I recently received a total of 54 filters for the Mavic 2 Pro ($1,499) and Mavic 2 Zoom ($1,249) from 5 different manufacturers. (I had offers to test even more, but I had to turn them away.) I then set off to test these filters over the next several weeks and compare them on a total of 16 different metrics. I wanted to know who makes the best Mavic 2 filters. It is Polar Pro, Tiffen, or one of the several smaller Chinese accessory suppliers? The winners might surprise you.
Polar Pro, Tiffen, and the rest
Polar Pro is arguably the most established filter-maker in the drone world. Thanks in no small part to their appearance on the Shark Tank, Polar Pro has successfully become the most recognizable name to drone enthusiasts.
Tiffen is a company best known for quality filters for cameras as well as professional-grade camera stabilization systems. They are the only of the established filter makers like Hoya and B+W to make a push into the drone market. While they were slow to jump into the market, they now seem fully dedicated. Tiffen has filters available for the Mavic 2 Pro, Mavic 2 Zoom, and Phantom 4 Pro/RTK.
Polar Pro ND filter on the Mavic 2 Pro
Sandmarc, Skyreat, and Freewell are the last of the three manufacturers that we tested. These all appear to be Chinese accessory makers that offer their products on Amazon among other retailers. While you may not recognize their names, I found some of their filters to compete well with the bigger names. Read on to see which did the best.
The Mavic 2 Pro on my custom tripod test stand
Would you rather see the tests in action? Watch me on YouTube.
Drone Filter Prices
Of course, the price of a product is an important metric when considering any purchase. I tabulated the price of the filter kits from these 5 manufacturers. Skyreat is by far the least expensive, coming in at about half the price of the other manufacturers. But don’t go off and buy the cheapest set, you will want to read the rest of this review first. The Tiffen Zoom filers are also worth noting, as they are the second best value per filter, at $20 per filter.
|Brand||Drone||Price||Filters in Kit||Price Per Filter|
|Polar Pro Cinema Collection||Pro||$149.99||6||$25.00|
What comes in the box with your Mavic 2 Filters?
Pretty much all of the manufacturers come with a lens wipe. This is a nice thing to have, especially given how easy it is to accidentally leave a smudge on a filter while handling it. The Sandmarc filters are the only ones that didn’t come with a wipe.
Polar Pro filters come with the most goodies, including a lens wipe, a filter removal tool, stickers, and a lifetime warranty card. Tiffen also offers a 10-year warranty, although it is not as boldly advertised.
The Mavic 2 Zoom filter extraction tool is a nice tool. If you don’t have one you will likely need rubber gloves or a rubber band to help you remove the filter. I was unable to remove the stock DJI glass without the extra friction afforded by rubber.
The Mavic 2 Pro extraction tool is nice but is limited in what you can use it on. While the tool helps to remove the stock DJI filter, it can’t be used on any of the Polar Pro filters. (It does actually work on some of the Freewell filters). Instead, Polar Pro made a little groove on the back of their filters to make them a little easier to twist off. It still would have been nice Polar Pro had recessed the glass so the tool could work on any filter.
Despite the limited use case of the Mavic 2 Pro filter extraction tool, Polar Pro definitely wins for what they include in the box.
Mavic 2 Filter Packaging
The packaging of a product can sometimes be as important as the product itself, and I didn’t want to overlook this aspect of the Mavic 2 filters. The biggest problem with the packaging is that often the cases for the Mavic 2 Zoom filters do not securely hold onto the filters.
From Left to Right: Packaging from Tiffen, Freewell, Polar Pro, and Skyreat. Only Tiffen and Sandmarc (not pictured) filters were delivered secured properly in their packaging.
[pullquote]Only Tiffen and Sandmarc packaging is sufficiently secure to hold the filters well enough to survive shipping.[/pullquote]The filters from Polar Pro, Tiffen, and Skyreat were all delivered with the filters in a pile banging against each other. Only Tiffen and Sandmarc packaging is sufficiently secure to hold the filters well enough to survive shipping. While Skyreat filters did fall out in shipping, they actually are very secure for normal handling. I recommend stacking lens wipes inside the packaging of Freewell and Polar Pro cases to keep your Mavic 2 filters secure.
Other than the issues with holding the zoom filters, Polar Pro packaging is by far the most attractive. All of their cases have magnetic latches and clear covers. The Polar Pro case for the Mavic 2 Pro does have another small oversight – the rubber grippers cover up the filter text on the sides of the polarized Mavic 2 Pro filters. As a result, you need to remove each filter to know what the ND rating is.
Tiffen uses a nice metal case, but I am a little worried about how the metal hinge and retention feature will hold up. Time will tell. Freewell cases are very difficult to open, you need to use two hands. Sandmarc and Skyreat filters are basic translucent plastic – cheap but effective.
If it were not for the minor design flaws in the Polar Pro filters they would win this category on appearance alone. As it stands, Tiffen eeks out a win for the best packaging.
Mavic 2 Filter Build Quality
When it comes to Mavic 2 Zoom Filters, I have to give the win to Tiffen. Their filters go on and off the most smoothly, indicating the treads are the best quality of those tested. One of my Mavic 2 Zoom filters from Polar Pro has some defect in the threads, but thanks to the warranty I have no doubt I can get it replaced. The filters from Sandmarc, Skyreat, and Freewell all went on and off just fine, but not as smoothly as the Tiffen filters.
From left: DJI, Tiffen, Polar Pro, and Skyreat. The threads on the Tiffen filters for the Mavic 2 Zoom were the smoothest in my testing
Mavic 2 Pro Filters
The best build quality for the Mavic 2 Pro filters also has to go to Tiffen, but with a smaller margin. Tiffen is the only manufacturer to keep to the DJI design intent, using properly-designed steel inserts to interface with the camera’s spring plungers.
Several manufacturers, including Polar Pro, skipped the steel inserts and built the retention features directly into the anodized aluminum housing. I do like the extra little groove that Polar Pro added and I think it does make it a little easier to remove the filters.
From left: Tiffen, Polar Pro (gold), Skyreat, and Freewell.
Other than Tiffen and Polar Pro, Freewell makes the only Mavic 2 Pro filters that go on and off easily. The filters from Skyreat get caught up when you try to remove them and they can be a real bear to get off. The Mavic 2 filters from Sandmarc do not go on the drone easily, and I wasn’t about to break my drone camera for the sake of putting on a filter.
The Mavic 2 Pro Skyreat filters have another shortcoming – they rattle. The grooves on the back are too deep and as a result, the spring plungers don’t properly preload the filters, allowing some of them to shake around.
And the build quality winner is…
Overall, Tiffen wins for best build quality with great-looking and great-performing filters for both the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom. I recommend that you stay away from Skyreat and Sandmarc filters for the Mavic 2 Pro. These two manufacturers were unable to properly replicate the retention features of the Mavic 2 Pro.
Do lens filters affect sharpness?
An 18X cropped section of the DroneDJ test target. All filters look equally as sharp as the original DJI glass.
The short answer is no. When I first wrote about the Freewell filters I thought that one of them was affecting image sharpness. When I retested those Freewell filters and all the others on the Drone DJ test chart I was not able to notice any difference in sharpness. I now think that the camera was just a little out of focus during my first test.
Everyone wins in this category, they are all using decent quality glass, which isn’t that expensive anyway.
Polarizer quality, orientation, and marking
There are three basic things I look for when it comes to polarized filters. First, are they actually polarized? Second, is the polarization marked? Third, is the marking correct?
The good news is that all polarized filters are indeed polarized. Freewell was the only company to add a circular polarizer behind the linear polarizer, but that isn’t important for DJI mirrorless cameras.
From left: Tiffen, Polar Pro, and Skyreat. Glare off of the filters produces a variety of purple and orance reflections.
[pullquote]A couple of filters from Polar Pro and Freewell are way too light compared to their rating, and the ND8 from Sandmarc is way too dark (high ND).[/pullquote]When it comes to marking the filters, Polar Pro is the only company to mark both their Zoom and Pro filters and to do it correctly. Polarized filters should have a mark that indicates when the filter will block glare off of water when you are looking towards the sun. This is how your sunglasses are polarized, and it is also how the non-rotating Mavic 2 Pro filters from Freewell and Skyreat are oriented.
Tiffen Mavic 2 Pro filters are accurately marked their Zoom filters are not marked. The Skyreat Zoom filters are also not marked. Any other rotating polarized filters from Sandmarc and Freewell are marked but are marked incorrectly.
The clear winner in this category is Polar Pro, with correctly-marked filters for both the Zoom and Pro versions of the Mavic 2. If you decide to save $30 and go with Tiffen filters for your Mavic 2 Zoom then you will need to mark the filters yourself.
ND filters are sunglasses for a camera. The ND rating indicates how much longer the exposure will be. For example, an ND16 filter should have 16 times the exposure time of a filter with no ND rating, like the stock DJI glass.
Drone videographers sometimes want to slow down the shutter speed to about twice the framerate (half as long) in order to produce the smoothest-looking most cinematic footage. When you see the shutter speed is 8 times as fast as you want it to be, then you should have some kind of confidence that an ND8 filter will solve your problem, right? Well, not always.
I took pictures with all of the filters and measured the exposure time in the exact same lighting situation without changing the ISO level or the f/number of the camera. Then I calculated the effective ND number of each filter and compared it to the stated ND rating. As you can see in the graphs, filters from all manufacturers can be significantly off.
Only the Tiffen Polarized filters (dash blue line) match the expected ND rating for all filters (solid black line)
Tiffen Polarized filters for the Mavic 2 Pro were the only filters to consistently match the stated ND rating. The other Mavic 2 Pro filters were consistently less dark than they should have been, including the Tiffen unpolarized filters.
It was an even worse story for the Mavic 2 Zoom filters. A couple of filters from Polar Pro and Freewell are way too light compared to their rating, and the ND8 from Sandmarc is way too dark (high ND).
The winner in this category is Tiffen, with better average performance and the only line of filters that is dead-on.
With the exception of Sandmarc, ND filters tend to block less light than they are supposed to.
Mavic 2 Filter Color Accuracy
When we talked on the phone to Tiffen a few weeks ago they stressed that color accuracy was that their customers were asking for. Naturally, I had to test it. I measured the RGB (red, green, and blue) values for two spots on every single test shot that I took. Then I compared those values to those produced by the stock DJI clear glass. That difference is the difference between what DJI’s camera is expecting to see and what it actually sees.
Does Tiffen perform the best? Looking at the results from the Zoom filters it looks like Tiffen may be onto something. None of their Mavic 2 filters are the worst offenders, while filters from Polar Pro, Skyreat, and Freewell all throw off the color by more than 5%.
The Mavic 2 Pro filters are another story, however. Tiffen and Polar Pro each have a filter that looks red and another that looks blue. The results are pretty much all over the map. There is no apparent consistency within a manufacturer and perhaps these results are just as variable as the reflections you get off of the filters. Why don’t all filters reflect the same hue? Why don’t they all transmit the same color? My personal suspicion is that there is some pretty significant variability in coatings.
I don’t have a clear winner in this category, nor will I guarantee that these results will be matched in your filters. I think it is very likely that the lot-to-lot variability is too high. What can you do? Just be aware and make adjustments to the color as you see fit. Many users use auto white balance anyway, which may counteract many of these effects.
Despite their best attempts, the filters from Polar Pro and Tiffen can shift the color of your images toward blue or toward red.
The two spots that I sampled were in the center and in the top left corner of every picture. The brightness (red + blue + green) can be compared between the center and the corner to produce a metric called relative illumination (RI).
Relative Illumination = (brightness in corner) / (brightness in center)
The Mavic 2 Pro lens has notable darkening in the the corners in the Raw image (left) and not all of it is corrected for in the JPEG (right).
My Mavic 2 Zoom has an uncorrected relative illumination error (24 mm equivalent focal length) of just 2% (98% RI). In contrast, my Mavic 2 Pro has an uncorrected relative illumination (f/2.8) in the JPEGs of 13% (87% RI). That is NOT very good, and DJI should fix their JPEG correction settings.
Regardless of DJI’s own problems, what I was looking for in both the Zoom and the Pro photographs was the change in relative illumination. Is the filter making things worse?
It is not really fair to say that Polar Pro and Tiffen did the worst with the Mavic 2 Pro filters. After all, I only tested two filters from Skyreat, four from Freewell, and I tested none of the Sandmarc filters. There is, however, a pattern that high ND polarized filters seem to do the worst. A change of 11% is definitely noticeable and is something you should be aware of when using these filters – make sure you look out for dark corners in your video and JPEGs.
With the Zoom filters, it is Sandmarc that looks the worst, with as much as 12% change in RI for their ND32 filter. The Freewell ND64 actually brightens the corners a bit. I suspect that is an artifact of DJI’s correction profile, which assumes the corners will be darker than the center. When the really dark ND64 is on it might throw off the correction.
Is there a winner in this category? Not really, more so a bunch of losers (including DJI). DJI’s 13% uncorrected RI error in the Mavic 2 Pro JPEGs is unforgivable, as is the 10-12% additional corner darkening from some of the filters. Yes, you can shoot in RAW and apply corrections, but video is also undercorrected, which will require editing in post-production to fix.
Weight and Gimbal Errors
Aftermarket filters are known to sometimes produce gimbal error because they add too much weight to the front of the camera. This extra weight throws off the balance of the gimbal, and the drone will let you know it is angry, sometimes by killing the motor gimbals until the extra weight is removed.
It turns out that all of the Mavic 2 Zoom filters that I tested are actually underweight, not overweight. The Mavic 2 Pro filters are all the same as the stock DJI glass (within the gram resolution of my scale).
So while all filter manufacturers struggle with relative illumination, they all seem to do really well with weight. None of the filters give me a gimbal error. Horray!
The original Mavic 2 Zoom filter from DJI is the heaviest at about 4 grams.
Why should you care if your lens filter repels water? You are not flying underwater after all. You should care because filters that repel water also tend to be good at repelling other things. Hydrophobic coatings tend to also be oleophobic (repel oil) and just ‘phobic’ in general. They will be easier to wipe clean.
Water drops have a high contact angle on the Tiffen ND4 filter for the Mavic 2 Zoom
[pullquote]DJI’s stray light control seems pretty darn good to me in general[/pullquote]So which filters repel water the best? They all do pretty well except for Freewell, which has a noticeably shallow contact angle. Professional equipment for measuring the contact angle is called a goniometer. I just put on a macro lens and snapped some pictures.
Tiffen recommended that I try marking a filter with a Sharpie permanent marker. They said their filter would repel the Sharpie, while a lesser filter without a repellant coating would take to the Sharpie quite well. They were correct. Sure enough, a Sharpie does not stick well at all to a Tiffen filter and the minuscule droplets of Sharpie left behind are easily wiped off.
Not surprisingly, all of the Mavic 2 filters that did well with the water test also did well with the Sharpie test. Again it is only Freewell that has inferior repelling power. This very likely means that fingerprints will need a lot more wiping to achieve a streak-free surface if you have a Freewell filter.
So the looser when it comes to repellant coatings is Freewell and everyone else wins.
Key Scratch Test
Tiffen also suggested that I try scratching the Mavic 2 filters with a key. Sure, why not? They were provided for free anyway. I was shocked to find out that all manufacturers perform well with this test. No wonder the Zoom filters that were banging around all over the place during shipping survived – this glass is pretty tough. Everyone wins.
Razor Scratch Test
A key wasn’t enough so I moved on to a razor made of hardened steel. Sure enough, you can scratch lens filter with a razor. But only once. The first pass will dull the blade enough that it won’t scratch again. All filters can be scratched but they are all pretty tough. Another win all around.
Just right of the circular reflection you can see a small scratch on the Skyreat ND4 filter for the Mavic 2 Zoom. Only a sharp razor was able to scratch these filters.
Mavic 2 Filter AR Coatings
Antireflective coatings are helpful for a number of reasons. One thing that can happen with uncoated filters is that they can produce ghost images, where reflections from lenses inside the camera are reflected back through the camera and onto the image sensor.
One way I tested the coatings was to turn off the lights and see if I could produce more stray light artifacts with the filters than with the stock DJI glass. I don’t really notice a difference from any of the filters. DJI’s stray light control seems pretty darn good to me in general. Everyone wins again!
As with any camera, there are some internal reflections that are visible with bright light sources. This example is the Mavic 2 Pro with stock DJI glass.
Another test I performed was to see which filters are easiest to read through when bright light is reflecting off of them. It is difficult to tell much of a difference with these comparisons, but it looks like Tiffen and Freewell filters might throw off less reflected light than the Polar Pro and Skyreat filters. Note that one of the Freewell filters is a polarized filter only, with no ND rating, so it is intrinsically easier to see through.
From Left: Uncoated circular glass, DJI stock glass, Tiffen, Polar Pro, Skyreat, Freewell. All are ND4 except for the two on the left and the Freewell polarized filter bottom right, which is about ND2 equivalent.
Is there a winner here? I give a small edge to Tiffen and Freewell, but I wouldn’t make a buying decision based on that. Sandmarc was not tested since I didn’t have the filters when I performed this test.
It is not just Polar Pro and Tiffen that make it to the top of the list, let’s take a look at the winners.
Mavic 2 Zoom lens filters
For the Mavic 2 Zoom, I recommend the filters from Tiffen. They are the smoothest going on and off and they have great performance all around. The only improvement I would make would be to add a mark to indicate polarization on the three polarized filters.
Polar Pro packaging comes up a little short, one of the filters would not go on, and they are currently $30 more expensive.
Skyreat makes a great budget alternative for the Mavic 2 Zoom if you trust that their quality control is good enough. Hopefully, your experience will be as good as mine. You will also have to accept the strange pink/red/brown/copper color choice, which is my least favorite of the bunch.
Mavic 2 Pro lens filters
Polar Pro and Tiffen are my top picks for the Mavic 2 Pro. The filters are the same price and compete with each other well. Freewell filters come at a small discount but they lack the repellent coating and the filter cases are difficult to use.
I have to discourage you from buying the Mavic 2 Pro filters from Sandmarc and Skyreat, they are just too difficult to get on and off. You don’t want to damage your $1500 drone because of a $10 lens filter.
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