mm holder lacks the “shells” shipping with the 100mm Firecrest holder, shells useful in certain circumstances to prevent reflections. Personally, I never found these to be fundamental: they are useful in some rare circumstances, but at the same time they are slightly cumbersome to use, therefore I almost always preferred to use a cleaning cloth to stop stray reflections. In short, it is great to have them on the Firecrest 100mm holder for those situations when you really need them, but not having them on the 85mm holder won’t be too much of a problem.
WHO IS THE NEW FORMATT-HITECH FIRECREST 85MM HOLDER FOR?
As we all know, your choice of filters and of holder depends on the filter sizes of your lenses. Before happily moving to the Hasselblad X1D, I have been using the Leica SL for three years. While a great camera system, the Leica SL’s zooms all sported an 82mm filter thread, and this would have made it impossible for me to use the new Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 85mm holder, which tops at 77mm.
However, all the new and amazing Hasselblad XCD lenses so far top at 77mm, including the 21mm XCD which, with its 17mm focal length equivalent in so-called “full frame” 35mm terms, is the widest lens for medium format available today. Therefore, I was happy to be able to try the new Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 85mm holder with my Hassleblad lenses and I can report that it will work perfectly fine, and without vignetting, on all lenses including the 21mm XCD, where it just shows a shadow of vignette when you turn the holder 45 degrees around.
I appreciate that my Hasselblad system is an exception in the field of medium format cameras, including the mirrorless Fuji GFX (the 23mm and 250mm have 82mm filter threads), and that the new Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 85mm holder is clearly aimed at smaller mirrorless systems. If your lenses all have filter threads of 77mm and smaller, the new Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 85mm holder is definitely the best solution available today to use your Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 85mm square filters on your camera.
In short, the new Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 85mm holder is not only a definite improvement over the previous iteration of 85mm holders from Formatt-Hitech but in my opinion is simply the best 85mm filter holder out there today. More, it offers solutions that I would most definitely welcome in the new iteration of the Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 100mm holder as well. If your lenses all have filter threads of 77mm and smaller, or if you need a second filter kit to travel smaller and lighter when you want to bring just a few lenses with filter threads under 77mm, the new Formatt-Hitech Firecrest 85mm holder is a no brainer. Highly recommended!
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