DJI Mavic Air accessories: ND filter

This is what the Mavic Air looks like with a filter from the PolarPro Cinema Series (Photo: PolarPro).

The use of ND filters ("ND filter" stands for neutral density filter) is useful if you want to extend the exposure time of the drone camera. This can be the case when filming, for example, in order to create a motion blur that gives the videos a "cinematic look". What many users do not know, however, is that this effect can also be desired when taking photos. Photos do not necessarily have to be completely sharp, they can be more effective if certain elements are out of focus. But more on that later ...

The ND filter set from DJI includes an ND4, ND8 and ND16 neutral density filter (Photo: DJI.com).

The ND filter set from DJI includes an ND4, ND8 and ND16 neutral density filter (Photo: DJI.com).

By day Mavic Air - in contrast to the Phantom 4 Pro - has a fixed aperture, you cannot manually select different f-stops, you always have to work with f / 2,8. By using ND filters (also called gray filters) you can adjust the aperture to your own taste. However, this must be done before the flight, as the neutral density filters for the Mavic Air are attached to the lens directly before the flight and cannot be changed during the flight.

For ND filters there are the originals from DJI, which can be ordered here via the following link:
» Order a DJI ND filter for Mavic Air «

Update: March 19.03.2018, XNUMX - available from Amazon and DJI

In the last few weeks there have been massive delivery problems in all shops and also at DJI. You can now order the filter set from both DJI (link above) and Amazon:

DJI ND filter set for Mavic Air
This is the ND filter set that comes straight from DJI. In this case only sent from another shop, but with an acceptable delivery time.

Assembly of the ND filter

If you look at the camera lens of the Mavic Air, you will find that it is really incredibly small and you can hardly "grab" it with your finger. Unfortunately, since you have to unscrew the front ring from the camera to mount the ND filter and then turn on the ND filter, you cannot avoid showing your dexterity here. How this works without damaging the lens or the gimbal of the drone, I have you guys in this post here described.

ND filters for filming

With videos, especially on sunny days, the problem is that the exposure time is in the range from 1/1000 to 1/2000. As a result, the recordings appear less fluid and more choppy. You can get a smoother, quieter image impression in films if you use ND filters. What a comparison looks like in a single frame of a film can be seen below in the screenshots that I took from a YouTube video.

Here the drone was moved once from right to left and once the recordings were made without an ND filter and once with an ND filter. The right picture was taken with a shutter speed of 1 / 30th of a second through the ND filter, which ensures that the bars of the fence are softened (source: 52things Youtube).

Here the drone was moved once from right to left and once the picture was taken without an ND filter and once with an ND filter. The right picture was taken with a shutter speed of 1 / 30th of a second through the ND filter, which ensures that the bars of the fence are softened (source: 52things Youtube).

The Video from 52things is also a very good explanation (in English) of the difference you can expect when filming with and without a filter. Which is also good: This Youtuber is one of the few who make it clear that a light and dark difference is actually not based on the filter, but on the inability of the filmmakers, who always overexpose the films without an ND filter and then so pretend the point of an ND filter is to get the right exposure. This is nonsensical, however, since the films do not become too bright with the right exposure (which can be achieved without an ND filter).

These filters are available, for example, in the set from DJI with the strengths ND4, ND8 and ND16. These are sufficient for most applications. Only those who want to film in the snow in the midday sun should keep an eye out for ND32 and ND64.

Update 17.08.2018/64/XNUMX: NDXNUMX is necessary even without snow!

A few days ago I was outside in the sunshine with my Mavic Air and made recordings for a construction site documentation. Since the house is under construction, the walls are still pure concrete and therefore colored light gray. With the Mavic Air, I had set the 4K at 30 fps as usual, so that, according to the rule for selecting the ND filter, I should film with a shutter speed of 1/60 sec. I set the appropriate values ​​in the DJI GO 4 app and screwed on my ND32 filter, but even this did not protect against the fact that the walls that were exposed to the sun were still overexposed.

Here is my current equipment: The neutral density filter set from DJI with the filters ND4, ND8 and ND16 as well as the Freewell filter with the value ND32. The two Skytreat filters are still on the way and will arrive with me in the days.

Here is my current equipment: The neutral density filter set from DJI with the filters ND4, ND8 and ND16 as well as the Freewell filter with the value ND32. The two Skytreat filters are still on the way and will arrive with me in the days.

So my recommendation is not just to get an ND32 filter, but to order an ND64 filter at the same time, I have chosen these two here:

Freewell ND32 filter for the Mavic Air
28 Reviews
Freewell ND32 filter for the Mavic Air
Even if the Freewell filters get off badly with some reviews, because they are bigger and heavier than the original: I couldn't see any problems when flying. The picture is good too ... from my point of view, the filters from Freewell have been given the green light
SKYTREAT ND filter set (ND 64 and ND1000 for the Mavic Air
A beautiful rose gold that you can no longer see in the air. Otherwise it helps to distinguish the filters from those of the DJI set. The ND1000 filter can be used to take long-term exposures with the drone during the day. More for experimental purposes.

I didn't use an ND64 filter that is coupled with a polarization filter or something similar. I have already explained why in another place in this post ...

... end of update ...

Which strength should I use?

If you are now wondering which ND filter to use, you will find an important rule here: For smooth films with a "cinema look", the exposure time should be twice the frame rate. So if you are filming at 60fps, the exposure time should be about 1/120. If you are filming with 30fps you should reach about 1/60 as exposure time.

For a cinematic look, the shutter speed should be about twice the frame rate.

Of course, the exposure time can change during the flight if you set it to "Auto" and then record subjects that are illuminated very differently. Ultimately, you just need a lot of experience to select the right ND filter for the right lighting situation.

Even if you don't “catch” the calculated exposure time, the film will still win through the use of the ND filter. Movements in the picture are softened and appear less harsh.

Tip for use in "German countries": As a rule, the ND8 filter can be used as an "always-on filter". In many situations the one in Germany works well under cloudy skies. If you have sunny days, you can use the ND16 or ND32. But only as a rough tip. And important: if you put the filter on the ground, take a short flight up, because on the ground it is usually much darker for the camera than when it is in the air.

The filter manufacturer PolarPro has also built an app with which you can quickly calculate on the iPhone which filter will probably fit best:

[appbox app store id1181605276]

Gray filter when taking photos

What I wasn't really aware of at first: ND filters can also be useful when taking photos. Usually one is interested in the image being as sharp as possible, but the gray filters can be used to soften movements in the image on photos.
This can be useful, for example, if you want to record wave movements in the sea, spray or waterfalls and water movements in a stream. The movement of the water is then displayed much softer and unsteady water surfaces appear smoothed.

Where shots with a neutral density filter also have a great effect, there are landscape shots with cloudy skies. Here the clouds are given a dramatic structure that is created by the motion blur. However, this only works with an exposure time of 30 seconds, which is difficult to achieve with a drone.

Here you can see a photo that the Youtuber Flypath took with the Mavic Pro and an ND1000 filter from Freewell. Despite 10 f-stops more, he only managed 1 / 8s exposure time in daylight. Not enough for really soft surf or exciting clouds, but you can see the washed-out train in the foreground. In the twilight it should be possible to create more exciting effects (source: Youtube Video) ..

Here you can see a photo that the Youtuber Flypath took with the Mavic Pro and an ND1000 filter from Freewell. Despite 10 f-stops more, he only managed 1 / 8s exposure time in daylight. Not enough for really soft surf or exciting clouds, but you can see the washed-out train in the foreground. In the twilight it should be possible to create more exciting effects (source: Video from Flypath).

Such a gray filter is also useful if you like city photography and, for example, want to show passing cars with a motion blur. If you have busy cities or streets, you can even make people or cars "disappear" with a very long exposure time of a few seconds. For this, however, ND filters> ND64 are required, which extend the exposure time to a few seconds.

When the Freewell ND1000 filter is available for the Mavic Air, I will link it here because I think it is a good addition if you want to take long exposures with the drone.

ND filter combined with polarization filter and UV filter

If you want more visual impact on your photos, you can buy special ND filters with a combined UV and PL filter. These ensure, for example, that reflections on water surfaces or haze veils over bodies of water are less visible. The blue of the sky is also intensified and the fog in the distance is reduced.

The problem of the polarizer on the drone

If you ever get your hands on a polarizing filter, you can look through it and turn it. We notice that the blue of the sky and many other things change. Unfortunately, this also happens when we change the direction in which we are looking. Since it is unfortunately difficult to turn the filter remotely on a drone, we only ever have one previously defined direction in which the filter works "correctly". If we change the direction of flight, it becomes almost unpredictable.

For this reason, polarization filters on the drone are, in my opinion, more for experienced filmmakers who want to invest a lot of time in the recordings and are ready to try out different settings and flight directions. If you fly "fast", you should do without the polarizing filter, because in case of doubt it can lead to a poorer picture.

This is what the Mavic Air looks like with a filter from the PolarPro Cinema Series (Photo: PolarPro).

This is what the Mavic Air looks like with a filter from the PolarPro Cinema Series (Photo: PolarPro).

To make sure that I am not writing any nonsense, I recently wrote to PolarPro and asked whether their ND filters actually produce different results with different directions and different "rotations" of the filters. The answer is "yes" or in long form:

Our polarizer and hybrid polarizer filters for any drone, including the Mavic Air, behave the same as the ground-based DSLR polarizers you are used to. They can be rotated prior to shooting to increase / decrease the polarization intensity, and are sensitive to directional changes in the light.

So the hybrid filters (ND / PL / UV or ND / CPL / UV) are no longer necessary for me. For me, the Mavic Air is an "always with me" drone and I don't necessarily like landing and taking off several times to change the filter settings. In my opinion, this is more realistic for drones with longer flight times, such as the Mavic Pro or the Phantom.

Which set should I buy?

If you have not yet worked with filters on the drone, you should start with simple ND filter sets. The set from DJI is 100% compatible with the Mavic Air and is therefore the set of my choice.

For ND filters there are the originals from DJI, which can be ordered here via the following link:
» Order a DJI ND filter for Mavic Air «

Of course, you can also take a look at other neutral density filter sets from PolarPro or other manufacturers that I have linked here. I tend to buy the ND1000 filter and an ND32 and ND64 filter from Freewell. The ND1000 simulates 10 f-stops, so to speak, and thus ensures the possibility of long exposures in broad daylight. The ND32 and ND64 are more for extremely bright days with snow. Since I can count the few beautiful days with snow in Germany on my fingers, the filters will probably only be added to the collection later.

The CinemaSeries from PolarPro are available for the Mavic Air as well as for other DJi drones. The manufacturer has built a good reputation among drone pilots for years and offers very good ND filters (Photo: PolarPro).

The CinemaSeries from PolarPro are available for the Mavic Air as well as for other DJi drones. The manufacturer has built a good reputation among drone pilots for years and offers very good ND filters (Photo: PolarPro).

In terms of brands, I would stick with PolarPro, DJI and Freewell. There are numerous filter sets from unknown China brands on Amazon. However, these filters usually have the problem that the quality is inferior and there is light scattering or color changes at the edge. If something like that occurs, you get annoyed later that you put the money in such lousy filters and then you get the "smart" ones again. So it is better to invest wisely.

PolarPro set of 6

PolarPro standard filter set of 6
PolarPro Filter for DJI Mavic Air 6-Pack Standard - ND4, ND8, ND16, ND4 / PL, ND8 / PL, ND16 / PL - Premium Quality.

Would you like a message when they are available? Currently available!

At the moment it is difficult to get ND filters with short delivery times. Even at DJI in the store, the ND filters are obviously in short supply and not available. As soon as they are available again and manufacturers such as Frewell and PolarPro are also represented in Amazon, I will be happy to add the links here. If you want to stay up to date, you can subscribe to the comments below. I will leave a message when ND filters for the Mavic Air are available in stores.

Since I don't check the offers for availability every day, you can use this link to quickly see what mavic-air-compatible ND filters are currently being offered at Amazon or whether DJI has some in stock again:

If you have any questions about Mavic Air, I can give you my contribution "DJI Mavic Air - what you should know before buying"I recommend it to my heart. Here I provide information about technical details, the range, photo modes and much more.

And if you should decide to buy the small drone from DJI, you should definitely buy the DJI Mavic Air FlyMore Combo to take. It simply offers the best price-performance ratio and includes useful accessories that you would otherwise buy anyway (except perhaps the Proguards).

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The page contains affiliate links / images: Amazon.de

2 comments

  1. Stefan says:

    I am interested in the high-quality NDS from 4-32 (ideally as a pack of 4); no PL (because swiveling causes bad light changes)

    • sir appleot says:

      Hello Stefan! At the moment I can only recommend the ND filter set from DJI linked at the top. All others are currently not available. But I have registered with various shops and should get a message when the delivery times are changed back to "available". :)

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