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ND Filters - How They Work and Which Ones to Use
9316 16 2017-3-15 23:47:38
DJI Support
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Long-exposure shots are relatively easy to take at night with a DJI drone, since their cameras are stabilized. Just set a low shutter speed and press the shutter button. If you are capturing cars, boats, or any other illuminated objects moving at night, you will end up with some cool light trails like in the picture below.
1.jpg

But if you have tried taking a long-exposure shot during the day, you know that once you’ve set the smallest aperture and lowest ISO possible, increasing your shutter speed will inevitably over expose your shot. This is where ND filters come in handy.


2.png
Phantom 4 Pro + ND16

What is an ND Filter?

A Neutral-Density Filter, or ND filter, reduces the amount of light that enters a camera’s lens. Under bright sunlight, an ND filter allows photographers more leeway in selecting an aperture and shutter speed by preventing overexposure.

3.png
Mavic Pro + ND8

Using ND filters

The photo below was taken with the Phantom 4 Pro and with the lowest ISO and smallest aperture possible. By reducing the shutter speed here, one risks overexposing the shot.

4.png

But with an ND16 filter, the amount of light entering the lens is reduced, and the shutter speed can be now lengthened to 1 second or longer. The picture below shows the result.

5.png

You can the waves are smoothed out and less well-defined. Using an ND32 filter and lowering the shutter speed even more can make the effect even stronger.

6.png

In addition to using ND filters for daytime water photography, they can also be used to take better urban landscape shots.

The shot below was taken with a relatively fast shutter speed. It looks a bit stiff and unnatural. The cars and people are moving, but there's very little motion blur.

7.gif

With an ND filter, we can lengthen the shutter speed and create some motion blur. Motion blur can give your photos a more lively and active feel, like the one below.

8.gif

As you can see, by gaining you more lenience to adjust your shutter speed, ND filters give you more creative control over your shots.

9.png

Choosing ND Filters

DJI has three official ND filters for their drones: ND4, ND8, and ND16. The number associated with an ND filter indicates that how much light enters the lens in terms of a fraction.

  • ND4 reduces light by 1/4. An ND4 filter can reduce 2 stops of light, allowing you to slow the shutter speed from 1/100s to 1/25s.
  • ND8 reduces light by 1/8. An ND8 filter can reduce 3 stops of light, allowing you to slow the shutter speed from 1/200s to 1/25s.
  • ND16 reduces light by 1/16. An ND16 filter can reduce 4 stops of light, allowing you to slow the shutter speed from 1/400s to 1/25s.


Take the Phantom 4 Pro as an example. The screenshot below was taken without an ND filter and an ISO of 100, an aperture of F2.8, and a shutter speed of 1/200 seconds.

10.png

The screenshot below was taken with an ND16 filter attached. With ISO and aperture remaining the same, and the shutter speed can be set to 1/12.5 seconds.

11.png

If you used a weaker ND filter in this situation, you couldn’t achieve the same level of motion blur. However, if you chose a stronger ND filer, too much light would be kept out, your image would be underexposed, and your ISO value would need to increase accordingly.

So what ND filter you should choose depends on the amount of light around your and the effect you want to achieve.

Please note that DJI recommends only using official DJI ND filters, as they are specially designed work well with the gimbal camera’s center of gravity.

Thanks for reading everyone!

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2017-3-15 23:47:38
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Dmitry495
Beginner
Flight distance : 4764
Russian Federation
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Thank you, DJI Team! Well presented tutorial on how to use ND filters. Just one question... Aside from original DJI filters what other brands/manufacturers would you recommend?
2017-3-16 11:08:30
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Callatis
Hobbyist
Canada
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thanks for the info!
2017-3-16 17:02:17
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JayOne
Hobbyist
United States
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great post !!!!
2017-3-16 20:53:13
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TPVAerials
Hobbyist
United States
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Will be saving this, thank you!
2017-3-17 09:28:06
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evryan
Beginner
United States
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I recently bought the PolarPro ND filters for my Phantom4 Pro, the quality and performance is awesome. Definitely give them a try Dmitry495, you won't be disappointed.
2017-3-17 09:32:19
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Phantom3ProPilo
Student Pilot
Croatia
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Dmitry495 Posted at 2017-3-16 11:08
Thank you, DJI Team! Well presented tutorial on how to use ND filters. Just one question... Aside from original DJI filters what other brands/manufacturers would you recommend?

PolarPro  
2017-3-17 10:48:28
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AllanFG
Beginner
Flight distance : 39239
United States
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Nice Article
2017-3-17 12:44:47
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tellus1
Hobbyist
Flight distance : 10750
Australia
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Very helpful. Thanks!
2017-3-17 20:09:24
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fans5bc86a63
Beginner
Sweden
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where are the pictures ? ( The picture below shows the result. )
2017-3-19 12:21:19
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fans5bc86a63
Beginner
Sweden
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fans5bc86a63 Posted at 2017-3-19 12:21
where are the pictures ? ( The picture below shows the result. )

ah , i can see them now , thanks
2017-3-19 12:35:04
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rodger
First Officer
Flight distance : 426
United States
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Here is a Photographers trick. I use a Light Meter with a removable Diffuser to determine the filter that I want to use. Decide on the exposure that you want, use the meter to determine ambient, remove the dome,  try different ND Filters over the dome opening and choose the filter that gives you the amount of light reduction to get to the exposure that you want. Remember to take the measurement with the light falling on to the meter as the same way as it will be in the final shot.
2017-3-20 05:40:28
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JonCahillPhoto
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Flight distance : 2020
United States
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They do make some really nice filters. +1 from my experience.

Some people think that its just a tinted piece of glass, but the quality you pay for can really make (or break) the photo.
2017-3-22 12:57:55
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SMacDrone
Beginner
United States
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Got my ND4, ordering others from DJI...
DJI ones seem best because screw on, and matching color at metal.
This article definately helped.
2017-3-22 16:42:05
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Natureshooter
Beginner
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The DJI filters you used seem to change the color temperature of the image.  Good information in the article for those who are new to ND filters, but there is no way that first picture is taken with a drone.  While the stabilization of the gimbals and cameras is good, that image would take several minutes if not longer to expose.  Unless you are hovering in absolutely not even a breathe of wind whatsoever,  that shot is just not happening.  I have also noticed that when shooting at night, the X5S does not really like smaller lit areas inside of a dark scene.  A larger area is fine, but a small lamp post for instance and there is so much noise around the light fall off of the lamp.
2017-3-23 08:14:38
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pritchiedotcom
Beginner
United Kingdom
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fans5bc86a63 Posted at 2017-3-19 12:21
where are the pictures ? ( The picture below shows the result. )

I cannot see them either, however like you I am new and believe it may be due to the following message that appears at the bottom of the original post.
"...
This post contains more resources
Your user group can not download or view attachments
..."
I find this strange if this is what is stopping me seeing the pictures, however there is probably some reason for it I've just not thought of .  Can't find out what group I need to be in to see the "resources".  I've just verified my user account's email address so its not that.
Umm.... frustrating really as I think the article is interesting, however now I've got to remember to come back when I go up a group..
Right back to my reason for registering to this forum... saving current drone location as a future way point.  ( I am posting this hoping it will help someone else like us/me in the future save time by avoiding refreshing and restarting their browser. )
SP
1 day ago
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pritchiedotcom
Beginner
United Kingdom
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pritchiedotcom Posted at 2017-3-29 02:28
I cannot see them either, however like you I am new and believe it may be due to the following message that appears at the bottom of the original post.
"...
This post contains more resources

Update to my previous message.  I can now see the pictures.  So if you are like me and a newly registered user, try verifying your email address and you should be able to see the pictures.  (they are worth seeing)
Thanks
1 day ago
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