Hitech Pro Stop review

When Lee released the ‘Big Stopper’ in 2010, they massively underestimated how much of a demand there would be for a decent 10 stop filter.  Before the Big Stopper arrived, the only square 10 stop ND filter was the 10 stop filter from Hitech.  Unfortunately this filter had a few problems. It was very prone to flare even if you covered all around the filter.  It also was sensitive to IR which gave a hard to remove colour cast to foliage and greenery.

Fast forward 12 months and Lee cant make enough Big Stoppers to meet demand.  The glass for the filters is sourced overseas, so supplies are patchy with people having to wait quite some time before receiving their filter.

 

Filter

The people at Formatt-Hitech saw how much of a demand there was for this filter and decided to go ahead and re-develop their 10 stop filter.  The first thing they decided to do was to emulate Lee’s idea and install a gasket to the filter.  They also designed a new CR39 resin which was much more resistant to IR than the previous one.  All components of the 10 stop filter are manufactured and sourced in the UK.  The resin is made at their factory in South Wales and as a consequence Formatt aim to turn around most orders in a couple of days.

Hitech went a little further than Lee though.  Instead of just designing one filter, they have a whole range of Pro Stop filters from 6 stops to 10 stops.  Filters are also available in an 85mm size as well as a 100mm version.  The 85mm version will be welcomed by Cokin filter users as an inexpensive entry to long exposure ND filters.  To cater for Lee filter users, the 100mm filter comes with a 1.5mm gasket to fit in the Lee holder.  The Hitech holder is slightly different and the Pro Stop caters for this with a thicker 3mm gasket.

 

Packaging

The Pro Stop ND filter comes, for the moment, in a padded cloth pouch very similar to the pouch that Lee filters are supplied in.  Over the next couple of weeks the cloth pouch will be changed to a leatherette one with the same padded protection as the cloth pouch but with a different exterior material.  The filter also comes with a handy exposure guide as once the filter is on the camera the metering wont work properly so the guide is invaluable to get the exposure correct.

 


Testing

As with my previous 10 stop filters review, I tested these filters under a few different conditions over the course of a couple of weeks.  This time I used two lenses for my tests,  a Tokina 11-16mm Ultra wide angle and a Nikon 18-70 lens.  For these tests I decided not to cover around the Filter holder as I did on the last review as both the Big Stopper and the Pro Stop have gaskets which completely stop the light leakage from the sides and top of the filters. I also used a Lee 3 stop soft ND Grad for these shots as this is a combination I use a lot.

This first image is straight out of the camera.  As you can see the 45 second exposure has produced an image in which both filters are within 1/4-1/2 a stop of each other.  Both filters have a blue cast with the Pro Stop being lighter due to the slight difference in densities of the filters.

Hitech pro Stop v's Lee Big Stopper


This second image is a combination of the reference image and the Pro Stop image.  The reference image is using the white balance selected by the camera ‘as shot’.  The Pro stop image is using a custom white balance taken from the mid-grey clouds just above the hills to the left.  As you can see the colours are pretty accurate.  The yellows and greens are just about the same as the reference image, with the blues being slightly paler.  As this image has had no post processing, it would be very easy to adjust this image to be the same as the reference one.

Reference image v's Pro Stop

 

The next couple of images were taken a couple of minutes apart.  They show how close the two filters can look once a custom white balance has been taken.  The white balance was taken from the grey clouds just above the peaks of the Isle of Arran in the distance.

Hitech Pro Stop with custom white balance

Lee Big Stopper with custom white balance

Both images are perfectly fine.  If I hadn’t been making notes of the file numbers, I would have found it hard to tell which is which.

Conclusion

As I have mentioned earlier in the review, I spent a couple of weeks and took 60-70 test shots under different conditions.  I could post a few more comparison images from my tests but the truth is nearly all shots ended up with the Hitech Pro Stop making images every bit as good as the Lee Big Stopper.

The Hitech does actually beat the Big Stopper on 3 main points…

 

Price

The Pro Stop is only £72.  The Big Stopper can be found from £92-£100

 

Availability

The Pro Stop is available within a couple of days direct from the factory.  Lee back orders for the Big Stopper are currently at least 8-12 weeks.

 

Durability

The Big Stopper is notoriously fragile.  I speak from first hand experience!  The Resin Pro Stop filter isn’t as easy to break and if you drop it there is a chance it would survive.  Try this with a Big Stopper and it’s a gonner.

 

It seems at long last there is a credible alternative to the Big Stopper.  The filter is available direct from Formatt.

 


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56 Comments

  1. Andrew 29/05/2011 at 9:51 pm #

    Totally comprehensive review and it is a good 10 stop filter, I am happy to use it instead of the B+W ND110 screw in.

    Cheers,

    Andrew

  2. admin 29/05/2011 at 11:08 pm #

    Thanks Andrew,

    I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of this filter. I am happy to use it too.

  3. A different Andrew 01/06/2011 at 7:54 am #

    Really interesting review, thanks a lot! Just wanted to ask if there was any difference in the sharpness from the filters, and if so, by how much?

  4. danny linton 02/06/2011 at 12:36 pm #

    Great Review mine should be coming soon :)

    btw if its usefull a review on hitech reverse grad

    http://www.dannylintonphotography.com/blog/2011/06/02/hitech-reverse-nd-grad-review/

  5. admin 02/06/2011 at 2:16 pm #

    I could see no difference in sharpness between the two filters. Both will produce results as sharp as having used no filters.

  6. admin 02/06/2011 at 2:17 pm #

    Good review Danny.

    I hope to have these on trial in the next week or so.

  7. A different Andrew 03/06/2011 at 2:50 pm #

    Great, thanks!

  8. Phil Livesey 13/06/2011 at 11:34 pm #

    Great Review, you have made up my mind which way to go, as for Lee and their lead times, I have been waiting 6 months for nothing more than 2 – 4.5 ND Grads. If I had not already paid for these I would have cancelled long before now. Great to have a viable alternative at last

  9. admin 14/06/2011 at 7:16 pm #

    Thanks for the comments Phil. I also now have some reverse ND grads from Hitech which I hope to begin testing next week.

  10. Steffan Harries 27/06/2011 at 1:03 pm #

    I’ve recently gone through two Lee Big Stoppers (first broke in the post, second broke in the supplied padded pouch inside padded Lowepro bag) and can vouch as to just how fragile they are. I won’t be getting another and will instead get this Hitech one. The rest of my filter kit already consists of Hitech filters anyway!

    Thank you for the review, really helped me to decided that I won’t be getting another Lee :)

  11. admin 27/06/2011 at 9:27 pm #

    That is the worst thing about the Big Stopper, it is very fragile and it can be easily broken.

  12. Joh Charles 13/07/2011 at 7:17 pm #

    Hi,
    i intend to buy a lee holder (foundation kit) and hitech filters, included a 10 stop ND. Now seen that this filter has a gasket and they say that for hitech holder there’s another version i have a doubt: hitech NDG (kit 0.3,0.6,0.9) are compatible with Lee holder? Thanks

  13. admin 15/07/2011 at 6:14 am #

    The Hitech NDG’s do fit into the Lee Holder without a problem.

    The Pro Stop has 2 different thicknesses of gasket as the Hitech holder’s first slot is slightly further forward than the Lee holders one.

  14. Roman Slejmar 22/07/2011 at 10:52 am #

    Hello,

    thank you for nice review.

    I would like to ask you for your opinion about usage of 85mm filter in Cokin holder P. Do you think that there will be no troubles like dark corners?

    Thank you, Roman

  15. admin 23/07/2011 at 6:36 pm #

    I couldn’t honestly say as I have only used the Lee 100m version of the filter. You could maybe ask Formatt if there are any issues with this size.

  16. Les 25/07/2011 at 11:56 pm #

    So as far as fitting the Lee Holder goes, it fits just as well as the Lee big stopper particularly with regard to the gasket preventing light leakage?

  17. Les 26/07/2011 at 12:01 am #

    For Roman: I asked Formatt about the 85mm version & they advised they had tested the 100mm filter in the lee & Formatt holder but not the 85mm in the Cokin p holder but that they’ve already sold over 200 and had no complaints…

  18. admin 27/07/2011 at 5:42 pm #

    The Lee version of the Pro Stop fits the Lee holder just as snugly as the Big Stopper does.

  19. Jimmy 09/08/2011 at 8:52 pm #

    Hi did you notice anything like a dark spec in your photos after using the filter, especially the on the sky? I notice that with the old hitech 10 stop ND filter, this is an issue. Not sure if this is still true for this new filter. Thanks!

  20. admin 10/08/2011 at 10:50 am #

    No, I never. I did get the same problems using the original 10 stop that you had. The dark spots were light reflecting around between the filter and lens, I think. The gasket solves this issue by sealing the gaps and being lightproof. What you do have to do though is keep the filter very clean as any marks on it will show up. This is true for all 10 stop filters.

  21. Roland Sköldblom 11/08/2011 at 3:43 pm #

    Very good article! Do you have any suggestions where I can buy Hitech Pro Stop filter?
    //Roland

  22. admin 11/08/2011 at 4:56 pm #

    You can order the filters direct from

  23. urs 11/08/2011 at 5:06 pm #

    Are the Hitech Pro filters compatible with the Lee adapter?

  24. admin 11/08/2011 at 6:35 pm #

    Yes, they are.

  25. Roland Sköldblom 13/08/2011 at 11:43 am #

    Is the 85 mm Hitech 10 Pro Stop filter compatible with the Cokin holder? So you can use a Cokin holder?/Roland

  26. admin 13/08/2011 at 6:58 pm #

    Yes, it is compatible.

  27. Jon Punshon 19/08/2011 at 2:12 pm #

    Hi im looking into buying this, but i was wondering would it fit within a Cokin Z Pro holder? i notice on the site they only seem to make a Hitech and Lee compatible big stopper. Any help would be great as going on holiday in a week and could do with this filter, thanks :)

  28. admin 19/08/2011 at 3:35 pm #

    I think it would probably be the Lee version you would need but one way to find out would be to place a filter in the first slot, ie the one closest to the lens, and them measure the gap between the filter and the holder.

    If it’s around 1.5mm you need the Lee version if it’s around 3mm then you need the Hitech version.

    Post your findings though so if anyone else needs to know it’s here in the thread.

  29. John Dean 25/08/2011 at 9:24 pm #

    Have used the pro stopper on a recent shoot in the south east. Must say though, the stuff does look rather flat. Admittedly, the weather wasn’t exactly bright sunshine, but the files are nevertheless lacking punch. Any thoughts? Note your points about keeping the thing clean. Cannot overstate that.

  30. admin 25/08/2011 at 9:58 pm #

    I would say that bringing some contrast back with post processing would solve it. I have also found that unless it is bright sunshine with a lot of contrast the files can be a bit flat. I usually use a curves adjustment in photoshop to boost the contrast again.

  31. Hussain Nalwala 19/09/2011 at 5:39 pm #

    Hi…
    I just came to know from Hitech that the 85Pro 10 Stop is out of stock and they are offering the 3mm think with a gasket.(which cost higher). My question is what filter holder can we use. Can a cheap chinese made or Cokin holder be used or do we need to buy a holder from Hitech also.

    Please advice.
    Hussain Nalwala

  32. admin 19/09/2011 at 9:13 pm #

    I’m afraid I don’t know. I only have experience of the 100mm filters. Maybe someone who reads this could help?

  33. Jeremy 22/10/2011 at 7:40 pm #

    I ‘ve just bought the 85mm Pro Stop 10 with 3mm gasket. Using it with the Cokin P-series holder, there is quite a gap between the gasket and the holder. Presumably, using the Hitech holder, this would be a snug fit? Would it be better to buy the plastic or metal Hitech filter holder?

  34. admin 22/10/2011 at 11:49 pm #

    I would probably think so, but as I don’t use the 85mm filters or holders, I can’t confirm 100% if this is the case. As for the whether to get plastic or metal, I think the plastic would do just the same job. I use a Lee holder for my 100mm filters and that’s plastic and gives me no issues.

  35. Jeremy 27/10/2011 at 3:00 pm #

    I bought the Hitech plastic filter holder, but it turns out it is exactly the same as the Cokin, and therefore has quite a gap between the gasket and the holder. I thought the idea was for a snug fit to eliminate light-leak? I’ve only tried a handful of 30-second exposures so far, but first impressions are that the files look very flat and all shots have a strange colour-cast that is very difficult to correct for. Also, the filter took a month to arrive (I live just down the road from the factory), with no attempt to keep me informed of progress. Not terribly impressed so far, although will have to do more testing when the weather picks up a bit!

  36. admin 27/10/2011 at 7:30 pm #

    I thought that there would have been a snug fit between the filter holder and the filter too. I know this is the case when you use the Pro Stop along with a Lee Filter holder. As for the colour cast, did you see my blog post about removing colour casts

  37. Neil 05/11/2011 at 3:18 am #

    Awesome review!!! I have a quick question about the Hitech 10-stop 85mm filter. Is it round where we can screw it in on our lenses?

    Thanks!

  38. Anonymous 05/11/2011 at 6:50 pm #

    Hello,
    did you test the Hitech together with a CPL (in front of an LCD screen).
    The Hitech filters (2 , 3 stop neutral density gradient, 2 years old or so) have been reported to be birefringent and I can confirm that, I tried my filters and sure the grey part becomes very uneven in front of a CPL.

  39. admin 05/11/2011 at 7:49 pm #

    The filter is square and fits into a Hitech filter holder. The filter holder fits onto the lens using a holder adaptor ring. The adaptor ring comes in different sizes depending on the lens. This means you only need one filter holder and then each lens of a different thread size requires a holder adaptor ring.

  40. admin 05/11/2011 at 7:51 pm #

    I haven’t tried this combination so I can’t say if this is an issue.

  41. Julius 14/12/2011 at 8:21 pm #

    Thank you for your review – it was a great help for me. Now i am waiting for my Formatt 10 stop, I am sure i will like it…

  42. admin 16/12/2011 at 7:06 am #

    I’m sure you will too!

  43. Taylor 21/02/2012 at 1:18 am #

    Bought the new hitech 10 stop for my lee holder. I have a question though. Have you heard of any “faulty” copies? I have the new version and shoot in raw and even after editing the white balance in lightroom I can hardly recover any color and the final shot is extremely muted. I compare it to the same shot taken without the filter and can’t get it anywhere close. Greens and yellows are the worst. I can’t compare it to any other 10 stop filter but I have a b+w 6 stop screw in and colors are much better. Any idea what could be wrong?

  44. admin 21/02/2012 at 4:58 am #

    I have not heard about any ‘faulty’ copes of this filter, but there might be slight batch differences between production runs. When you say the shot is muted, do you mean low contrast? If so, are you covering the viewfinder when making the long exposures as light can leak in from here and cause a reduction in contrast. Also don’t use any uv or skylight filters with this filter as the more surfaces between the filter and the lens can also reduce contrast and might not help with the colour cast either. Are the poor results only with the one lens or more than one? Sometimes the quality of the lens can make a difference too.

    The 6 stop filter would be better as the filter doesn’t have to block as much light so there is less chance of IR causing a colour cast.

  45. Gio 21/02/2012 at 6:01 am #

    @Taylor i have encountered similar issues with my copy.

    I did a review of my own as well…

    http://nontent.blogspot.com/2012/02/review-hitech-formatt-10-stop-nd-filter.html

  46. admin 21/02/2012 at 6:46 pm #

    I have had a look at Gio’s review. It looks like there has been light bouncing around betweeen the filter and the lens. I would be interested to know whether any other filters were on the lens and if the viewfinder was covered. Also some more details of the camera and lens would be good too.

  47. Gio 22/02/2012 at 12:09 am #

    There werent any other filters on the lens. Was using the Canon 45mm TS-E & 5D, i took some other pics with a 1D Mk2 and closed the viewfinder.. same result. I tried a 35mm and different lenses.

    At one point i taped all around the filter and the Cokin P (slight improvement).

    I lost too much contrast with this filter

  48. Taylor 22/02/2012 at 6:21 pm #

    Thanks for the advice!

    Mine is mostly just just with the colors. There are not any flares or artifacts. At a 100% crop with the original the clarity is nearly identical. Anyway, I have NOT been covering the viewfinder. I will do so from now on to see if I get any better results. I managed to find a Big Stopper at an affordable price and purchased it so I may just end up selling the Hitech if the Lee works better. Anyway, I am using a pentax k5 with a sigma 17-70. No other filters are being used.

  49. admin 22/02/2012 at 6:57 pm #

    I dont have any experience of using this filter with a Cokin holder, only the Lee one. Maybe the Cokin holder is not so good at stopping light leakage even with the gasket on the filter.

    It doesn’t sound too good though.

  50. Richard 09/03/2012 at 10:15 pm #

    Hi Robert,

    Thank you so much on all the review between Lee and hitech. Photography is only my hobby, and spending $250AUD on a filter is a lot …. I would happy to buy hitech is it can do most Lee does , plus dont need to wait for months …

    I do lot of sunrise seascape. Just a question on flare spot, you covered a lot in the last review, but I dont see it in the new review … what did you think with the new hitech ND pro filter ?

    Cheers,

  51. admin 10/03/2012 at 9:43 am #

    Hi Richard,

    The flare spot mentioned in the original Hitech 10 stop review has been solved by the inclusion of a gasket in the new filter. The flare spots were caused by light leakage around the sides of the filter and depending on the lens use can be really bad as you saw from the massive spot in the middle when using an ultrawide lens. The new filter is much better in this regard.

  52. Dean Allen 20/03/2012 at 11:12 am #

    Tried both the Hitech 10 stop ND and the Lee Big stopper and I would rather pay the £ 10 extra for the better quality from the Lee product as the Hitech filter has strange colour artefacts.

  53. Alan Dingwall 03/06/2012 at 2:39 pm #

    Hi Robert
    Could you advise on custom white balance settings?
    I am using a Nikon D7000 with auto white Balance mine come out very dark blue and use temp on processing to control however I do like the blue in certain shot’s. My friend has the same stop ten pro and using his Canon D40 with auto white balance comes out very natural so we swapped filters on both Cameras and sure enough his on my D7000 soc perfect and mine on his Blue? There were both bought two weeks apart and genuine pro products
    Alan

  54. admin 03/06/2012 at 4:40 pm #

    Hi Alan,

    I personally don’t bother with custom white balance. I prefer to shoot in raw and correct the white balance later in post-processing. My usual way of removing the cast is detailed

    As for the difference between the two filters, this is to be expected. Ten stop filters are quite difficult to make with perfect white balance, or even with the same colour cast. Batch differences are what you are seeing with the two filters. I saw exactly the same thing with my Lee Big stopper. The first one was just about perfect, hardly any adjustment was needed to remove the colour cast. The second one has a blue cast and requires a custome white balance all the time.

    The luck of the draw, I’m afraid.

  55. Dennis 10/06/2012 at 8:17 am #

    Seems odd that quality control is an acceptable issue (i.e., same filter from same company behaves differently). So a review of any one filter could be totally unreliable, to be taken with a grain of salt. Unbelievable.

  56. admin 10/06/2012 at 5:50 pm #

    The quality control only really applies to the amount of colour cast which might vary from filter to filter. As I have already said, all 10 stop filters require white balance colour correction of some sort.

    As long as the cast is correctable then I don’t personally see that as a problem.

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