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Hands-on: PolarPro Variable ND – the best filter for the everyday drone pilot [Video]

An ND filter should be in every camera operator’s bag, but when it comes to drones, swapping out filters is a hassle. Enter the PolarPro Cinema Series Variable ND.

Instead of the three standard filters that come with the Fly More Combo for the Mavic Air 2, this filter has a range of 2-5 stops (or ND4-ND32) enabling you to use one filter for most situations. It’s one I leave on my drone, when I need more or less ND, I can simply lower the drone to a reachable height, and shift the filter as needed.

Easy for any drone pilot

The filter simply clips into place like any other filter would, and by turning the exterior of the filter, you can change the intensity of it. There are markings to help you see how much is being applied when it isn’t as easy to tell, but the best way is always looking through your monitor and adjusting from there.

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Why use a variable ND filter?

If you’re not already using a filter, why should you? In bright lighting conditions, an ND filter can really elevate your footage. It helps with rendering of colors, accurate contrast, and also enables for correct exposure. When we look at movies or videos, generally speaking we’re looking at a shutter angle that is double the frame rate to achieve motion blur most similar what you see. So if we’re shooting at 24fps, an ideal shutter speed would be 1/48. The higher this number is, the more overly sharp images might be as there is less and less blur between each frame.

Using a variable ND to cut light from the sensor let’s us get closer to the ideal shutter speed and adjust more quickly based on the light around you. Take this example, often your exposure would be completely different when doing a top down shot versus what you’d see if the drone’s camera was pointed straight ahead.

Pricing and final thoughts

PolarPro products have been a staple for photographers for a few years now, with creator series NDs coming out for traditional mirrorless and DSLR cameras. The quality of the PolarPro Variable ND filter is equal to what you’ll find on their larger filters, and the price point is a great entry for those looking to get more cinematic footage.