DJI’s Mavic 3 is an amazing drone, but DJI’s pricing for their filters isn’t so amazing. Fortunately, companies like PGYTECH have made a range of filters compatible with the Mavic 3’s unique mount and camera setup. Are they worth pairing with the high-performance camera the drone is equipped with? I put PGYTECH’s Mavic 3 filter series to the test in this review.
The Filter Range
PGYTECH makes a wide range of accessories, including things like camera bags, tripods, and accessories for action cameras, but I first learned about them through their line of drone filters. Unlike typical lenses, most drones aren’t compatible with standard screw-in filters. Instead, they have unique form factors and mounting systems, and this is where a manufacturer like PGYTECH comes in.
The filters from PGYTECH mount the same way as DJI’s do and have an equal level of fit and finish. I like the red anodized ring, although I’d love to see it be orange to match the accent color of the Mavic 3’s props. Overall, that ring is nice to handle and offers a good purchase on the filter. The UV filter, which has a style similar to the standard DJI filter, is easier to mount than the stock filter, thanks to the larger serrations on the sides.
The available range of filters for the Mavic 3 include a standard UV filter, a circular polarizer, variable ND filters in two ranges, and an ND/polarizer combo set, covering three through six stops. All of the filters are compatible with both the standard and telephoto camera on the Mavic 3, without including the small crossbar that DJI has on the stock filter. The filters are all built around German SCHOTT optical glass, with a CNC aluminum frame. The glass itself has a double-sided, multi-layered coating to help repel water, oil, dust, and improve scratch resistance — a big plus for a filter that is both small and exposed to the elements, as a drone’s would be.
Retail packaging is simple and clean, with a cardboard box showing the filter on the front and a brief listing of the specs. Inside, the filter comes in a very nice quality hard plastic case, with a thick foam lining inside that’s cut custom to the shape of the filter. These cases are perfect for throwing into a pocket or camera bag. They’re very durable, easy to open, and are a perfect way to store these filters, as any generic camera filter case is going to be far too large for the Mavic 3 filter form factor.
The UV Filter
UV filters are pretty simple to review: as long as they don’t negatively impact image quality, they’re doing their job. Most digital sensors are not sensitive to UV light, so blocking UV produces no effect. Instead, a UV filter functions as a protective filter, in this case, being a much cheaper alternative to scratches and dust happening to the far more expensive camera module of the Mavic 3.
On regular cameras, I’m only using a UV or clear filter if I know I’m shooting in particularly bad conditions, like during a monsoon or near the ocean. On a drone, however, the camera is frequently moving at 30+ mph, and so even some dust in the air can quickly become flying grit.
To this end, I’ve been really happy with the performance of PGYTECH’s UV filter. I’ve got a couple of hours of flight time with it so far, in mixed weather and conditions, and it’s still clean. The coating has held up well, as I know I’ve touched the glass, thanks to the Mavic 3’s unfortunate filter mounting mechanism. I still don’t see any marks that haven’t been brushed off with a microfiber. Testing with this filter versus the stock DJI filter reveals no discernible difference in sharpness, color, or flare. Overall, it’s a great value to replace the stock DJI filter if yours is damaged or lost, or even just worth the purchase thanks to the easier mounting grip.
The Circular Polarizer
Circular polarizing filters are interesting. I feel like they’re one of the few filters that can’t be easily replicated in software, thanks to their unique ability to change how the scene is rendered. By filtering out some light that has become unpolarized when bouncing off a surface, they can reduce reflections off water and darken the appearance of a blue sky, among other things. The challenge is that you have to twist the filter to change the degree of polarization in use. That isn’t a problem on a camera lens, but can be more difficult on a drone 300 feet up.
Overall, PGYTECH’s circular polarizer performed quite well. Like any polarizer at a wide angle, with a large portion of the sky in the frame, you’ll have to watch for uneven darkening of the sky. In use, the filter worked well to cut glare coming off the snow, and it did nicely amplify the blues of the sky. Also, like all polarizing filters, you will lose a bit of light. In the case of this filter, it’s about one stop. Not a huge deal, but something to be aware of if you’re trying to keep your shutter speed up. For some photos, there’s no alternative to a polarizer, and I’m happy to have this one in my bag.
The ND Polarizers
Combining a neutral density and polarizing filter, which both reduce the amount of light coming through, as well as blocking those previously mentioned unpolarized rays, is an interesting option to have. I used the ND polarizer kit the least, as the Mavic 3’s adjustable aperture and wide ISO range meant that I was often able to get a workable shutter speed for any photo.
For video use, however, ND filters are important. To get pleasant motion blur for video, the rule of thumb is a shutter speed that is the reciprocal of twice your frame rate. With 30 fps video, getting the shutter down to 1/60th of a second in bright daylight may be a challenge. Here’s where the ND filters come in handy. The set includes a 3-, 4-, 5-, and 6- stop filter, letting you get the precise amount of light reduction. In my testing, these delivered the expected amount of light reduction, without impacting image quality, just like the rest of the line.
The only thing I’m unsure about is including the polarizer aspect. A polarizer isn’t needed for every shot, as previously mentioned in the circular polarizer section, but these filters force some degree of polarization into the shot. If you’re planning on shooting a video, PGYTECH’s VND line may be a better choice, as they won’t result in a polarization effect.
What I Liked
- Excellent image quality with no noticeable impact on image quality overstock
- Great value, particularly compared to the DJI brand filter set
- Nice carrying cases and thoughtful design make them easy to use
What Could Be Improved
- Adding a polarizer to the ND filters may be unnecessary for many uses