When I became interested in drones and began researching the cluttered market, I was overwhelmed with the various features and options every brand had to offer. The camera specifications are what I was most interested when purchasing my first drone, a DJI Phantom 3 4K. I went with this model DJI had to offer because, while it lacked the capabilities to travel miles away from me (like other higher-end models could), I loved that it had a high-quality 4K camera built-in.
Drones haven’t always had cameras built-in – pilots used to have to purchase a GoPro separately and attach it to the device. The luxury of having a built-in camera on your drone also comes with regret, because now you can’t swap out the lens for a better option – until DJI came out with the Inspire 2, which allows cinematographers to attach and detach their preferred camera lens.
While having the ability to swap out a lens on a drone is a wonderful thing, pilots have also longed for the ability to defeat their biggest enemy while flying high in the sky: the sun. With aerial imaging comes new obstacles while taking photos and/or video. Lighting is an entirely different ball game compared to shooting while on the ground because light isn’t being interfered with by trees, buildings, or any other structures – although, there are those lovely, fluffy things called clouds.
With too much sunlight, your photos will look washed out and shadows of your subject(s) will engulf your entire frame.
With too much cloud cover, your image will look grainy, as not enough light is able to enter the shutter of your lens.
During the golden hour, the prime time to take photographs, your image could look too warm.
In order to combat all of these uncanny scenarios, tech companies, and drone companies themselves, have innovated camera filters fit for drones. These filters have existed in the past, but on a much larger scale. Because drones have such a small lens and only so much battery life, the accessory had to be small, lightweight, yet feasible. Most filter kits, like my newly-purchased Neewer Filter Kit, are made of a lightweight plastic material. Every brand is different, but you are able to simply slide the desired filter onto the lens until it is snug and secure. Note: I have not used my filter kit yet, however, I will follow-up with a review of my experience using the Neewer Filter Kit for DJI Phantom 3.
The Neewer Filter Kit set consists of four filters: the ND4, ND8, Ultraviolet (UV), and circular polarizer (CPL). Using each of these filters will result in a different outcome. The ND4 and ND8 filters vary in that the ND4 equals 2f-stops, and the ND8 equals 3f-stops. These filters, known as neutral density filters, help with normalizing exposure. On a sunny day, the sky’s exposure will be darkened slightly so the foreground or main subject’s exposure is normal and clear. On a cloudy or hazy day, a neutral density filter will help sift through the haziness and bring out the saturation in your photos.
Potentially better than using an ND filter on a sunny day is an Ultraviolet(uv) filter. This filter absorbs the ultraviolet rays, eliminating haze. Plus, it protects the life of your lens! The most basic of filters in my pack of four is the circular polarizer filter. This filter doesn’t have a film that covers the front of the lens – instead, it simply surrounds the lens and removes unwanted reflections from surfaces like water, and enhances saturation and color in photographs. If you’re flying over a lake on a sunny day, this filter is for you!
All in all, camera lens filters are crucial to have when regularly shooting with a DSLR, let alone a drone. In order to maximize on the already-exemplary fact that a drone can capture stunning, high-quality images from above, it only makes sense to add a filter kit to your set of accessories.
I’m excited to begin using my filter kit, and I encourage you to shop around for a kit that suits your needs. And if you don’t already own a drone, it’s never too late to enter the industry!