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DJI’s New Camera Promises Professional-Quality Aerial Filmmaking At A Low Cost

The new cameras also support interchangeable lenses.

Consumer drone powerhouse DJI just unveiled a new set of cameras aimed at professional filmmakers and photographers.

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Known as the Zenmuse X5, the new DJI line—meant to be used on its high-end Inspire 1 platform—is the first aerial camera to feature Micro Four Thirds sensors, normally used in compact interchangeable-lens cameras. It can capture 16 megapixel still images or 4K video at either 24 or 30 frames per second, and is also the world’s smallest lossless 4K camera, the company said.

The Zenmuse X5

What’s perhaps most notable for professional filmmakers is that the Zenmuse X5 offers interchangeable lenses, as well as wireless aperture and focus control via either the DJI Go app or DJI’s Follow Focus system. At launch, the camera supports four lenses from Panasonic and Olympus.

An additional new camera, the Zenmuse X5R, has all the same sensors and lens compatibility as the X5, and also records video to either an on-board microSD card or a removable solid-state drive.

China-based DJI, the world’s largest maker of consumer drones, is now taking pre-orders for the $4,499 X5, which comes with an Inspire 1 and a lens. It will be available by the end of the month. The X5R costs $7,999 and will be available during the fourth quarter.

According to DJI director of communication Michael Perry, the new cameras will be a game-changer for filmmakers who want to shoot aerial footage using consumer-grade drones. Until now, he explained, taking the kind of footage the Zenmuse line allows required high-end rigs carrying heavy digital SLRs. Now, DJI says, filmmakers will be able to get production-level video out of the box.

The new system will also represent significant cost savings, Perry argued. For the price of an Inspire and a Zenmuse, filmmakers will be able to do what previously would have cost at least $15,000, given the price of a high-end drone, a gimbal, a dSLR, remote controls, batteries and chargers, and multiple remote controls.

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As well, the Zenmuse should allow filmmakers to get the footage they want without having to hire someone to operate a much more complicated system.

“Obviously, we want people who are thinking about flying responsibly,” Perry said. But “it’s lowering the threshold so people are able to get in the air a lot more easily, quickly, and at a lower price point.”

The Zenmuse X5 mounted on a drone

Perry added that Zenmuse’s video quality is superior to that of the highest-level camera that can be mounted on DJI’s professional-quality X1000 drone.

While the new cameras are meant to be used for making movies, Perry said the high-quality still images they can take will meet the needs of professionals like agricultural or construction inspectors, map-makers, and others.

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About the author

Daniel Terdiman is a San Francisco-based technology journalist with nearly 20 years of experience. A veteran of CNET and VentureBeat, Daniel has also written for Wired, The New York Times, Time, and many other publications

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