When I was researching where I could get the best Neutral Density filters to accommodate my newly acquired Mavic Pro quadcopter from DJI, I came across PolarPro in the forums.
People recommended them and their great customer service so I reached out to them and they kindly provided us with a slew of products that are quite essential to Mavic owners.
Today we are looking at a set of ND filters from their Vivid Collection, the Mavic Leg Extensions and a compact hard case for all of the Mavic gear.
Let’s start with the ND filters.
Even if you’re new to drone video you’ll probably know by now the value of having neutral density filters to bring down the shutter speed to around twice the frame rate of the video you’re shooting.
That will give you the smoothest video. And there are other benefits as well: ND filters are great for removing glare and increasing color saturation. They also provide some additional protection for the camera lens and in the case of the PolarPro filters they add a touch of class to the glass with the gold trim of the aluminium.
This particular set includes the ND4/PL, ND8/PL and ND16/PL filters, which are the more essential ones for daily operations. If you work in very bright conditions like snow, there is also a set that brings the f-stops even further down.
The PL designation points to the fact that these are polarizing filters as well which are greatly able to reduce glare when flying over water or snow. The ND4 brings down the shutter speed by 2 f-stops, the ND8 by 3 f-stops and the ND16 by 4.
Typically you’d use the ND4 on cloudy or overcast days or at dawn or dusk.
The ND8 is great in partly cloudy conditions and the ND16 on bright, sunny days.
Fitting the very lightweight but sturdy filters needs to be done carefully, given the relative fragility of the gimballed camera system. I found that using the gimbal clamp behind the camera gives a bit extra stability when fitting.
The good thing is that because the PolarPro filters are so extremely light (just over 1 gram!) you can leave them on during the start-up when the camera rotates around quite rapidly.
The glass on the filters is optically perfect with the highest grade glass and coatings.
In the weeks of testing we can confirm that the video does come out smoother because our eyes are used to seeing motion blur. The filters trick the camera in thinking it’s darker outside, thus lengthening the exposure time. Depending on what sort of scenes you’re filming you’ll also notice an increase in colour saturation.
Your stills will not typically improve much (except for polarisation benefits when you fly over highly reflective surfaces). Neutral Density filter are mainly aimed at the video side of things.
If knowing when to use these ND filters sounds like black magic, the PolarPro app will take away any need for calculations.
They only calculation to make is whether you have 80 bucks US left in your bank account for this set.
Now I still need to find a way to get rid of the moiré in some of the shots that have corrugated iron rooftops...
Mavic Leg Extensions
Well, the Mavic Pro keeps a low profile when sitting on the ground and that can pose problems for the camera and props when taking off from high grass or rocky ground. Adding another 1.5 inches to the Mavic’s stance makes total sense for those situations.
What PolarPro’s offers are some high quality, good looking extensions that are easy to clip on the arms at the back and onto the front legs.
They add also an awesome “praying mantis” look to the Mavic. They weigh next to nothing and don’t impede the flying. And, in case of a hard landing, these extensions may even be a lifesaver!
And these glass filled nylon extensions are cheap enough at not even 20 bucks US.
The PolarPro Mavic Hard Case
I know, I know, the beauty of the Mavic is that it is so small, portable and tough that you can chuck it in just about any bag. But add things like spare batteries, extra props, charger, filters, leg extensions etc and you’ll want to get organised. A hard case is probably the best protection if the case itself is sturdy enough.
We have reviewed some heavy duty cases for the Phantom series but even though this PolarPro branded hard case did a good job of fitting in the basic stuff, there were two problems.
First, when I opened the case the foam cut-outs smelled terribly from the glue used. I aired the case for several days but the smell did not go away. We used Borax and other smell absorbent stuff and that helped a little bit and finally resorted to spraying the inside with some tea tree mixture.
That helped the most but after several weeks the smell still lingers albeit much less.
The other issue was that one of the plastic hinge clips broke off so that the case can now only be closed with one clip... Which also means that it is not watertight anymore.
Obviously the case is made from rather cheap material despite the claim “Engineered to be the toughest DJI Mavic case”. It clearly isn’t and I had expected more for close to USD80.
Maybe you’ll have better luck with this case than we had but we can’t really recommend this one. It’s a pity as I do like the compactness of this case (Dimensions: 13 x 12 x 5 inch.| Weight: 4 lbs. 6 oz.). You can give it a try as the case comes with a lifetime warranty for some peace of mind.
All the basics will find a place – even the filter set which doesn’t fit in any of the slots but can be left on the top together with the DJI controller hood.
We have not tested out the Drone Trekker Backpack which will fit a lot more and will leave both hands free. Perhaps another day.
Here’s the link to the PolarPro site to these items and all the other gear they have to make your outdoor photography a successful adventure.