Virtually every sUAV/RTF drone in the air uses the same image processing chip and most have similar lenses. None of them are ideal, and they all operate at very high shutter speeds. None of them allow for shutter speed control, and as a result, it's up to the user to slow the shutter speed. This can only be done through the use of filters.
At this time there is no stock UAV/Drone camera that operates out of the box, to its full potential.
There are three types of filters that benefit UAV/drone operators.
Each of these filters serve a particular purpose.
Polarizers reduce the glare found in a scene. This is particularly useful when flying over water or objects that have a lot of shine (waxed cars, metalic surfaces). UAV/Drones do not use circular polarizers that are popular with photographers; drone systems use linear polarizers so that the angle doesn't need to be adjusted.
Neutral Density filters allow us to control the exposure, therefore slowing the shutter speed. Most POV/Action cameras/drone cameras shoot at very high shutter speeds which incur nasty contrasts on detail edges, shadows that are unrealistically crisp, and create a sense of unnatural movement. We want our shutter to be operating at less than 1/500 of a second, and the only way to achieve this in small UAV/Drones is to use a Neutral Density filter. Neutral Density filters do not affect color in any way (hence the name "neutral density"); it merely slows/stops the light from hitting the sensor, forcing the camera to allow for a slower shutter speed, giving an image more natural in contrast and blur to the human eye.
Gradient Filters allow us to enhance the sunset, enhance a skyline, or enhance a sky while exposing for the ground. These filters require a specific angle of installation on the drone camera (simply be sure the colored sectional line is horizontal).
Gradient filters also allow for creative adjustment of color. Put a Sunset gradient on during a midday or early morning flight, or put a blue gradient during a sunset to shift the light for creative purposes.
So...how do you know which filter to use when? We've got a handy chart to help you with that!
The ND8, ND8/PL, ND16, and ND16/PL are the most commonly used/needed filters for UAV use.
Check out this video! (best viewed in 4K and full screen, this is a manually-flown example of how the filters work. Forgive the lack of uniformity; it was so hot our tablets melted down and we were flying blind in the 119 degree heat!)
Filters do more than enhance our images and save time in post-production/video editing. They also protect the very expensive camera lens on the front of your UAV camera.
Speaking of protection, remember to keep a DronePen in your UAV case at all times! Clean the lense prior to and after each flight to protect the lens and keep your image dust-free!
We are proud to be partnered with Polar Pro, and highly recommend their products for UAV flight for best photography. Visit one of our Drones Plus stores in Hollywood, Las Vegas, Dallas, Toronto, Portland, or Seattle, and our drone experts will be pleased to share even more information with you!
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