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Firecrest Ultra Neutral Density Filters

We are delighted to launch Firecrest Ultra ND filters, the pinnacle of photographic filter technology.

Following on from the immense success and popularity of Firecrest filters, launched in 2014, we have been looking at how we can improve these filters to ensure that Formatt-Hitech remain the leaders in technological advancement for the photo filter market.

A short history of Firecrest

Firecrest were the first photographic filters to use carbon neutral coatings to bring unprecedented neutrality to the market. To ensure the filters were as durable as possible, we bonded the coating in the centre of two pieces of optical grade polished glass (using a very precise amount of an equally neutral bonding agent, developed in-house.) This process gave the filters two vital areas of protection:

  • The critical part of the filter, the Neutral Density coating, was shielded from wear and tear. Instead of a coated filter where one piece of glass is coated on the outside and protected with an anti-scratch treatment. No matter how good the anti-scratch coating, it’s not as tough as glass.

  • They have more structural strength than a single piece of glass

That’s not to say that coated filters don’t have their place in the market. They are considerably cheaper to produce and so can give similar optical results as bonded filters for, in theory, a much lesser price, the only sacrifice being durability.

So what is Ultra about Firecrest Ultra?

At the same time as we launched Firecrest 2mm to the photographic market, we also launched Firecrest 4mm for the cinema and broadcast market. They were similar in construction to Firecrest 2mm however had a second polishing phase, crucial to the needs of motion picture.

After polishing and bonding, these filters undergo an additional process referred to as “lapping & polishing”. This involves grinding the filters to ensure they are perfectly flat, and then highly polishing the outside to ensure complete clarity. This is essential for video capture as any minute waves or imperfections in the glass would manifest as a ripple in the image when the cameras are panning (an exaggerated version of this effect can be seen when looking through very old windows.)

We are now improving Firecrest so that the new Firecrest Ultra filters undergo this same process. As a result, Firecrest Ultra filters are the first bonded, then lapped and polished filters available in the photographic market. They have a lower reflectivity than earlier filters and a clarity and sharpness, even at longer focal lengths, unprecedented in photo filters, whilst still delivering the neutrality that made Firecrest so popular.

The Firecrest Ultra product has already been profiled this year, in a limited way, as our Eclipse filter range. Their quality and clarity helped them to outsell all other filters in the market for the full solar eclipse in North America this year. These filters were made in the highest densities ever seen in the photographic market – up to 24 stops – and these high densities are being retained in the Firecrest Ultra range, for use as extreme long exposure filters.

For a truly professional product that meets the demands of ever more sensitive sensors, Firecrest Ultra isn’t the best choice.

It’s the only choice.

I couldn’t believe it when James from Formatt-Hitech sent me an invite to join him as the first magazine to play with the brand new Firecrest Ultra filters, of course, I jumped at the opportunity and we headed off to the local beauty spot (slightly depressed at the lack of sky detail).

It’s obvious from the photos James was taking of me as I nailed the first shot that I was impressed at the colour neutrality, even on a 30 second exposure, almost having to check that the filter was even in-place. There are many parts of the photography industry that have managed to create a perfect product and slow down the innovation stakes, so it’s great to see these guys not being satisfied with an already great product and creating something new.
Thanks to a complicated bonding technique, which sounds a bit like black magic to a simpleton like me, the resolution on a 36MP sensor was as sharp with the filter as it was without, even cropped in at 100% - it was almost unbelievable.

Pair this with perhaps the most advanced filter holder in the business, with light leak protection, in-built polarising filter and a really simple attachment system, and you end up with a small argument about having to give James back his copy…
— Kirk Schwarz - Gear Write Practical Photography Magazine
 
KIRK INSPECTING HIS FIRST EXPOSURE WITH FIRECREST ULTRA - WHEN SOMEONE SMILES LIKE THAT, WE KNOW WE'RE ON TO A WINNER

KIRK INSPECTING HIS FIRST EXPOSURE WITH FIRECREST ULTRA - WHEN SOMEONE SMILES LIKE THAT, WE KNOW WE'RE ON TO A WINNER

© NICK HANSON

© NICK HANSON

 
In the month that I have been using the Firecrest Ultra ND Grad filters, I have been blown away by the quality of them.

The clarity through the filters is amazing, and unlike some other neutral density grads, there is definitely no colour cast. I have used them with focal lengths ranging from 16mm through to 200mm and the quality has been the same throughout.

Based on my experience with these grads I shall definitely be ordering some Firecrest Ultra ND filters.
— Nick Hanson - Landscape & Wildlife Photography