Released in 2016, the Phantom 4 Pro is one of the oldest DJI drones that’s still in use. Considering DJI’s first ever drone was the Phantom 1, the Phantom 4 came with many improvements.
While many other drones have been released in the past six years, the DJI Phantom 4 Pro is still viable. Why?
It can still shoot in 4K (which is what later drones achieve), has a 30-minute flight time, the aperture ranges from f/2.8 to f/11, and has a larger payload capacity.
But even with an extensive aperture range, it also helps to have ND filters. So, which are the best ND filters for the DJI Phantom 4 Pro?
PolarPro, FreeWell, DJI, and LENSKINS ND filters are some of the best ND filters you can get for your Phantom 4 Pro.
These four models are of the highest quality and achieve the desired effect, and their design doesn’t alter the intended mechanism of the gimbal.
Please keep reading to learn more about ND filters for the Phantom 4 Pro.
What are ND filters, and what do they do?
ND filters are simply sunglasses for your drone camera.
A friend of mine who primarily uses DSLR cameras once told me that he often avoids takings shots when directly facing the sun because they would often appear too exposed.
He either had to look for shade (away from the scene) or postpone the shot.
It turns out he had not heard of ND filters or any other filters for that matter.
ND filters block excess light from getting to the lens, allowing you to take shots at the correct ISO, exposure, and shutter speed settings.
A common rule is always to have the shutter speed double your frame rate and keep the ISO in lower numbers, such as between 100 and 500.
Of course, you can always break these rules when necessary, but they always give you a baseline.
Are ND filters necessary for the DJI Phantom 4 Pro?
As I mentioned, the Phantom 4 Pro has varying apertures ranging from f/2.8 to f/11. That’s an excellent range for a drone, but if you’ve used DSLR cameras, you’ll know that the aperture can go up to f/22.
The larger the number, the smaller the space that allows light in.
With varying apertures, it’s not always necessary to use an ND filter since you can adjust the aperture until you get the best exposure. But at some aperture settings, you can’t get images as sharp as you’d want.
According to most users, the sweet spot for the DJI Phantom 4 Pro, or where you get the sharpest image, is at f/5.6, ISO 100, and with the shutter speed double the frame rate.
But the issue is, depending on how much light is available during the day, you may find your shots are overexposed even at this spot.
ND filters can help you block excess light and get good images regardless of the light.
Also, making the footage look sharp is easy, especially when there are moving objects. But our eyes don’t see things like that. There’s always a slight blur in what we see.
So, it’s always best to add an ND filter to effect a blur and make the footage look more natural.
ND filters have varying strengths (also called f-stops), ranging from ND2 to ND10000. The higher the number, the more amount of light it will block, and the darker it will be.
Below is a brief guide on when to use some of the most common ND filter strengths.
- No filter – If it’s dark or there is minimal light, an ND filter will not be necessary. What you will need here is Polarizer to minimize the glare. More on this later.
- ND2 and ND4 – Dusk and Dawn
- ND8 – Cloudy days
- ND16 – Partly cloudy and partly sunny days.
- ND32 – Sunny days
- ND64 – Very bright sunny or snowy days.
Besides ND filters, below are other types of filters you might need for your Phantom 4 Pro.
These filters block out the reflection of the subjects from getting to the lens. When there’s too much reflection, the actual colors of the subjects are not clearly recorded.
Also, when light reflects off a glass surface, you can’t determine what’s beyond the glass.
The good thing with polarizing filters is that they don’t block much light. So if you don’t need an ND filter but are having issues with reflection, the Polarizer is the best way to go.
These filters block out excess UV light without changing the nature of the shot. They are more of a protective filter and may be built into the drone’s camera or provided with the drone.
The Phantom 4 Pro comes with a UV filter, which you remove to attach other filters you will be working with.
Best ND Filters for the Phantom 4 Pro
Now let’s look at some of the best ND filters available.
PolarPro manufactures some of the best filters for drones. Over the years, they have gained quite a good reputation due to the high-quality, refinement, and excellent results you can get with their filters.
For the Phantom 4 Pro, PolarPro released the following filters.
PolarPro Cinema Series
This is a shutter collection of ND filters and PL filters. You can either get the 3-Pack that consists of an ND8, ND16, and ND32 filter set.
Or, you can go for the 6-pack, which includes ND4, ND8, ND16, ND4/PL, ND8/PL, and ND16/PL.
The plain ND filters work fine by stopping the required amount of light based on their strengths.
However, the ND/PL filters sometimes have an extra darkening effect that may make you think otherwise.
Below is what I am talking about, as observed by Black Raven Films when he compared these and the DJI straight ND8 filters:
That doesn’t mean that ND/PL filters are bad. You can’t compare the two since they are both meant to achieve different results.
Besides, some users even prefer to have the tint in the images, and you can even reduce the amount of tint by adjusting the PL section or the shutter speed.
If you want to achieve deep blue skies and cut out the reflection off of water bodies while still blocking a significant amount of light, then the ND/PL filters are the best.
Below are some of the results you can achieve with them, as observed by Ed Ricker.
The good thing about ND/PL filters is they allow you to rotate the PL part to control how much reflection to cut out.
Note: Polarizing filters behave differently depending on the angle you are flying. To get the best results, adjust the PL part, fly at one angle, land the drone, adjust the filters, and then shoot at another angle.
- Precisely engineered for the DJI Phantom 4 camera
- Shutter Collection Includes: ND16 Filter, ND32 Filter, ND64 Filter
- PolarPro Lifetime Warranty-Filters are guaranteed to outlast your drone
DJI ND filters for Phantom 4 Pro
As mentioned, DJI makes filters for the Phantom 4 Pro, like with all their other drones. Their ND filters are usually straight, ranging from ND4 to ND64.
These filters look identical to the DJI’s cover filter, only that they are darkened a bit to achieve the required light stopping.
Compared with the PolarPro ND filters, images may look a little more exposed, but that may stem from the fact that these filters are made from different materials.
But all in all, the DJI filters work, too, and are worth checking out.
Below is a side-by-side comparison of the DJI’s ND 8 vs. the same shot taken without a filter as posted by Billy Kyle.
To achieve this shot, Billy first flew the drone without the ND filter with a shutter speed of 120, ISO 100, and aperture at f/11. As you can see on the right, the image is too bright and may be difficult to color correct, and the image is not that sharp.
He then added the DJI’s ND8 and made the same shot, but this time, he reduced the aperture to 5.0 (close to the sweet spot mentioned earlier) and came up with a great shot.
The sky is deep blue, colors are more pronounced, and they will now be easily corrected in post-processing.
LENSKINS Filters For The DJI Phantom 4 Pro
If you are on a budget and are looking for functional filters to use with your DJI Phantom 4 Pro, consider the LENSKINS.
They are highly rated, seem to achieve good results, and are worth the shot, especially if those from the other brands aren’t available or don’t fit in your budget.
You can get straight ND filters, CPL filters, or ND-CPL filters. A whole package comprising all the filters costs less than $150, so get all types and test them if you can.
LENSKINS 3 Pack ND4/ND8/ND16 Camera Lens Filter for DJI Phantom 4 Pro/Pro+/Advance, AGC Optics, Weather-Sealed, Multi-Resistant Coated Neutral Density Filter.
How do you use ND filters on the Phantom 4 Pro?
The Phantom 4 Pro is a little different from other drones. While the filter comes off easily by twisting it once for other models, the Phantom 4 Pro has threads, like the ones on a water bottle.
Attach your ND filter in the following steps.
- First, remove the gimbal cover.
- Remove the glass cover that comes with the drone by unscrewing it anti-clockwise until you are only left with the lens.
- Attach your filter and turn it clockwise until it’s secure.
ND filters are made not to alter the gimbal’s weight to keep it balanced. That’s why, when you remove the glass cover, the gimbal will not be balanced, and you will only restore this balance once you attach the filter.
Also, third-party filters, like those from FreeWell or PolarPro, are a bit larger, making it difficult to attach the gimbal cover once you’re done filming.
Therefore, remove the ND filter after filming and add the original glass cover. Then, attach the gimbal cover to make it easier to store it securely.
As you can see from the sample images included above, having an ND filter is better than not having one, even when you have a variable aperture.
You can use the filters provided by DJI, but I find those from FreeWell and PolarPro to be of higher quality, and the LENSKINS to be a good cheaper option.
If possible, you can test the filters from the four brands until you find one that works best for your work.
Also, don’t forget to test between a straight ND filter and an ND/PL and gauge the results.