Drone footage is becoming increasingly popular all around the world. With all the different drones available, I want to go over a few reasons why the DJI Inspire 2 is superior to many other models on the market today for professional photography and cinematography.
Drones like the DJI Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic Air 2 are easy and fun fly; and their cameras provide high image quality, with good stabilization. However, smaller, fold-up drones lack features that a cinema camera would have. Things like interchangeable lenses, color profiles, options for larger sensors, wider dynamic range, and higher resolution.
Meet the DJI Inspire 2
The reason the DJI Inspire 2 rocks is because of all the cinema options available. It is one of the only consumer drones on the market that offers interchangeable lenses on a micro 4/3 or APS-C sensor. With larger sensor options, the X5S camera can shoot at 5.2K RAW video and the X7 camera can shoot 6K RAW video. Both cameras/gimbals offer a variety of their own lenses to achieve different looks.
The Inspire 2 was released in January 2017 and continues to be one of the top models on the market today. At a price point between $3,000 and $10,000—depending on how you outfit it — this drone offers the features of a true cinema camera.
In the video below, we are flying the X5S camera with a 15mm lens (30mm equivalent) and a 45mm lens (90mm). These lenses are very different from one another but provide amazing options for creativity when flying. Here I want to go over a few reasons for swapping lenses when flying a drone to show you why the DJI Inspire 2 is superior to its siblings.
15mm shots 0:00-0:58 | 45mm shots 0:58-End
Perks of the Wide Lens
Wide lenses are very common among most cameras. Many drones will have a focal length ranging anywhere between 24-30mm on average. A drone like the Mavic 2 Pro, for example, is fixed at 28mm.
A wider focal length is awesome for shooting almost anything. If you want to get closer to a subject, you simply move closer to it. If you want to shoot a wider shot, you move the drone further away to capture more. This is a very simple concept and also where things start to get pretty fun.
Let’s take the video above, the wide lens is great for getting an overview of everything. In the wide shots, you can see the building, river, people, and the surrounding area. However, if you are trying to maintain distance, keep people safe from the props, or just want a different look, a long lens will help out quite a bit. In the diagram below, you can see how much further away the drone can be with a long lens to capture a similar shot as the wide lens does.
Inspire 2 Lens Diagram. 15mm (left) 45mm (right)
Perks of the Long Lens
Having the ability to fly longer lenses allows for pilots to have more creativity when it comes to shooting aerial footage. In fact, the main reason I bought my DJI Inspire 2 was for the ability to change lenses on the fly. Though the Inspire 2 is more costly than most consumer drones, I was willing to invest in it because I saw the opportunity it would eventually offer.
Sometimes I use the 4K camera on my Mavic 2 Pro to crop into a 1080p sequence. Technically, this allows me to zoom in almost 4x, but only if my final product will be a 1080p sequence. Instead of shooting on a wide lens in 4K and cropping in, you can shoot that same 4K shot with the long lens and crop even more in post. With the ability to put on a 45mm lens, I am getting a 3X optical zoom out of the camera. Therefore, I have a lot more detail of the subject I am shooting.
The 45mm lens is perfect for capturing fine details like the structure of the building and the people working. It also pulls in the background and gives more depth of field. This is nice because it is not too common for smaller models to achieve that look.
I find that a longer lens is great for getting up close and personal with your subject. Tracking cars, people, boats, or architectural features on buildings has never been so fun. The long lenses add a whole different perspective to your aerial footage. This drone also has an extra wide angle camera on the front to help pilot the drone. So even if you are flying a long lens, you can still get a sense of where the drone is in the environment. Below you can see some footage where clips shot with the longer lenses are more prominent than those with the wide.
A budget compromise
If you don’t see a reason to jump to a $3,000+ drone like the DJI Inspire 2, I would highly recommend trying the Mavic 2 Zoom ($1349). This drone has a focal length zoom range of 24-48mm, which is like flying 12mm and 25mm lenses on the Inspire 2. Although you don’t have that 90mm telephoto capability, it gives you a lot more freedom than just having a wide lens.
The Mavic 2 Zoom is essentially a simulator for the varying lenses on the Inspire, only it is way smaller and cheaper. You may not get that DJI Inspire quality image, but it is a great drone to get familiar with different focal lengths.
If you haven’t tried flying with a longer lens, all I can say is that it can change the game. What are your thoughts on flying different lenses? Would you like to see this feature on more drones?