Those of you who read the previous article about our ill-fated DJI Inspire 1 Pro will be glad to know that the sorry saga was successfully resolved when the folks at DJI took the initiative and replaced the under-performing machine with a shiny new drone – which works perfectly!
Having flown it, extensively tested the flight functions, camera functions and the interchangeable lenses in both video and still mode, we can say quite simply that the Inspire 1 Pro lives up to expectations, albeit with one or two minor reservations. Those who felt that the ‘standard’ Inspire 1 plus X3 camera was similar to a fighter jet armed with a peashooter would be very pleasantly surprised by this drone. The 4K video bitrate may still be a bit low for full-on cinema quality, but the larger sensor coupled with some quality lenses make this camera a pleasure to work with in video and still mode. It also produces superb results when you get it right!
Inspire 1 Pro plus X5 camera
The first thing to notice once the Inspire 1 Pro is in the air is how the additional weight of the camera affects performance. The extra 279 grams doesn’t seem like much, but there is a noticeable difference in the handling and speed of response, with a distinct tendency to lurch in the opposite direction if the drone is stopped suddenly or asked to change direction too quickly.
This isn’t really important, though, when footage quality and image resolution are the main priorities, as slow and smooth are what is required for good results here. If you’re into aerobatics your best bet would be to buy a Phantom 2 on eBay and fly it around without a camera just for fun.
Airborne cameras like the X5 provide a whole new perspective, in high definition, whether you are in East Anglia or the mediterranean.
DJI’s Point of Interest feature still doesn’t compare with learning to do it yourself.
The DJI kit lens which comes with the camera produces great images if you avoid stopping down below F13, but even at F16 the fringing and slight softening at the edges are relatively easily dealt with. The Olympus M Zuiko digital 45mm produces superb images at most settings and reduces the need to fly so scarily close to fill the frame, a genuine benefit. Generally speaking, the ability to focus ‘on the fly’ and manually adjust exposure settings provides an unprecedented level of control over previous dedicated aerial cameras, but there is a lot to think about when flying this machine solo. It’s easy to concentrate on smooth manoeuvring and forget that focus and exposure also require constant attention, at least in manual mode.
Point of disinterest?
Normally we don’t have much need of the ‘special’ functions so heavily plugged by DJI, as the business of getting smooth footage normally means having full manual control at all times, but the Point of Interest mode does come in handy sometimes on the Phantom 3 Pro. Difficult crosswinds can make it hard to avoid the ‘wandering’ effect when directly upwind or downwind and the P3 does its job very neatly in such conditions. Not so the Inspire 1 Pro. So far it has proven quite difficult to achieve any worthwhile results here as the drone seems to be even less able to compensate for sidewinds than a human operator, wandering off course quite markedly every time and showing very little ‘interest’ in remaining on target. More research required here, but for the time being it’s manual mode.
Battery life is a contentious issue with most DJI drones, and as we all know, necessitates careful planning and large amounts of expenditure. The Inspire 1 Pro is no exception, and currently we are getting around 14 minutes flight time per battery when trying to land before the 20% mark is reached, the shortest flight times yet! If you consider that the new Inspire 2 can remain airborne (on paper, at least) for twice as long it can seem quite tempting. The remedy here is to think how many extra batteries (and lenses) the price difference would buy. Do you need obstacle avoidance and 5.2K that much?
Talking of batteries, once the entire ensemble is loaded into the hard case (with 5 batteries) it becomes surprisingly heavy and certainly no longer backpack territory. You will find yourself planning outings around the car and how close you can get to the landing site far more carefully. There don’t appear to be any real Inspire 1 Pro backpacks on the market that offer genuine protection to the drone, an opportunity here for someone!
It isn’t paranoia if they’re really out to get you!
We’ve heard it said that the chances of being ‘shut down’ when flying an Inspire are greater than when flying a Phantom, but this hasn’t been our experience. Until now. Whether the sight of the much larger camera triggers some mechanism in the brain of idle bystanders or not we can’t say, but it is true that on 3 successive occasions with this machine we have been asked to justify our presence, all at locations which provoked no interest at all on previous shoots.
Is there a conclusion to this review? Not really, not yet, anyway. The true test of this new DJI Inspire 1 Pro will be in its durability, usefulness and versatility. We have 4 new commissions coming up (if the weather ever improves) which will provide some exhaustive testing over the coming months, but the general verdict is, so far so good and hoping for great if all goes as expected.
Watch this space.