At the start of November, I finally got the email from the team to say that the new Formatt-Hitch filters Onyx Seascape kit that I, as one of the ambassadors had helped to piece together, was about to launch. Well, I am delighted to be able to say, I have had one for a few weeks, and I have been blown away by what the team has created.
When you first open the rather sleek black box you are presented with a compact booklet with all the information about the filters and including some top tips for shooting seascapes from a few of the ambassadors.
There is the slightly larger filter holder pouch with the Formatt Hitech Logo:
- The 85mm filter holder.
- Wrapped up polarising filter.
- Cellophane wrapped 67mm 72mm and 77mm adapter rings.
- Spare side plates for adding an extra filter slot onto the holder.
Then there is the noticeably slimmer 3 slot filter pouch:
- Onyx 6 stop ND filter wrapped in protective paper
- Onyx 3 stop hard grad filter wrapped in protective paper
- Onyx 3 stop soft grad filter wrapped in protective paper
Until now, I have been using a mixed bag of glass filters from Formatt Hitech in the 100mm range, including the original Firecrest, Pro filters and Ultra filters. I have also got an 85mm kit. The 100mm system has been perfect for my needs even though it is a bit big for the APC-C camera systems I use. Yes, there was the option of the older 85mm system but that was missing the hard graduated filter, something I use for most of my seascape work.
This is where the new Onyx system is going to have an advantage for me. It has the toughened mineral glass 6 ND filter that I always use at sunrise and sunset and it also has the same quality 3 stop soft and hard grad filter, a must for any sunrise photographer out there. If you need a 2 stop soft or hard grad, or to shoot other times during the day, there is also a 10 stop ND filter available in the Onyx range that you can purchase separately (I have just done this I liked them so much)
With the team filling in the gap of not having the 85mm hard grad, I can now use this system full time on my XT-3 with the 10-24mm, 16-55mm and 50-140mm lens as wide as I want to, there is no vignette at all when shooting, so I know can shoot what I like without any constraints or only if you a purchase a special wide-angle adapter rings that take up even more space in the camera bag.
It feels so good to have an affordable kit that you can just use straight out of the box and has all the ‘bits’ you need. All my filters, holder and adapter rings fit inside the Lowepro Gearup Pouch 100 that I already have, so this kit takes up one compartment in my bag, whereas with the older 100mm system it took up three spaces.
I have been told that the team have also got plans to get the reverse grad in place as soon as possible, but due to everything slowing down to Covid, it has taken a little while longer for the R&D and delivery on this filter.
I emptied out all of my current filters from my camera bag, replaced it with the new Onyx system and headed down to my local beach in Happisburgh, Norfolk, a place that just keeps giving fabulous compositions.
The first trip out with the filters, although I produced some nice results, was completely hampered by hazy conditions and eventually fog that had rolled in off the sea. Still, I took a few shots around the sea defences and the iconic lighthouse to see what the results would be like.
As you can see from the above shots, shot on the Fujifilm X-T3 and either the 16-55 and 50-140mm lens, they are all detail-rich, no casting of colour, just how as a photographer would like them to be. Given the conditions I had to work with, I was pretty pleased.
A week later I headed back to Happisburgh, this time down to the opposite end of the beach to shoot some of the rocks and wooden defences at sunrise. What I wanted to try to achieve here was to show how much of the detail is present, as well as how the enrichment of the colours on the subjects is retained while shooting through these filters, bearing in mind I was shooting with a polariser, 6 stop ND and either a hard or soft grad too.
As you can see from these filters they do not misbehave in any way, every image I shot I was happy with. I am not sure if it was just me, but when clearing the sea spray off the front filter (the hard grad) it seemed to be a lot easier to clean then dry than the previous Firecrest, not that it is much of an issue. But when the temperature is between 3-5 degrees c on the beach and the air is so damp everything is getting wet, it does make life just that bit easier.
So it comes as no surprise that as I have shot Fujifilm since the release of the XT-2 in 2016 I have been wanting to change over to the 85mm filter system and now I am able to do just that, I am so happy about this release. I have known about it for most of 2020 and have been waiting for the day that I could swap over to a far more compact system and with no visible image loss in the top end quality of the shot, I am really impressed.
The only thing I did not test on these trips was the toughened glass that is meant to make them more likely to survive one of those drops that make your heartbeat at 1000 times a minute, it’s not something I want to test on my new filter kit, but I will be sure to report back the finding on that if it does by chance happens.
As always, if you know me and you are local to Norwich, give me a shout if you are planning on heading out and I will give you a loan of this filter kit and the extra 10 stop ND, 2 stop soft and hard grad filters for you to have a play with, that way you can see how amazing they really are for your self…
And on my last note as always, if you want to buy this kit remember you can use my code DIBSM10 to get 10% off
Additional images shot since this review was published.