Tech & Work

PolarPro wants to be the resource for cinematic drone pilots

PolarPro announced updated lens filters in addition to a plan to pass along knowledge to drone enthusiasts.

Over the past year I've followed the work of the team at PolarPr0. The company does a great job of producing products aimed at photographers—especially drone photographers. I've demoed its backpack, ND filters, and the new LUT packs. All products are quite stellar. PolarPro has now launched its latest version of the Cinema Series lens filters designed for the DJI drones: the Gradient Collection. But wait; there's more. PolarPro has also started an educational initiative to help drone pilots master cinematic aerial video footage via its EDU program. Let's look at these new offerings.

Lens filters for the harsh lighting conditions

I've had my hands on PolarPro lens filters for my drone before. I really enjoyed using the polarizing filters as well as the neutral density filters for some of my aerial photography and videography projects. Now the team is offering gradient filters for your enjoyment.

In photography, gradient filters can be handy when managing the exposure you've framed in your camera. This is quite useful in landscape photography, where the foreground may be underexposed because you tried to compensate for the overexposed sky and highlights. Gradient filters are designed to decrease the amount of light passing through them, but in a gradual manner. The top portion of the filter is usually darker in tint and less tinted at the bottom. But it's a transitional or graduated change in tint intensity.

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Image: Ant Pruitt

I've found gradient filters in general to be fairly easy to use on a standard DSLR or mirrorless camera, but using one on a drone was rather tedious. With a drone, you have to depend on your mobile device as a viewfinder to see if you've properly aligned the filter. This can be difficult because your drone is grounded and the camera may not have the scene in frame. I've always felt I wasted precious battery time and daylight trying to get the filter properly installed, only to find that I was slightly off center.

PolarPro took this experience into consideration and marked the new gradient filters to make it easier for the pilot to see where the horizon line is on the filter. This will definitely speed up the installation process and get you up flying quicker.

SEE: Getting started with drone photography (free TechRepublic PDF)

PolarPro says the new filters are constructed with a glass element instead of the acrylic or plastic elements you'll find on lower quality lens filters. Photographers know that a nice camera is an awesome tool to have, but quality glass on your lens is the real moneymaker.

The gradient filters are available for $99; just place your order based on the type of DJI drone you have. At this time, there's no mention of the filters being available for non-DJI drones. Maybe later. Learn more about the new filters via the PolarPro promotional video here.

SEE: How to make your landscape photography stand out (TechRepublic)

Learn the cinematic movements

So you have your drone ready to fly with an awesome gradient filter. Now you need to focus on getting the best shot possible. There are a lot of misconceptions about drone photography and videography. I've heard other pilots say that just because the drone could hover at 100 feet, the majority of their shots should be taken at that altitude. That's not necessary. You can get great images and video from a variety of altitudes and angles.

PolarPro and its team of professional drone pilots know this to be true and wanted to share with aspiring pilots. The EDU package is a one-time, hour-long class with a professional drone pilot of your choice from the PolarPro team. Your booked class is one-on-one time with the professional pilot to discuss the ins and outs of your drone's camera capabilities and settings via an online video chat. The price for this is $150. It must be noted that students should not expect to become Part 107 certified by purchasing the EDU package. This package is only for cinematic training and basic use.

SEE: The camera is now the only smartphone feature that matters (ZDNet)

I can appreciate the initiative of PolarPro here, but I can't say I'd sign up for this service. The fee of $150 is fair. But when it comes to drone flight, I would prefer a more hands-on experience. I'd rather have the professional with me in the field discussing the cinematic movements and position. The feedback would be immediate.

Final thoughts

It's pretty exciting to see the new line of lens filters being offered for aerial photography and video, although I wish the product line wasn't limited to DJI products. There are some other quality drones out there. I get it, though. The masses are flying DJI drones primarily. I really love the simple thought of marking the filters to help with proper installation to get you up and flying sooner.

The EDU program is admirable, but I'm not quite sure if it's a great value to only have some web time discussing the different aspects of aerial photography with a pro when there are myriad free options. Again, if the package were for people local to the PolarPro HQ or the drone professional, that would be a super value for a more hands-on lesson.

Also see...

Your take

Have you tried lens filters on your drone yet? Which ones have you tried? Share your thoughts and advice with fellow TechRepublic members or tag me on Twitter.

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Image: PolarPro

About Ant Pruitt

Ant Pruitt is an IT Support Professional with a passion for showing the non-geek how great technology can be. He writes for a variety of tech publications and hosts his own podcast. Ant is also an avid photographer and weight lifter.

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