DJI is certainly the best Drone, accounting for 80% of the market, DJI have beautiful industrial design, high-end materials, and stable system, so today we give you the buying guide for DJI.
DJI Inspire 2
DJI’s pro-grade Inspire 1 drone has enjoyed some upgrades over its lifespan. Its modular camera design made that possible, with the standard 1/2.3-inch X3 4K camera giving way to Micro Four Thirds X5 and X5 Raw variations. But now it’s time for an all new airframe with two new camera options, significantly improved speed, and an obstacle avoidance system. The Inspire 2 ($6,198 as reviewed) is sure to be the darling drone of pro filmmakers, local news stations, and deep-pocketed enthusiasts, as it supports features that demanding aerial videographers require, including dual-operator control and pro-grade video compression. It’s our Editors’ Choice for high-end drones.
The Inspire 2is a big drone. It’s powered by just four rotors, so it’s actually smaller than the competing pro-grade Yuneec Tornado H920. The aircraft’s dimensions change slightly based on the position of its landing gear. When set to take off there’s about 1.2 feet between each motor. Switching to travel mode, which lets you stow the drone in the included carrying case, widens its footprint, while at the same time reducing its height. Without a camera installed it weighs about 7.3 pounds, so you’ll most certainly have to register with the FAA before outdoor flight.
The landing gear blocks the left and right views of the camera when the Inspire is on the ground, but it rises up once the drone is airborne, allowing camera to look left, right, backward, and any direction in between, with an unobstructed view. Its body is now magnesium alloy, in contrast to the plastic shell that protects the internals of the Inspire 1. The landing gear retains its carbon fiber construction.
The Inspire has a fixed, built-in camera that faces forward. It’s stabilized by a 2-axis gimbal, and its sole purpose is to provide a forward video feed to the pilot at all times. It is nestled in the front, in between the forward obstacle sensors. The camera that is actually used for video capture hangs underneath the body and is stabilized using a 3-axis gimbal.
There are two camera options. The first is the Zenmuse X4S, which is a $599 add-on (not included in the $2,999 base price or the $6,198 configuration reviewed here). It has the same 1-inch 20MP image sensor, 24mm f/2.8-11 lens, and mechanical shutter as the integrated camera used by the Phantom 4 Pro$1,419.00 at Amazon. Its fixed field of view covers about the same angle as a 24mm lens on a full-frame camera system.
There’s support for two remotes, one for the pilot and a second for the camera operator. Unlike the Phantom 4 Pro, the Inspire 2’s remote controls don’t have an integrated tablet. All of the video, both from the forward camera and Zenmuse camera, is sent over the same stream, so the two operators must be within 328 feet (100 meters) of each other when operating in tandem. Only one remote is included, so you’ll need to buy a second one for $549 if you want to separate flight and camera control.
The aircraft features multiple redundant systems. There are dual Inertial Measurement Units (IMUs) and barometers, and the flight transmission system has a backup communication path in the event the main one fails during flight. Additionally, there are two batteries, so you can safely bring the I2 in for a landing if one fails. The included charger holds up to four at a time, which is helpful if you end up buying an extra set or two. The batteries are self heating, and can operate in temperatures as low as -4 degress Fahrenheit (-20 degress Celsius). The drone can be operated in areas that are high above sea level—its ceiling is 16,400 feet (5000m).
DJI Inspire 2 : Sample Image
It also supports TapFly, just like the Phantom 4 and Mavic Pro$907.93 at Amazon. The fixed forward camera is utilized here, so you can send the drone flying in a certain direction while recording footage from another angle. There’s also Active Track, which recognizes and follows moving subjects on the ground, as well as Orbit and Waypoint flight modes, all of which leverage the obstacle avoidance system.
Other automated flight options include Spotlight Pro, which allows you to identify and track a subject. The camera automatically stays honed on target while you fly the Inspire—it’s like having a virtual camera operator on hand. Point of Interest—orbiting around a subject—and Waypoint flight aren’t available as of yet, but are coming with a future update.
DJI Inspire 2 : Flight App
The Inspire 2 uses a different flight app than earlier DJI drones. You need to download the DJI Go 4 to your Android or iOS device in order to take control. The new app can import your flight logs from the cloud, assuming you’ve synced them using the older DJI Go flight app. And it supports some other recent models—including the Phantom 4, Phantom 4 Pro, and Mavic Pro—as well. It’s intriguing that DJI has opted to split the app into a newer version. Aside from some interface tweaks, it’s nearly identical to the older DJI Go app that I’m used to using.
The app shows a live feed from the camera, lets you take control of video and photography settings, automatically logs your flights, and includes a very basic video editor and integration with the SkyPixel social network. You’ll still use the remote to take control of the aircraft’s movements, using the left stick for altitude and yaw, and the right to move the I2 through space. You can use TapFly with the I2, which lets you pilot the craft simply by tapping on a point on the phone’s screen.
We received the premium Zenmuse X5S for review. The small Micro Four Thirds camera supports lens changes, captures video at up to 5.2K quality in CinemaDNG, and can shoot 20MP stills in DNG and JPG formats. It’s much smaller than the similar CGO4 camera that Yuneec bundles with the H920$3,043.72 at Amazon. And, unlike the H920, which has a recessed lens mount, you can use third-party lenses via a mechanical adapter, as long as they are small and light enough to not too much strain on the stabilizing gimbal. A 15mm f/1.7 lens is included—it appears to be a DJI-branded version of the Panasonic Lumix G Leica DG Summilux 15mm f/1.7.
In addition to the camera and lens, the bundle includes the software licenses you’ll need to capture footage in CinemaDNG and Apple ProRes. A 16GB microSD card is included, but not an SSD, which is required to use the pro-grade formats. You can choose to buy one based on your storage needs—120GB for $299, 240GB for $499, or 480GB for $899—and you’ll want to get the CineSSD Station to offload footage to a computer; it’s $149.
DJI Inspire 2 : Video Options
You can also buy the aircraft without a camera for $2,999. You’ll get the microSD card, but the camera and licenses aren’t included. If you don’t have the need to shoot in CinemaDNG or ProRes, you’ll want to consider this configuration. You have the option of adding the X5S camera and lens for $1,899, or the X4S for $599. You’ll still have access to H.264 and H.265 recording in your choice of MP4 or MOV format at 100Mbps, as well as DNG and JPG image capture.
The video processing engine is built into the aircraft rather than the camera modules. It supports 5.2K capture at up to 30fps and 4K at up to 60fps when shooting in CinemaDNG. ProRes recording tops out at 30fps, with both 422 HQ and 4444 XQ available at various aspect ratios. If you shoot in H.264 or H.265 you can push the video up to 60fps. Simultaneous recording to SSD and microSD is supported.
Still images are supported in Raw DNG format with either camera. Both pack about 20MP of resolution; it’s just the physical sensor size that differs. The X4S can be set to ISO 100 through 12800, while the X5S can be pushed further, to ISO 25600, a plus for video and imaging in very challenging light.
DJI Inspire 2 : Flight LogThe Inspire 2 is a premium aircraft, and it delivers premium performance. My flight logs show that its cruising speed is about 40mph in its standard operating mode and I got it up to 69mph in the Sport configuration. You’ll need to have a big, clear area to safely fly in Sport, though, as it disables the obstacle avoidance system and requires extra room for stopping.
I had no transmission issues flying at distances of up to 2,500 feet in testing. Beyond that point I started to get some jerkiness with my video feed and turned around. The Inspire 2 uses the same Lightbridge transmission system we’ve seen in other DJI drones, so in an area clear of Wi-Fi interference, you can expect it to go further than half a mile.
Considering its size and weight, battery life is solid. In a few flights that averaged 20 minutes in length and covered just about 13,000 feet of distance, I landed with 20 percent battery remaining. In a flight with more constant movement, close to 19,000 feet of distance in 14 minutes, I landed with 37 percent battery remaining. Depending on the type of flying you’re doing, you can expect about 20 to 25 minutes of flight time with the X5S. DJI states that flight times are longer with the X4S.
There are several integrated safety features, including the basic Return-to-Home function that automatically brings the Inspire back to its point of launch in the event that communication between the remote and aircraft is disrupted. RtH can also be triggered manually, and obstacle avoidance is active in RtH, minimizing the chance of an accident.
Obstacle avoidance sensors in the nose prevent the I2 from running into objects, as long as it’s flying forward. The system is able to detect objects 100 feet away. Because the camera can spin to face any direction, you should try to fly forward as much as possible if you’re in an environment where a collision is possible. There are also upward facing IR sensors, though they have a much more limited 16-foot detection range. Sensors on the underside detect terrain, so altitude adjusts along with hills when flying low, and identify patterns beneath the drone for stable flight when working indoors without GPS stabilization. The I2 is a big bird, so we weren’t able to test indoor flight.
Video and Image Quality
The aerial footage you get from the Zenmuse X5S is breathtaking, even when shooting in the lowly H.264 format. The big Micro Four Thirds sensor, combined with the ability to change lenses, really opens up what you can do with a drone. The included lens boasts a tighter field of view than you get from most aircraft, but only marginally so—it’s about 30mm in full-frame equivalent terms.
I flew with a couple of different lenses in addition to the 15mm f/1.7. An Olympus 25mm f/1.8 is small enough to work with the X5S gimbal and covers a traditional standard-angle field of view. You won’t get sweeping views from the air, but the sense of depth and motion will be enhanced. I also used the Olympus 12mm f/2, which is a small wide-angle gem that includes a manual focus ring. I set it to infinity and didn’t have to worry about autofocusing during flight—if you do opt for AF, you’ll need to tap the screen to set a focus point.
DJI Inspire 2 : Sample Image
But I had the most fun with a non-native lens. My old Leica 40mm Summicron f/2, a manual focus lens that’s slim enough to be considered a pancake, delivered lens flare and a lower contrast look that you don’t get with modern lenses, even though I had it stopped down to about f/8 for flight. Its field of view is short telephoto on a Micro Four Thirds sensor, which gives footage a depth you don’t typically see from a drone. It’s also a good option for geting tighter views of the ground in areas where you want to remain at a higher altitude. Its field of view can be mimicked with the more modern Olympus 45mm f/1.8, another compact lens that’s compatible with the X5S, but you won’t get the same type of flare as you do with vintage glass. Not every Leica lens is going to be small and light enough to work with the X5S gimbal, but I’d imagine that the C Biogon 21mm and 35mm lenses from Zeiss would fit the bill, as would Leica’s 35mm Summicron series.
You don’t need to shoot in CinemaDNG to get great footage out of the I2. And to handle the 5.2K footage you’ll not only need a fast computer, but an external drive that can read and write quickly enough for your editing software to keep up. I took some footage using CinemaDNG and my Retina iMac choked to the point where I didn’t use any of it for this review—it was a pretty simple shakedown flight to make sure everything was working, not an exotic location shoot. There’s currently a bug with Adobe Premiere Pro CC that makes CinemaDNG footage from the I2 look quite dark and shows highlights as bright magenta. But the video looks fine in other applications, including Photoshop and AfterEffects from Adobe, and Blackmagic DaVinci Resolve. If you’re working in an environment where CinemaDNG is the preferred workflow—that is, in the high end of the industry—you’ll need to be aware of the issue, but it won’t affect everyone.
ProRes footage loaded fine into Premiere Pro, and while the resolution isn’t 5.2K, it’s still quite strong at 4K, with a lot of latitude available for color correction and exposure adjustments. If you opt to get an Inspire kit without an SSD or software licenses, you’ll be limited to shooting in H.264 or H.265. Those formats don’t allow for as much leeway in adjustment, and are frowned upon in professional circles. Buf if you nail the shot in camera and are editing it for your own purposes, you’ll end up with fantastic video as well.
DJI Inspire 2 : Sample Image
One note about our test footage. You’ll see some flickering changes in exposure at times. This is my fault—during one of my flights I left the drone in Shutter Priority mode instead of Manual. The automatic exposure system adjusted other settings during recording based on changes in the scene. To avoid this, do the right thing and set exposure manually.
Still images are just as good as you get with a Micro Four Thirds camera on the ground. The gimbal keeps the lens steady during exposure, and when switching over to stills you can always use a shorter shutter speed than you would for video footage to ensure a crisp image. I opted to shoot in DNG and JPG format simultaneously. I appreciate the ability to work with DNG files in Lightroom or Photoshop in order to tune shadows, highlights, and colors to get the exact look I want from a photo.
When paired with the X5S camera and gimbal, the DJI Inspire 2 delivers the best video we’ve seen from any drone. Its price is prohibitive for most consumers, but it’s a solid purchase for video production companies and news organizations, and a drop in the bucket for Hollywood studios. The ability to use different lenses really opens up creative options and delivers footage that doesn’t look like every other drone out there, and the large Micro Four Thirds sensor delivers video with a depth you don’t get with small sensor drones.
The aircraft itself is also a marvel. Its construction is all pro-grade, with redundant flight systems, obstacle avoidance, and support for dual-operator control. In Sport mode it flies through the air with great speed, and in standard mode it cruises along quickly as well.
If you’re a pro working on projects that require CinemaDNG or ProRes video capture, the Inspire 2 is your clear pidk, and our Editors’ Choice in the pro drone space—it’ll pay for itself in time.
Zenmuse X5R – Review
It’s a pleasure to film with this camera and the post production is very easy. DJI supplies the users with a color correcting software named Cinelight. This software also allows the user to export the Raw files to Prores or any other format that will allow the user to view or edit them.
I have been grading my movies with Davinci Resolve and editing them with Resolve or Final Cut Pro X, after exporting the files with Cinelight.
I also tried, with success, editing with Adobe Premiere but it’s a software that I’m not very familiar with.
The X5R is even better balanced with the Inspire 1 new gimbal plates.
I also tried the DJI wireless follow focus with this camera and everything went fine.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro Review
While drone sales have been increasing at breathtaking speeds, DJI has been one of the few manufactures setting the standard for quality in both drone technology and camera image quality for these aerial UAVs. The DJI Phantom 4 Pro does exactly that with a new camera boasting a larger 1” 20MP sensor capable of 4k video at up to 60fps! But the Phantom 4 Pro is more than just a camera upgrade with a host of new sensors, longer maximum range & flight time, new autonomous mode, speed increase, and more. So let’s take a look at DJI’s newest drone option.
The most notable upgrade of the Phantom 4 Pro is the camera system. Yes, the new 1” 20MP sensor yields better image quality, more dynamic range, and considerably better low light performance than previous models. That said, the biggest improvements are on the inside with an adjustable aperture and mechanical shutter. Previous DJI models relied on a fixed aperture which forced you to adjust for changing light conditions using ISO, Shutter, and in some cases a physical ND filter which offers no adjustment while flying. This meant it was extremely difficult and typically impossible to match the shutter speed to the video frame rate as you would typically do for video recording. With a variable aperture, this is no longer an issue with the Phantom 4 Pro and I could achieve smooth video recording in every light condition. The mechanical shutter will also be appreciated by those shooting aerial photography.
New sensors now offer obstacle avoidance in 4 directions (up from 2) with a faster maximum speed without moving to sport mode which disables obstacle avoidance. Thanks to the ability to use both 2.4 GHz and 5.8 GHz, the controller is less likely to be plagued with interference and has a new range of 4.3 miles. You can also purchase the Phantom 4 Pro Plus which features an integrated extremely bright 1080p display which should simplify the pairing process as well as offer better viewing in direct sunlight. While all the previous intelligent flight modes are here, the new draw function allows you to scroll your finger across the display to define a route that keeps your altitude locked. It’s not a feature I would typically use, but with the 4 directions of obstacle avoidance, you shouldn’t have to worry about accidentally drawing your new drone in to a tree.
Overall I found the new Phantom 4 Pro to be a more considerable upgrade than I previously expected. The new camera with variable aperture exceeded my expectations and with 100mbps, I was seeing more detail in areas such as grass that are difficult to render. The new sensors were a welcome addition and overall the quality and features from the Phantom 4 Pro make this an awesome choice for anyone interested in a quality drone capable of some amazing footage.
DJI Mavic Pro review
There are a lot of drones out there nowadays, but the Mavic Pro is the most responsive and stable one I’ve tried. It’s also fantastically portable, and supremely easy to fly: forget the “Pro” in the name, if you’re willing to make the investment, this is an ideal place for a beginner to get started.
Before getting airborne, you need to perform a quick “Haka” to calibrate the compass – that is, you simply spin the drone around horizontally and vertically. It’s also a good idea to connect your smartphone to the DJI remote control, which has built-in “legs” to hold it in place. This isn’t strictly necessary, but it lets you fly your drone using an easy touchscreen interface, and it also provides a live bird’s-eye view through the Mavic Pro’s 4K nose camera.
With this done, simply open the DJI app, tap the “take off” button and you’re in business. The drone immediately leaps into the air – then hangs there, eerily motionless. It won’t drift or wobble until you nudge the control sticks. When you do, it zooms off, reacting in an instant to the slightest touch.
In fact, it’s so responsive that you should probably start off by engaging beginner mode, which restricts your speed and reduces the sensitivity of the sticks. Don’t get too anxious about crashing, though: the Mavic Pro has a set of built-in cameras and ultrasonic sensors that prevent it from colliding with obstacles. Beginner mode also limits how high and far you can fly while you’re familiarising yourself with the controls.
Once you’re ready to get more adventurous, you’ll find plenty of more advanced options and settings to try out. TapFly calls up a map of the area and lets you simply tap on a location to get your drone to fly there; you can also make the drone circle an object, pointing the camera at it the whole time, while Tracking mode uses the drone’s camera to automatically follow a subject around.
The drone can follow you around too: it will hug the ground and stay close as you walk, climb or ride up the side of a hill. Weirdly, however, it won’t follow you down again, so if you were hoping to capture aerial footage of a snowboarding or mountain-biking adventure, you’ll have to get someone to control it manually.
Once you get really cocky, you can also switch to Sport mode, which unlocks the Mavic Pro’s maximum air speed of 40mph. Be warned, obstacle-avoidance is deactivated in this mode, so if you’re not a careful flyer you could end up destroying your investment.
There are also a couple of modes intended specifically for photography and video recording: Gesture mode lets you wave at the drone to make it take a picture of you (though I found this very hit and miss) while Tripod mode dials down the controller sensitivity to a minimum, to help you capture smooth and steady video footage.
Frankly, whichever mode you’re in, images and video look great, with huge amounts of crisp detail and nice smooth motion.
DJI Mavic Pro review: Portability and range
Considering its impressive capabilities, it’s amazing how small the Mavic Pro is. For transport, its rotor arms fold neatly up against its fuselage, with the blades tucked neatly away. In this mode you can (just about) pick it up in one hand: it’s easily small and light enough to transport in a modestly sized rucksack. When you’re ready to fly, setting it up is the work of a moment: simply unfurl the legs and remove the transparent cowl that protects the camera and its three-axis gimbal.
Although small, the Mavic Pro has a huge range of 4.3 miles. That means, in theory, that you could be standing on Hampstead Heath and pilot the drone all the way down to Westminster to see what’s going on in Parliament Square. Of course, in practice such a flight would be very illegal – if you’re taking your first steps in drone flying, be sure to study the rules about flying drones in populated areas.
Long-range flyers will also appreciate the Mavic Pro’s maximum quoted flight time of 27 minutes on a full battery charge. That’s great by drone standards, and if the battery gets dangerously low (or if the unit loses contact with the controller) it will automatically fly home and – via clever use of the onboard camera – land on exactly the spot it took off from.
DJI Mavic Pro review: Verdict
Until recently, the Mavic Pro had a serious rival in the GoPro Karma – a similarly priced drone that benefited from a professional-grade action camera. However, that model has now been recalled by the manufacturer, following worrying reports of units suddenly losing power in mid-flight and falling out of the sky.
I’ve never heard of such a thing happening with a DJI drone. By contrast, the Mavic Pro feels supremely stable and reliable. More than that, it’s fun: you can enjoy the flying experience without having to worry about smashing into the side of a building, or careering into the ground.
Factor in the price – which undercuts DJI’s own Phantom 4 – plus the Mavic Pro’s excellent portability, and you’re looking at my new favourite drone. Beginners may be tempted to seek out something cheaper, but make no mistake: no matter whether you’re a novice or a flying ace, the Mavic Pro is very best drone you can buy.
DJI Spark Review
The DJI spark is a diminutive drone that just screams to be put in your bag and taken everywhere you go. It’s likely to appeal to all levels of users thanks to its extremely compact size and strong feature set, but this miniaturization does come at a cost. Compared to most larger models it has shorter battery life, lacks a 3-axis gimbal and, notably, does not support 4K video capture. But, did we mention that it’s really small?
With an MSRP of $499, the Spark doesn’t have a lot of direct competition from models of comparable size and feature sets, though the closest alternative is probably the Yuneec Breeze 4K. If size isn’t a critical factor there are models with more impressive specs, such as DJI’s own Phantom 3 Standard and Phantom 3 SE, in the same price range.
The Spark is also available in a ‘Fly More’ combo that adds a remote controller, charging hub, spare props, propeller guards, and extra battery for $699.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty, let’s qualify this review (and really, any drone review). A drone is not a flying camera. Rather, a drone is an aircraft with a camera attached to it. Therefore, the true value of a drone is a balance between the aircraft and camera.
Since we’re looking at two distinct pieces of hardware merged together, let’s look at each one individually, beginning with the aircraft. We’ve included the Yuneec Breeze and DJI Phantom 3 SE for comparison.
The thing that’s obvious right away is how much smaller the Spark and Breeze are compared to a full-sized Phantom, though the Phantom will stay in the air quite a bit longer. The Spark has some notable advantages over the Breeze, including a much higher maximum speed (when used with the optional controller) and a mechanical gimbal. Both have a limited operating range of 100m, but if you pair the Spark with the optional controller the range extends significantly. Chances are good you’ll want the controller.
The cameras in all three models are similar in size to the ones found in many smartphones. They’re not going to be low light champs, but they’re still capable of producing good photos and video. What really jumps out here is the Spark’s lack of a 4K video option. Of course, HD is usually fine for web streaming, which we suspect will be a pretty common use case for this model.
What’s all this mean? The Spark is an extremely small, lightweight drone that seems perfect for throwing into a backpack, tossing into carry-on luggage, or just having with you all the time.
The DJI Spark may not offer the best photo or video quality, but as a package it’s one of the best you can buy under $700. It’s so small it will fit in practically any bag, it’s easy to use and it has features – such as object tracking and obsctable avoidance – that you’d expect only in more expensive models.
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