With many DJI products, there are a number of third-party accessories available to purchase from launch. Such accessories can vary in quality, making it tough to tell which accessories will be reliable and worth your money.
With this in mind, DJI has released its own accessories for the Mini 3, including ND filters such as the ND16/64/256 filter set.
The filter steps offer quite large steps in light filtering, so you may still want to choose an alternative or complimenting set of ND filters for your Mini 3.
In this guide, I’ll discuss the best ND filters for the DJI Mini 3, so keep reading!
To help, we’ve identified and reviewed the best drone courses for beginners and professionals.
Top 3 ND filter sets for DJI Mini 3
Compatible with DJI Mini 3/Mini 3 Pro, 6 Pack Neutral Density Filter Drone Lens Accessory with Aluminum Alloy Frame, Multi Coated HD Optical Glass: CPL ND8 ND16 ND32 ND64 ND128
DJI’s own filter set is fairly priced, but for a similar cost, the other two filter sets will cover a broader range of light conditions.
What is an ND filter?
First, let’s start with a definition.
ND or neutral density filters are filters that can be positioned over the lens of a camera to reduce the amount of light hitting the sensor for a given period.
The primary purpose of neutral density filters is to reduce shutter speeds even when filming in brightly-lit environments. ND filters are like sunglasses for your drone and can be polarized or non-polarized.
ND filters are typically made from plastic or glass that has been tinted by a specific amount. Most ND filters for the DJI Mini 3 come in at under 1g in mass so that the Mini 3 can retain its sub-250-gram status.
Making ND filters for the Mini 3 lightweight is also essential to not overload the gimbal motors.
With more tint in the filter, the number given to the filter is larger, and more light is filtered. ND filters can range from ND2-1000+ but are typically found in sets ranging from 8 to 64 for camera drones.
DJI offers a darker ND256 filter because of the larger pixel size on the Mini 3 when compared to something like the Mini 2.
Long-exposure drone photography is also gaining in popularity. Capturing long-exposure photos on bright days would need a lot more filtering, for example, using an ND256 or higher filter.
Third-party ND filters
Previous drones in the DJI Mini series saw third parties such as Neewer and Freewell become household names for ND filters for drones.
Most third parties appear to offer similar specifications for their ND filter, although Neewer and Skyreat provide the broadest range of ND filter sets.
Based on previous experience with third-party ND filters, ND filters from the likes of Neewer and Freewell for the Mini 3 could be a good option. As mentioned, they offer various ND filter sets, which are around the same price as DJI’s own filter set.
However, I would question how often I would use an ND256 filter as found in the DJI set, whereas I would likely use an ND8 filter for filming on those bright but hazy or overcast days.
Some third parties also offer polarized filters, which help manage reflections when filming over water.
For a similar price to the cost of a set of DJI ND filters for the Mini 3, you could have ND filters from a third party that covers a broader range of light conditions.
Some of these filter sets also offer multi-coated glass and claim to not impact the color of the light that’s filtered.
Glass ND filters are also advisable because they protect your lens better and are easier to clean. They are also less likely to impact the color of the light being filtered than plastic filters, as claimed.
Other factors to consider
In some countries, the use of aftermarket components on drones can result in your drone being considered “privately built,” which could affect where you can fly your drone and/or any insurance or warranty claims you need to make.
It’s always worth checking for any rules on this in your jurisdiction!
For example, using aftermarket propellers on a DJI Mini in the UK can deem it a privately-built drone as it is no longer built to manufacturer specifications.
An example scenario that could occur with third-party ND filters is your gimbal becoming damaged.
Whether DJI would honor any warranty claims when using third-party filters is unclear, especially when they offer their own set of ND filters.
The fit of the filters is another thing to consider. DJI’s own ND filters will likely have the best fit and alignment, preventing any risk of light leakage or distortion.
By contrast, quality control from third parties may present a problem.
Issues with glass filters for earlier DJI Mini drones have been known to occur, with some filters causing blurring or aberrations. However, this is rare, and most suppliers will replace defective filters.
How to use ND filters
ND filters are used to help manage the exposure of videos and to maintain a natural amount of motion blur.
The generally accepted rule for natural motion blur is to maintain a 180-degree shutter angle, which equates to the shutter speed being twice the value of the frame rate.
For example, under this rule for natural motion blur at 24 frames per second, the shutter speed would be 1/48 seconds.
On a bright day without an ND filter, this frame rate and shutter speed combination would result in a blown-out image, where pixels are saturated.
The photo would have many white areas that can be difficult to recover. Information in these blown-out areas may be lost.
You can therefore manipulate the exposure of a frame and the amount of motion blur in the video by combining ND filters and shutter speed.
For instance, to increase motion blur, you can slow the shutter speed and increase light filtering by using a higher-value ND filter.
I find for cinematic drone shots that a 180-degree shutter angle gives a natural amount of motion blur.
Still, if I want to keep objects in a frame looking sharp, then a shutter angle of 90 degrees can reduce motion blur, especially as the aperture of most camera drones is reasonably open and fixed, including the Mini 3.
Once you’ve decided on your frame rate and shutter angle, you’ll then want to choose an ND filter that gives you optimum exposure for those parameters. Knowing which to choose for particular conditions comes with experience.
How to mount ND filters to the Mini 3
The Mini 3 and Mini 3 Pro share the same mounting design for neutral density and other filters.
Fitting ND filters to previous DJI Mini drones was pretty fiddly, as you had to hook part of the ND filter over the back of the camera housing and make sure the filter was aligned with the camera lens correctly.
Thankfully, DJI has made it easier to install ND filters on the Mini 3 and Mini 3 Pro.
To install an ND filter on the Mini 3, you will need to carefully hold the camera to not damage the gimbal and gently twist the lens cap off the camera housing.
The ND filter then replaces this lens cap and is easy to secure in place over the lens. If you find this difficult, then I would recommend that you contact DJI for help.
You can then swap out ND filters and the lens cap as required. Just don’t lose the original lens cap, as it helps protect the camera lens from dirt and scratches.
If you film in various light conditions, then I would recommend trying a third-party ND filter set that covers a broad range of filter values, like in the range of ND8 to ND64.
For example, in the UK, the weather can be bright sunshine one minute and heavily overcast the next.
However, if you film in primarily bright and sunny conditions, then the DJI filter set will likely work well for you 99 percent of the time.
At present, there doesn’t seem to be much difference in cost between third-party and OEM ND filters, at least in the US. Cost may be a bigger factor depending on where you are.
A final consideration is long-term availability. Will third-party suppliers still be around in the long run? What if you accidentally damage a filter and can’t get a replacement for that set?
DJI’s own filter set and any spares will likely be around for as long as that drone model is still actively supported.
That being said, if you’re careful, a set of ND filters should outlive your drone.