Like we said in our last ProductionHUB newsletter, the new product announcements just keep on coming. In the intimate (and way too cool) setting of the Neuhous Theater and under a gorgeous Los Angles twilight, DJI unleashed maybe — just maybe — one of the most captivating and interesting new products in recent memory. The Zenmuse X7 with a 35mm sensor and a full set of new carbon fiber lens designed specifically to work with the 35mm sensor. Gotta tell you straight up - they knocked it out of the park. Long known for excellence in the drone world, DJI seems keen on not only keeping up but also surpassing the norm. What was on display wasn’t just new product but some new ways of approaching the production and post-production workflow.
First, let's fire up the Inspire drone portion of the program. Working and matched with the Inspire just might be the next big thing. Most of you in this space are familiar with the excellent imaging that the bigger, full-sized drones can make when deployed with full-sized cameras. But to be honest, I, like many of you just want to make pretty pictures yet like many of you also, I have limited resources. With that said, the Zenmuse X7 DJI is taking on the challenge of creating great aerial footage that will match up and grade out very well side by side with Arri or RED Weapon 8K shot on the ground.
This was demonstrated with comparative footage shoot and displayed on a large-scale cinematic screen.
Here is the wake-up call. Remember, this is an all-in-one integrated unit with the Inspire. So, one person can backpack it in and away you go. Get in, get out, and get going. I know what you are saying, "How can DJI pull this off?" Smart engineering. If you are DJI you know you have the drones. You have this great new sensor. Now what? Wait for it…oh yeah a set of lens that will match up and with the smaller drone size, take advantage of the 35mm sensor. Here are some of the cool tricks:
The lens body? Carbon Fiber. No zoom or focus controls. They are on the ground in the controller. Choices of four lenses. My personal favorite was the 50mm. It has a crazy depth of field and that was when I was looking at ungraded footage just looking off of a 4K monitor. Let's just say they had to pry the camera controller out of my hands.
From the hardware side of the house, DJI has put together a really impressive, complete cinematic package that, in my opinion, will open a lot of doors for filmmakers that want the cinematic look from their aerials that will match up with the ARRIs and REDs and other high-end cameras of the world, but in a smaller package. I also really want to see the Zemuse X7 footage side by side with a Sony F55 or Sony VENICE. Also maybe the Blackmagic Design URSA or the Panasonic Varicam? Which ones do you want to see compared against the Zenmuse X7 footage?
So far on this journey we have looked at the first integrated drone with a 35mm sensor and four new carbon fiber lenses with a short flange and designed, balanced specifically to go hand n’ hand with the 35mm sensor. But what good is that if you can’t take advantage of it. Well, that was my first thought. Not to worry.
Ok, I didn’t forget you “by the numbers guys” either. After all, numbers don’t lie. Check out these specs and the video supplied by DJI.
The Zenmuse X7 features 14 stops of dynamic range for more detail in low-light conditions. Its low-noise image
capture enhances grading flexibility by preserving details in both highlight and dark areas while enabling a shallow cinematic depth of field.
The Zenmuse X7 captures the highest image resolutions ever for an integrated drone camera. It is capable of
shooting 6K CinemaDNG RAW or 5.2K Apple ProRes at up to 30 FPS, as well as 3.9K CinemaDNG RAW or 2.7K
ProRes at up to 59.94 FPS.
Enhanced Imaging Potential
The Zenmuse X7 uses a dedicated aerial mount system, the DJI DL-Mount, featuring an ultra-short flange focal distance to carry prime lenses optimally. Available with focal lengths of 16 mm, 24 mm, 35 mm, and 50 mm, each lens has a maximum aperture of F/2.8 and is crafted out of carbon fiber, making them durable and lightweight for high-performance aerial cinematography with the DJI Inspire 2 drone. To allow for advanced setting adjustment and fine-tuning, the 16mm lens is equipped with a built-in ND 4 filter, and the 24 mm, 35
mm, and 50 mm lenses feature a mechanical shutter.
Higher Flexibility in Post-Production
DJI has also introduced a new DJI Cinema Color System (DCCS). “For the Zenmuse X7, we took our color science to the next level,” said Paul Pan, Senior Product Manager at DJI. “We consulted the world leading authorities in color science, Technicolor. With their guidance, our engineers developed an optimized gamma curve for the X7 allowing more latitude without sacrificing image quality.”
DCCS features a new D-Log Curve and D-Gamut RGB color space to give more flexibility and color options during the post-production process. The D-Log further extends the dynamic range, while the D-Gamut RGB color space preserves more color information to support the most demanding filmmaking scenarios, providing accurate color for quick and easy post-processing.
The new EI Mode mimics the way a film camera works to help cinematographers capture as much information as possible in every scene while balancing the dynamic range and noise with different log curves for more flexibility during the post-production process.
The Zenmuse X7 gimbal system weighs just 631 grams with the 16 mm lens. The DJI Inspire 2 has a flight time of up to 23 minutes with the Zenmuse X7.
Price and Availability
The Zenmuse X7 camera is priced at $2,699 USD. The 16mm, 24 mm and 35 mm lenses will be available for $1,299 each, and the 50 mm for $1,199. Customers can purchase the Zenmuse X7 prime lens combo including all 4 lenses for $4,299. The Zenmuse X7 will start shipping in early November 2017 from store.dji.com, in DJI Flagship Stores and through DJI Authorized Dealers worldwide.
In my opinion, DJI has made a bold and wider foray into this space, creating an opportunity for many to expand their work and their creativity without totally crushing the budget. I am also sure that many might hesitate to delve into the thinking well maybe I have to match up RED to RED. Ok I get that as well. Nobody loves hanging out of a helicopter more than me. But still, I want you to think for what you are looking at when it comes down to it and the price vs. performance issue. I know for myself I want to get the Zenmuse X7and really push it out against some other cameras with 35mm sensors.
But for now, I think if you are in the market for a smaller and affordable 35mm aerial choice, the Zenmuse X7 might be just right for you. I will let you know when I can get my hands on the Zenmuse X7 and put that bad boy to the test. Be sure to check back soon for some more details on some other cool news from DJI.
About the Writer
Mark Foley is an award-winning producer/director and the Technology Editor for ProductionHUB. When he is not
scouring the earth looking for the new and exciting production gear, he can be found out on location somewhere on the road in the continental U.S.