3 Things to Know Before Buying Mavic Pro Filters – ND & PL

I have had my DJI Mavic since the drone first came out and I have tried many different filter kits for the Mavic Pro. Some work great and others are a waste of money. I am going to walk you through why you need Mavic Pro filters and which filter kits are the best.

First I am going to cover the most important things to look for when buying filters for the DJI Mavic Pro, then later I will explain why you need filters and how to use them for the best Mavic footage possible.

1. Only Buy a Filter Set That Passes Auto Calibration of the Mavic Pro Gimbal

The biggest thing to watch out for when looking for Mavic Pro filters is that they pass the start-up calibration. The gimbal on the Mavic Pro and Mavic Pro Platinum is very small and can’t take a lot of extra weight. Some of the first filters for the Mavic Pro were too heavy and would have to be installed after the gimbal ran through its startup.

Besides being super annoying, I always felt like I was going to break the gimbal when putting the filters on while the gimbal was activated. Also, I personally found that these heavier Mavic filters would cause gimbal issues mid-flight and cause poor gimbal movements and sometimes even cause the gimbal to reset mid-flight.

These heavy filters that don’t pass the calibration are still being sold, unless you are really tight on money, don’t buy them. They are the cheapest ones, but if you fly your Mavic enough to want to purchase filters, spend the extra few bucks and buy ones that pass the start-up calibration. Also even if the listing says “Passes Start-up Calibration” make sure to read the reviews and see if it actually does.

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Set of 4 ND PL Filters for Mavic Pro and Mavic Pro Platinum Drones by DJI

2. The Best Mavic Filters are ND + PL

ND stands for Neutral Density Filter – Which acts like sunglasses for you Mavic Pro. They will darken what the camera sees so you can use a lower shutter speed so your footage looks smoother and more cinematic. They are rated by how strong (how dark) they are, the higher the number the stronger or darker they are. Commonly sold are ND4 up to ND64 for the Mavic Pro.

PL stands for Polarizing Filter – This type of filter reduces glare and brings out better saturation and clarity in your photos and videos, especially when filming around water.

ND+PL Filters have both in one filter – These Mavic Pro Filter are the best of both. You will get the nice saturation and clarity from the PL and you will be able to control the shutter speed and exposure with the ND.

For my personal style and taste, I would always choose ND+PL filters. I think a polarizer makes just about everything look better.

Bonus tip: If you don’t like what a polarizer is doing to your shot, but you need the ND effect of the filter, you can just rotate the ND/PL a quarter turn (90° either direction) and the polarizing will not happen and it will act just like a standard ND filter without the PL effects.

Related Article: Best Travel Drones Compared & Drone Tips


Top Down view of Mavic Pro Filters and Drone

3. Get a larger filter set for your Mavic Pro

The third most important thing to consider before buying filters for a Mavic Pro or Mavic Pro Platinum is to buy as large of a filter kit as you can afford. The bigger the better obviously, but here is why. In a larger filter kit, you will get a wider range of ND filters so you can choose the right one for how bright your scene is. The light changes all day long and from day to day – if you want the best footage – more filters the better. I have this filter set which has ever filter I need.

The Filters I use the most:

ND32+PL – For bright midday sun. I find during the day I use this filter more than any other because it darkens my shot enough so I can use a shutter speed of 1/60 when I am shooting 30 frames per second which is the right ratio. More on shutter speed vs. frame rate settings on Mavic Pro below.

ND8+PL – My second most used filter is the ND8+PL because for days where it isn’t as sunny this gets my scene right for the correct shutter speed. I shoot primarily 4k at 30fps, if you shoot at 60fps you may find a lower strength filter like and ND4.

PL – I love to fly and film things at sunrise and sunset, everything looks great then, but I don’t need to darken the scene with an ND filter. The PL filter will make the clouds crisper and help bring out the colors of the sky. I use this filter when I don’t need the scene to be darker to adjust my shutter speed.

These generally work, but if you had the ND strengths in between you can really dial in your settings for the best possible footage. Other filters that are great to have are ND16+PL, ND4+PL, ND64+PL.


Best Mavic Pro Filters 2018

BrandMavic Filters includedPass Start up Cal.RatingPriceCheck Availability
SANDMARCPL, ND4/PL, ND8/PL, ND16/PL, ND32/PL, ND64/PYes4.9$139.99Check Prices
SANDMARCND4/PL, ND8/PL, ND16/PL, ND32/PLYes4.7$99.99Check Prices
PolarProND4/PL, ND8/PL, ND16/PL, ND8, ND16, ND32Yes4.1$149.99Check Prices
PolarProND4/PL, ND8/PL, ND16/PLYes4.6 $79.99Check Prices
PolarProND32/PLYes4.8$29.99Check Prices
SKYREATUV, ND4/PL, ND8/PL, ND16/PLYes4.5$49.99Check Prices

Mavic Pro Filter Review

I personally use and have been very happy with the SANDMARC Pro Plus filters for Mavic Pro. This filter pack is always in my bag and the footage I am getting from these filters looks great.

Sandmarc DJI Mavic Filters with drone

The kit comes with a nice heavy plastic case that holds all 6 filters with a closed cell foam holder inside. The kit comes with PL, ND4+PL, ND8+PL, ND16+PL, ND32+PL, and ND64+PL.

The filters fit nice and snuggly on the camera but are not difficult to install or remove. The quality looks good and the rings are metallic, not foam like other cheaper versions.

The one minor complaint I would have about these filters is the polarization isn’t marked to help line it up on the camera. This isn’t a huge issue I have just found the point and marked it myself.

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Why do you need Mavic Pro Filters?

Filters for your Mavic are one of the best accessories you can buy that will truly improve your footage. Once you put these on for the first time you’ll see how much better everything looks and you won’t want to fly with them again. Here is a bit about what each filter does and when to use it.

Why do you need PL or Polarizer Filters for Mavic Pro?

If you are looking for better saturation and fewer reflections while flying over water you are going to want a PL filter for your Mavic.

Why do you Need ND Filters for you Mavic Pro?

If you fly your Mavic Pro a lot during the day in bright conditions you are going to want ND filters for more cinematic footage from your Mavic.

Why do you need ND+PL filters for Mavic Pro?

The best filters are both ND & PL filters. With this type of filter, you will get the great looking water and landscapes from the PL filter and the ND portion will darken the whole frame so you can use slower shutter speed for better looking cinematic shots.

When to use ND Filters on the Mavic Pro

ND filters are used to reduce the overall brightness of what the camera sees so you can properly adjust the Mavic’s camera to the correct shutter speed for better more cinematic footage.

  • ND64 – For extremely bright days with light colored subjects, like a sandy beach.
  • ND32 – Best for very bright, full sun days.
  • ND16 – For partly cloudy days or early to mid-morning, medium light.
  • ND8 – For partly to mostly cloudy days or approaching sunset or after sunrise.
  • ND4 – For a minor reduction in brightness to adjust shutter speed.

When to use PL Filters on your Mavic Pro

Unless the light is too low, I will just about always use a PL Filter on my Mavic if I can. I prefer the footage that comes out of the Mavic with a PL filter on at just about all times of the day. This is also why I like to use ND+PL filters so I can have polarization plus the ND filter to adjust my shutter speed.


Understanding Shutter Speed vs Frame Rate with Mavic Pro

One of the main reason you may want filters for your Mavic drone is to control your shutter speed for more cinematic footage. The most widely accepted rule of shutter speed vs frame rate is that your shutter speed should be double your frame rate.

Why? This has been studied by Hollywood for years and this ratio gives the most natural and realistic motion blur. Our eyes and brains are programmed to assume when things are moving they are going to have just a slight amount of motion blur or unsharpness to them. This is also called the 180° rule, which involves a fancy formula – but it’s easier to remember to just double your frame rate.

  • When a shutter speed is too slow like 1/30 at 30fps there is too much blur the footage can look soft or unsharp.
  • When the shutter speed is too high like 1/1000 at 30fps there will be no motion blur and look unrealistic and just weird (soap opera like). This can look especially choppy when speeding up the footage while editing.
  • The proper ratio you should always try to achieve in your Mavic footage is 2:1. For 30fps this should be 1/60 shutter speed, and for 60fps it should be 1/125 (in this case 1/120 does not exist and the 1/125 is the closest match and perfectly acceptable).
  • If you don’t have a big filter kit with every strength filter, you can usually make up for it with adjusting your ISO settings up while using a stronger filter. Even if you can get it exactly at 2:1, the closer you are the better the footage should look.

Getting your shutter speeds vs frame rate right is even more important on a drone than on a normal camera because the drone is almost always moving creating motion. Also, the Mavic moves very fast and if your shutter speed is too high the footage can start to look very choppy, this is also made worst when you speed ramp and speed up footage when your subject is close. Too fast of frame rate has ruined footage for me to the point when it gives you a headache to watch.


How to install Mavic Pro and Mavic Pro Platinum Filters

You might think you can simply take the filter out of the case stick it on the camera and fly. This is not always the case. Here is how to install filters on the Mavic Pro based on the type of filter.

If you are using PL or ND+PL filter – They are directional and you need to put them on the camera is a very specific way. The lines of polarization need to be lined up correctly to the camera. That’s why it’s best to buy filers that are marked, they will have a line or small marking and you put that mark at the top of the camera lens when you install it and then it’s right. If you choose a filter kit without these lines, you can find the right spot on the filter and mark it yourself.

If you are using Start-up Compatible Filters for the Mavic Pro – I like to push these on while the gimbal clamp is still installed to ensure I don’t mess with the gimbal. Make sure it is fully installed to maintain good balance on the gimbal. Make sure if the filter is a PL or ND+PL filter that it is orientated to the camera properly.

If you are using the old style or a cheaper version that is not Start-up compatible – First remove the gimbal clamp and cover and turn on the Mavic Pro just like normal. Wait for the gimbal to finish its calibration. Very gently hold the bottom of the camera without moving its position with one hand. With the other hand push the filter (properly orientated to the camera) on over the lens of the camera making sure it is fully installed. If it is not fully pushed on it can overload the gimbal or cause other issues in flight.


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13 thoughts on “3 Things to Know Before Buying Mavic Pro Filters – ND & PL

  1. I purchased a set of Sandmarc filters for my Mavic Pro. Using your advice on installing them I find no difference when I rotate the filter. No matter how I rotate it looks the same. I would think that if it made a difference how you installed it that Sandmarc would have given installation instructions with the purchase of their product.

    • The filters are definitely directional. You need to rotate them as you look at something with a reflection like water. As you rotate the Mavic filters you will see the glare greatly reduce at certain points, the filter then needs to be installed on the Mavic in this same orientation. If you have no lake or sea where you are flying, the do the same thing when looking at the sky with some clouds. At some point, the sky will become more saturated (richer colors). Sometimes the difference is hard to spot right away and the effect only happens in about 10 degrees of rotation. Try to do this again near water or on a bright day with a few clouds in the sky and spin the filter slowly to see the difference.

    • Sandmarc has two lines of filters for the Mavic Pro: Aerial Filters and Pro filters. The Aerial Filters (currently about $70 on Amazon) include three ND and one PL, so only the PL will have any effect when rotating it. The Pro Filters ($100 for 4 on Amazon, $140 for 6 on sandmarc.com) combines the ND and PL on each filter, so all of these will show the effect when rotating. Which line did you purchase?

      Polarization follows a 90 degree “rule of thumb” and it’s quite literally one you can use your thumb to figure out! Simply make an L shape with your thumb and index finger, then point your thumb directly at the Sun (so the shadow of your thumb lines up with your thumb). Keeping your thumb pointed at the sun, your index finger will now point to the part of the sky where using a polarizing filter is most effective. That’s where you want to be looking when rotating the filter to see the effect.

      • I have several sets of various filters from both companies, but I find myself using the Sandmarc ND/PL almost everytime on my Mavic drone. Polar Pro makes good filters too, I use them on my Phantoms. I just like having the large 6 piece filter set and I can always get the shutter speed to what I want with the multiple steps of ND levels. Plus, I personally think most scenes are improved by a polarizing filter on the drone, it rare when I don’t use one.

        For choosing the rotation of the filter I generally rotate the filter in front of my eye and confirm the strongest polarization that way.

  2. You should add something about the disadvantages of the polarisation of your footage. I can’t imagine using it on a drone, because they only work correctly in the direction they are adjusted (rotated) for. So when your turn the drone to film or take shots in another direction you have to land first and re-adjust the filter correctly for the new shooting/filming direction.

    If the pol filter is not correctly rotated for the direction you are shooting in, it either wont have any effect at all (besides as a general ND filter) or you will see the effect only in half the picture which looks really ugly.

    • I think you might be miss understanding how these polarizing filters work with the Mavic or other drones. The polarizer is placed on to the camera lens and does not move or change angles in flight. So, as long as you put it on correctly it will be right no matter what you do with the drone. The Mavic’s camera is attached to a gimbal that keeps the camera steady and level with the ground no matter which direction you point the drone doesn’t matter the angle of the polarizer is set when you put it on.

      Another thing to note is that the Mavic can take portrait orientation photos by rotating the camera itself 90 degrees with the filter on it. Therefore the filter rotates 90 degrees which removes the polarizing effect, but will not result in a partially polarized image because at 90 degrees the polarization strength would be zero.

      • Hi Adam,
        When you say ‘Therefore the filter rotates 90 degrees which removes the polarizing effect, but will not result in a partially polarized image because at 90 degrees the polarization strength would be zero.’ does that mean that if the ND/PL filter is rotated at 90 degrees this removes the polarizing effect, but is that polarizing effect removed at any angle/direction the drone is flying at or only during a specific direction?
        I bought the PolarPro ND/PL vivid collection and not sure if I should keep them or send them back and get just the ND ones. What youd be your advice?
        Also, mainly want to try and get shots like the below link (apparently shot on an ND32), how different would this look with an ND/PL16 for example? I think this looks amazing as it is.

        Many thanks in advance,

        SD

        • Personally, I would only buy ND/PL filters – mostly to get shots like this. An ND only filter would be capable to get a shot like you have linked to, but only when shot straight down where the camera will not see the glare on the water. If you were to shoot this scene with the camera facing out instead of down you would have a chance for glare on the water and the PL filter would cut that and make the water look like it does in your picture, where ND only filters would not. To get those great colors in the water and in the skies you really need a PL filter for your Mavic.

          When I was talking about rotating 90 degrees I was referring to switching to the portrait mode of the Mavic. I generally install my PL/ND filters so they work in normal horizontal 16:9 orientation. If you switch the camera to portrait while flying you will not get the polarizing effect but the ND will still work.

    • Yes, the polarization point is pretty easy to find. You can use a reflective surface, like water to check the point – or – you can use a smart phone looking through the filter at the device to see where the screen becomes very dark. If you don’t have either of these you can look through the filter at the sky and rotate it until you find a spot where the sky becomes more saturated and the clouds more crisp. When you are happy with your point you can mark it by putting a small scratch on the rim of the filter.

    • You’ll be amazed how much better the footage looks with filters for the Mavic. ND filters you really need anytime you a flying during the day and the polarizer makes everything look better but especially tropical water.

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