review

Drone Filters by PolarPro Review

In the world of videography there is a term which is quite often used, and that is the ‘180 degree shutter rule'. This 'rule' suggests that your shutter speed should be double your frame rate, so if you are shooting at 30 fps, then you should try and achieve a shutter speed of 1/60th of a second; allowing the viewers eyes to view motion in a natural manner and create a ‘cinematic look’ to your video.

One way this can be achieved is by closing down the aperture of the lens, however there are two factors which will have an affect on your ability to get the required shutter speed. The first is the aperture you may actually want to use, whether that be for artistic reasons or to get the required depth of field. If you want a shallow depth of field then you will need to use quite a large aperture of say f/2.8, which will also let more light through the lens to the sensor. The second is the available light you are working under, so once you have chosen the aperture you want to film with, the amount of light coming through the lens to the sensor may be too much, and you won’t be able to achieve the correct shutter speed for the frame rate you are working with.

So once you have chosen your frame rate, aperture, ISO and set the shutter speed to correctly expose the scene, only to find out that the shutter speed is too fast, what can you do? You can use a neutral density (ND) filter which allows you to decrease the amount of light getting through the lens by varying degrees.

A couple of months ago I received a DJI Mavic 2 Pro (M2P) drone for my birthday as I wanted to start creating video alongside my stills photography. The lens on the M2P has a variable aperture from f/2.8 to f/11 so you would think that you should be okay and be able to achieve the correct frame rate/shutter speed combination. Unfortunately this is not quite the case. An aperture of f/11 may not be small enough in bright sunshine. Also, doing tests with the different apertures of the M2P a conclusion is that sharpness starts to fall off after f/5.6, so you probably won’t want to go beyond that in the first place.

Basically I believe that to achieve a cinematic feel to the video from your drone you need to purchase some ND filters. Being a newcomer to the world of drones I didn’t know who made filters for my M2P, however after some research it seemed to be that one of the best manufactures out there is PolarPro. From here I headed over to the PolarPro website to see what filters they had for my drone.

PolarPro sell seven different packs of filters from their Cinema Series for the M2P, from the Exposure Collection which comes with three filters (7, 8 and 10 stop ND), through to the Cinematographers Collections which comes with 10 filters (2 - 5 stop ND and 2-5 stop ND/PL - polariser). In the end I decided to purchase their ‘6 Pack’ which as you would guess comes with six filters, comprising of 2, 3 and 4 stop ND filters and 2, 3 and 4 stop ND/PL filters. You can also purchase this set in two halves, the Shutter Collection being the ND’s and the Vivid Collections being the ND/PL’s. I chose the complete set as I knew I would most likely be filming over water or under blue skies at some point so the polarising filters would allow me to cut glare and deepen blue skies, and they also increase colour saturation a little.

The Packaging

Usually a sign of a good product is in the packaging, and the PolarPro filter packaging is very good indeed. A nice card box with quality printing and a magnetised cover on the front opens to reveal a plastic window showing the filters inside.

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Inside The Packaging

Upon opening the box you will find a plastic tray which holds the plastic box containing the filters, a small plastic tool for removing filters from the drone (more on this later) and a small envelope contains a filter cloth, user guide, marketing material and a lifetime warranty card.

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The Filter Box

The box containing the filters is very well made with a strong plastic, and has a hinge opening and magnetic closure. Unfortunately though, the fact that PolarPro have decided to use magnets to keep box shut could be problematic. This is because magnets being close to your drone can cause problems with its compass, so a good idea would be to make sure that when installing or changing filters that the box is a reasonable distance away from your drone. The filters themselves are held in place nicely, can be removed easily and should not move around in transit.

On the image below you will see the ND filters on the left and the ND/PL filters on the right. The ND/PL filters are the circular polariser type which you rotate to get the desired amount of polarisation.

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The Filters

The filters are made from aircraft aluminium, with glass which is said to have a low refractive index, colour neutrality and perfect target transmission (taken from the PolarPro website), so you would expect these to be of a very high quality. The ND/PL filters have markers which indicate the point at which the polarisation is at its strongest. When I am using my DSLR with a polarising filter in place and where there is blue sky in my composition, I very rarely rotate the filter to its maximum polarisation, as this can make the sky too deep a blue which looks unnatural. Therefore I would guess with these filters that I will either set the polariser manually or line the markers up and go a little further beyond.

Installing The Filters

The removal of the stock UV filter which comes with the M2P is removed pretty easily by holding on to the camera firmly with one hand and with the other hand, rotating the UV filter counter clockwise. Some people find this hard to do, so PolarPro have designed a plastic tool which helps to make this process easier. In all honesty I have been able to remove all the filters from my M2P camera with ease. Putting a new filter in place is pretty straight forward as well. You simply need to make sure the filter is the right way up (for the ND’s this means making sure the PolarPro logo is to the top, and for the ND/PL’s there are markers on the underside showing which way is up), marry up the pins on the filter with the holes on the front of the camera and rotate clockwise.

If in doubt here is a link to a video on YouTube from PolarPro, showing you exactly how to do it How to Install Mavic 2 Filters (Pro & Zoom).

Field Test

Mavic 2 Pro with a PolarPro ND 4 filter in place.

Mavic 2 Pro with a PolarPro ND 4 filter in place.

To test the filters in the field I headed out one afternoon where there was blue sky with some high cirrus clouds. I took seven images, starting with the stock UV filter in place, sent the drone around 15 metres up into the air, took a photo, landed the drone, changed the filter then repeated until I had taken a photo with all six PolarPro filters.

With regards camera settings, I set the white balance to sunny (as it was), set the aperture to f/5.6, then set the appropriate shutter speed based on getting the histogram to be as close as possible for each image. For the ND/PL filters before taking off I would point the drone in the direction to where I would be taking the photo and rotate it until I saw the polarisation I wanted.

Below is a slideshow containing the seven images I took to test the various filters (click on the thumbnails below to view the larger image).

Unfortunately the sun disappeared behind cloud a couple of times so I wasn’t able to fully test whether the filters really do block the light by 2, 3 and 4 stops. However, based on the shutter speeds set at the time I would say that they are what they are supposed to be, if not very close.

The clarity is excellent with no signs of any degradation compared to the image using the stock UV filter from DJI. The polariser filters certainly do what they are supposed to as you can see more detail in the sky with regards the cirrus clouds. They also have a slight warming effect which I personally quite like as my regular photography polariser does the same.

Although these are the first drone filters I have tried they will most likely be my last as I don’t see any issues with them.

The PolarPro filters for which I use on my DJI Mavic 2 Pro can be purchased here on Amazon.

Lowepro Viewpoint CS 60 Case for GoPro Review

A few months ago I purchased a GoPro Hero 7 Black as I had also been given a drone for my birthday and wanted to start shooting some video for YouTube vlogs.

When you get your GoPro you also get various bits and pieces which come with it and undoubtedly you will purchase other accessories depending on your requirements. At this point, how do you keep all of these accessories, spare batteries, cables etc. together? For me, I looked around Amazon and settled upon the CamKix Case for GoPro Hero 5, 6 and 7.

Although the CamKix case is good, as soon as I purchased more accessories it became clear that I needed another case. For me, the CamKix was wide yet shallow so didn’t accommodate some of my accessories, meaning that I would have to buy an extra case to fit the surplus items or try and find a case which would take all of my GoPro gear.

This is where the Lowepro Viewpoint CS 60 Case comes in.

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Measuring approximately 19cm wide, 19cm high and 10cm deep, the Viewpoint CS 60 fits in my camera bag easier than the CamKix case which measures approximately 23cm wide, 17cm high and 7cm deep.

The Viewpoint CS 60 has a soft feel exterior made from rugged, weather-resistant 600D and 420D material, has two zip pulls and a short carry strap on the top edge. It feels very well made, which is something you would expect from a brand like Lowepro.

Upon opening the Viewpoint CS 60 you will see that the case is well padded and the main compartment has padded dividers which can be moved around to your liking. Here I am able to house my GoPro, my microphone windshield and a housing which has a cold mount allowing me to attach my microphone mount.

On the inside of the lid you will see two flaps with velcro strap closures. Upon opening the first and smaller flap you will find slots for two SD and two micro SD cards.

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Upon opening the second and larger flap you will find several elasticated straps for accessories such as spare batteries, microphone, microphone adapter and GoPro shorty stick, whilst on the inside of the flap there is a zip pocket which I use to store cables.

lowepro-iewpoint-CS60-4.jpg

For me this is the perfect solution for carrying my GoPro equipment when out and about. I have kept the CamKix case and removed the EVA from the inside so that I can store the chargers and cables for my GoPro and drone.

Now, of course you don’t just have to use this case for your GoPro, it can be used for small camera systems or simply to hold photographic accessories which you want to house in a protective case.

More information on the Lowepro Viewpoint CS 60 can be found here on Amazon.

Kase mobile phone lenses and tripod review

I first saw the Kase mobile phone lenses at the Photography Show, Birmingham in March. I didn't really get a chance to try them out, however immediately had an interest in them for two main reasons. First, at the Skye Photo Academy we run Phone Camera Workshops, so know these will be great for our customers to use to get some different from the norm shots with their phones. Also, my fiancée prefers taking photographs with her iPhone, and know she will have a lot of fun with them.

So I asked Andy at Kase UK if it would be possible to try the lenses out and do a review on them, and he instantly said 'yes'. He also mentioned that Kase did a tripod for mobile phones, and that he would be able to get hold of one for me to try out alongside the lenses.

Kase currently produce four lenses for mobile phones, a 7.5mm fisheye wich gives a 238° angle of view, a 16mm wide angle, a 10x magnification macro lens and a 65mm telephoto lens. When purchased as a kit, the lenses are stored inside a single zip closure case, whilst when purchased separately, each lense is stored in its own zip closure case. The lenses screw on to a clamp which then attaches to your phone, and have rubber/plastic attached to stop the clamp from causing any damage.

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They also produce a small travel style tripod which will hold your mobile phone in place for extra stability.

In The Field

After receiving a set of lenses and tripod from Kase UK, my fiancée and I headed out into the field to try them out. On this particular day the conditions were not ideal, however I did get some shots of Clare using the kit. This shot shows the tripod legs fully extended, which is around 32 inches (81 cm), whilst with the centre column full extended it reaches a height of 39 inches (99 cm). Folded, the tripod measures 9.5 inches (24 cm) in length.

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To make the tripod compact when carrying, the legs fold in on themselves, so when you are ready to use it you simply fold them back to the normal position. The tripod legs are telescopic so you extend them simply by turning the bottom of each leg by around 180° and pulling the sections out, then turning the bottom in the opposite direction to dial in the height you want. The tripod height can be increased by firstly extending the centre column then twisting the head and pulling out a further section of the centre column.

The phone is attached to the tripod using a clamp which attaches to a ball head which you then use to adjust your composition.

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When attaching the clamp to your phone and subsequently attaching the lens to the clamp, you of course need to make sure the lens lines up with your camera. This can seem a little fiddly to begin with, because if you don’t manage to line everything properly, you will notice a significant loss in image quality. The best way I have found to do this is to attach the clamp to your phone with the lens attached, look down through the lens, and when you see your phones camera lens, they are most likely lined up. Of course the best way to make sure they are lined up is to take a test shot and check it.

I find it a bit fiddly to change lenses when the phone is attached to the tripod, so I usually remove the phone from the tripod clamp, remove the existing lens then screw the new one on with the phone screen facing down. 

Image Quality and Conclusion

Now, the main thing to mention here is that these lenses are being attached in front of the lens of your mobile phone, so there is bound to be some drop-off in quality. For me the image quality is acceptable with just a small amount of softness at the edges, which could also be caused by the lens not being lined up properly with the phones camera lens.

For me, the Kase lenses and tripod are great for someone who doesn’t have a ‘regular’ camera or simply don't want to have their 'regular' camera with them, and want to expand their mobile photography. The tripod isn’t exactly a necessity, however attaching a lens to the phone does add a bit more weight so you may find it more stable on the tripod. Also, you can get apps which allow you to take long exposure shots, so the tripod is pretty much a necessity for that.

My fiancée liked the lenses and tripod so much that I purchased her a set as an early birthday present.

The kit of four lenses, individual lenses and tripod can be purchased directly through my website here Kase Mobile Phone Lens Kit.

Below are some sample images taken using the four mobile lenses, along with an image showing the same scene without the lens attached in a couple of the examples.

No lens attached

No lens attached

Wide angle lens attached

Wide angle lens attached

Telephoto lens attached

Telephoto lens attached

No lens attached

No lens attached

Macro lens attached

Macro lens attached

Fisheye lens attached to get a wider angle of view

Fisheye lens attached to get a wider angle of view

Fisheye lens attached, distorting the vertical columns in an already round shaped room

Fisheye lens attached, distorting the vertical columns in an already round shaped room

Kase filters review

A couple of months ago I was approached up and coming photographic filter manufacturer Kase UK, asking if I would be trying out some of their filters. Now, I had never heard of Kase before and currently use filters from Lee and Formatt Hitech, so thought it would be a good idea to see how these filters faired against the ones I currently use.

Not long after agreeing to test and review their filters I was sent one of their K100 Wolverine Master Kits.

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The K100 Wolverine Master Kit comprises of the following:

Leather case for storing your filters and filter holder

K100-X filter holder

Geared adapter rings: 77-86mm & 82-86mm

Step up rings: 67-82mm & 72-82mm

86mm slimline polariser

Wolverine 100x150mm soft GND filter GND 0.9 (3 stop Soft Grad)

Wolverine 100x150mm soft GND filter GND 1.2 (4 Stop Soft Grad)

Wolverine 100x150mm R-GND filter R-GND 0.9 (3 Stop Reverse Grad)

Wolverine 100x100mm ND filter ND 64 (6 Stop ND)

Wolverine 100x100mm ND filter ND 1000 (10 Stop ND)

Filter cleaning cloth

As the kit I received included the leather case, my review will also discuss my thoughts on that, as I already had cases from Lee and Lowepro. Upon opening the case you will find a pouch in the front which will store the filter holder and adapter rings. In the main compartment there are slots for the polariser and 5 filters, which is less than I am used to as the Lee holder takes 10 filters, with the Lowepro holder taking 10 square/rectangular filters along with extra room for a folder and polariser.

What I did notice initially about the leather case was its weight, especially as it only holds 5 square/rectangular filters, so decided to weigh it in comparison to my Lowepro filter case. With the Kase holder filled with 5 glass filters (3 grads and 2 ND's), the Kase polariser and filter holder, it came in at 867g. My Lowepro filter case filled with 5 glass filters (3 grads and 2 ND's), the Lee Landscape Polariser (heavier than the Kase polariser) and Lee filter holder came in at 823g; 44g lighter than the Kase set up.

The Filters

Like the Formatt Hitech system, the Kase system has the polariser attaching just in front of the lens via the lens adapter, whereas the Lee polariser attaches to the front of the filter holder. You may be thinking that if the polariser attaches to the lens adapter, and the filter holder sits on top of that, how do I rotate my polariser. Easy, there is a thumb wheel on the side of the holder which you use to rotate it independently of the positioning of any grads which you may have in the holder.

The filter that intrigued me most was the reverse grad as it is one I have never used before. The benefit of a reverse grad is when shooting into the sun at say sunrise or sunset when the sun is close to the horizon, as this area can be very bright. With a normal grad, the dark area is at the top, meaning that the grad isn't very strong at the horizon. However, with a reverse grad the dark area starts at the horizon and goes clear toward the top of the filter.

Some other things to note with these filters are that Kase claim that their ND filters (6 and 10 stop) are completely neutral, in that they have no colour cast, compared to that from Lee which have a blue cast; which of course can be changed when processing the RAW image.

They also claim that their filters are shatter proof, something I am not going to test here as they are on loan to me. Finally, it has been said that they have a coating on them which handles water droplets much better than other manufactures, making them easier to wipe dry. Well, I am in a prime location to put that to the test.

Field Test

Before I get to talking about how good or bad the filters themselves are, I will share a few of my thoughts from my first outing with this kit.

First, the writing on the filters telling you which filter it is, is on the bottom of the filter, which I don't like. Why is that such a big deal you may ask. Well, generally the bottom of the filter would be sitting at the bottom of the case, so you can't tell which filter you are pulling out, unless you know the exact order with which they are in the case. All other filter manufactures I have used put the name of the filter to the top, meaning that when I open the case, I can see exactly which filter I am pulling out (just in case they were put back in the wrong order last time).

I initially found the filter holder itself rather fiddly to work with in a few ways. I liked the fact that the holder screwed on to the lens adapter, compared to the spring attachment of the Lee holder, especially as I have recently had a client who knocked the holder causing it to drop off the front of his lens and into a river - over £500 of filters and holder never to be seen again. In reality, I think the fact that the holder screws on and once screwed in place is fixed, may slow me down a bit. When using grads with the Lee system I can easily push them up or down in to place whilst also placing it an angle should I need to. However, with my first use I thought I would need to get the angle right first, lock the holder in place, then move the filter down to the horizon. I have since realised that I can simply unscrew the holder by a quarter turn, which allows you to rotate the holder freely and lock once the angle has been chosen and the filter in place.

My main issue with the holder is it's shape. What I mean here is that the corners of the Lee holder are cut out and with shorter guide rails, whereas the Kase guide rails take up the full height of the holder, meaning the corners are not cut out. This means that should you have an ND filter in place with a grad front of it and want to change the ND, you need to take the grad out first, then the ND and put the new ND in place, followed by resetting the position of the grad. Since I first mentioned this to Kase UK they have been in touch informing me that they have made a new filter holder which is also 50% lighter than the one I have reviewed here. I have also been told that they have made a new range of filters, which are thinner (1.1mm thick, compared to 2mm thick which I tested), so are around 45-50% lighter. (Update 22/03/18: Kase are now producing 100 x 150 ND filters which means that you can easily swap them out without having to remove a grad in front first)

With regards the filters themselves, I am very impressed indeed. As claimed, there is no colour cast with the filters I have used, the clarity is brilliant and yes, they are a lot easier to wipe dry compared to some of my other filters.

Update 22/03/18: I have been very impressed by how quickly Kase UK have looked at and addressed the potential issues I raised with them. Kase UK is run by photographers for photographers which makes their customer service first class.

Further information on the various filters and systems available at Kase can be found here.

Below is a selection of images I have taken with various combinations of filters in the kit I received.

Polariser, Wolverine 6 stop ND

Polariser, Wolverine 6 stop ND

Polariser

Polariser

Polariser, Wolverine 3 stop ND Reverse Grad, Wolverine 6 stop ND

Polariser, Wolverine 3 stop ND Reverse Grad, Wolverine 6 stop ND

Polariser, Wolverine 4 stop ND Soft Grad

Polariser, Wolverine 4 stop ND Soft Grad

Wolverine 3 stop ND Reverse Grad

Wolverine 3 stop ND Reverse Grad

Wolverine 3 stop ND Grad

Wolverine 3 stop ND Grad