Whether you’re a new or avid drone pilot, one way to up your footage quality is through the use of drone filters. Just like for your terrestrial camera, optical lens filters make a huge difference. Let me show you what drone filters can do for you with the K&F CONCEPT filter kit.
K&F CONCEPT recently reached out to Fstoppers to offer drone filters for us to review. For the past year, I have been playing with adding aerial video to my portfolio via flying a DJI Mini Pro 3. I have tried a few filter types and with the K&F CONCEPTS full kit, I could test everything all at once, back-to-back to really see how filters can affect what we create. I brought the filters with me on my recent Alaska assignment and I am excited to share the results with you. I tried out each one with photos and video so no matter what kind of pilot you are, you can see just what each filter does.
How Can Drone Filters Help You Create Better Content?
Firstly, I will explain drone filters to anyone new to them. There are a number of different types of optical lens filters for drones. Filters for the DJI Mini 3 Pro drones are a piece of glass or resin mounted in a rounded edge rectangle to match the gimbal where the camera is. They lightly twist onto the drone’s camera lens; it’s very easy to install them. Each filter type is for a different use and therefore gives you a different effect.
Circular Polarizer Filter (CPL)
My favorite filter type whether it is for regular cameras or drone cameras is a circular polarizing filter which is abbreviated as CPL. All CPL filters utilize a coating or thin layer to reduce glare, enhance saturation, and clear through haze and reflections. If you only ever use one filter, this would be it. With a CPL on, whether you are creating a photo or video, your footage will have stronger colors, more accurate skies, more lush foliage, and reflective surfaces like water, glass, or metal will appear clear and vibrant. Because these filters are circular, you can twist them to control how strong or weak the polarization effect appears in your scene. Here is a video that I created to illustrate what a CPL does:
Neutral Density (ND)
The next drone filter type is called a Neutral Density or ND filter. ND filters are darkened glass. They come in a variety of strengths from lighter to darker. You may know of these filters from their use with stills cameras like your DSLR or mirrorless for long exposures to create silky water effects. Just like with a traditional camera, long exposures can be done on a calm windless day with your drone. Contrary to their use in stills though, with video, ND filters serve a different but essential purpose. When you use your drone to capture video footage bright sunlight limits what settings you can use. When up high it is often so bright that your footage looks overexposed. To combat this, the application of an ND filter darkens the entire scene allowing you a wider range of settings to choose from. You can still play with motion blur or creative effects too by using a stronger ND filter. Here is a list of the types and what they are best used for:
- ND8 Best for mostly cloudy conditions - reduces 3 stops or 1/8 of light
- ND16 Best for party cloudy - reduces 4 stops or 1/16 of light
- ND32 Best for bright sun or snow - reduces 5 stops or 1/32 of light
- ND64 Best for extreme brightness, slowing of shutter speed - reduces 6 stops or 1/64 of light
The Braided Rivers of Alaska
To put the K&F CONCEPT drone filter kit to the test I brought it with me on my recent Alaska assignment. The Alaskan landscape is full of ancient evergreen trees from larch to spruce woven through braided rivers. Many of the summertime streams are seasonal glacial runoff. The form twists and turns that intersect like braids. The lush forests and braided waterways at the foot of giant mountains and glaciers were a perfect playground for drone filter testing. I found an area outside of any flight restrictions and flew over the streams and rivers. With rapidly changing light conditions I chose the ND16 to darken the scene. Without an ND filter, my sky would be overexposed and I would lose the cloud detail.
As a storm blew in heavy rain started so I recalled the drone and headed back to the road. It wasn’t long before the rain passed. As I was driving I saw a huge rainbow! I have photographed rainbows before so I knew a crucial fact about using CPL filters with them. CPL filters which we know remove haze, glare, and reflections will also remove a rainbow from your scene. As the name says, these products filter the light, and the phenomenon of a rainbow is included. But you also want the effect of a CPL when photographing. So what to do? Well instead of turning the filter completely “on” or to its full effect, I just turn the circular portion to a low polarization setting. This way I get that punch everywhere else but don’t lose my rainbow.
I found a safe place to park and sent the drone up with the CPL set to low. It was a wide rainbow arching over the twisting rivers. To capture it all I created a manual panoramic image by moving the drone slightly to the side with each frame. I kept 1/3 of the scene the same with the new part of the scene taking the other 2/3. This way I could seamlessly blend it later in post-production. The rainbow was so fleeting, lasting only a few moments. I just got a few panoramic sets before it faded away. What a great way to end my trip and filter testing!
K&F CONCEPT as a Company
Happy with my results I returned home with memory cards full of photos and videos to process. Before this assignment, I hadn’t used any products by K&F CONCEPT. While rendering my clips, I researched the company to learn about them and what other items they offer. I learned that in addition to drone accessories, K&F CONCEPT makes traditional camera accessories, including filters, tripods, backpacks, lens adapters, and more. They even hold over 150 patents and have won the German Red Dot Product Design Award and German IF Product Design Award among others. With solution-based designs at the forefront, I was happy to see that K&F CONCEPT also has a blog full of free tutorials. It is a wealth of information not only on their products but with many “how to” and informative articles on a variety of photography issues and topics. Clearly they not only take pride in their designs but are dedicated to helping photographers and videographers create their best work too.
K&F CONCEPT Drone Filters
When looking specifically at drone filters, K&F CONCEPT offers a range of kits for these drone models:
DJI Mini / Mini SE / Mini 2 / Mini 2 SE / Mini 3 / Mini 3 PRO
DJI Air 2S / Air 3
DJI Mavic 3 Classic / Mavic 3 / Mavic 3 Pro
For my testing, I exclusively used the DJI Mini 3 Pro drone. The exact main filter set that I tested was the “DJI Drone Filter Mini 3 Pro HD Filter 6pcs Set (UV+CPL+ND8+ND16+ND32+ND64) with 28 Layer Anti-reflection Green Coating, Waterproof, and Scratchproof.” They also sent me the separate ND4 and ND1000 so that if conditions arose, I could test a full range of light conditions. In my testing in Alaska however it was partly cloudy to rainy almost every day, so for me, the CPL, ND8, and ND16 suited those specific conditions. I am glad that they offer such a wide range of filters so that no matter what light you have or creative scene you want to create, there is a filter for you.
My overall impression of the K&F CONCEPT filters was that they are a great addition to a drone pilot’s kit. It was good practice for me to play around with different filters and explore settings and creative ways to make videos and photos with the drone. The CPL was definitely my favorite! Although my set did not have it, I saw on their site that K&F CONCEPT also offers a filter kit where the ND filters have a built-in CPL. I would definitely recommend that kit so that you can polarize and darken your scene at the same time. If you would like to grab a filter kit for your drone there are links throughout the article and you can find all of the drone filters that I tested as well as the CPL ND kit here: