Ready to take your big boy camera to the skies? The DJI M600 is DJI’s latest flying platform and a heavy lifter that can even carry the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K. Check out this M600 review and see which things you should consider if you’ve got your eye on the latest toy in affordable drone and camera technology. The DJI M600 was first introduced to us during NAB 2016 in Las Vegas. It is a large hexacopter camera drone for serious professional aerial cinematography. What makes the DJI M600 so interesting for us is that it competes with other large camera drones and can lift heavy payloads, but is comparably easy to use (more on that later), affordable and integrates with DJI’s ergonomic flying solutions compatible with many camera types. DJI M600 Review – The Boss of the Skies Compared to DJI’s earlier large drones, the DJI Spreadwings S900 and S1000, the new DJI M600 can lift heavier weight, integrates the Ronin MX gimbal stabilizer for large camera compatibility and is easier to set up. It also uses DJI’s next generation A3 flight controller and Lightbridge 2, and can be upgraded with the D-RTK GNSS system for centimeter-accurate flight positioning. The A3 flight controller has a failsafe system and Lightbridge 2 delivers 1080 over a 5km distance. The M600’s wings can be collapsed downward The DJI M600 flies 65 km/h and up to an altitude of 2500. In this review I will not compare other large flying platforms, but rather focus on the differences, benefits and downsides in comparison to the much smaller DJI Inspire 1 RAW drone. I believe this will be helpful for those struggling to decide whether to upgrade their small flying platforms to a bigger form factor and use larger cameras like the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K. There are other reviews out there that discuss how the M600 stacks up against other large drones. Preparation When the DJI M600 and Ronin MX packages arrived at our office in Vienna, there was no doubt that there was a long process of preparation ahead of us before undertaking our DJI M600 review in Switzerland later that month. We had to assemble and test many parts because, as in any other production, you want to be ready for any eventualities when shooting begins. The M600 when the wings are folded away. This is as small as it gets unfortunately. That preparation time took longer than expected. I estimate it takes about 3-4 hours to assemble a DJI M600 with a Ronin MX for the first time. There are well made instruction videos on the internet, and if everything goes according to plan you’ll have a drone ready to fly by the end of it. In my case, the HDMI cable inside the drone was DOA, so it had to be replaced. Other than that, the software for the M600 and Ronin MX needed to be updated with a Windows computer, because software wasn’t yet available for Mac. I will not hold this against DJI, as I applaud them for bringing out new technology to the market so quickly, and I heard from other professional flyers that setup time is much quicker and easier in comparison to previous or competing platforms as everything comes readily integrated and setup with the M600. My ultra-light and flexible replacement HDMI cable. One thing is clear for me after setting up the DJI M600, though. This is not a product that’s anywhere near ready to be used out of the box. It needs time, care and a basic set of technical skills. It cannot be compared to a DJI Inspire 1 RAW, which you can just pull out of the box, switch on and fly. Looking at the charging process below is a good visual representation of the complexity between using an Inspire 1 RAW, and M600 with Ronin MX and URSA Mini 4.6K camera. Both can fly for about 15 minutes with these batteries: Charging the DJI Inspire 1 RAW battery and remote Charging the DJI M600, Ronin MX, URSA Mini batteries and remote Even though preparing to fly with a DJI M600 is a lot more time-consuming and difficult than with a DJI inspire 1 RAW, there are several reasons why you could decide to go with an M600 anyway. The simplest argument is that you can fly any camera, while the DJI Inspire 1 RAW restricts you to always fly the Zenmuse X5R, but more on that topic later. If you’re interested to find out how the DJI Inspire 1 RAW performs, you should check out these extensive reviews I did: How Does the Osmo RAW Compare to Professional Cinema Cameras? DJI Inspire 1 vs. Inspire 1 PRO vs. Inspire 1 RAW – See the Difference Shoot Aerial Video Like a Pro – Mastering Drone Footage – PART 1 Let’s fly that M600 beast with an URSA Mini 4.6K now, shall we? :) Working with the DJI M600 & URSA Mini 4.6K Getting the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K airborne on a DJI M600 turned out to be harder than expected. Installing the DJI Ronin MX on the M600 is a straight forward process, and the gimbal works just like it would on the ground. You don’t have to tune anything, if you did it all right, it should just all work together. In addition, you can easily control and manipulate settings on the Ronin MX via the DJI Go App and the remote that controls the M600 itself. Perfect! But then, I quickly found out that the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K with a small V-Mount battery is already on the brink of the weight limit of the M600, and only fits on the Ronin MX with some creative techniques. The biggest problem is the camera’s LCD is on a side of the camera body that can’t be accessed while it’s mounted on the Ronin MX. The second problem is that the camera’s power button is behind said LCD, meaning I needed to switch the camera on and then quickly assemble the gimbal before flight. Not ideal, but this is a problem specific to the combination of the URSA Mini and Ronin gimbal. The SDI signal was run through an HDMI converter into the drone, and the length of the camera was on the Ronin MX size limit by a few milimeters with the Canon EF-S 24mm pancake lens that I used. Ideally you would get the DJI wireless link to transfer the camera preview to the drone. I simply used the HDMI cable straight into the camera. Not ideal, but it works. It is probably easier to fit an Arri ALEXA Mini or a RED Epic on a Ronin MX gimbal, but none of them will deliver quality at the same price as the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K. This is why we tested with the latter. That said, if you plan to use an URSA Mini on this drone, be advised to use DJI’s Ronin MX camera battery solution, as you would not be able to fit any lens on it other than a pancake when using a heavy V-Mount battery, like I was. Also we hope Blackmagic Design will soon fix the magenta corner issue that was also apparent with the camera we tested (see video). Maxing out the weight (15kg takeoff weight) of the M600 proved to affect the flying behaviour to a certain degree. On the one hand, this powerful drone had no troubles to take off the ground easily, but I noticed that the heavy camera would make the whole gimbal construction swing on fast movements, which was sometimes visible in the footage. This is of course to be expected and nothing the drone can’t handle. Quite the contrary, the DJI M600 is a beast that flies with an understated warm sound and follows your input accurately, just like a DJI Inspire 1 would. The M600 is a little quicker and the Inspire is more agile. One thing that affected my test is that DJI could only provide 1 set of batteries at the time, so I had 15 minutes of flying time in the Swiss alps and I was not able to make that 10 hour travel a second time just for a reshoot. Unfortunately it started to rain in mid flight, so the flying time was reduced to just 8 minutes in total on two occasions. Ideally you would also make sure that not only the video feed, but also camera controls are connected to the flight controller, by getting the right remote controller suited to your camera. The Benefits of Working with the DJI M600 What is great about working with the M600 is that you have a very powerful drone that fully integrates with DJI’s Go App system and is upgradable with the D-RTK GNSS for centimeter accurate flying, added redundancy, etc. Basically you can mount whatever other accessories you like, not only to the drone, but also to the camera. And this is the most important argument for this drone. Besides incorporating the A3 failsafe functions and latest DJI technology, it can be used with any camera, lens and accessories you choose. You can use a camera as small as the Inspire 1 RAW’s very own Zenmuse X5R or a camera as large as the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4.6K, and anything in between. If the Ronin MX is too large, you can use other mounting brackets for the Zenmuse cameras or the Zenmuse Z15 brackets for smaller cameras like the Sony a7 series. For me this is the kind of drone I would use to complement a project like a commercial or fiction film, where the highest quality and consistency is needed and where I have a safe and controlled environment to prepare and fly. I have not used a drone like the Freefly Cine Alta yet, and I’m sure it’s a great product if you have the money, but for $4,600 the DJI M600 is hard to beat: a heavy lifter that offers a lot of drone for little investment, and one that should certainly be considered by professionals. The Downsides of Working with the DJI M600 Having had the direct comparison to the DJI Inspire 1 RAW while testing the DJI M600, I noticed a few things you might want to consider before upgrading to a drone as large as this one. First and foremost, size makes a huge difference here… and not in a good way. After going through several days of reviewing the DJI M600, I can now fully appreciate the benefits of a small drone, and I can say with confidence that smaller is better when it comes to flying them. I have tested and used the DJI Inspire 1 RAW on several occasions now, and I’m still blown away by the quality of the Zenmuse X5R camera. Few other cameras reach this standard, and with an easy DaVinci Resolve workflow, this camera is, in my book at least, very hard to beat for aerial cinematography. There are many factors about a drone that can contribute towards getting the desired shots. The ergonomics and small size of the DJI Inspire 1, for example, allow me to have everything with me in a single box and be ready and flying within roughly 2 minutes after getting out of my car. Four batteries will last me an hour. I could climb a mountain with it and get those precious shots. The DJI M600 is much more limiting in this regard. I had the M600 and URSA Mini packed across six cases. You need an extra case for the M600. It was a lot of heavy luggage that took about 20-30 minutes to set up. Not to say that a large drone is not worth the extra effort, but the setup speed of smaller drones is an invaluable asset to getting great shots, especially when you’re a small crew or even on your own and out and about shooting special places. After all, it is all about content! Another lesson I learned is that a large drone greatly limits your flying possibilities in the public. Setting up and flying a DJI M600 is a lot scarier for passerby’s than a small drone and people get more and more sensitive to them too. Conclusion Making this DJI M600 review was a great experience for me. On the one hand, I was very impressed with how the DJI M600 and Ronin MX combo give me the freedom to use any kind of camera and accessories in order to achieve the shots I need at a relatively affordable price. This drone would be a great help on commercial shoots where we need to fly a certain camera or lens with a reliable and familiar system while still keeping costs to a minimum. On the other hand, I can now fully appreciate the ergonomics of smaller drones like the DJI Inspire 1, and especially that the possibilities that the DJI Inspire 1 RAW offers with the Zenmuse X5R camera and lenses will be more than sufficient for my creative vision on most projects. In future versions of the DJI Matrice series I hope DJI will work on making the large form factor easier to use. I certainly see room for improvement when it comes to foldaway size and use of less batteries. All in all, other user reports seem to suggest that DJI is once again ahead of the pack when it comes to the latest in drone flying technology. The price and eco system they have built continues to be probably their most compelling argument. My advice: only go for a larger drone if you know what you’re getting yourself into. If you do, the DJI M600 is an affordable tool that can get the job done and is worth considering. Music by: Art-List.io (Garden of Things – Two Third)Read more
There’s been a significant DJI price drop on the Inspire 1 Pro and other DJI products, so if you haven’t taken the plunge, now would be a good time. As of this morning, it should be much easier on your wallet. If you are interested to know more about some of those products, don’t miss Sebastian’s excellent related articles: “How the DJI Phantom 4 Uses Artificial Intelligence”, “DJI Inspire 1 vs. Inspire 1 PRO vs. Inspire 1 RAW – See the Difference”, and “X5 vs. X5R Analyzed – Which DJI Zenmuse Should You Get?“. Taking it one step forward, get some valuable tips to how to fly your drone and nicely treat your material afterwards: Shoot Aerial Video Like a Pro – Mastering Drone Footage – PART 1 and PART 2. Now for the real deal: DJI Inspire 1 PRO Quadcopter with Zenmuse X5 4K Camera and 3-Axis Gimbal – Reg Price $3899 | Now $3,399 DJI Zenmuse X5 Camera and 3-Axis Gimbal with 15mm f/1.7 Lens – Reg Price $2,199 | Now $1,799 DJI Zenmuse X5 Camera and 3-Axis Gimbal – Reg Price $1,699 | Now $1,299 DJI 512GB SSD for Zenmuse X5R Camera – Reg Price $1,499 | Now $999 DJI 512GB SSD for Zenmuse X5R Camera (3-Pack) – Reg Price $3,000 | Now $1,799 DJI Phantom 4 Quadcopter – Reg Price $1,399 | Now $1,199 DJI Phantom 4 Quadcopter Kit with Spare Battery – Reg Price $1,479 | Now $1,299 DJI Phantom 4 Quadcopter Kit with Two Spare Batteries – Reg Price $1,559 | Now $1,399 Hope you will have many hours of fun flying, and don’t forget: fly safely!!!Read more
Filmconvert has just announced their latest camera profile, this time for the DJI Osmo X3 camera. As it is the same piece of hardware internally, the Phantom 4 and Inspire 1 are also included in this free update. Get the Filmconvert Treatment for the Osmo X3 Not so long ago, a log gamma curve for in-camera aquisition was something you could only find in really high end cinema cameras. As time goes by, nearly every decent camera in the market is capable of capturing footage with a higher dynamic range than plain Rec709. At that point, a handy piece of software called Filmconvert comes into play. It not only converts log footage back into good looking imagery, but also adds film grain and certain looks of actual film stocks. Now, even the tiny DJI Osmo X3 camera gets its own Filmconvert profile. For such a small sensor as the Sony 1/2.3″ model, it’s even more important to treat the resulting footage in a way that takes away the digital harshness which is typical for sensors of this type. Oftentimes it comes with a strong video-esque look due to the very deep DOF and other things like ugly moiré patterns. The Osmo X3, just as the Phantom 4 on-board camera, is capable of shooting in D-Log, which is a custom gamma curve created by the engineers at DJI. With it you’ll get a flat looking image, but it has a much higher dynamic range in return. In order to revert that washed out footage back to normal in post, Filmconvert is here to help with its now released profile for that very camera. How to Filmconvert Your Footage Step one: You need to apply the Filmconvert effect from within your favorite NLE such as Premiere Pro CC or, if you’ve already finished editing your piece, it’s available for DaVinci Resolve, too. There’s even a standalone version, but for me it’s much easier to stay in my application of choice and work from there. (Tip: add an adjustment layer on top of your footage and drag the filmConvert effect there to avoid individual FilmConvert clip corrections. Then do minor needed changed on the video clip itself). Step two: Choose the correct profile, in this example the DJI Osmo X3 profile. This will transform the log footage back into the realm of Rec709. Step three: Now you can choose your favorite film stock, such as Kodak 5207 Vision 3, and tweak the settings to your likings. Usually, the amount of film grain is a bit too high, at least to my liking. There you go: after that, your footage will suffer less from that harsh video look. These steps are valid for every available camera profile, of course. Conclusion I really appreciate the progress in which Filmconvert develops new profiles for different cameras. The DJI Osmo X3 is certainly not the best camera in the world, but with the help of its D-Log profile and the Filmconvert treatment it actually looks kind of nice! One more thing to have in mind: you should get a variable ND filter for that camera! Since it lacks a variable aperture, the X3 has to increase the shutter rate like crazy, which results in ugly jittering. It’s a good idea to tackle the problem in the first place by setting the camera to manual (1/50 shutter and ISO 100 for example) and controlling the exposure with the variND only. Filmconvert is $149 for one host application or $219 for the complete bundle, check out their site for more information. Download the new profile on the Filmconvert.com websiteRead more
DJI just announced the introduction of a drone zoom camera called the DJI Zenmuse Z3. It is an upgrade to the popular Zenmuse X3, which is their entry level integrated drone camera used on the DJI Inspire 1 and DJI Osmo. The Zenmuse Z3 will offer a zoom of up to 7x. That is a 3.5x optical zoom with a digital scaler doing the rest. Although the press release indicates this zoom camera is aimed mainly at industrial applications such as inspection and surveying, it certainly also gives filmmakers interesting new possibilities. A different focal length can come in handy in many filming situations. The Zenmuse Z3 is compatible with the Inspire 1, Matrice 100 and Matrice 600 drones. Unfortunately it will not be compatible with the DJI Osmo, though a separate version for the Osmo will apparently be launched in August. It can capture the same 30fps 4K video and 12mp dng stills as the Zenmuse X3, so we can assume the quality will be similar. The higher-priced Zenmuse X5 and X5R offer much better quality in comparison (see our test video here). The DJI Zenmuse Z3 is integrated into the DJI GO app and uses a swipe gesture to zoom in and out. The effective zoom range of the DJI Zenmuse Z3 is 22 mm to 77 mm on its Sony 1/2.3-inch sensor, and it has a maximum aperture of F/2.8 and F/5.2 at 22 millimeters and 77 millimeters respectively. While low quality is a concern, this is certainly a step in the right direction for DJI. I think we can assume that an upgraded lens for the Zenmuse X5 and X5R is on its way, which may offer the same kind of zooming functionality via their app. The only negative news about this announcement is that it might stir up people’s privacy concerns even more. The “I cannot zoom in anyway!” argument will certainly not hold water any longer.Read more
We’ve been testing the new DJI Zenmuse X5 and X5R RAW cameras recently and we were really curious to see how they compare to the standard Zenmuse X3. If you’re interested to see the quality difference between the DJI Inspire 1 vs. DJI Inspire 1 PRO vs. Inspire 1 RAW check out this video we shot. When we looked at the difference between the Zenmuse X5 and X5R cameras we found that the X5 can’t really compete with the fine RAW quality of the X5R. However it was unclear wether the upgrade to an X5 was worth it in terms of image quality. The X3 is the camera that sits on the normal DJI Inspire 1 drone as well as the DJI Osmo. Both devices can be upgraded with a Zenmuse X5 or Zenmuse X5R camera (The Osmo X5 adapter is needed for the Osmo upgrade) DJI Inspire 1 vs. DJI Inspire 1 PRO vs. Inspire 1 RAW – Verdict So how good is the Zenmuse X5? Looking at the footage we shot it is clear that the Zenmuse X5R resolve much more color gradations than both other cameras. Also, as previously analyzed in our lab test, we can see how the codec and processing of the Zenmuse X5 looses a lot of information with heavy compression. What surprised us was that clearly the Zenmuse X5 resolves more detail than the Zenmuse X3. This is mainly true in full 4K though. When watched on an HD screen the difference is neglectable. In terms of color both cameras seem to have very low color resolution and dynamic range, resulting in a very washed out image that is not easy to grade in post-production. Processing on the Zenmuse X5 seems to be much cleaner though. While we don’t like the magenta tint all over the image, the end result seems more like a flat “LOG” image than the one we get from the Zenmuse X3, even though both cameras were set to “D-LOG”. Testing Environment This test setup was not perfect and not scientific. The X3 and the X5 have very different focal lengths so it is hard to truly compare them side by side. We wanted to take the chance to get a rough feeling of how the 3 cameras perform and especially what the difference between the X3 and X5 truly is. We hope the video gives you some insights on this topic. All cameras were used on the same DJI Osmo, with similar (X3) or identical (x5 and X5R) exposure settings and under full sunlight within a 15 minute timeframe. The filming position was changed for the X3 due to the different focal length. What do you think? Now you’ve seen the 3 cameras side by side. What do you think about their quality, especially in terms of a DJI Inspire 1 vs. DJI Inspire 1 PRO vs. Inspire 1 RAW comparison. Is it worth the upgrade to the X5, or would you go all the way to the X5R?Read more
We’ve been busy testing DJI’s latest “toy”, the Zenmuse X5R RAW camera used on the DJI Osmo handheld gimbal and DJI Inspire 1 drone. In our lab test, we found that the Zenmuse X5R can achieve amazing image quality. But with a pricetag of $3200 it is less attractive than its almost identical, half-priced twin: the Zenmuse X5. In this test, we look at the differences between the X5 vs. X5R. The Differences Between the Zenmuse X5 vs. X5R The main difference between the two cameras is easy to spot. The Zenmuse X5R records RAW dng sequences to very expensive DJI SSD media while the Zenmuse X5 records to a low bitrate h.264 format. Everything else is the same. The same micro 4/3 sensor, the same lens (if you get the lens kit version), the same gimbal. So, in order to pick the right camera we really need to know how big the quality difference between the two cameras is. Let’s take a look in the lab: X5 vs. X5R in the Lab Here is where it gets interesting. In our X5R dynamic range test, we saw that the X5R can achieve about 12 stops of usable dynamic range. In comparison, the X5 gets only about 9 stops. Our software only measures noise and does not take the color changes in the last steps into account, which would more fairly rate the X5 at 7 usable stops in my personal opinion. Note that the X5 records 2 stops less in the highlights, so the test was done at F/2.8 on the X5R and F/5.6 on the X5. When we look at the recording from the test chart we can immediately see a striking difference in image quality. There is a lot of banding and the codec washes out a lot of parts of the image. The lower strips of the dynamic range chart in particular are displayed soft and without any detail. What does this mean? This means that the X5 will have a much, much harder time in high contrast scenes, such as when you’re filming a landscape on a sunny day or in scenes where the sun is your backlight. This is especially common in drone filming. The X5 seems to have a dynamic range more comparable to the old X3 camera that comes with the normal DJI Inspire 1. Let’s look at image quality in detail now: Image Quality of the X5 vs. X5R There is a vast difference in image quality between the Zenmuse X5 and the X5R. We applauded the image quality of the RAW version of the X5R when we compared it to professional cinema cameras on the market. The Zenmuse X5, however, performs really poorly. The image reminds me of the Zenmuse X3. Color gradations are extremely poor. Each of the thread spools I filmed is made up of a few shades of color and that’s it. Any other 8 bit camera is better than this. In practice, this means virtually no room for color grading. Of course, you can always apply a LUT, like you could on the X3. In terms of detail, in the highlight areas the camera performs well, though the X5R can retain the image quality better. The X5 image is also sharpened, which makes it look less natural. The X5 performs better here than the X3. When we look at the shadow areas, we see that we quickly lose detail. Here’s how the lack of dynamic range looks in practice: the codec and processing seems to be so bad, that any image detail is lost in the shadow areas. Sharpened edges and a weird magenta tint kick the image to its doom. Other Differences X5 vs. X5R Battery Life On a fully charged Osmo battery, the Zenmuse X5 camera runs 59 minutes. The Zenmuse X5R on the other hand is very battery hungry and drains that same battery in 26 minutes (Test was conducted with continuous recording on both cameras). When used on a DJI Inspire, we also noticed that the battery life of the X5R makes your flying times much shorter. Noise People have reported about the noisy sound of the Zenmuse X5R’s tiny fans. Indeed, when running with an Omso X5R as we did in our field test, the X5R can be quite problematic for audio. Surprisingly the Zenmuse X5 is only a little less loud as it also emits a fan sound that can ruin quiet recordings. In a very simple test we measured room ambience at 35db, the X5 at 55db and the X5R at 60db. Both at a distance of 10cm. Note that the X5R noise is higher pitched and thus more unpleasant to the ears. Media The Zenmuse X5 is very practical as it only uses Micro SD cards. A decent MicroSD card including a reader, costs $15. In comparison the X5R requires DJI SSD media that costs $1000 per 512GB card. Unfortunately RAW needs much faster write speeds and more storage. This will be a huge problem for many. But for professionals, used to a RAW workflow it is manageable. Verdict The Zenmuse X5R impressed us when we compared it to other cinema cameras and in our field test earlier this month, so we were really curious how the the Zenmuse X5 would hold up. At the end of the day the only difference between the two cameras is a different recording functionality. During this test we quickly realized that the Zenmuse X5R’s RAW capabilities make a huge difference when it comes to image quality and dynamic range. Apparently the X5 processing and compression is very basic and a lot of information seems to get “lost in translation”. Dynamic range suffers so much that it degrades the final output to only 7 honest usable stops in comparison to the X5R’s 12 stops. The Zenmuse X5 strengths are its very low weight, the interchangeable lens design, autofocus functionality and 4K resolution. Even though the detail and colour resolution of the X5R is better, the X5 can still deliver some nice images when used in a semi-professional way. The only question that remains is wether the X5 makes any sense over the “old” Zenmuse X3 that comes with every basic Osmo and DJI Inspire 1. The simple answer to that question: With the autofocus functionality of the X5 the Osmo really makes sense. But on a drone the X5 might not be a huge step after the X3 and you should think twice about the upgrade. We have a comparison between the X3, X5 and X5R coming up later today. After spending a little more time with the Zenmuse X5R on the Osmo and on an Inspire drone, I can confidently say that it produces amazing results that still impress me and the Zenmuse X5 is certainly no match. At the end of the day your budget and workflow possibilities will probably impact your decision here. The X5R has a premium pricetag, especially with the expensive SSD media and a more complicated and storage intense workflow. With all the facts on the table now we’re interested in your verdict and how each of you can see these cameras in your own workflows. Let us know in the comments.Read more
The DJI Osmo RAW has finally arrived at the cinema5D office, as you may have seen in Nino’s Osmo review. But the focus of our attention is the DJI Zenmuse X5R Camera, which can be attached to the DJI Osmo with the Osmo X5 Adapter and produce powerful cinematic RAW footage in 4K with Osmo stabilization in an ultra-compact form factor. [UPDATE]: We have now also compared the X5R to the X5 and X3: LINK We were very curious to find out what the camera quality was really like. Here are our lab test results when compared to professional cinema cameras. DJI Osmo RAW Compared to Professional Cinema Cameras The DJI Osmo RAW version is quite a bold little camera. Very small, light and with a promise of 4K RAW that can also take to the skies when attached to the DJI Inspire 1. The integrated stabilizer makes this an extremely convenient tool, and the fact that there’s a potential for high quality footage with its RAW recording makes it compete with much more professional and expensive cameras. We’ve tested the ergonomics of the device, now let’s see how the little Osmo RAW compares in terms of image quality. Dynamic Range Dynamic range is difficult to measure properly, especially on a RAW camera where processing is done by the user and not by the camera. We’ve gone through DaVinci resolve to create a flat image of our recording and measured it with our software. A good dynamic range rating allows us to capture more shadows and highlights in high-contrast scenes. The X3 camera on the original DJI Osmo suffers from a very poor dynamic range, which is especially problematic when capturing landscapes with the DJI Inspire 1 drone. We’re testing usable dynamic range with a DSC labs XYLA-21 transmissive test chart. Unfortunately, our test lens, the Zeiss 50mm Cp2 macro, is not compatible with the Osmo, so we used the 15mm F/1.7 MFT lens that came with the Osmo X5R. Our software measured about 12 stops of usable dynamic range on the DJI Osmo RAW (Zenmuse X5R camera). This is similar to the rating of the Sony a7S II, 3 stops more than the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4K and 2 stops less than the Arri ALEXA. DJI advertises the dynamic range of the Zenmuse X5R camera at 12.8 stops. It is rare that manufacturers are upfront when it comes to usable dynamic range. Note that a RAW camera doesn’t necessarily produce more dynamic range. Doing numerous comparisons with test charts, we have learned this over time. It is likely that the original Zenmuse X5 gives you more or less the same dynamic range. RAW on the other hand gives you finer gradations, more possibilities in post and an image that is more solid and can be graded further without destroying the image quality. When we pull up that information in the blacks there is noise, but a lot more steps are visible behind it, just like on the Blackmagic URSA Mini 4K that displays a lot of noise early on. 12 stops of usable dynamic range is a good rating for a cinema camera. It is also what the C300 mark II achieved. As always, the Arri ALEXA stays untouched with 14 stops of usable range. The Blackmagic Micro Studio Camera 4K is also small and shoots RAW, but is not an alternative as this one was limited to about 5-6 stops of dynamic range in our tests. Image Quality We determine image quality by looking at sharpness (resolution) and aliasing with the help of stars and tubes. Usually they reveal where an image breaks down in terms of resolution. The shots below were taken at the best ISO speed of each respective camera. DJI Osmo RAW Image Quality – 100% crop of 4K image. As you can see, despite any lens cushioning and lens softness, the DJI Osmo RAW is quite close to the Canon C300 mark II and more or less on par with the Varicam 35 / LT. The Sony a6300 is the only camera that leaves the others behind in terms of resolution. Who would have thought. Looking at the a6300, it has become clear that size is not the deciding factor when it comes to quality resolution. The Osmo DJI RAW proves that yet again, with an impressive image quality that comes close to the bigger cinema cameras. Here are a few more comparison shots of other objects on the test chart: In summary, I would say that in terms of image quality the DJI Osmo RAW can hold up remarkably well in comparison to professional cinema cameras currently on the market. Lowlight The DJI Osmo RAW X5R camera shines at ISO 100, but it quickly loses its power when you crank up the ISO. For the shots above I used minimal post processing. You can see that at ISO 800 there is already a considerable amount of noise in comparison to ISO 100. That said, look at the shot of the cat earlier on where the blacks were pulled a little and some noise reduction was applied. This has to be kept in mind when shooting RAW. You can still treat the image much better than from cameras that use heavy compression. It’s clear that the Zenmuse X5R is not a lowlight wonder and the DJI Osmo RAW should be used at low ISO speeds. I would recommend not to go beyond 800 for high quality shots. Ideally you should stay low, because the Osmo RAW records at ISO 100 at all times. Any other ISO speeds you set in the app are just a “preview” and have to be processed (pushed) in post production. Rolling Shutter The famous rolling shutter effect that haunts CMOS sensors can be especially troubling on shots where a lot of movement is involved. The Zenmuse X5R that rides the DJI Osmo RAW and flies on the DJI Inspire 1 is certainly meant to be involved in a lot of moving shots. Unfortunately, the Zenmuse X5R doesn’t shine here. With 25ms of readout time it is at the worse side of the spectrum, and most proper cinema cameras have much lower rolling shutter ratings. DJI Osmo RAW Conclusion Look at that tiny 4K camera and stabilizer. The DJI Osmo RAW certainly has a niche of its own. A small, stabilized camera that delivers 4K RAW images at 24p. There’s nothing like it right now that delivers RAW, is so easy to use and can be mounted onto an affordable and powerful drone. The question is whether or not the RAW can keep up with cinema standards and truly deliver high quality footage. It is quite difficult to draw a definitive conclusion from what I’ve seen. On the one hand, the footage we get is really powerful, has beautiful deep gradations, a high resolution, organic look and can really be played with in post production. If you’re used to Inspire 1 drone footage, this upgrade will simply blow you away and the difference to a professional cinema camera like a VariCam, Alexa or C300 mark II will be hard to spot when properly post processed. Of course the Zenmuse X5R wouldn’t simply replace a cinema camera, as such a camera is about more than the final end result of a picture you can achieve. An Arri ALEXA is certainly still in a different class altogether, but I think the Osmo RAW will become relevant in the cinema sector for certain applications. There are also a few shortcomings you should consider. In terms of a “true cinema camera”, rolling shutter is absolutely terrible. The Canon 1D C from Canon’s cinema line rightfully has a place in the same ranks here. But especially because the DJI Osmo RAW is used in situations with a lot of motion, the strong rolling shutter can be a problem that might put many professionals off. Another downside is the mediocre lowlight performance. If you’re coming from DSLR’s this will be limiting, but if you’re used to Blackmagic or film cameras you probably won’t notice it. All in all, the DJI Osmo RAW is a remarkable piece of gear. In the right hands, when the RAW is exploited with some time in post production, this can be an extremely powerful tool. The fact that this is not just a camera, but a solution as a miniature gimbal camera for on the go or in the air is intriguing. Is the price of $4000 a lot? Yes. Is it worth it? You decide. Let us know your thoughts in the comments.Read more
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