Holders: Lee or Formatt-Hitech, or something else?

Started Sep 12, 2016 | Discussions
swartzfeger
swartzfeger Regular Member • Posts: 320
Holders: Lee or Formatt-Hitech, or something else?

Hi gang,

I'm tormenting myself over this whole filter system conundrum. Love to do long exposure photography, but it's always been with circular filters. Inevitably, they crack, or get lost, and I've been getting tired of going the cheap route of buying new filters for my various thread sizes. Now that I have solid support and ballhead (RRS), I need to get serious with my filters as well.

I have no problem spending $$$ on a nice starter kit from Lee (I'd like to spend no more than $300-$500). So I start to read Lee reviews -- raves about the filters, but a lot of heartache over the holder. Basically, it sounds like the holder can detach itself from the lens with very little effort.

So looking for quality alternatives, I stumble upon Formatt-Hitech. Lots of positive feedback on the filters, particularly the Firecrest series. And I even read some positive reviews of the holder as compared to the Lee. But then I find a Formatt review by Nasim Mansurov (a blogger/photographer whose reviews I trust) and he flat out said stay away from Formatt until they improve the holder. Same problem -- holder detaches from the lens.

Formatt-Hitech has a new Firecrest holder that appears to be due any day now, but it's very pricey... and I don't know if I want to spend that kind of money without seeing at least a few initial impressions online (the video Formatt released looks promising though).

Are these reports of holders falling off exaggerated? Should I just buy a cheaper Sensei or Cokin holder and go with whatever 100mm filter strikes my fancy?

FWIW, the F-H Elia Locardi Signature Kit is probably the starter kit I'll jump on if I decide to throw caution to the wind and take my chances. But at $475 USD, I'm still leery about hanging that kind of money from my lens if there's a remote chance it will fall off in the field.

Any firsthand experience feedback is greatly appreciated. I just want to bite the bullet, spend the money, stop worrying and start shooting.

 swartzfeger's gear list:swartzfeger's gear list
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akustykmagmanetpl Senior Member • Posts: 1,195
Re: Holders: Lee or Formatt-Hitech, or something else?

it's Nisi holder for me (mine is V3, they sell version V5 now). much cheaper than Lee/Hitech and I find build quality great. Plus the wonderful thing of polarizer being sold as part of the kit and not disturbing any of the other 3 filter slots.

last but very much not least - Nisi holder does not vignette down to 16mm on a FF camera. in any rotation of the holder. try that with Lee...

as for filters... for plain ND filters I have Haida (8x) and Hitech Firecrest (64x). Haida is more to my liking in terms of colour reproduction (slight warming, Firecrest is slightly cooling) but both are really beautifully neutral compared to things like that Lee's deep blue filter (Big Stopper).

for ND grads I went pretty cheap way - bought myself a set of Slovak 84dot5 filters, which I already tried before in 85mm size. I choose them because of price but also because they manufacture Reverse Grads which I tend to use a lot. I do also have one filter from Hitech (1-stop Hard grad) which Slovaks don't make. in terms of colours the 84dot5's are slightly cool. color error is generally small (say: 5000->5200K) but actually slightly less pleasant than Hitech's warming cast (which is much stronger, say 5000K->4400K). not a major difference but slight advantage to Hitech here. as for other manufacturers - from my 85mm days I also have experience with Cokin and some cheap Chinese stuff - but you're highly recommended to avoid those, they've terrible colours...

swartzfeger wrote:

Hi gang,

I'm tormenting myself over this whole filter system conundrum. Love to do long exposure photography, but it's always been with circular filters. Inevitably, they crack, or get lost, and I've been getting tired of going the cheap route of buying new filters for my various thread sizes. Now that I have solid support and ballhead (RRS), I need to get serious with my filters as well.

I have no problem spending $$$ on a nice starter kit from Lee (I'd like to spend no more than $300-$500). So I start to read Lee reviews -- raves about the filters, but a lot of heartache over the holder. Basically, it sounds like the holder can detach itself from the lens with very little effort.

So looking for quality alternatives, I stumble upon Formatt-Hitech. Lots of positive feedback on the filters, particularly the Firecrest series. And I even read some positive reviews of the holder as compared to the Lee. But then I find a Formatt review by Nasim Mansurov (a blogger/photographer whose reviews I trust) and he flat out said stay away from Formatt until they improve the holder. Same problem -- holder detaches from the lens.

Formatt-Hitech has a new Firecrest holder that appears to be due any day now, but it's very pricey... and I don't know if I want to spend that kind of money without seeing at least a few initial impressions online (the video Formatt released looks promising though).

Are these reports of holders falling off exaggerated? Should I just buy a cheaper Sensei or Cokin holder and go with whatever 100mm filter strikes my fancy?

FWIW, the F-H Elia Locardi Signature Kit is probably the starter kit I'll jump on if I decide to throw caution to the wind and take my chances. But at $475 USD, I'm still leery about hanging that kind of money from my lens if there's a remote chance it will fall off in the field.

Any firsthand experience feedback is greatly appreciated. I just want to bite the bullet, spend the money, stop worrying and start shooting.

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Trout479
Trout479 Forum Member • Posts: 76
Re: Holders: Lee or Formatt-Hitech, or something else?

I found the ProOPTIC filter holder at Adorama works well. I use Lee filters in this holder and have had no issues for the past year.  When I bought mine, it included two of the adapter rings, it now appears that the rings are seperate.

TheBlackGrouse
TheBlackGrouse Senior Member • Posts: 3,142
Re: Holders: Lee or Formatt-Hitech, or something else?

As long as you don't run around with Lee holders and filters on the camera, nothing will go wrong. The resin filters pick up scratches when you look at them, better to put them in a safe place before you start moving.

The problem might be something else. I've noticed that the adapter ring needs to be screwed on correctly. It takes some turns before it is secure.

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Active outdoor photographer

caroFoto New Member • Posts: 5
Re: Holders: Lee or Formatt-Hitech, or something else?
1

Hi swartzfeger,

I would advise going with either NISI 100mm v5 or the new Formatt Hitech Firecrest (FHF) 100mm holder...which I have just received!

If you want to know why, sorry for a long post below but the arrival of the new FHF did not help keeping it short ;-).

Please note that I have nothing against Lee. My ultra wide angle lens (14-28mm) does not have a ring. So just for this lens I went for a Wonderpana special adaptor + Lee SW150 with light-shield holder, which I am very happy about...having both a 100mm and a 150mm holder is not the cheapest way to go I'll admit but it helped me learn about holders ;-).

But when it comes to 100mm, in my opinion, the main thing that makes NISI and the new FHF better is that the polarizer (PLZ) is not placed at the front of the system. When placed at the front a PLZ has to be wide (e.g. 105mm) to avoid vignetting at wide angles.

When screwed/placed closer to the lens, it can me smaller: 82mm for both NISI and the new Formatt. So what? Well, being screwed at the back and smaller also means:

  • More flexible an safer: the ND/GND part can be removed quickly to keep only the PLZ on when needed, which is faster and safer than having to pull filters out of their slots. I believe most people will agree that you dont always use ND/GND but nearly always a PLZ in landscape photography...so facilitating the PLZ only scenario makes sense
  • Thinner / more compact holder (even when keeping only two slots on, the previous Formatt version is 1cm thicker than the new one)...if you think of it, it seems that putting the PLZ at the front was a quick fix for most manufacturers
  • Less need to clean the PLZ (again, more often used than ND/GND)

Then, of course, both the NISI and the new FHF provide a wheel on the holder to rotate the PLZ. Some, like me, will find it more precise to adjust, some may find it slower.

In the end the choice is quite simple:

  • Go NISI if you absolutely want to use 3 filters on top of the PLZ...and if you go NISI, go for v5 as the PLZ is much better than v3
  • Otherwise (PLZ+2filters max) , go with the new Firecrest Formatt Hitech. There is only space for two filters on top of the PLZ but then the holder is even more compact and I think it has other advantages (see below)

Personally, after using the previous version of the Formatt Hitech which could hold up to three filters (+PLZ of course) I found out that stacking up 3 ND/GND was not absolutely necessary for me...and is it wise from an image quality stand point? This is why I recently opted for the new FHF.

This choice gives me other (smaller?) advantages of this holder over the NISI one:

  • Comes with a Firecrest PLZ (ultra low colour cast)
  • I find the rotating wheel and the holder lock to be better placed
  • The rubber case surrounding the holder:
  1. Better protection of the ND/GND filters
  2. Excellent light shield...when not using any GND, it can be 100% leakage free
  3. When using only the PLZ I believe this rubber case may help a bit at limiting flare at some angles / act as a hood(?)

Both NISI and FHF could have a better holder lock BTW!

Now, there is one thing I am still not too sure about: on the new FHF, there is a fix round rubber ring on which the first filter will slide when pulled in. Ok, I understand the nice intention: this is to prevent light leakage without having to stick bands on the sides of your ND filters (something I have never liked doing). Indeed, when using a GND the rubber case cannot remain closed at the top and the bottom and this rubber ring prevents leakage when using a ND for long exposure. However, this means two things:

  1. If you already have ND filters on which you have stuck rubber bands on the sides to prevent leakage, you will have to remove them to facilitate insertion...and this is not a pleasant job!
  2. The filter you insert in the first slot will slide on the rubber ring and I am not sure this is a good idea. I prefer rubber bands stuck on the filter to slide on the holder. I will see how it goes but chances are I will remove the rubber ring...and stick new bands on my ND filters...since I have already removed them ;-).

Cheers

swartzfeger
OP swartzfeger Regular Member • Posts: 320
Re: Holders: Lee or Formatt-Hitech, or something else?

caroFoto wrote:

Hi swartzfeger,

I would advise going with either NISI 100mm v5 or the new Formatt Hitech Firecrest (FHF) 100mm holder...which I have just received!

CaroFoto,

I'm leaving for work right now and haven't read your response yet, but thank you SO MUCH for your detailed reply! I look forward to reading it because I am ordering my filters very soon!

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swartzfeger
OP swartzfeger Regular Member • Posts: 320
Re: Holders: Lee or Formatt-Hitech, or something else?

caroFoto wrote:

Personally, after using the previous version of the Formatt Hitech which could hold up to three filters (+PLZ of course) I found out that stacking up 3 ND/GND was not absolutely necessary for me...and is it wise from an image quality stand point? This is why I recently opted for the new FHF.

Caro, I watched the new F-H Firecrest holder introduction video last week and it is indeed impressive. My only issue is the price -- it's a lot more than other holders. It's definitely worth the price based on the build and the extras that come with it, but if I got the new holder plus the filters I need, my total would come to $600.

What were your experiences with the original F-H holder? I'm probably going to order it direct in a few days.

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caroFoto New Member • Posts: 5
Re: Holders: Lee or Formatt-Hitech, or something else?

swartzfeger wrote:

caroFoto wrote:

Personally, after using the previous version of the Formatt Hitech which could hold up to three filters (+PLZ of course) I found out that stacking up 3 ND/GND was not absolutely necessary for me...and is it wise from an image quality stand point? This is why I recently opted for the new FHF.

Caro, I watched the new F-H Firecrest holder introduction video last week and it is indeed impressive. My only issue is the price -- it's a lot more than other holders. It's definitely worth the price based on the build and the extras that come with it, but if I got the new holder plus the filters I need, my total would come to $600.

What were your experiences with the original F-H holder? I'm probably going to order it direct in a few days.

Hi swartzfege,

Re-reading my previous post I've just realised I had erased by mistake what I had written regarding Nassim's 100% valid (as one would expect) review of the "previous" FH holder.

To keep it short, if you are not planning to buy a polariser for your holder and you are fine with only 2 slots/filters, you will not get vignetting down to 24mm with your full-frame K-1. The vignetting issue comes from the polariser placed at the front...this has been improved a lot by NISI since v3 and now with the FH Firecrest by moving the polariser to the back of the system + wheel on the holder to rotate it.

WIth the previous FH, if you are on a budget and already have a polariser for your 28-105mm's ring, a solution consists in adding the holder on top of your polariser by using the relevant adaptor ring. This is not ideal as you will have to remove the holder each time you want to adjust the polariser but it can work. Indeed, removing the holder means releasing the screw that keep the holder on the adaptor ring (this ring will stay on your polariser). Just be careful though as you will end-up doing that a lot ;-).

The previous FH holder I've got is of a better build than the one reviewed by Nassim back in 2012: lens and polariser adaptor rings are aluminium...just what he was asking for.

If you do intend to get a holder with a polariser, I will elaborate on the matter...let me know.

Cheers,

caroFoto New Member • Posts: 5
Re: Holders: Lee or Formatt-Hitech, or something else?

Hi again swartzfeger,

Just noticed a drop in price here in France for the NISI v5 (holder, polariser, rings, no vignetting down to 16mm): used to be about 140€/150$...found it at about 100€/110$...maybe due to the arrival of the FH Firecrest?

http://www.lovinpix.com/fr/porte-filtres-pour-systeme-100mm-type-cokin-z/8925-nisi-kit-porte-filtre-v5-100mm-polarisant-bagues-w-a-67-72-77-82-mm-4897045107667.html

If the same thing is happening on your side of the ocean could be worth getting this holder and ordering just the filters from FH...although, if you compare the Elia Locardi kit vs. buying just the 3 filters, it looks like they are giving away the holder

TheBlackGrouse
TheBlackGrouse Senior Member • Posts: 3,142
Re: Holders: Lee or Formatt-Hitech, or something else?

caroFoto wrote:

WIth the previous FH, if you are on a budget and already have a polariser for your 28-105mm's ring, a solution consists in adding the holder on top of your polariser by using the relevant adaptor ring. This is not ideal as you will have to remove the holder each time you want to adjust the polariser but it can work. Indeed, removing the holder means releasing the screw that keep the holder on the adaptor ring (this ring will stay on your polariser). Just be careful though as you will end-up doing that a lot ;-).

Well, I use this solution, it works fine. You'll find out what is the best position for the polarizer and hold it there while attaching the adapter ring. It's better than this giant (heavy and vulnerable) circular polarizer in front and gives less vignetting too.

Because of that Formatt-Hightech screw I prefer the Lee holder. Much easier to attach and remove the holder.

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TheBlackGrouse
Active outdoor photographer

swartzfeger
OP swartzfeger Regular Member • Posts: 320
Re: Holders: Lee or Formatt-Hitech, or something else?

I ordered the F-H 100mm Elia Locardi Signature Travel Kit today. Hopefully I'll have a positive report in a few weeks.

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gianfranco75 Contributing Member • Posts: 564
Re: Holders: Lee or Formatt-Hitech, or something else?

Hi Swartzfeger

can you give us an update on your Locardi Kit? I am going through the same decision process and undecided between it and the Nisi V5 system.

Thanks!

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Steve W Veteran Member • Posts: 4,890
Re: Holders: Lee or Formatt-Hitech, or something else?

Finding this thread interesting, I currently own a Lee system but was just looking at a on-line video of the F-H Firecrest holder. A couple of questions to user of this holder.

  1. Does it take non Format-Hightech filters like the ones from Lee?
  2. Are there any filter thickness restrictions since most of mine are the thicker glass ones?
  3. Is the holder plastic or some other material? Couldn't tell from the video
  4. Seems like a lot of assembly and disassembly with the case and end caps since he took it apart to switch from 100 x 100 mm filters to use 150 x 100 mm since you want different end caps. Is that the case that you need to disassemble in the field if you want to switch from using larger to smaller filters and vis versa?

What advantages / disadvantages does the Nisi have compared to the F-H Firecrest since they both seem to incorporate the polarizer in the adapter?  Also, what is the quality of the polarizers when compared to a B+W or Heliopan. I happen to have the 105mm B+W on my Lee but I do get some vignetting and it does stick out more so the that is what attracts me to these holders. I'm thinking of just getting a new holder with polarizer and use my existing Lee filters with it.

Interested your comments.

Steve W.

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swartzfeger
OP swartzfeger Regular Member • Posts: 320
Re: Holders: Lee or Formatt-Hitech, or something else?
  1. gianfranco75 wrote:

Hi Swartzfeger

can you give us an update on your Locardi Kit? I am going through the same decision process and undecided between it and the Nisi V5 system.

Thanks!

Gianfranco,

I posted some early impressions here:

https://www.dpreview.com/forums/thread/4059731

In short: I love the Locardi kit... I would definitely buy it again!

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caroFoto New Member • Posts: 5
Re: Holders: Lee or Formatt-Hitech, or something else?

Steve W wrote:

Finding this thread interesting, I currently own a Lee system but was just looking at a on-line video of the F-H Firecrest holder. A couple of questions to user of this holder.

  1. Does it take non Format-Hightech filters like the ones from Lee?
  2. Are there any filter thickness restrictions since most of mine are the thicker glass ones?
  3. Is the holder plastic or some other material? Couldn't tell from the video
  4. Seems like a lot of assembly and disassembly with the case and end caps since he took it apart to switch from 100 x 100 mm filters to use 150 x 100 mm since you want different end caps. Is that the case that you need to disassemble in the field if you want to switch from using larger to smaller filters and vis versa?

What advantages / disadvantages does the Nisi have compared to the F-H Firecrest since they both seem to incorporate the polarizer in the adapter? Also, what is the quality of the polarizers when compared to a B+W or Heliopan. I happen to have the 105mm B+W on my Lee but I do get some vignetting and it does stick out more so the that is what attracts me to these holders. I'm thinking of just getting a new holder with polarizer and use my existing Lee filters with it.

Interested your comments.

Steve W.

Hi from Paris Steve,

I own both the NISI v5 and the new FH Firecrest (FHF) so here are my 50cts.

Answering your questions:

  1. Yes it does (I've got filters of different brands and they are all 2mm thick)
  2. How thick are yours? I don't expect them to be much thicker than 2mm. The slots of the NISI and the FHF are both a bit stiff at first
  3. Step-down ring + polariser holding ring + main plate are metal. Obviously, filter slots are plastic, same with all holders. I believe you already got it that the case is plastic, which make sense...what is not so good is that the latch button also is.
  4. One way of looking at it is that it is flexible. It is up to you to choose to keep the case on or not. If you do, depending on what filters you use you have further options. When you shoot a long exposure with only a GND filter you can decide to keep the end caps on to prevent light leakage as much as possible (e.g. sunny day, your camera in the sun with an ND10 on). When you are shooting with GND only or ND+GND, obviously, you need to take the end caps off to be able to adjust the position of the GND

These two holders are indeed very similar in principle as the main idea was to bring the polariser close to the lens to prevent vignetting and to include a wheel to rotate the polariser. However, the case around the FHF is unique and makes comparison difficult.

Indeed, this case provides protection against shocks, scratches, light leakage and, in some cases, flare. However, it does takes a bit of getting used to, especially with ND filters that are fully covered by the case when inserted and therefore a bit tricky to pull out without removing the case...after a bit of practise it is fine though :-).

There are 3 slots on the NISI and 2 on the FHF...personally I am fine with two but this will probably annoy some people.

Other smaller differences are:

  • Polariser quality: both as good at cutting polarised light, the FHF is colour neutral / the NISI is slightly too warm
  • Polariser size: FHF 82mm - NISI 86mm (wider is better to prevent vignetting with ultra wide angle lenses)
  • The 100% metal latch mechanism is a bit better/smoother on the NISI than the partly plastic one on the FHF...both rotate too easily to my liking as compared to my previous holder (FH modular aluminium) with which you can completely prevent the rotation
  • The location of the latch is better on the FHF: it does not stand out, which prevent getting hooked e.g. to a branch and makes it easier to take out of and put back into a pouch
  • The location of the polariser wheel is better on the FHF: a bit easier to access and to find when you tilt the holder
  • The step down rings of the NISI are toothed, which makes them easier to put on and remove...I therefore use the NISI ring on the FHF ;-). they are also 1mm thinner than the FHF ones
  • Weight (holder + polariser on): NISI 155g - FHF 190g
  • With the FHF, you don't have to stick anti light leakage rubber bands on your high grade ND filters as there is a rubber ring on the holder...as stated above in my earlier post, there are pros and cons about this choice

Voilà ! Hope this helps. Feel free to ask more questions if needed.

Bonne nuit

Steve W Veteran Member • Posts: 4,890
Re: Holders: Lee or Formatt-Hitech, or something else?

caroFoto wrote:

caroFoto,

That was indeed a great help. Thank you. Don't know if you ever used a Lee system and compare the F-H to the Nisi as well. That is currently what I own.

Steve

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caroFoto New Member • Posts: 5
Re: Holders: Lee or Formatt-Hitech, or something else?

Steve W wrote:

caroFoto wrote:

caroFoto,

That was indeed a great help. Thank you. Don't know if you ever used a Lee system and compare the F-H to the Nisi as well. That is currently what I own.

Steve

Hey Steve,

I have only used, and am still using with my ultra wide angle lens, the very good Lee 150mm SW150. From what I have seen, the Lee 100mm is similar to the previous FH holder with a big 105mm polariser at the front. The main difference being the way the holder is attached to the step down ring: a latch for Lee and a screw for FH.

I find the latch solution (Lee, NISI and FHF) to be a bit safer but the screw solution (previous FH holder) to be steadier. For me a perfect holder should have both: latch to hold and screw or something else to prevent unwanted rotation once you have tilted your holder according to what your are shooting (e.g. when you tilt a holder with a GND on to match the shape of a mountain).

As stated above on one of my earlier post, the "polariser at the front" design was more of a quick fix for people who wanted easy access to their polariser vs. polariser directly on the lens and holder on top of it. But with that came vignetting issues.

Somehow, with recent holders, a kind of mature stage has been reached :-).

Cheers,

Giovanni_1968
Giovanni_1968 Senior Member • Posts: 2,834
Re: Holders: Lee or Formatt-Hitech, or something else?

I am taking advantage of this discussion to add my questions, I currently own a nice B+W Kaseman 77mm circular polarizer along with a Hoya 82mm Super circular one and another B+W in 58mm diameter for my Fujinon 14/2.8, as a holder I have a couple of Cokin ones along with a GND and an ND (also a linear polarizer which I never used and just thought to send over to eBay), I am also in the quest for a holder which allows me to both use the polarizers I already have and big and solid enough to stand 100mm slide in filters, did give a look at the Formatt video and whilst it seems a smart project to avoid light leaks it looks, to me, kind of fragile with all that mount and unmount the light seals, I am wondering, since sooner or later I want to get a big stopper and a graduated one for seascapes (that's what I do in winter, being on an island in the off season you need quite plenty of hobbies to keep yourself busy and photography helps a lot ), when I did attempt with the Cokin setup it is a bit painful, mount the polarizer on the lens, attach to it the adapter ring, rotate till the desired effect/intensity and then mount the holder on top of it, change angle, repeat...

The idea to be able to rotate the polarizer is a very good one but I wouldn't trade my B+W (which cost almost as a good used 50mm lens) polarizers for any of those, I would like to keep them and then get a holder being able to slide two filters through, I was pointed out in an older thread that I could mount the polarizer on an adapter ring and slide it into one of the slots and as such being able to rotate it easily, now I never experimented such a solution and don't know in real world if light leaks happen and to what degree they affect the final result, sure if the light source is high and/or on the side there would sure be reflections but in my case that's a secondary issue, first one being the ability to use the polarizers I own already and then for the holder to be compatible with a future wide angle lens which I still don't own

I back then was trying to figure it out what between the Lee and the Cokin Z-Pro, on youtube in many a chances I saw people being happy with the cheaper Cokin being able to slide in both Cokin, Lee and Format filters, what's your take about a holder to fit 2mm thick filters and to still be able to use "normal" polarizers rather than to be forced to use their solution one like Formatt or Nisi?

Grazie

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swartzfeger
OP swartzfeger Regular Member • Posts: 320
Re: Holders: Lee or Formatt-Hitech, or something else?

Giovanni_1968 wrote:

I am wondering, since sooner or later I want to get a big stopper and a graduated one for seascapes (that's what I do in winter, being on an island in the off season you need quite plenty of hobbies to keep yourself busy and photography helps a lot )

Giovanni,

I have no answers since I have limited experience with my F-H holder so far, but I must say your seascape portfolio on Flickr is spectacular!

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Steve W Veteran Member • Posts: 4,890
Re: Holders: Lee or Formatt-Hitech, or something else?

You can definitely mound your existing polarizer and then your adapter and holder on top of that but I think the problem you run into is that the filter holder ends up having to rotate as you use the polarize which make it fine for ND only filters but not for ND graduated filters that need a specific orientation to work. Also you may accidentally rotate the holder to a position where the filters could slice out. At least that what I've been thinking. Maybe there is another solution to this problem.

Steve W.

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