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Product Reviews

PolarPro Filters

Improve your aerial photos with some filters

April 4, 2017

Highlights
  • Clear, undistorted videos and photos
  • Aircraft aluminum frames
  • Threaded for easy installation and removal
  • Designed for the Phantom 4
One of the best ways to improve the quality of your aerial photos and videos is to use lens filters. While there are a variety of lens options available, PolarPro’s professional-grade line of filters for the DJI Phantom 4 has to be one of the most comprehensive filter sets currently on the market. Whether you are shooting aerial footage under the harsh midday sun or at sunrise and sunset, there’s a filter that will fit any situation you may encounter.

PolarPro’s premier filter collection, the Cinema Series, is divided into two sets of three: the Vivid Collection, which includes rotatable ND4/PL, ND8/PL, and ND16/PL filters; and the Shutter Collection, featuring ND16, ND32, and ND64 filters.

But these premier filters aren’t for everyone: If you are just looking to get started and don’t want to spend too much money, the DJI Phantom 4 Filter 3-Pack is the way to go. This set includes a rotatable circular polarizer (CP), ND4, and ND8 filters. For most shoots, this will be all you will need.
Design and construction

Unlike some filters that have to be pushed onto the camera, the PolarPro Phantom 4 filters thread directly onto the lens. Just remove the stock DJI UV filter that comes with the drone. Not only convenient, this method puts less stress on the gimbal compared to pressing a filter onto the camera. When using push-on filters in the past, I often worried about the long-term effects on my drone’s gimbal from the constant pushing and pulling.

Push-on filters also require quite a bit of time and effort to install, unlike PolarPro’s no-fuss design. The filters thread onto the lens with ease and can be swapped quickly between flights.

Made from lightweight aircraft aluminum, PolarPro filters don’t put added stress onto your gimbal, and the multi-coated glass offers great optics with minimal loss of sharpness.
Walter, shooting on a clear day in the early afternoon, used a PolarPro circular polarizer to capture this spectacular photo in southwestern Virginia. The polarizer is perfect for reducing glare and reflections. Walter Scriptunas II
Bill Zuback
Why would I use a filter?

Depending upon lighting conditions, the Phantom 4’s camera will automatically adjust its shutter speed. For everyday use, a polarizer is the way to go. A polarizer helps to reduce reflections and glare, especially over water, and it will darken bright skies.

If your goal is to slow down your shutter speed, that’s when ND (neutral density) filters come into play. When filming aerial video, you typically want your shutter speed to be double your frame rate; at 1080p/60fps, you want a 1/250 shutter speed. A slower shutter speed is often preferred, because it provides a smoother, cinematic look. What the filter does is trick the camera into thinking that it’s darker out than it really is, thus slowing down the digital shutter speed.

For instance, prior to dusk or dawn when light levels are lower, you might want to use an ND4 filter to slow the Phantom 4 camera’s shutter speed by two stops, from 1/250 to 1/60.

If you’re shooting at midday with no clouds, you could use an ND32 filter to slow your camera’s shutter speed by nearly five stops, from 1/1250 to 1/60.

For the best of both worlds — especially if you often fly over water — PolarPro offers combo ND and polarizer filters, which minimize both reflections and glare while also reducing the light coming into the camera.
Specs
PolarPro DJI Phantom 4 Lens Filters
  • Available: PolarPro
  • Filter sets:
    • Cinema Series -Vivid Collection ($99.99)
    • Cinema Series - Shutter Collection ($99.99)
    • Filter 3-Pack ($69.99)
  • Lens cover ($19.99)
Boy, this gets pricey

You may be put off by the seemingly high cost for filters. The Cinema Series Vivid and Shutter collections retail for $99.99 each, and the Filter 3-Pack runs $69.99.

Remember, just like with digital SLR photography and video, equipment costs money, and quality equipment usually costs more. With proper use, you’ll get years out of your investment.

Final thoughts

If you are looking to get the best footage possible out of your camera, you will want a set of these filters in your kit. You won’t regret it.

For the truly serious, I recommend picking up the Cinematographer Collection for $229, which includes both Cinema Series collections, two lens filter cases, a lens pen to clean your camera lens and filters, and a lens cover (my DJI lens cover immediately went in the trash).

Note: A version of this review appears in the January/February 2017 issue of Drone360.
Featured image: Bill Zuback