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ND Filters for video - Don't Waste Money on Bundled Packages

John Lammey

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My analysis of ND Filters I will purchase:
ND4, ND16, and ND64 for the Mavic 2 Pro

I would appreciate differing opinions.

Polarpro Custom 3 pack or custom 6 pack if you want polarizer versions.

Here is how I came up with these choices:

Assumptions:

1. I want to shoot video using the 180 degree rule, also slower shutter speeds eliminate some prop noise in shots
2. Mavic 2 Pro sharpest apertures are f 2.8 through f 4.0
3. Mostly shooting distant scenes, over 40 meters from Mavic
4. using 1/60 shutter speed as a goal when shooting at 30 FPS
5. Shooting at ISO 100

Using absolute EV values:

EV 16 - Extremely bright snow or sand scenes - meter reading f 32 @ 1/60
adjust 6 stops with a ND64 to f 4.0 @ 1/60
EV 15 - Bright sunny day hard shadows - meter reading f 22 @ 1/60
adjust 6 stops with a ND64 to f 2.8 @ 1/60
EV 14 - Hazy sunshine soft shadows - meter reading f 16 @ 1/60
adjust 4 stops with a ND16 to f 4.0 @ 1/60
EV 13 - Bright Cloudy Day no shadows - meter reading f 11 @ 1/60
adjust 4 stops with a ND16 to f 2.8 @ 1/60
EV 12 - Heavily Overcast day - meter reading f 8 @ 1/60
adjust 2 stops with a ND4 to f 4.0 @ 1/60
EV 11 - Open shade - sunsets - meter reading f 5.6 @ 1/60
adjust 2 stops with a ND4 to f 2.8 @ 1/60

EV 10 and down - no ND filter required

From this I determined I will buy ND4, ND16, and ND64 plus polrarizer versions. It seems like Polarpro custom shop is a good option. If anyone knows of another unbundled option let us know.
Mavic 2 | Custom Filter Sets

I have heard a few say they would buy the ND8 and ND32 but it seems this will not work for EV16 scenes but would cover everything else? That would be even less expensive.
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If you are OK with both F2.8 and F4.0, you only need a ND4 and a ND16 to effectively cover ND4, ND8, ND16, and ND32 on a M2P. ISO obviously stays at base. It's very rare that you would need a ND64, but it depends where you shoot (I.e. bright sun over snow would probably require that). That's what I would start with, anyway.

For example in Hawaii on an extremely bright day at noon with the sun directly overhead and flying over water and light colored sand, ND32 was enough for me at F2.8. I don't think I will be anywhere that a ND64 is needed but that is going to be different for everyone. Easy enough to add later if you aren't 100% sure. It's also not the end of the world, and sometimes advantageous, to raise the shutter speed slightly beyond 2X FPS - it's not going to ruin your footage and if you are filming in close proximity to anything you will likely want to do that anyway.

As for polarizers, I wouldn't get into those until you completely understand how limiting they are on a drone and run into situations where you want to use them - single filters are very cheap so it's an easy thing to add later. They are definitely not something you can "set and forget" like a normal ND - if you change your flight path even slightly it can ruin your footage assuming you don't want any inconsistencies.
 
If you are OK with both F2.8 and F4.0, you only need a ND4 and a ND16 to effectively cover ND4, ND8, ND16, and ND32 on a M2P. ISO obviously stays at base. It's very rare that you would need a ND64, but it depends where you shoot (I.e. bright sun over snow would probably require that). That's what I would start with, anyway.

For example in Hawaii on an extremely bright day at noon with the sun directly overhead and flying over water and light colored sand, ND32 was enough for me at F2.8. I don't think I will be anywhere that a ND64 is needed but that is going to be different for everyone. Easy enough to add later if you aren't 100% sure. It's also not the end of the world, and sometimes advantageous, to raise the shutter speed slightly beyond 2X FPS - it's not going to ruin your footage and if you are filming in close proximity to anything you will likely want to do that anyway.

As for polarizers, I wouldn't get into those until you completely understand how limiting they are on a drone and run into situations where you want to use them - single filters are very cheap so it's an easy thing to add later. They are definitely not something you can "set and forget" like a normal ND - if you change your flight path even slightly it can ruin your footage assuming you don't want any inconsistencies.

I generally agree but not sure about only needing only an ND16 (4 stops) to cover range. The two images I included of my incident light meter reading today (bright sunny with 50% cloud cover, Philadelphia, PA) suggest f 22 @ 1/60 at ISO 100. It would take 5 stops to get to F 4.0 and 6 stops to get to F 2.8. an ND32 (5 stops) would get me to F 4.0 and a ND64 (6 stops) would get me to f 2.8.

I do understand the issues with polarizers, I have been using them in still photography for 40 years or so, but I will probably use them for drone videos when I am sweeping left or right and not changing the relative orientation of the quadcopter. There are times a polarizer can give you results you cannot get in post processing alone.

The question is can you really live with 2 or is it 3 and which ones to buy to get complete coverage. This obviously depends upon your location and the type of shooting you do, so it will be different for all of us.
 
I generally agree but not sure about only needing only an ND16 (4 stops) to cover range. The two images I included of my incident light meter reading today (bright sunny with 50% cloud cover, Philadelphia, PA) suggest f 22 @ 1/60 at ISO 100. It would take 5 stops to get to F 4.0 and 6 stops to get to F 2.8. an ND32 (5 stops) would get me to F 4.0 and a ND64 (6 stops) would get me to f 2.8.

I do understand the issues with polarizers, I have been using them in still photography for 40 years or so, but I will probably use them for drone videos when I am sweeping left or right and not changing the relative orientation of the quadcopter. There are times a polarizer can give you results you cannot get in post processing alone.

The question is can you really live with 2 or is it 3 and which ones to buy to get complete coverage. This obviously depends upon your location and the type of shooting you do, so it will be different for all of us.

ND16 @ F2.8 also gives you ND32 equivalent at F4.0 - I wouldn't stop at ND16 either but you don't necessarily need that ND32 because the M2P has a variable aperture, and you can go up to F4 before diffraction starts to negatively impact the image.

As for a ND64 @ F2.8 (or ND32 at F4.0), I can't tell you if you would need that much ND or not - I have never encountered a scene that bright even in tropical locations, but you might.

There is no right or wrong answer - it depends entirely on where you plan to fly.

In my experience, using F2.8 as a base, I have only ever needed ND8, ND16, and ND32. This covers me from overcast (ND8) to full sun over water in tropical locations (ND32). With the option to stop down to F4, you can get away with fewer filters if you want. If you live in an extremely bright area you may need ND64 @ F2.8 or ND32 @ F4.

Direct sunlight on an exposure meter is not the same as what your drone meter will see when it is flying (unless you point it at the sky/sun), so I wouldn't use that as your only reference point as it is likely overstating the brightness. Different landscapes also absorb/reflect sunlight in different ways, which will affect exposure. Best to test with the drone itself - you can do a test flight in the brightest conditions you plan on flying in without a filter and just do your calculations off that if you want.

The good news is that filters are so cheap it doesn't really matter if you buy an extra or not. I have a custom pack from Polar Pro as well.
 
Good idea in this thread. I see all the packages with 6 to 8 filters and I wonder that in a period of 3 to 6 months, how many times would an average flyer even use all 6 to 8 filters?

I think the idea of this thread is good in that I personally would love to find 1 or 2 filters that I know I often use them because changing these filters is not the most fast and comfortable thing to be messing with the gimbal all the time.

How often does an average flyer uses all his filters? Those people who do not own any filter still take some good pictures and after post production, they do come out with good looking pictures and videos. So do we truky need 6 to 8 filters? Or even 4 filters? I wish one could figure out like 2 filters that would just cover one for most of their applications. Since one also have the dji uv filter that is original on the drone that others use anand still have good footage and pictures.

So what are the best 2 or 3 filters to have? If we were to choose just 2 or 3.
 
Direct sunlight on an exposure meter is not the same as what your drone meter will see when it is flying (unless you point it at the sky/sun), so I wouldn't use that as your only reference point as it is likely overstating the brightness. Different landscapes also absorb/reflect sunlight in different ways, which will affect exposure. Best to test with the drone itself - you can do a test flight in the brightest conditions you plan on flying in without a filter and just do your calculations off that if you want.

I am using an incident light meter aimed at the sun and as long as the same light that is hitting the subject is hitting the meter then it should give a very good reference exposure. Unless the scene you are reading with a reflected light meter (the one in the drone and all cameras) is an an average reflectance of 18% then your reading is skewed. I also use manual exposure and use the my incident meter reading as a starting point and adjust from there based on the histogram and the dynamic range of the scene.
 
Good idea in this thread. I see all the packages with 6 to 8 filters and I wonder that in a period of 3 to 6 months, how many times would an average flyer even use all 6 to 8 filters?

I think the idea of this thread is good in that I personally would love to find 1 or 2 filters that I know I often use them because changing these filters is not the most fast and comfortable thing to be messing with the gimbal all the time.

How often does an average flyer uses all his filters? Those people who do not own any filter still take some good pictures and after post production, they do come out with good looking pictures and videos. So do we truky need 6 to 8 filters? Or even 4 filters? I wish one could figure out like 2 filters that would just cover one for most of their applications. Since one also have the dji uv filter that is original on the drone that others use anand still have good footage and pictures.

So what are the best 2 or 3 filters to have? If we were to choose just 2 or 3.

For video shooting If I did two I would get a ND8 and a ND32 if you are not concerned about extremely bright scenes. Otherwise I would buy a ND4, a ND16, and a ND64. because you can reliably shoot at f2.8 or f4.0 it makes sense to skip adjacent ND filters. for example ND4 and ND16, skipping ND8.

I like polarizers but as has been mentioned, make sure you understand their uses and limitations before purchasing. I would not buy just polarizers. I mainly do still photography and for that I mostly want a polarizer that is not also a neutral density filter, but it still drops 1 2/3 stops from my exposure. The exception is when I am trying to blur water, etc. So I will also purchase a CPL, a ND4/PL, a ND16/PL, and a ND64/PL. In all cases I want the adjustable polarizer.

So all total I am buying 7 filters for my Mavic 2 Pro:
(1 )ND4,
(2) ND16,
(3) ND64,
Optional:
(4) CPL,
(5) ND4/PL,
(6) ND16/PL,
(7) ND64/PL

If you choose ND8 and ND32 it might look like

(1 )ND8,
(2) ND32,
Optional:
(3) CPL,
(4) ND8/PL,
(5) ND32/PL,
 
I am using an incident light meter aimed at the sun and as long as the same light that is hitting the subject is hitting the meter then it should give a very good reference exposure. Unless the scene you are reading with a reflected light meter (the one in the drone and all cameras) is an an average reflectance of 18% then your reading is skewed. I also use manual exposure and use the my incident meter reading as a starting point and adjust from there based on the histogram and the dynamic range of the scene.

One thing you can try to illustrate what I am saying - set you exposure based on your light meter pointed at the sun. Then, go fly over some really dark trees or a similar very dark landscape that absorbs the sun and fill the frame with it - your image will be underexposed. Whatever works for you though, I am not trying to tell you to change what you're doing if it works for you :)
 
Good idea in this thread. I see all the packages with 6 to 8 filters and I wonder that in a period of 3 to 6 months, how many times would an average flyer even use all 6 to 8 filters?

I think the idea of this thread is good in that I personally would love to find 1 or 2 filters that I know I often use them because changing these filters is not the most fast and comfortable thing to be messing with the gimbal all the time.

How often does an average flyer uses all his filters? Those people who do not own any filter still take some good pictures and after post production, they do come out with good looking pictures and videos. So do we truky need 6 to 8 filters? Or even 4 filters? I wish one could figure out like 2 filters that would just cover one for most of their applications. Since one also have the dji uv filter that is original on the drone that others use anand still have good footage and pictures.

So what are the best 2 or 3 filters to have? If we were to choose just 2 or 3.

As always it depends where you fly. On a Mavic 2 Pro if you are OK with F2.8 performance you can get away with a ND4 and ND16 (giving you ND4, 8, 16, 32 equivalents) unless you are somewhere extremely bright in which case you may wish to add a ND32.

I use my 8/16/32 all the time but at the moment I just have a Mavic Air which is fixed aperture 2.8. I have never needed ND64, even at noon in Hawaii with no clouds but that is my experience rather than a rule.

For photos, there is no reason to use a filter at all unless you are after a particular effect (Polarization or long exposure for example).
 
One thing you can try to illustrate what I am saying - set you exposure based on your light meter pointed at the sun. Then, go fly over some really dark trees or a similar very dark landscape that absorbs the sun and fill the frame with it - your image will be underexposed. Whatever works for you though, I am not trying to tell you to change what you're doing if it works for you :)

This could be true due to the dynamic range of the scene, assuming the trees are lighted the same as the rest of the scene. In a very high dynamic range scene, an incident light meter reading returns the midpoint and might clip both the shadows and the highlights. That is why I check the histogram. I would then decide whether the highlights or the shadows were more important and adjust accordingly for video. For stills I might bracket the shot.
 
I ordered a custom set from PP ND8PL, ND16PL, ND 32PL, and ND16

Nice. We happen to have almost exactly the same filters from PolarPro.

You: ND8/PL, ND16, ND16/PL, ND32/PL.

Me: CPL, ND16, ND16/PL, ND32/PL.

So, the only difference we have is I have the CPL and you have the ND8/PL.

Did you talk with PolarPro before making those choices?

PolarPro basically helped me on the phone choose that combo. The combo I wanted to choose had only the ND16 common with what PP recommended for me to buy. They made the recommendation based on what I told them I was looking to shoot. And when he made the recommendation, he told me I do not have to go with exactly what he said. Well, I still went with it.

I am going on a 3 days 700 miles road trip this weekend and hope I can use my gopro 7, M2P and filters, though the weather forecast for where I will be in Central Texas shows rain and fog. So, I don't know if I will be able to fly in such weather, nor do I know what I will be able to capture in a foggy weather. Well, we shall see. I will definitely post some pictures on my thread on here. I am a novice, so my pictures might not be stunning, but I will see what I can capture for sure.
 
So all total I am buying 7 filters for my Mavic 2 Pro:
(1 )ND4,
(2) ND16,
(3) ND64,
Optional:
(4) CPL,
(5) ND4/PL,
(6) ND16/PL,
(7) ND64/PL

That is a lot of filters. A long list like that with 7 filters makes me ask if you will truly be swapping and using all those filters.

Are all your filters from PolarPro? I am intrigued you got the CPL. I would never choose CPL until PP explained some things to me. Now i have it. But, I need to really try these filters put to know if I am keeping them all or trying to exchange 1 or 2. I kind of wish I had a ND4 or ND8.

I am very surprised you do not have 32 in there. Since I have learned from here that 64 is for extremely bringht situations like where there is snow. But I know you know what you are doing, so that is all that matters.

I think very soon we all on here need to start trading filters. The ones someone is not using a lot. They put it up for trade. And if someone has what the other is looking for and they are a match, they do a barter trade.

Just wondering. Do you consider yourself a novice at shooting stills or a pro? I am a novice and wanting to learn to improve my picture quality.
 
As always it depends where you fly. On a Mavic 2 Pro if you are OK with F2.8 performance you can get away with a ND4 and ND16 (giving you ND4, 8, 16, 32 equivalents) unless you are somewhere extremely bright in which case you may wish to add a ND32.

I use my 8/16/32 all the time but at the moment I just have a Mavic Air which is fixed aperture 2.8. I have never needed ND64, even at noon in Hawaii with no clouds but that is my experience rather than a rule.

For photos, there is no reason to use a filter at all unless you are after a particular effect (Polarization or long exposure for example).

Lol, your last paragraph broke my moral. You say for there is no reason for filters at all unless after a particular effect? Is that for real? How can that be when I have shot many pictures without filters and when it is very sunny outside, I get overexposed images. That now that I think of it a ND filter would have helped with those. Well, I am speaking from a novice's point of view.

Besides, thanks for sharing your 3 most popular filters that you use often.

I wish I could get a ND4 or ND8. I would hate to buy only 1 filter just to have it. I hope the CPL I have can help me get close to the results I could get with a ND4.
 
Lol, your last paragraph broke my moral. You say for there is no reason for filters at all unless after a particular effect? Is that for real? How can that be when I have shot many pictures without filters and when it is very sunny outside, I get overexposed images. That now that I think of it a ND filter would have helped with those. Well, I am speaking from a novice's point of view.

There are only a few ways that overexposure could have happened for a still photo - either you were using full manual mode for photos (which is often not necessary) with the incorrect settings, or you were in aperture priority mode and the maximum shutter speed of the drone was less than what was required for the scene (possible but unlikely) or shutter priority mode and the maximum aperture setting was not enough for a proper exposure. It's also possible (but less likely) that the drone's meter just didn't know how to deal with a tricky scene, but if you were relying on the meter it would be the same result whether or not a filter was installed.

Nothing should be over exposed if you have the correct settings - I recommend not using manual mode for still photos unless you are watching the histogram and really know what you're doing.

The only time you would use a ND filter for a still photo in daylight would be either to slow the shutter down enough for a longer exposure (I.e. maybe you want a shot of a waterfall with a 1 second exposure in broad daylight) or if you want to use extremely wide apertures in direct sunlight to maintain shallow depth of field (i.e. taking shots of a model on a beach at F1.4). Neither of those two really apply to typical M2P usage though, at least not nearly to the same degree as they would a full frame DSLR for traditional photography.

A CPL with no ND built in will cut out 1-2 stops of light, depending on the particular CPL. Keep in mind you cannot treat a CPL/NDPL like a normal ND filter because the polarization effect will change every time you move the drone, ranging from strongest at 90 degrees to the sun to completely eliminated at 180 degrees to the sun.
 
There are only a few ways that overexposure could have happened for a still photo - either you were using full manual mode for photos (which is often not necessary) with the incorrect settings, or you were in aperture priority mode and the maximum shutter speed of the drone was less than what was required for the scene (possible but unlikely) or shutter priority mode and the maximum aperture setting was not enough for a proper exposure. It's also possible (but less likely) that the drone's meter just didn't know how to deal with a tricky scene, but if you were relying on the meter it would be the same result whether or not a filter was installed.

Ok, let me know if you feel these my pictures are overexposed or not.

Shot with my Mavic Pro 1. The one I sold before buying my M2P. And the settings were manual. I think even with auto it was like this. What do you think about how bright the roads and the sky look like?
Animas Forks. Drone shot. Ouray, Colorado.
tODoISM.jpg

ylVSWM6.jpg


And then this was shot with my Samsung S8+. That is my current phone right now. It takes all the pictures that are not taken by my drone. Those are the only 2 cameras I have so far. Well, my gopro7 is still new and I have not started using that yet for pictures.
Hurricane Pass 12,750ft, Ouray, Colorado.
PazAz1e.jpg

Abandoned mine on my way to Animas Forks
xLB6dEB.jpg
 
Ok, let me know if you feel these my pictures are overexposed or not.

Shot with my Mavic Pro 1. The one I sold before buying my M2P. And the settings were manual. I think even with auto it was like this. What do you think about how bright the roads and the sky look like?
Animas Forks. Drone shot. Ouray, Colorado.

So for those, there are two explanations to why parts of the image are obviously overexposed:

1) If your settings were manual, you simply used incorrect settings or did not read the histogram properly. Easy to fix for next time.

2) If you used Auto, any camera can only expose for a single exposure level - this is true for a drone camera or the most expensive professional DSLR. We get around this with HDR processing and the like, but that is not relevant here. A camera's meter, if left to it's own devices, is going to try to average the exposure of the whole scene, so it's impossible for it to pick an exposure that satisfies all areas of the scene. In your first image, the grass/trees make up the majority of the image and appear correctly exposed or very close to it. In order to correctly expose the much darker trees, the bright dirt road is going to be blown out. The alternative would have been to expose for the road and the trees/grass would be under exposed - you can't have both in a single exposure. This had nothing to do with filters, 100% camera settings and would apply to any camera.

Same deal with image 2 & even 3 to a lesser extent - you have extremely bright and extremely dark elements to the scene and the camera can only expose for one or the other in a single exposure. The image of your Infiniti is predominantly very dark compared to the light colored dirt, so again that's what you get - your subject is exposed properly but the surroundings, if brighter or darker, will not be.

Also your S8+ is almost certainly doing on-the-fly HDR processing (unless you disabled it) which your drone is not doing, so it's not a direct comparison. There will be some scenes that have such high contrast though that even it can't capture everything at once.

I'm not at home on my calibrated monitor right now but the last photo you posted looks to be exposed OK, as is your Infiniti which appears to be the primary subject of the photo, as the blown out dirt in the foreground would be unavoidable without more aggressive HDR processing or exposure blending.
 
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Reactions: PetitFrereArmada
This is an eternal photography discussion. If you know what to do with them you never will have one to many. But 4, 8, 16 ,32 and polarized “overlay” are the basic kit.
If you like long exposure photos, 64 and up will make awesome takes.
The M2P iris introduces softening on high steps f5+ so take you pick.
 
The only use for an ND32/64 i can think of really is for those doing daylight hyperlapse shots. Even then its debatable.

I've decided i need a 4 stop ND and a CPL only. For me, f/2.8 to 5.6 i class as acceptable for video. The CPL is because 90% of flights i only take stills and i fly a lot over water and jungle.
 
[QUOTE="PetitFrereArmada, post: 573986, member: 74668"How can that be when I have shot many pictures without filters and when it is very sunny outside, I get overexposed images. That now that I think of it a ND filter would have helped with those. Well, I am speaking from a novice's point of view.
.[/QUOTE]

NDs have absolutely nothing to do with sorting out over exposure. Nothing at all. They serve 1 purpose and that is to allow a slower shutter speed for smoother video (in certain circumstances only).
Without an ND the camera will use a higher ISO and/or shutter speed. It wont cause over exposure.
A lot of people incorrectly assume that NDs alter saturation, highlights, prevent over exposure and reduce glare. They do none of that despite polar pros (potentially deliberate) misleading "info" sheet.
 
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