DJI Mini 3 Pro, Why You Need ND Filters

With the DJI Mini 3 Pro ND filters are an absolute must for time lapses and hyperlapses. They are also beneficial when shooting footage to apply the rule of thirds correctly. For photography, they are used only in some specific situations

ND filters are the best-selling accessory for drones, but many users don’t know much about them and often ask if they should buy them and why

Related articles about the Mini 3 Pro you might find interesting:

If you prefer to watch this as a video, you will find my YouTube version at the end of this article

The Mini 3 Pro Needs ND Filters More Than Other Drones

There is a widespread misconception that ND filters are needed to expose correctly on very bright days, but this is not true. We can use three tools to get the correct exposure: ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed

Most consumer drones don’t offer manual control of the aperture, but even in this case, we can generally expose correctly by using a very fast shutter speed

The Mini 3 Pro is the only drone or camera that needs ND filters to expose correctly In certain light conditions. Due to its very wide aperture of f1.7, in very bright conditions the image can be overexposed even when choosing the base ISO and the fastest shutter speed

So the Mini 3 is the exception to the rule: we need ND filters to dial in the correct exposure in very bright conditions by reducing the amount of light entering the sensor

More info in my article How to expose video and photo with the Mini 3 and 3 Pro

If you prefer to watch this as a video, you will find my YouTube version at the end

Why are ND filters used?

ND filters act like sunglasses for the lens. They are meant to reduce the amount of light entering the sensor simply

ND filters are mainly used to enable the use of a specific value for shutter speed and aperture regardless of the level of luminosity in the scene

A specific shutter speed is needed for the correct amount of motion blur, while a wide aperture is useful to control the depth of field

ND filters for Video

Shutter SpeedFrame Rate
1/5024 or 24 fps
1/6030 fps
1/10050 fps
1/12060 fps
The rule of thirds

In videography, according to a rule named 180-degree rule, the SS should be 1/50 of a second when we are using a frame rate of 24 or 25 frames per second, 1/60 of a second at 30 fps, 1/120 of a second at 60 fps, and so on. In other words, the denominator of the Shutter Speed value should be double the frame rate

When shooting video with the Mini 3 Pro, ND filters of the appropriate strength are needed to respect the shutter speed values indicated by the 180 degrees rule to reproduce movement in the way we see it in real life with the correct amount of motion blur

Quite often drone footage is shot from high altitudes

When the subject is far away and there are no moving elements, the difference in motion blur is hardly noticeable, so in this case, ND filters are not strictly needed

Getting closer to the action things are different

Cars on the motorway look more natural when shooting with ND filters at the correct shutter speed, as some motion blur is applied. Without filters, the movement appears jumpy and fake

Click on this link if you want more about the camera settings for video of the Mini 3 Pro for video

ND filters for Photography

Video by Vicvideopic

ND Filters for Long Exposure Photos

There are two main reasons why photographers use ND filters: the first one is to get very long exposure shots to create a smooth, silky effect in clouds, waterfalls, fountains, or waves

But a drone drifting is not as stable as a camera on a sturdy tripod, therefore it is not possible to use shutter speeds longer than 1 second without introducing unwanted blur

In this example, the effect we get in the waves with a drone is not bad, but it cannot match the much longer exposure obtained with a ground-based camera

ND Filters for Photos with Shallow depth of field

Another reason is to use a very wide aperture in bright light conditions to get a very shallow depth of field and separate the main subject from the background

But in the Mini 3 Pro, like in many prosumer drones, the aperture is fixed, so we can disregard this situation 

For photography with the Mini 3 Pro and with drones in general, ND filters are not a must. For someone really serious about photography, ND filters are a desirable item, but not a necessity

Click on this link if you want more about the camera settings of the Mini 3 Pro for Photography

In this article, I show How to make long-exposure photos with the Mini 3 and Mini 3 Pro using ND filters for unusual creative effects

ND Filters for Hyperlapses

Video by Vicvideopic

Using ND FIlters to Control the Amount of Motion Blur

Time lapses are all about movement and movement involves motion blur, as this is the way our eyes see motion, so the correct amount of motion blur is crucial for time lapses and hyperlapses, a make-or-break factor

ND filters are needed For time-lapses and hyperlapses with the Mini 3 Pro, or any other drone or camera. Using ND filters we can fine-tune the correct amount of motion blur
I would not even attempt a hyperlapse without ND filters

ND Filter for the Correct Use of the 180° Rule

By adopting the 180 degrees rule used in videography, when shooting hyperlapses, with an interval of two seconds between each photo the correct shutter speed is one second, with an interval of 3 seconds, 1.5 seconds, a Shutter Speed of 2 seconds for 4 seconds, and so on

Timelapses and Hyperlapses Without ND Filters

Of course, to get such a long shutter speed we need ND filters

If we don’t use ND filters and we have to resort to much faster shutter speeds the result is extremely jumpy and stuttering, unwatchable. This is because there is practically no motion blur

More details about Motion blur, the crucial element of time lapses, in my dedicated article

Limitations with Drones

When shooting timelapses with drones there are some specific limitations compared to traditional cameras, as with drones in most cases we cannot use a shutter speed slower than one second without losing detail due to camera shake

Therefore we have to somehow compromise and reduce the amount of motion blur, but a decent result can still be obtained

As you can see the movement of the cars and the smoothness of the cloud are acceptable in this drone timelapse with a Shutter Speed of half a second

Click on this link if you want to know everything about timelapses and Hyperlapses with the DJI Mini 3 Pro

Which ND Filter to Use

ND filters come in different strength values, according to the amount of light reduction

In photography and videography, we are familiar with the concept of exposure stops to describe variations of luminosity

The idea of stops can be applied to any of the three parameters of exposure: ISO, Aperture, and Shutter Speed

For the use of ND filters with the Mini 3 Pro, or with any prosumer drone, we should focus on Shutter Speed, as it is the main parameter we want to control

By doubling the shutter speed, we reduce the amount of light hitting the sensor by one stop. As an example, by increasing the shutter speed from 1/25 to 1/50, we reduce the luminosity by one stop

In most cases, the strength of ND filters is expressed by an ND value indicating the number of stops of light reduction, starting from ND2 which reduces the luminosity by one stop

Luminosity StopsND Value

As an example, with the Mini 3 Pro on a bright day, using the minimum ISO value of 100, we obtain a shutter speed of about 1/8000 for correct exposure. Assuming that we want to use a SS of approximately 1/50 for the correct amount of motion blur. Let’s see which strength value we need

ND ValueLuminosity stopsShutter Speed
No ND filter01/8000

In this case, we should use an ND128 filter to be able to use a shutter speed of 1/50 of a second

Which ND Filter for Video?

When shooting video the optimal shutter speed is 1/50 or 1/60 of a second, according to the frame rate we are using. These are not very slow values, therefore we don’t need very strong filters

For video, a set of ND filters ranging from ND8 to ND 68 cover all the needs in all different light conditions with most cameras or drones

In the case of the DJI Mini 3 Pro, I would also add an ND128, as this model gathers a higher amount of light, due to the extremely wide aperture of f1.7

Which ND Filter for Photos and Hyperlapses?

For hyperlapses and photos with a drone like the Mini 3 Pro in many cases, we use a shutter speed of one second. It is a much slower value compared to the ones used in video, therefore much stronger filters are needed

For hyperlapses and photos, we use ND filters with values ranging from ND 64 to ND 1000, according to the light conditions

In the case of the DJI Mini 3 Pro on certain occasions, a ND2000 is useful, although not mandatory, due to the very wide aperture of the lens

Which ND filters should I buy for the DJI Mini 3 Pro?

ND filters are meant to simply reduce the amount of light entering the sensor. Some lower-quality ones might introduce unwanted color casts

Freewell is a brand that over the years has consistently produced quality filters for drones at reasonable prices, even though not the cheapest

For the Mini 3 Pro, Freewell offers a combination of 6 ND filters ranging from ND4 to ND64, so from two to six stops, which covers all videography needs

The pack also includes a filter with stronger values, ND1000, which is needed for photography and hyperlapses

Freewell ND Filter Set for the DJI Mini 3 Pro
Freewell ND Filter Set for the DJI Mini 3 Pro

How To Insert an ND Filter

The lenses of previous models of the Mini series were shaped in a way that made fitting filters quite hard

With the Mini 3 Pro lens’s new design, putting on and removing the filters is easy. Just rotate slightly clockwise with the label Freewell on the upper side

if You Prefer to Watch This As a Video



I am Vittorio Caramazza, aka Vicvideopic, the founder of this website and author of all the posts. I am a videographer and photographer contributing to several stock agencies. I am an Adobe Certified Expert in Photoshop and Lightroom. I have 10 years of experience with dron videography and photography. I was struck by drone syndrome in 2013. I have owned and tested in depth the following drones: Phantom 3, Phantom 4, Phantom 4 Pro, Mavic 2 Zoom, Mavic 2 Pro, Mavic Mini, Mini 2, Air 2, Air 2s, Autel Evo Nano Plus, Mavic 3, Mini 3 Pro, Mini 3. My home has turned into a breeding ground for drones. I am the owner of two YouTube channels specializing in Videography and Photography, with a focus on drones My main channel is VicVideopic (in English): My other channel is Drone Mitico, the Italian version.: I am currently based in Sicily (Southern Italy), but I tend to move quite often. After all, this is one of the main benefits of being a digital nomad…

Recent Posts