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Lets discuss the camera units used on the Phantom 3

Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Photofun, Feb 12, 2016.

  1. Photofun

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    I have been reading many of the discussions on this forum and looked a several YouTube reviews and videos discussing the Phantom 3.

    I get the feeling that not many realize the camera units used on these drones are really the most basic one can ask for, in-fact chances are that the average point and shoot compact camera or several mobiles phones has way more advanced technology.

    The gimbal units used on the Phantom series are good and they do what they designed for. The basic camera right at the bottom of the gimbal is the one I like to discuss........

    Lets look at the main characteristics of these camera units:-

    - They have tiny little sensors with all the typical disadvantages associated with small sensors
    - A basic quality fixed lens unit is fixed to the sensor (see my comments further down on this point)
    - A fixed aperture of 2.8 is used at a fixed field of view (no zoom action)

    The Phantom 2 used a wide angle lens with the same fixed lens configuration and fixed aperture as the P3 series. Difference is at a wide angle with fix aperture the P2 depth of focus is typically better than that on the P3 series. All this means is the P2 will typically have more subjects in focus compared the the P3.

    One of the biggest problems I saw with the P3 series is the poor manufacturing quality of these P3 camera units. The lens screw into a holding units that is fixed to the PC board holding the sensor. The assembly person screw in the lens and it seems has a fixed number of turns before the lens is locked into position. The camera is then closed and assembled to the gimbal. The result is the quality one get from these camera units are all over the place. I have seen results that are good, results that has part of the field of view out of focus, some cases the image blur across the image and and and.......

    Ideally the assembly line will check if the lens were correctly (glass parallel to the sensor) and secondly "tuned" and tested to be sure the best focus point is locked before the camera is closed and fitted to the gimbal.......

    To make this all look good DJI gave the user the ability to adjust the camera settings as required. Problem is one can only adjust the ISO or the shutter speed (electronic shutter) to adjust the exposure. Movie makers like to fix the shutter speed and vary the aperture or use ND filters in combo with ISO and aperture to adjust exposure...... Oops

    A Netherland company has a "Gimbal" unit that allows the user to fit the Sony RX100 or the GM1 (Panny) to the P2 V+ (V3) Here you have a chance to have a real camera with real advance functions to do real imaging and real video work in comparison to the P3 mickey mouse camera.........

    Is the Go Pro better? It uses the same principles as the P3 or P2 V+.........difference is the Go Pro has excellent manufacturing and quality control.......I guess the lens unit is also way better. Finally the GoPro uses the wider angle concept to improve focus in general.........

    How can we fix the poor manufacturing problems on the P3. Adobe CC let the photographer to mask focus for example. With a little patients one can develop a fixed macro for your P3 to control image problems. Problem is one cannot develop one macro for all.......reason is these camera faults are all over the place. Good news is it will be fixed for each camera because these cheap cameras has no moving parts. Once your macro fix your P3 weaknesses it should work on all your P3 images.......

    Hope this was of value to you guys.......

    Siegfried
     
    eaglegoaltender likes this.
  2. eaglegoaltender

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    Interesting post. I suppose for the most part (not that I would know) it all comes down to keeping the Phantoms at a decent price point for the average consumer. Speaking of the average consumer of these units (like myself) - I would suspect the "quality" of the video and/or shots are "good enough".

    Sounds like you are a camera/photography guy and as such - it is no wonder you would be critical of the camera and what it produces (meant this in a good and understaning way).

    So what is this Netherland company you mentioned and is there a link to their site? Would be interested in knowing. Thank you for the insight on the cameras.

    EDIT: Dronexpert | professional en completely built drones and multicopters
     
    #2 eaglegoaltender, Feb 12, 2016
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2016
  3. Meta4

    Meta4 Moderator
    Staff Member

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    Drone photography is all about compromises.
    I'd love to be able to fly a full frame sensor and good lenses but that's not going to happen for under $15000 and then I'll have a huge drone that's difficult to transport, takes an hour to set up and only flies for 7 minutes.
    It's all dictated by weight and to carry a heavier camera requires a heavier gimbal and a bigger drone.
    The P3 is a compromise, it has great flight performance and a reasonable camera for the price.
    If you want better, it's available but costs way more and is much less convenient.
    The P2V+ had a fisheye lens which brought other problems.
    Because the Phantom is used for aerial photography, the very small difference in depth of field is of no consequence.
    The Dronexpert product is only for the P2 (not P3) and does not have a gimbal.
    It is a simple tilting mount and costs 838 euros - more than a complete new P3 Advanced!!
    Yes the camera is good but the mount, the price and only working on a very old-tech P2 isn't.
     
    eaglegoaltender and WetDog like this.
  4. el cuajinais

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    Glad to hear this being discussed. I’m a filmmaker first, drone pilot second. The drone is like a tripod or a slider for my intents and purposes. I don’t have the $$$ or courage to get a drone to lift my Blackmagic Pocket camera. That crappy P3 camera is why so far I haven’t been on a hurry to upgrade from my P1.0 which shoots with a GoPro Hero 3+ Black. Granted, the GoPro is pretty crappy too, but I think Protune is better that the P3 log. That’s the thing though, all I’ve seen are online videos. I’d like to test first hand to see if I’m pleasantly surprised. I’m considering getting a P3A just because I expect that I can get MUCH BETTER camera movements using waypoints and point of interest compared to my P1.0. Not having to de-fisheye is also a huge plus. Also I was super excited to find out that the DJI App offers histograms, zebras, grid etc. Such excellent tools, it’s a pity the camera is cellphone-grade from what I’ve seen.

    Anyway, it is possible to open the P3 camera and mod it to make it better? Do we know the exact distance the lens should be from the sensor? I’m really interested in this topic.
     
  5. Photofun

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    Decent price point = good enough? Yes it would be great to have something more capable at what one pay for a P2A or a P2P. That said do not forget that the Go Pro with similar construction can deliver really great footage. Key is good manufacturing and quality control.....at what one pay this should be a minimum DJI.......

    Lets take 4K. Probably great for advertising the range but really........ I did a short 8 minute video while back for a traditional choir in the village I live. In its uncompressed size the final video is 100GB at 1080p. From that I then prepare the different outputs like You Tube, HD....what ever the client wants..... Do this in 4K.......hmmm. This video will be used on a large beamer at a concert hall at 720p........good enough!!

    For those interested go read about the 180degree recording (cinema) "rule". It stems from the mechanical film players that had a disc spinning at 24fps letting the light beam onto the screen........really interesting reading and interesting to better understanding 24p for example...... To get a great 24p feel one would typically set the shutter speed at 1/50. To maintain this shutter speed one require good aperture, iso control........

    I kept my P2 V+ (V3) This is a great drone. Weakness is the wifi strength..... There are simple fixes that will make this drone very flexible within a 300 - 400m project diameter. Here the link you asked for.......

    Dronexpert | professional en completely built drones and multicopters
     
  6. Photofun

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    My honest advice will be...not to buy the P3A and to wait. The P3 A&P are awesome in terms of a flying perspective. Video is the same as almost everything else out there. All use the fixed lens, no auto focus, no aperture control concept. The only difference will be manufacturing & quality control & glass quality of the lens itself.

    What is really bad about DJI is that DJI offers no backward compatibility. Like I said the P3 is a great flying drone.....if it was possible to easily clip on future camera units then it would be so much better. This forces one to look at Xiro or Blade for example.

    I am thinking of making my P2 V+ my main unit. I already bought the GM1 at a great price on ebay, next is to install the Netherland "upgrade"..... Weight plus flexibility will stay intact. What I even like more about this option is one can continue to use your Gp Pro, or P2 camera or the Panasonic GM1 in my case.......all linked the P2 V+ video stream....... Do I really need the highest 720p on my iPad or iPhone on my RC? Not so much......the recorded quality is more important to me.....

    So my advice.....wait until some manufacturer do something better.......
     
  7. WetDog

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    There is a video on YouTube which shows how to disassemble the camera and adjust focus. That's about it. There are some aftermarket lenses which are supposed to be 'better' than the stock ones. I've not seen much about them. Other than that, you're on your own.

    4K on the P3P is 'pretty good'. Better than what has been broadcast for years and better than a lot of 35 mm film. Does it meet up with pro video gear - no it does not. But the entire rig costs LESS Than your Blackmagic pocket. As msinger mentioned, you can get much better quality - for a much bigger price.
     
  8. el cuajinais

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    I think the only way this statement holds up is if you are talking broadcast from the 80's and 35mm from the 50's.

    Thanks for the info Wetdog. I'll look into the youtube videos.
     
  9. RayH

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    Does anyone know who does after market lenses?


    Sent from my iPhone using PhantomPilots mobile app
     
  10. herein2014

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    I'm a professional photographer and videographer and I can tell you I have many paying customer's who just don't care about all of the faults you listed. I started with the P2 and GoPro3 Black with a custom 60 degree lens then upgraded to a GP4 Black with the same custom lens to remove barrel distortion and I will tell you after getting the P3 I will never go back.

    The simple fact that you can shoot RAW for the P3 vs JPG only for the GP4 is in and of itself enough to put final image quality ahead of the GP4 if you know your way around Lightroom. On top of that, the GP's have such wide angle lenses and suffer from such severe barrel distortion that if you are going for a quality image you have to change the lens to one that has a smaller FOV, voids your GP warranty, and has even more questionable quality than the P3s glass.

    The P3 was such an evolutionary jump from the P2 that I'll take it any day with all of it's faults over any current GP aerial platform. At the end of the day my customers simply did not notice a difference in picture quality if there is any. I have two P3Ps and have not noticed any out of focus issues so maybe they do exist in some batches of P3s but the same can be said for any camera maker selling the kind of volume DJI is selling.

    If you are truly a purist then pony up and get the I1 Pro, it's light years ahead of the P3 or P4 in terms of photo quality and it's what I use for television commercials, real estate over $300K, and other professional shoots such as promo shoots, dusk footage, night footage, etc.

    With that being said, my P3 still gets plenty of work. I use it almost daily for aerial photography and no customer has ever asked me to reshoot their footage. Pixel peeping P3 vs GP footage in my opinion reminds me of the MegaPixel counts that camera owners like to list. At the end of the day, after post processing and compressing to JPG then uploading to some website where it is probably further compressed, no typical user will notice the difference or care.
     
  11. The Suburban Hippie

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    The reason your typical customers don't care, is because they are still wowed by the novelty of someone being able to take pictures and video for them in the air.

    As time passes and these are more mainstream, I guarantee cameras will get better, and people will care. The original poster cares because he is an artist.

    He is also right on the money.

    With THAT being said, I will say that most people probably don't care. Most people don't care how well their wedding pictures are exposed either. They just care if you get grandma smiling....

    There are a few discriminating people out there that may be your customers.

    More power to you though! I hope you continue to be successful!

    I can tell you that people think I take cool pics with my drone, but it really bothers me looking at all the chromatic aberration, purple fringing, softness, low dynamic range, etc

    If I ever get more money to blow, I will be changing things.

    Since the quality of the camera is so poor, I bought the 500 dollar standard, which works as well as the pro, and the camera quality is about the same, as they both use very similar sensors, have similar processing engines, and have the same lenses.

    For the OP, you may want to just buy the Standard to get your feet wet. This IS the wave of the future...
     
  12. herein2014

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    I agree but they are already better, it's called the Inspire 1 Pro and most if not all of the issues that were mentioned are fixed in the I1 Pro version. So my only point is if the footage quality is your only purpose for buying a drone, then the Inspire 1 Pro is pretty much the best thing on the market right now. Which is why for my customers that do care, I have the I1 Pro.

    It's like discussing the cheap components and poor footage quality from a Canon Point and Shoot when a 5DS is also on the market. If you want better quality it's going to cost, but that doesn't mean the option does not exist.
     
  13. The Suburban Hippie

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    Great points!

    However, the GoPro cameras are clearly better. With better dynamic range, better detail, better clarity, better white balance, etc. Of course, most people don't like the fisheye lens, so it needs to be changed to a 3.97mm.

    The Inspire pro is great! However, I don't think someone needs to spend 5000 or more for a decent camera....
     
  14. herein2014

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    I used to think the GP cameras were better, and stuck to my P2 GP4 until the very end. But after shooting with the P3, saving in RAW format and post processing in Lightroom just like I do any other footage, I will take the P3's camera any day over the GP4. Not to mention to change the GP lens you immediately void the warranty on a $400 camera, and the lens replacement process is not for the faint of heart.

    People keep ignoring the fact that you cannot shoot in RAW with the GoPro, and the fact you mentioned white balance tells me you probably do not shoot RAW either. RAW changes everything when it comes to post processing. The dynamic range is there in the P3, possibly the JPG algo used in the GP makes better decisions than the JPG algo in the P3, I honestly do not know, I've never taken a single JPG picture with any of my P3s. The best part about RAW is I get 100% creative control over the finished product, something the GP just can't match. I would not be surprised if the sensor used in the P3 is the same as the one in the GP, there's only so many camera sensor makers out there.

    In the camera world $5K just gets you a decent camera body. A single lens can cost over $12,000, none of my lenses are less than $1,500. So to me $5K for the best camera in it's price range that happens to be attached to a great aerial platform is a no brainer.