Review of the Snake River Prototyping DJI Inspire 1/Osmo X3 ND/Circular Polarizer 8, 16 and graduated 8-16 filters.
ND8/CP - $60
ND16/CP - $60
Graduated ND8-16 - $60
If you get the first two together, its $115
ND filters help reduce the light and as a result, lower the shutter speed. What this does is to make fast things, such as a waterfall or a propeller look less choppy and blurs them, suggesting a sense of speed. This also helps reduce or eliminate the sight of propellers of the drone when the camera is tilting up and also the feeling of dizziness/choppiness when the camera is panning fast.
Polarizers help darken the skies, reduce the reflections in water and glass, and work also as a light ND filter.
What SRP has done with the first two products is combine an ND filter and a polarizer, which is something I haven’t seen yet, but now that I’m aware, I’ve noticed PolarPro, their competitor, offer a few for their X5 series lineup.
For the reviews below, I will be mainly referring to video and not photography unless otherwise stated
The ND8/CP is perfect for cloudy days, or shooting in shadows. This allows a shutter speed of around 1/60 (60th)of a second at ISO 100, which is the optimal shutter speed for shooting at 30 fps and optimal ISO for image quality.
The rule is to always shoot around twice the fps. I almost always shoot at 4K so that is my go to shutter speed. This is also good for shooting sun lit scenes, which bumps up the shutter speed to you to 120th. This is still much better than shooting without one or using the ND4 filter that came with the drone.
What’s so good about this is the added benefit of the Circular Polarizer, which renders the blue skies in a marvelous and surreal darker hue. It really gives you that DSLR CP effect on this small camera.
If you are shooting stills, 120th should be fine granted that your drone is not moving, but you should take several just to be safe or bump up to ISO 200 if you’re not sure and shoot at 240th.
The ND16/CP is perfect for shooting things lit by the sun on a sunny day and it should keep a shutters speed of 1/60 at ISO 100. It should also be good for snowy scenes under the sun. I found the CP to be equally amazing as the ND8/CP.
The Graduated ND 8-16 filter is for those times where you want to tone down the skies (stuff on the upper half of the frame/ND16) and leave the lower part toned down less (ND8). I liked the idea of a Graduated ND filter but it’s a one-stop difference, from 8 to 16, and it was a bit too subtle to me. In fact it I initially couldn’t even see the difference as I rotated the wheel.
I took me a while to figure out its efficacy. The best way for me was to look at the histogram. When the darker part of the filter was on the top, you can see the highlights being brought back, changing the histogram.
I felt one of the best uses of this filter was to use it during a cloudy day or cloudy sunset, preferably not aiming directly at the sun. During these times, the skies are not much brighter than the ground so this slight graduation has a good effect. If it’s used in very contrasty scenes, its efficacy is subdued. This includes shooting directly at clear sunsets that usually renders closer objects as silhouettes. It still will work although almost negligible.
Conclusion: If I had to choose one filter, it would be the ND8/CP. It’s versatile and the CP portion of it makes the skies magnificent. Its equally useful dual purpose is well worth the $60. If you’re an avid videographer, I would recommend also getting the ND16/CP.