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Why use ND Filters on Action Cameras?

maio 19, 2023

ND filters for capturing motorcycle onboard action


What are ND Filters?
Neutral density filters are filters that reduce the amount of light entering a camera lens without altering its colour or affecting the overall image quality, (will talk about that later).  

Now you know what they are, why would you use them? 
They are commonly used in photography and videography to achieve specific creative effects or to overcome challenging lighting conditions.  However, we will only cover the use on an action camera. 


OK enough already why would I use them on a bike?
There are a couple of reasons why we use them, for us motorcyclists we are normally using small action cameras like GoPro / Insta360 / Drift cameras. 

Most action cameras don’t have any real control over the shutter speed in the camera, we can’t manually slow the shutter speed down.  We use the ND filter too fool the action camera into thinking its darker and making it use a slower shutter to expose.

If the camera did allow you to slow the shutter speed down that means that more light is going to hit the sensor meaning it could over expose so the ND reduces the amount of light. 


Why would you want to slow the shutter speed down? 
If you have are doing interval stills shots and have a high shutter speed you capture motion and freeze it in time, you don’t really get much of a sense of motion. 

The same is true with video, if you have a really high shutter speed and shooting at 25FPS / 50FPS the footage can look overly sharp / glittery and that’s done to the higher shutter speed. 

When it comes to film a lot is shot at 1/50, 1/100 shutter speed a rule of thumb is it should be double your FPS.  

Dango Design ND Filters On Motorcycles

So you said there were a couple of reasons?

Yeah the other reason to use a ND filter on a bike would be if your lucky enough to have a strong sunlight.  You can use ND filters to make it easier / better for the action camera to expose the scene.  Action cameras don’t tend to have a great dynamic range and can be prone to over expose (blow) highlights,  you can be left with very bright almost white footage.  

GoPro action camera with media mod fitted with ND filter

What ND filter to use?
Personally during Spring / Summer in the UK I will run a ND4 filter, if you live in a brighter / hotter location then you could be using ND8, the higher the number the darker the filter.  


Do you need to change any settings when you use them?

No you don’t have to change anything, however if you are wanting to get away with using and ND4 you can set the action camera ISO max to be lower, this will force the camera to use a slower shutter speed which can increase the motion. (very handy for stills on intervals).

Ok is there any cons in using ND filters?

Price, they are not exactly cheap and they tend to be bundled into a pack which makes it a bit more expensive and you may find you never use some of them.

One thing to note is the ND filter is not a setting it’s a physical accessory you either clip on or screw on and to change it you have to physically remove it.  Example would be its sunny day and you have ND4 filer on and ride into a tunnel, the tunnel is going to be 4x darker than it would be without it.    
Some cheaper ND filters can leave a colour cast onto your footage, not all things are made equally.

They can be fairly easy to knock off / lose and then your left to buy another pack, is relates to older GoPro models where the filter goes on top of the lens. 

You might find you have a 101 rubbish photos with only 5 good ones, but they will be better than good, they will be great :-). 


Would you recommend ND filters?
If you are new to filming then I would say no, its another thing to try and figure out, however if you are looking to improve your filming / photography then I would 100% recommend them as they can give you something different.  


What brand of ND filters?

Like everything you can get really cheap and really expensive and when it comes down your budget.  The annoying this they do come in packs when in the UK a ND4 + ND8 is really all we would use for general onboard footage.  
PolarPro tend to get fairly decent reviews & Neewer are a bit cheaper and Tilsen are the real budget but dont come with ND4. 

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