This is where DJI pulls away from the competition.
The aerial-imaging drone maker has already shown that it's ahead of others when it comes to simple-to-use, but powerful ready-to-fly quadcopters with this year'sline as well as 2014's , a key feature of which is its modular Zenmuse X3 camera and gimbal system, giving owners an easy upgrade path. A path that got a little longer today with the announcement of the Zenmuse X5 and X5R.
At the Interdrone Conference in Las Vegas, DJI introduced the two DJI-made camera and gimbal systems that both feature a 16-megapixel Micro Four Thirds (MFT) sensor and lens mount. The company , a group established by Olympus and Panasonic to promote the MFT camera system standard. According to DJI, the X5 and X5R are world's first commercially available MFT cameras specifically designed for aerial use.
Along with sharing the same sensor, the two models support three lenses in addition to DJI's MFT 15mm f1.7 ASPH lens made for the X5: the Panasonic Lumix 15mm G Leica DG Summilux f1.7 ASPH lens and Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 12mm f2.0 and M.Zuiko 17mm f1.8 lenses.
Lens support is limited because in order to keep the camera stable in flight, the 3-axis gimbal reads the lens profile and uses the information to adjust the motors for the weight and center of gravity along with a lens hood weighted to help keep balance.
Where the cameras differ is in their shooting capabilities. While the X5 and X5R can capture 4K-resolution video (4,096x2,160 pixels) at 24 frames per second, the X5R can do it in CinemaDNG raw format recording to a removable 512GB solid-state drive mounted in the gimbal's top plate. Video bitrates average 1.7Gbps on the X5R, whereas the X5's 4K video tops out at a 60Mbps bitrate. That's just the maximum resolution, too, as the X5 series can also capture UHD- and 2K-resolution video at 30fps and full HD at 60fps.
To help you work with the raw video files, DJI is releasing CineLight desktop software, which will offer offline proxy editing before converting the CinemaDNG files to ProRes.
Both cameras can capture MP4 or MOV video and JPEG and DNG raw photos to a microSD card. Maximum bit depth when recording to a microSD card is 8 bit with 4:2:0 chroma subsampling; the X5R's in raw is 10 bit with 4:4:4.
Shooting modes include program, shutter-priority, aperture-priority and manual. Focus can be set to auto or done manually with focus peaking available to help there and zebra patterning to assist with exposure. The sensitivity range is selectable from ISO 100 to ISO 25600. (You can find more details on all their capabilities on DJI's site.)
According to DJI, impact to the Inspire 1's flight times should be minimal using the new cameras. The Inspire 1 with the Zenmuse X5 can get up 15 minutes compared to the 18 minutes you can expect when toting the X3. A higher-capacity battery for the Inspire 1 is available, which is expected to deliver up to 18 minutes.
The Zenmuse X5 is available for preorder for $4,500, which includes the DJI Inspire 1 quadcopter and DJI's MFT 15mm f1.7 ASPH lens and is expected to ship before the month is out. The Zenmuse X5R will be available in Q4 2015 for $8,000. UK and Australia availability and pricing wasn't available, but these prices convert to £2,900 and AU$6,400 for the X5 and £5,200 and AU$11,300 for the X5R.
Inspire 1 owners with the Zenmuse X3 camera will be able to pick up a standalone Zenmuse X5 for $2,200. It requires a small bracket to be mounted on the quadcopter, but the X5 cameras are fully compatible. Again, no UK or Australia pricing was available, but it converts to £1,400 and AU$3,100. Standalone pricing for the X5R will be announced closer to the release date.