The DJI Spark is a fantastic tiny drone, but it comes with its limitations. To maximize the quality of your images and have more control freedom over your settings, you better be ready to invest in a couple of accessories. One of the first items I’d recommend are ND filters allowing you to adjust your shutter speed and ISO however you like instead of being forced into specific settings because of the lighting conditions. I’ve had the opportunity to try out the PolarPro Cinema Series filters for a little while now and here’s why they are an absolute must in your kit.
PolarPro is a company specializing in the design of accessories that help you create better images and videos. They create equipment for Drone, GoPro, and also offer software solutions. The Cinema Series filters they created for the Spark are designed explicitly for this drone. If you own any other drone from DJI, it’s more than likely that they have similar versions for your model. In fact, Jordan Bush already reviewed the ones for the Phantom.
The filters come in a lovely box with a transparent lid and custom cut foam inside to keep your filters safe and visible. The DJI Spark is small in itself, so I wasn’t expecting big ND or polarizer filters, but they are incredibly tiny and light! The box in your bag won’t make any difference. But because they are so compact doesn’t mean they are flimsy.
Due to its size, the attachment doesn’t feel incredibly robust. You better handle them with care. But that’s the case with any optical part of a camera system anyway. The attachment is very smart and makes it easy to put on or remove the filters from the Spark. The ND filters are straightforward in their conception, but the polarizers are a bit more complicated as they are circular polarizer filters. You can rotate the filter to adjust the effect to your needs.
In the Cinema Series 6 pack I have, there are three different ND filters and three polarizers. The NDs allow you to cut three, four, or five stops of light. This means that you can bring your shutter speed down from something like 1/1,600s to 1/50s. So even in the bright sunlight you can create more cinematic looking videos and forget about the overly sharp look you would usually get with the Spark. In some cases, you could even bring the shutter speed to an even slower setting to give the impression of your drone moving faster than it actually does as you’ll get more motion blur.
The polarizer filters included will also work as ND filters and cut the light by two, three, or four stops. As previously stated, they can be rotated to adjust the effect they have. A circular polarizer filter allows you to diminish the glare on highly reflective surfaces. By setting it in the correct position, you could even cut the reflection of water or windows and see through it. Polarizer filters also tend to boost contrast and saturation – which is excellent in some cases to recover some of the blues of the sky. However, with the Spark, I don’t find to be extremely useful, but almost the opposite as the files tend to be already overly contrasty and saturated making it challenging to color grade them. I’d use these filters more in cases that I need to cut the glare or diminish a reflection rather than to boost saturation and contrast with the DJI Spark.
Using Them in the Real World
The filters don’t need much explanation to attach and start working with them. The filters just snap onto the camera, and you’re ready to fly. That’s it! At least, that’s what I thought as I started using the ND filters before the polarizer ones. Then, when I used the polarizer filters, I was surprised to discover some of my footage was half black.
It’s not a camera issue or a filter problem. It’s just because the polarizer filters can rotate; they cover only the lens itself and not all the front part of the camera. So if you put the polarizer filter upside down as I did, you’ll end up with half of your clips totally dark. So before you fly, be sure to check your screen correctly and not just record in a rush.
Filters tend to give images a color cast or increase the chance of having flare. In this case, I didn’t notice a considerable difference when adding the filter. The only difference looking at the clips from the video above is that in some shots, the flare is actually less noticeable with the filters. When shooting straight into the sun, apparently there was a little more flare, but with the Spark shooting in the sun is a recipe for disaster as it doesn't have a large enough dynamic range anyway. Regarding colors, comparing the sequences shot with and without filters at the same place, I like the ones with the filters better. They seem a little bit more neutral. Note, however, that it's hard to compare the color change accurately as the color of the light was changing quickly with the sun setting down – I shot with the filters first, and then without. So the difference may just as well be caused by the lighting difference, same as far as the contrast difference goes.
Being that they are so compact, even in their box, is excellent because you can throw them in your bag with your DJI Spark and your remote controller, they won’t make any difference in weight or space. I loved them for that because they give me more control over my drone without changing anything in my workflow.
The Cinema Series 6 pack is available for $149.99. For that price, some may argue you’d be better off adding another $150 and get a DJI Mavic so that you can shoot with a flatter profile and have more options. And it’s not wrong, but you’ll need ND filters on a Mavic just as much as you do on the Spark. Being able to shoot at 1/50s in bright sunlight will require filters with most drones available on the market.
If the price is too steep, you may consider the ND filters pack called Cinema Series Shutter Collection. It’s only $79.99 and contains the same ND filters but none of the polarizer filters. While the latter are probably more than useful with drones that produce footage that you can actually alter in post-production, they are not the most necessary filters for the Spark.
What I Liked
- Affordable price for the difference it makes on the final images and sequences
- Robust and practical box to carry all the filters
- Filters are easy to strap on the drone
- Vast range of ND and polarizer filter strength
What Could Be Improved
- I wish the polarizer filters could be put on in any sense to avoid the half black sequences I had
- I’m not sure the polarizer filters are handy for the Spark, but that might be just me
If you own a Spark and are looking to bring your footage to the next level by increasing the degree of creative freedom you have, the PolarPro ND filters are definitely an accessory you should consider investing in. Easy to use, lightweight, and affordable, they’ll change the way you can set up your drone and how your sequences look. You can finally get that smoother cinematic look you wanted with your tiny little drone!