Tag Archives: hitech v lee
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
The Pro Stop is only £72. The Big Stopper can be found from £92-£100
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.
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.
A quick post regarding a parcel I received today. Those very nice people at Formatt Hitech have sent me the new version of their 10 stop filter. As you can see from the image the filter now has a gasket. The filter also has a different CR39 optical resin dye from the previous 10 stop filter which is claimed to stop the IR colour casts of the previous 10 stop filter.
The filter is available now in both 85mm and 100mm sizes. The 100mm filter retails for £60+vat, the 85mm filter retails for £40+vat. To cater for Lee users that cant get a hold of the ‘Big Stopper’, this filter will be available in a version to fit the Lee holder with a 1.5mm gasket. For Hitech holder users, this filter comes with a 3mm gasket.
As well as being available in 10 stops, Formatt plan to make this filter in 6,7,8 and 9 stop versions.
A full comparison review between this new filter and the ‘Big Stopper’ will follow in the next couple of weeks. The original Hitech 10 stop vs Lee Big Stopper review is here.
Well it took a bit longer than planned but at last the review of the new Hitech Pro Stop filter is finished.
Lee Filters have recently released the ‘Big Stopper’ 10 stop ND filter. This Proglass filter is Lee’s answer to Hitech’s 10 stop ND filter. The ‘Big Stopper’ will retail for around £94 which is in line with other ND filters in Lee’s Proglass range. In comparison the Hitech 10 stop ND retails for around £48, although this is a resin filter and not glass.
The Big Stopper comes in Lee’s normal padded material pouch. Along with the filter is a small booklet and a handy, business card sized, exposure guide. This is very useful as once the filter is on the camera, metering is very difficult.
The Hitech 10 stop ND filter comes in a plastic sleeve. In use I find the sleeve very tight to remove and replace the filter. In fact I got so fed up with trying to force the filter in and out of the sleeve that I ended up using a spare Lee pouch to keep the filter in.
The Big Stopper is part of Lee’s ProGlass ND range of filters. This is what Lee have to say about them…
‘The ProGlass ND is an extremely high quality glass ND filter optimised for use with digital cameras, but equally useful for film.
This brand new filter uses a surface coating made from evaporated metal, and therefore provides very even absorption across the visible spectrum and through the UV and Infra Red regions. Using an ND filter can prolong exposure times to blur water and capture movement in clouds and the sky, but the excess UV and IR can cause colour problems in some lighting situations. The ProGlass filter reduces any chance of false colour casts, and also provides a result described as punchier on digital and film because the light forming the image is more specific to the requirements of the film or sensor.
The filter also features a foam gasket all around the inside of the perimeter of the filter, which when the filter is placed in the Lee holder in the slot closest to the lens creates a lightweight seal to cut down the chance of light leaking around the side of the filter.’
This is a picture of the Big Stopper fitted in the Lee filter holder. As you can see the foam gasket does not fill in the whole of the gap between the top and bottom of the filter holder. Even so, my tests showed no evidence of light leakage due to this.
The Hitech 10 stop ND is made from CR39 dyed substrate. This is a resin filter which is slightly thinner than a Lee resin filter. This makes it slightly more flimsy but in use there isn’t much of a difference.
I tested both filters on a few different days in different conditions. The first tests were taken early evening/ sunset. This was good for testing as the low sun made conditions difficult. All these test shots were taken on a Nikon D300 with a Tokina 11-16 Ultra-wideangle zoom. i chose the Tokina specifically because it is a lens which can have problems with flare. Also another reason I decided to use this lens was because it is a lens I use a lot for landscapes and I wanted a worse case scenario for these filters in conjunction with this lens. In all these images, the top and back of the camera was covered by a piece of black cloth to eliminate the chance of any light leakage coming in through the viewfinder. I also used a Lee 3 stop soft ND grad along with the 10 stop filters as this is another combination I use a lot.
This first shot was taken using the Big Stopper and a Lee 3 stop soft ND grad.
The same image taken with the hitech a couple of minutes later.
As you can see the hitech suffers badly from circular flare spots. Also the semi circular flare ring in the centre which seems to be a particular trait of using the Tokina 11-16 with the hitech filter. Also note the colour of the seaweed in the bottom left. This looks like IR build up causing a magenta cast on the seaweed.
As usual both images are straight out of the camera, no processing or white balance adjustment, only what the camera has chosen.
Another image to show how good the Big Stopper can perform. This is a composite of the reference image and the Big Stopper image. The reference images white balance is ‘as shot’ and the Lee has been corrected using the ‘auto’ setting in camera raw. Notice how close the two images are for white balance. There is hardly a difference. In fact, I might have got it closer if I sampled somewhere in the image to get a white balance. A big plus for anyone who has tried to remove the huge casts that can sometime occur with the Hitech.
Another couple of images to show what happens when you shoot direct towards the sun. As you know this is a hard test for any filter. The Lee has really shown up the quality of the glass filter. There is only 1 flare spot in the image. This is a really good result considering that the Tokina 11-16 bare on it’s own would probably show the same thing if it was pointed towards the sun like this shot. The Hitech has not fared so well. There are multiple instances of flare with a magenta cast. In fact this is the difference between an image from the Big Stopper that could easily be fixed in post processing and an image from the Hitech that is just unusable due to the massive flare and cast.
As before both images are direct from the camera with no adjustments.
The next test was to compare the filters side by side straight from the camera to show the different colour casts and how easily they were removed. The first image clearly shows the much cooler White Balance of the Big Stopper compared to the Hitech. Another point to note with this is that the Hitech is nearly 3/4 of a stop less than the Big Stopper. Getting filters to be exactly 10 stops is difficult, so it’s hard to say which one is correct. This isn’t that much of an issue as you would get a feel for exposure times using your own filter.
The next image is the same image but letting Adobe Camera Raw fix the White Balance by selecting the ‘auto’ setting.
As you can see the results are very close. Both images are accurate and no flare or light leakage was visible using both filters.
Both filters can give great results. Unfortunately the Hitech 10 stop is a bit unpredictable. Depending on the conditions, you can get a magenta cast on some plants, seaweed etc.
There is also the issue with flare spots and light leakage. One way that I have found to try and minimise this is by making a fabric ‘sleeve’ which fits over the lens barrel, the filter Holder and filter to try and stop light leaking in around the edges of the filter. This can be successful but a bit finicky.
The Big Stopper on the other hand gives reliable results time after time. With Lee’s inclusion of the foam gasket, there is no problem with light leakage and due to the glass used on the filter, flare is not an issue either. The Big Stopper does have a blue cast to it but this is very easily corrected in post processing as I have already shown.
The Lee Big Stopper may be nearly twice the price of the Hitech 10 Stop ND filter but it is money well spent. The old adage ‘buy cheap, buy twice‘ comes into mind here. If you bought the Hitech and liked the effect that you got from the long exposures then you would probably end up deciding to buy the Big Stopper in the end. My recommendation is to buy the Big Stopper straight away and save the bother and hassle of inferior results.
Well it had to happen. I was well aware of the extra care needed due to the fragility of the glass filter. I managed to forget it was in it’s pouch in my pocket and knelt down and snapped the filter in two! Obviously I was a bit annoyed but unfortunately there was no-one around to blame but myself! So if you do manage to get a ‘Big Stopper’, take extra good care of it!
I have managed to find a UK supplier with stock of the ‘Big Stopper’. So I just had to purchase another! There are obvious batch differences between my original filter and my new filter. The new filter has a much deeper blue cast and now requires a custom white balance to totally remove the cast instead of just changing the setting from ‘as shot’ to ‘auto’ in Camera Raw. This is not that big a deal but as you can see from the image below there is a bit of a difference. As before this has had no processing and is straight out of the camera with the camera choosing the white balance. The good news though is that it is still easily correctable in Camera Raw.
Hitech have sent me a new version of their 10 stop ND filter for review. The review will follow in a couple of weeks once I finish testing it. The Hitech Pro Stop 10 Stop ND Filter
Well it took a bit longer than planned but at last the review of the new Hitech Pro Stop filter is finished.