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New drone Pilot - Do I need ND filters ?

chreesh13

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Hi all :)

I recently just purchased a DJI mini 3 pro and it came yesterday. To begin with I plan on using it mainly for photography and then eventually getting into videography as my piloting skills improve. I keep getting conflicting messages on whether to purchase ND filters. So I thought I would come to a dedicated community to ask for advice. I know it's not necessary a need but I want to get the best quality images and later on videos out of my drone,

For photography purposes will ND filters be any use to me apart from long exposure shots? Also a big factor is the fact I currently have a 50% off a £120 spend, so I'm thinking of getting a nice waterproof solid case and some ND Filters even if I don't need to use them now as I'll be getting them half price.

I'm from Ireland so I'll be taking quite a lot of coastal shots, so would a polarized filter help me to/better to get polarized ND filters ?

If so which set would you all recommend? I had been looking at the freewell all day pack

Any advice would be greatly appreciated,
 
Will ND filters help for long still exposures? Mostly likely. It depends on the intensity of the light.
What you have to determine is what lighting conditions you'll be photographing in.
What we know is that the aperture is fixed at F1.7 and the lowest ISO is 100. The good news is that for lower light photography the F1.7 aperture is great. But for bright sunlight.

The "sunny 16 rule" says that in bright sunlight at ISO 100 your aperture will be F16 with a shuter of 1/125 (120). So for lighting in birght sunlight, ranslating that down to F1.7 the shutter will possibly be 1/16000sec, possibly ranging from 1/8000 to 1/32000sec.
Here is a link to an exposure calculator that you might find helpful. Exposure calculator followed by a general chart of neutral density filters.

1669826620263.png

1669826868107.png
 
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I use ND+circular polarizer filters all the time except sunrise/sunset. I use a polarizer nearly 100% of the time with my mirrorless camera, so I definitely advocate their use on drones. I think NDs are less necessary, but I prefer to lower the shutter speed for video closer to what my FPS is, even if I'm not super concerned about abiding by the 180-degree rule. Having them combined on one filter just makes it even easier.
 
. . . .Any advice would be greatly appreciated,
You mention you want to start with photography and later move towards video. Keep in mind that these are two separate disciplines and the 'rules' for ND filter use, vary between them so; it's not a one-size-fits-all conversation.

ND filters are used to aid in achieving various exposure settings that benefit what one is trying to achieve and it is for this reason that I always suggest learning about exposure first. To put an ND filter on a lens without knowing the exposure you are trying to achieve is, as an old sayings suggests - putting the cart before the horse.

For photography, I am normally pointing at landscapes near dawn or dusk, or doing real estate photography, and in neither case do I use an ND but I will use a polarizer at times. As long as my shutter speed is between 1/400th minimum and 1/1000th max (again for sharp images of non-moving subjects like land or houses) ;) - I let it run clean. I'll leave out Hyperlapses and long exposure shots for now.

For video, on the other hand, I am always in 'shutter priority' at double the frame rate, lowest ISO possible and because a M2P has aperture control, my aim is to be near F4.0 - so whatever ND I need to achieve that, is what I use.

As a rule of thumb for quick conversation. . . .

ND For Photography = Maybe, sometimes, but for general landscape shots not high priority.
ND For Video = Mandatory to have a good set on hand

So for your situation I would say . . .

ND filters = Yes
Polarizers = Yes
 
Photos : sometimes but not most the time, kind of a special situation deal.

Video : always good to have it you want a consistent look throughout the video (high shutter speed causes that jitter look when there's no motion blur to bridge one frame to the next). If you go without be mindful that panning and faster movements will exaggerate the problem.

Just keep in mind the only thing an nd filter does is reduce the amount of light coming into the lens , they don't increase color, contrast, etc etc like some folks claim.
 
Hi all :)

I recently just purchased a DJI mini 3 pro and it came yesterday. To begin with I plan on using it mainly for photography and then eventually getting into videography as my piloting skills improve. I keep getting conflicting messages on whether to purchase ND filters. So I thought I would come to a dedicated community to ask for advice. I know it's not necessary a need but I want to get the best quality images and later on videos out of my drone,

For photography purposes will ND filters be any use to me apart from long exposure shots? Also a big factor is the fact I currently have a 50% off a £120 spend, so I'm thinking of getting a nice waterproof solid case and some ND Filters even if I don't need to use them now as I'll be getting them half price.

I'm from Ireland so I'll be taking quite a lot of coastal shots, so would a polarized filter help me to/better to get polarized ND filters ?

If so which set would you all recommend? I had been looking at the freewell all day pack

Any advice would be greatly appreciated,
Greetings from Birmingham Alabama USA, welcome to the forum!
Drop by the pilot’s
check-in to introduce yourself
 
You mention you want to start with photography and later move towards video. Keep in mind that these are two separate disciplines and the 'rules' for ND filter use, vary between them so; it's not a one-size-fits-all conversation.

ND filters are used to aid in achieving various exposure settings that benefit what one is trying to achieve and it is for this reason that I always suggest learning about exposure first. To put an ND filter on a lens without knowing the exposure you are trying to achieve is, as an old sayings suggests - putting the cart before the horse.

For photography, I am normally pointing at landscapes near dawn or dusk, or doing real estate photography, and in neither case do I use an ND but I will use a polarizer at times. As long as my shutter speed is between 1/400th minimum and 1/1000th max (again for sharp images of non-moving subjects like land or houses) ;) - I let it run clean. I'll leave out Hyperlapses and long exposure shots for now.

For video, on the other hand, I am always in 'shutter priority' at double the frame rate, lowest ISO possible and because a M2P has aperture control, my aim is to be near F4.0 - so whatever ND I need to achieve that, is what I use.

As a rule of thumb for quick conversation. . . .

ND For Photography = Maybe, sometimes, but for general landscape shots not high priority.
ND For Video = Mandatory to have a good set on hand

So for your situation I would say . . .

ND filters = Yes
Polarizers = Yes
I think this is an excellent reply. But I would add one thing as it pertains to video.
The closer you are to a subject (i.e. flying close to the ground) the more necessary it is to have that 1:2 FPS/shutter speed ratio that produces what some call "cinematic blur". If I could state the issue in reverse, the idea is so that the view doesn't experience video that doesn't have a natural look. When the drone is far away from the ground or subject it isn't really necessary to stick to a 1:2 ratio and ND filters for that purpose, IMO, are largely unnecssary.

I prefer to fly with gradient filters which I have on hand for my Mavic 2 pro. Hopefully I can find some for my Mini 3. I know there are some coming out for the Mavic 3 Classic soon. The gradients help balance the exposure difference between ground and sky unlike other filters with a single density.
 
Will ND filters help for long still exposures? Mostly likely. It depends on the intensity of the light.
What you have to determine is what lighting conditions you'll be photographing in.
What we know is that the aperture is fixed at F1.7 and the lowest ISO is 100. The good news is that for lower light photography the F1.7 aperture is great. But for bright sunlight.

The "sunny 16 rule" says that in bright sunlight at ISO 100 your aperture will be F16 with a shuter of 1/125 (120). So for lighting in birght sunlight, ranslating that down to F1.7 the shutter will possibly be 1/16000sec, possibly ranging from 1/8000 to 1/32000sec.
Here is a link to an exposure calculator that you might find helpful. Exposure calculator followed by a general chart of neutral density filters.

View attachment 157769

View attachment 157770
Thank you so much for this
 
Polarizers are mostly useless in drones because you can't rotate them as needed once they're off the ground.

I've seen this mentioned by drone pilots all the time and I suppose if you take a drone up and have no idea what you might be shooting or just like to go up and spin around 360 degrees then you're partially right.

But if you're a photographer or videographer who knows what they are going to shoot, then you know where the sun is, and likely can work out where you will be shooting from - albeit higher in the sky. A polarizer has about a 45 degree effective angle, so you can set it on the ground, but here again it takes knowing what you're trying to do and setting up the shot.

I keep a separate polarizer with my gear and can work out the angle with one in hand, and then set the drone's polarizer to the same.
 
Polarizers are mostly useless in drones because you can't rotate them as needed once they're off the ground.
Respectfully disagree. At least for me, I rotate my filter when I rotate the camera and generally that's it. Since the drone camera doesn't rotate (unless you have an Mini3, I guess), then you just simply never need to rotate the filter at all.
 
Respectfully disagree. At least for me, I rotate my filter when I rotate the camera and generally that's it. Since the drone camera doesn't rotate (unless you have an Mini3, I guess), then you just simply never need to rotate the filter at all.
Angle of light and subject angle changes all the time , you wouldn't know what the rotation of a specific spot would be without some trial and error at the time of where the sun is. There is no one fit solution, if you think there is , then you don't know how polarizers work.

On Ty's note, should never have a polarizer attached if planning on doing any panoramic stitching.
 
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Respectfully disagree. At least for me, I rotate my filter when I rotate the camera and generally that's it. Since the drone camera doesn't rotate (unless you have an Mini3, I guess), then you just simply never need to rotate the filter at all.
It's not about rotating the camera, it's about rotating the filter to align it properly relative to the direction of the sun.
And that's what's impossible on a drone.

You could set it up properly aligned for the direction tou fly initially, but if tou turn the drone to face a different direction, the filter is no longer properly aligned relative to the sun and you get irregular skies.
Polarisers are more trouble than they are worth for drones.
 
For photography purposes will ND filters be any use to me apart from long exposure shots?
The discussion of ND filters in forums confuses a lot of users into believing they need them.
That's not the case.
ND filters are of no use for stills unless you have a particular reason to force a slower shutter speed.
Many use them to shoot video, believing they are essential, but their importance for drone video is largely exaggerated.
Try shooting video without and see if the results satisfy your tastes.


 
Photos.
ND filters can reduce shutter speed to allow for smooth waterfall / tidal / car tail lights blur at night type of shots.
But the drone must be very stable / still to get decent results, not really possible if there's any breeze, or if it's just not hovering really well.

Video.
From distance, or flying very slow cinematic speeds, you can probably do without them.
If you fly low and close to your subject at normal speeds, or fast at moderate distance, then slowing the shutter speed to roughly double the frame rate will give motion blur to make the video more natural to the human eye.

Ie 24fps use ND filters to obtain shutter of ~ 1/50th second.
It takes a while to get the feel for light conditions and what ND grade to choose, but after a while you do get it right or close enough to make a difference . . . ND filter needed will vary quite a bit between drone models due to sensor size.

The M3P larger sensor apparently (from other threads) lets a lot more light through, so seems to need stronger ND grade as compared to the smaller sensor camera models.
You might find you don't need an ND4, or even and ND8, but might benefit by getting not only an ND16, ND32, and an ND64 and ND128 for really bright settings, noon summer sun, through to snow / white beach sand.

Another filters to keep in mind are simple MC-UV for photography or video.
They do filter out pollution haze, and seem to make colours pop a little more.

As ND filters are also made in PL (polariser) form, you might want to know about those that option.

I do avoid ND-PL or CL-PL because they are hard to get the best from them, ND's are bad enough to get used to for your drone, PL's are really hard to get right.
But, for some situations for a special photo, a PL is good to cut through water glare etc, you can set it up and hopefully get it right before take off by holding the PL between you fingers and rotating to gt the position, then hope it's good from the air . . . or bring it back in to adjust.
Very often though, water glare can be eliminated by moving the drone a little to have the sun in a different position and not reflecting so bad off the water.

Good luck choosing, maybe search other threads here and see what others might be finding best for their M3Ps.
 
Oh, and as you're new pilot, I wouldn't rush into them.
Learn to fly well and safely first, all the little quirky things for a safe flight and return to home.
Then start experimenting with the standard camera settings, and then if you find you might benefit from ND's look further into them.
 
It's not about rotating the camera, it's about rotating the filter to align it properly relative to the direction of the sun.
And that's what's impossible on a drone.

You could set it up properly aligned for the direction tou fly initially, but if tou turn the drone to face a different direction, the filter is no longer properly aligned relative to the sun and you get irregular skies.
Polarisers are more trouble than they are worth for drones.
The discussion of ND filters in forums confuses a lot of users into believing they need them.
That's not the case.
ND filters are of no use for stills unless you have a particular reason to force a slower shutter speed.
Many use them to shoot video, believing they are essential, but their importance for drone video is largely exaggerated.
Try shooting video without and see if the results satisfy your tastes.
There is a lot of wisdom and good advice in Meta's reply. There are two or three take-aways that I think should be emphasized:
1) Polarizers on drones are more trouble then they are worth because they have to be adjusted to the angle of the sun to be effective and the only real benefit that you can't achieve in post is reducing glare on water or other shiny reflections. It's a bit different with cameras on the ground that you have in hand or on a tripod with you looking through the viewfinder where you can adjust it immediately.

2) ND filters for still photos are a waste of time unless you need them for a slow shutter effect.

3) Try shooting video without an ND filter. You might be surprised at how few situations that are actually effective in elimimating the artificial look of too high a shutter speed or conversely adding needed "motion blur". Drones with fixed apertures have you locked in to aperture and ISO (in most daylight conditions) and ND filters are, for the most part, produced in 1 f stop increments. Accurate exposure is often compromised to achieve the 1:2 FPS/Shutter speed ratio.
 
Video shooting at high shutter speeds usually feels cheap and choppy due to the lack of motion blur if the purpose of the video is aesthetical or cinematic, but for practical use of the imagery, like for example analysis, exploration, search and rescue etc, high shutter speeds and low ISO is all you want.

On the photography side, unless you want to do long exposure, (wich can be easily done on DJI drones because the gimbals are quite good) don't put an ND. Polarizers on the other hand can come handy, but are not mandatory.
 
Video shooting at high shutter speeds usually feels cheap and choppy due to the lack of motion blur if the purpose of the video is aesthetical or cinematic
That's the message that new flyers get repeated frequently in the forum.
But motion blur is not as important as many believe.
It only makes a difference if there is a moving subject close to the camera .... something that you rarely have in most drone video.
Instead of just accepting that motion blur is essential, flyers should do a little testing without ND filters to see how it looks to them for their video.
 
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