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ND Filters - How They Work and Which Ones to Use
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16027 51 2017-3-15 23:47:38
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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!

If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to reply to us here on the DJI Forum or on social media. For more from DJI Support...

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2017-3-15 23:47:38
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Dmitry495
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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
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thanks for the info!
2017-3-16 17:02:17
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JayOne
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great post !!!!
2017-3-16 20:53:13
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TPVAerials
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Will be saving this, thank you!
2017-3-17 09:28:06
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evryan
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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
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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
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Nice Article
2017-3-17 12:44:47
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tellus1
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Very helpful. Thanks!
2017-3-17 20:09:24
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fans5bc86a63
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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
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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
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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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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
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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
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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
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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
2017-3-29 02:28:24
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pritchiedotcom
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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
2017-3-29 02:53:18
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FrequentFlyer
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I need me some ND filters!
2017-3-30 11:52:20
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dont slow down
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I purchased a set of ND filters for my P3A, I see on my camera lenses the split where the factory lense attaches however I can't get it off. I have tried the factory "wrench tool" thing to try to loosen it but I gave it a good amount of force but it won't budge and I don't want to break the gimbal. Is there a trick to getting it off?
2017-3-31 04:11:56
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Rob1962
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Thank you,I will print this and save in Flight Pack,
2017-4-1 09:52:46
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Canomod
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Tank for the explanations,

So, ND filters seems to be interesting in photography to add motion blur effect.
But in video mode what are the advantage ? Create smooth cinematographic effect ?
I try to use ND 8 and ND16, but i can't see significant difference betwin it.
2017-4-3 05:19:00
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The Flying Monk
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dont slow down Posted at 2017-3-31 04:11
I purchased a set of ND filters for my P3A, I see on my camera lenses the split where the factory lense attaches however I can't get it off. I have tried the factory "wrench tool" thing to try to loosen it but I gave it a good amount of force but it won't budge and I don't want to break the gimbal. Is there a trick to getting it off?

Put an elastic band around the outside circumference of the lense, hold the gimbal still with one hand while gripping the elastic band. Don't squeeze with you thumb and forefinger too hard and turn anti clockwise. It should start turning and then unscrew.   
2017-4-4 10:43:26
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Mobilcams
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Natureshooter Posted at 2017-3-23 08:14
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.

In addition, the exposure on most drones can only go up to 30 seconds AND the gimbal does drift around even while sitting on a completely still vibration free surface over time (recorded my kitchen one day while testing out an SD card and noticed slight movements when I fast forwarded the footage).
Good article though..
2017-4-5 03:08:55
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betonven
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Canomod Posted at 2017-4-3 05:19
Tank for the explanations,

So, ND filters seems to be interesting in photography to add motion blur effect.

Actually, it is video where they offer the most important result; they make your video to have a more natural flow, instead of being more like a sequence of still images. A good example is if you face down near the ground and go fast. When you do that with shutter speeds like 1/400, then it will feel more like still images combined. If you try that with shutter 1/50 (assuming you're shooting at 24p), then you'll get a better sense of the speed. Check 2:45 in the video below (my test flight with my new Polarpro ND16/PL). Try to pause and you'll see the image is blurred (due to the 1/50 shutter speed). This is what you need to make your video natural, flowing and "alive".



2017-4-9 22:02:40
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Rene vd Meer
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betonven Posted at 2017-4-9 22:02
Actually, it is video where they offer the most important result; they make your video to have a more natural flow, instead of being more like a sequence of still images. A good example is if you face down near the ground and go fast. When you do that with shutter speeds like 1/400, then it will feel more like still images combined. If you try that with shutter 1/50 (assuming you're shooting at 24p), then you'll get a better sense of the speed. Check 2:45 in the video below (my test flight with my new Polarpro ND16/PL). Try to pause and you'll see the image is blurred (due to the 1/50 shutter speed). This is what you need to make your video natural, flowing and "alive".

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qoEwMWXQMoM

Nice video. I would have loved to see the video also without ND filter.
You can also add motion blur in post processing.  Is there an advantage to do this using the shutter speed?
2017-4-10 03:21:54
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betonven
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Rene vd Meer Posted at 2017-4-10 03:21
Nice video. I would have loved to see the video also without ND filter.
You can also add motion blur in post processing.  Is there an advantage to do this using the shutter speed?

I wish I could have two P4Ps flying next to each other to do an A-B test, but well, I'm just a guy with a drone.

I'm not sure you can add this motion blur in post with the same results, maybe someone more experienced can answer that. What I do know though, is that while it usually takes me some time to post process my videos, in that one, I was finished within a few minutes; it seemed that the filter led everything to be where it should have been colorwise, and I just had to play a little with the main curve (as I was shooting flat). On the other hand, the filter I was using was ND16/PL so maybe this was the effect of the polarizer. In any case, for a small cost (99$) you get a way to make your workflow much more efficient, so I think it's definitely worth it.
2017-4-10 07:13:56
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theGrindLab.com
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Canomod Posted at 2017-4-3 05:19
Tank for the explanations,

So, ND filters seems to be interesting in photography to add motion blur effect.

In video, you are not able to change shutter speed throughout a shoot, because your shutter speed should remain constant. So, for example, if you are shooting with a shutter speed of 1/120th for a 60p video with your ISO at 100 and even with your aperture at 11, if your shots are overexposed (too bright), you should not simply increase your shutter speed. ND filters are used in these situations.
2017-4-11 05:53:49
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Callatis
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betonven Posted at 2017-4-10 07:13
I wish I could have two P4Ps flying next to each other to do an A-B test, but well, I'm just a guy with a drone.  

I'm not sure you can add this motion blur in post with the same results, maybe someone more experienced can answer that. What I do know though, is that while it usually takes me some time to post process my videos, in that one, I was finished within a few minutes; it seemed that the filter led everything to be where it should have been colorwise, and I just had to play a little with the main curve (as I was shooting flat). On the other hand, the filter I was using was ND16/PL so maybe this was the effect of the polarizer. In any case, for a small cost (99$) you get a way to make your workflow much more efficient, so I think it's definitely worth it.

I have the same filter. I didn't use it yet but to compare two similar videos I am going to plan a Waypoint route in DJI Ground Station Pro and fly it twice, with and without the filter.
2017-4-13 08:11:58
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betonven
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Callatis Posted at 2017-4-13 08:11
I have the same filter. I didn't use it yet but to compare two similar videos I am going to plan a Waypoint route in DJI Ground Station Pro and fly it twice, with and without the filter.

That would be interesting as long as you're ensuring a 'fair' comparison. The apparent light should be the same in the two approaches (which means a dramatic difference in shutter and/or aperture). I'm not certain about how the EV values of DJI Go are calculated, so maybe your eye will be the best judge on that! F5.6 seems to be the best aperture for the P4P camera, and I'm pretty sure you cannot use that well without a filter in very bright conditions.
2017-4-13 17:24:54
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Canomod Posted at 2017-4-3 05:19
Tank for the explanations,

So, ND filters seems to be interesting in photography to add motion blur effect.

For video they can be very important especially if you have one of the older models with a fixed aperture.  Prior to the P4 Pro the Aperture was always fixed at f 2.8.  With a Mavic its fixed at 2.5.  So to expose in brught daylight without using your shutter speed at high numbers like 1/1600 the only way is with filters.   So for film if you want to achieve what is known as the "Cinematic" look the rule of thumb is to shoot double your frame rate.  So if you are shooting the cinema standard of 24 technically 23.97ish frames per second. you want your shutter to be 1/48th of a second.  It is firing the shutter twice for each frame.  This creates motion blur in the shot each frame sees the light twice.   

As you raise the shutter speed to expose the motion blur starts to go away.  Another phenomenon happens called Staccato where the frames seem to "tick" along and don't seem as seamless.  It can create stop motion.  I have seen this before where a wheel of a car stopped rotating because my shutter was in sync with the wheel rotation.

So the only way to solve this is with stepping down using filters.  Typically on bright days with lots of light you want to drop 4 to 5 stops of light, sometimes 6 in bright snow or desert environments.   If you have a variable aperture lens like all of the X5's and the P4Pros and X4S, you can close down the aperture.  The P4 Pro/Advance and the X4S have a range of f/2.8 to 11.  That is 4 stops from 2.8 as the order is 2.8, 5.6, 4, 8 and 11.  So if you set your P4 Pro to f/11 and you are still over exposed you may need an ND2 or an ND4.  Alot of it is preference.  Some people will expose to the left which means you will slightly under expose the dark areas to prevent things like the sky from being blown out.  Then you can bring out the shadows in post if you have a reasonable amount of dynamic range in the camera.  If you have a fixed aperture lens like the legacy cameras, you may need at least an ND16 if not the ND32.
2017-4-13 23:09:58
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Kobusman
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Wow, thaths verry usefull, many thanks !!
2017-4-15 11:45:07
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Rene vd Meer Posted at 2017-4-10 03:21
Nice video. I would have loved to see the video also without ND filter.
You can also add motion blur in post processing.  Is there an advantage to do this using the shutter speed?

You can motion blur to a point, not when the shutter is in 1/1600 range.  Also shooting at those real high shutters do some bizarre things like staccato effect and it can create some stop motion on other objects.  It best to use filters to expose.
2017-4-15 16:16:31
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HiTechRob
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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?

I use the PolorPro filters for my P4P+ both the Standard and Cinematic set.  LOVE them!  Only annoying thing is if you leave an ND filter installed on the drone, the stock gimbal clamp does not work.  I had to buy an aftermarket gimbal clamp specifically for the PolorPro filter.
2017-4-19 18:22:37
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JGOFDJI
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yes but will the factory gimbal guard fit over dji filters? which filters should i get? all 3? are there more than 3?
2017-4-19 19:29:35
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betonven
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I think that an after market gimbal guard, as the new by Polarpro is a good investment over the OEM one. Not only it fits filters, but also it traps the gimbal without causing that much of a strain in other parts; the OEM in my case (P4P) is pretty tight (bad sizing??) and when installed it literally bends (very slightly of course) the two 'legs' of the bird together. Probably not a real problem, I just feel safer with the aftermarket one. Also, the aftermarket guard is much quicker and easier to install than the OEM (which needs both hands and basically tilting the bird towrads the back).
2017-4-20 06:26:30
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Vayreda
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Great post
2017-4-22 16:08:53
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Dobmatt
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This London night timelapse ... c'mon, you can't be serious ...
2017-4-22 23:08:21
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Dobmatt
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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?

Unfortunately there's not much to choose from, having Polar Pro brand as the obvious #1 choice. Thing is that Polar Pro filters tends to introduce some significant amount of coloring into image, correctable in post only to a degree. Professional, high quality and truly neutral filter brands like B&W or Firecrest seems to do not care about Phantom niche at all. For now at least.
2017-4-22 23:21:43
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Heir InVioLable
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When needed, I don't shoot anywhere or anything without filters, ever.  Especially with these smaller drone cameras that just don't have the abilty to fight the sun.  If you absolutely want the sharpest picture and/or video, never leave home without them,  and don't just skimp on just 1!!! This picture is reduced to 1.5mb per DJI's 2mb upload limit specs yet still maintains a decent amount of detail.  This isn't because I'm a great photgrapher. (I am not)  There is no amount of post production that will fix the natural clarity that a Filter would provide you by just getting your ISO and shutters speeds out of your cameras noisy and over extended boundries and right on the money.  
Taken with a ND16 Filter (and I could have even taken it to a ND32).  File Size = 1.5mb's



Filter_Chart_326dpi.png
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2017-4-24 01:36:34
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HiTechRob
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Great article.  I  wish this forum would allow you to tag/mark favorites and easily refer back to them.  I guess a browser bookmark will have to do!
2017-4-25 06:31:50
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