DJI Zenmuse X5 and X5R: First interchangeable-lens cameras for drone

Shenzhen headquartered company DJI has developed a new product for its Inspire 1 professional model drones: X5 and X5R. DJI announced the launch of two interchangeable-lens cameras called Zenmuse X5 and X5R on Thursday at InterDrone conference in Las Vegas.

The Chinese technology firm has manufactured the cameras for Inspire 1 model which will make it the first commercial drone with a Micro Four Thirds (MFT) Sensor. The cameras on the drone will entice people using drones for professional photography and videography as they will be able to take much higher resolution images with the enhancement.

The cameras will enable the X5R drone model to record videos to a microSD card as well as a 512 GB disk (SSD mounted just above the gimbal) to record CinemaDNG (RAW) video. Maximum bit depth for microSD recording is 8 bit with 4:2:0 chroma subsampling; while for the X5R’s in raw is 10 bit with 4:4:4 of the same. Each camera is capable of capturing 16MP still photos and up to 4K/30fps video. This product is going to immensely benefit enterprise customers; particularly those who use drones to demonstrate thermal images and make use of 3D maps.

Each camera body weighs 0.75 pounds and embeds four interchangeable lenses which range between 12mm and 17mm. The two models support three lenses and share the same sensor. Along with the manual mode, other shooting modes include shutter-priority, program and aperture-priority. Talking about battery life, Inspire 1 with the Zenmuse X5 can get up 15 minutes while X3 can deliver up to 18 minutes.

Director of aerial imaging at DJI, Eric Cheng threw some light on the purpose of development of such a product. In a statement at the announcement of the cameras, he said that big pixels are always desired and required in photography since there is more surface area for clicking photos. He stated the applications of the product in another statement. According to him, the cameras can be used to shoot 4K videos along with professional quality photographs. In addition to this, they can be used to create high quality 3D models and aerial maps.

The camera showcases an amazing feature of inflight adjustment as the pilot can adjust the aperture and focus of the lenses from the ground while the Inspire 1 is in flight. CEO and founder of DJI, Frank Wang said “Now, pilots can simply mount the Zenmuse X5 series cameras to their Inspire 1, put on their props, get up in the air and have full control of their shot while in flight. This saves valuable time on film sets and makes high-quality imaging for industrial applications smaller, lighter and easier to manage.”

The Chinese firm is also releasing a CineLight desktop software to help users with raw video files to enable them to do offline proxy editing before converting the CinemaDNG files to ProRes.

DJI has been known to develop unmanned aerial vehicles mainly for aerial photography. It has now manufactured cameras for its flagship drone. The move is said to respond to the trend set by rival GoPro when it announced that it is creating its own line of camera-equipped multirotor drones. The cameras are likely to be shipped at the end of this month. They are expected to cost $4,499 on pre-order bookings for a single order of X5 Inspire 1 with a 15mm f/1.7 ASPH lens. The X5R, to be available by the end of 2015 is likely to cost a whopping $7,999.

According to DJI, the X5 and X5R are world’s first commercially available MFT cameras specifically designed for aerial use. No wonder they are likely to be a drain on our pockets.