The DJI Zenmuse X5 Makes The Inspire 1 Worth Buying

The DJI Zenmuse X5 Makes The Inspire 1 Worth Buying

When DJI announced the Inspire 1 drone, I didn't get it. It was a much larger and more expensive quadcopter that had only a slightly better camera attached to it. I had no interest in the Inspire 1 until they announced the new Zenmuse X5 Micro 4/3 camera/gimbal system. I currently have one and I can tell you, it's pretty amazing. 

DJI sent me an Inspire 1 Pro and Zenmuse X5 system a week ago. I had a trip to NYC planned and I decided to bring it along.  Being that I didn't have enough time to do a full review, I decided to film the most difficult thing I could, NYC at night. I know that my GoPro certainly wouldn't be able to shoot clean footage at this hour but I hoped that the new micro 4/3 camera and f/1.7 lens would be able to handle it. 

I decided to go out at night in Brooklyn and film Manhattan from across the East River. Being that this was my first attempt at flying the Inspire 1, I made sure to fly 100% over the water, below 400 feet, and away from any people or buildings. Using my tethered iPad Air 2 I was able to set the camera and the focus remotely. The entire video was filmed at 30fps at 4k and then slowed down by 20% to 24fps. My shutter speed was 1/30th, my aperture was f/1.7, and my ISO was 800. 

As you can see the footage out of the camera looks absolutely incredible.  The footage has zero distortion and the noise levels are extremely low. When I got back and viewed the footage in 4k I finally realized why the Inspire 1 was created. The Phantom series drones are not big enough to hold a camera of this size. 

The decision to buy a Inspire 1 and X5 camera over a Phantom 3 may not be so simple though. Although there is no doubt that the Inspire is better than the Phantom in almost every way, it certainly isn't as convenient. The last project I worked on required that I travel around the world for 3 months carrying tons of gear and a Phantom. I would not have been able to carry the Inspire 1, it's way bigger and way heavier. 

The footage below was shot with the Phantom 2 and GoPro 4 Silver

I have so much more to learn about the Inspire 1 and X5 before I feel comfortable giving it a full review. This is just a first look at the amazing footage the X5 is capable of capturing. Stay tuned for the full review coming soon but until then you can see this great comparison video below. 

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18 Comments

Hans Klett's picture

I'm surprised you aren't in some dark cell courtesy of Homeland Security. New York is one place I would imagine is very difficult to fly a drone without catching someone's eye. The low light footage is amazing. Now I just need to find $5K for the Inspire 1 and X5.

The funny thing is that the one place I was told to leave was the safest place, Central Park away from all people in a field.

My understanding is that it is still legal under 400 feet away from airports.

Hans Klett's picture

When it comes to drones all logic goes out the window. The rules are a crazy at the moment. I'm going to get my Sport Pilot's license so I can get the 333 Exemption to fly these things legally for commercial purposes. Yes, the 400 foot ceiling applies to everyone and you can't be near an airport but here's what's completely bizarre; I can file for my 333 Exemption now without a pilot's license and legally fly a drone for money if I simply hire a student pilot to stand next to me. The worst part is that the flight time can be logged and applied towards the student pilot in the eyes of the FAA even though they don't have any control over the drone. The FAA doesn't distinguish a difference between a Cessna 152 or an Inspire 1 as long as it's registered with FAA. Insane!

Taylor Osborn's picture

As a current Inspire owner I am still questioning if the X5 is actually $1700 better than the X3. I'll be testing a buddies X5 soon enough that'll help me decide if I am going to upgrade. Thanks for the low light demo video regardless.

Love the new X5 and the fact that you can now change lenses. But hate how DJI still uses the highly compressed 60/mbs codec for 4K video.

They have a camera that shoots raw 4K now

The X5r looks awesome! I just wish they updated the bit rate for the standard X5.

Martin Del Vecchio's picture

The X5R costs an additional $5,000 or so, and introduces the headache of raw video. It does not even support ProRes.

Alex is right; for $1,700, the X5 is a great camera hobbled by a remarkably low bit rate; 60 megabits/second for 4K video. If DJI could increase that to 100 megabits/second, it would be pretty much the perfect aerial camera.

I bought one anyway, but still...

Oliver Kmia's picture

Yes, exactly, for video work, 60mbps is completely killing the m43 sensor and lens upgrade. I would stay with the X3 or go for the X5r. The X5 doesn't make much senses to me.

VJ Arizpe's picture

I just got my X5 today, and did a short test before my shoot tomorrow. The difference is night and day. I shoot 90% stills and 10% video, and the difference is dramatic. Completely worth the upgrade.

Would love to see some side by side comparisons

Martin Del Vecchio's picture

The X5 currently supports a handful of M43 lenses, but in the future will support more.

But it won't support all of them; many are too heavy, and too front-heavy, to to ever fly on the Inspire 1. Don't hold your breath waiting for the Panasonic 12-35mm to ever be supported.

But there are some fantastic small and light lenses yet to be supported, such as the Olympus M.Zuiko 25mm and 45mm, that should be supported soon.

Ivan Avdeenko's picture

Thanks, Lee! Waiting for a big review and waiting for this drone in Ukraine =)

Elia Locardi's picture

Great shots of NYC! I was very curious about how the X5 would hold up at night. The footage looks fantastic!

Martin Del Vecchio's picture

I have found night footage to be easier to grade than daytime footage. There is inevitably noise in the shadows, but you can convert almost all of that to black with the Blacks slider in Premiere Pro's Lumetri color panel.

I'm not saying this was one in this video; it was shot at 800 ISO, so it probably doesn't have much noise to begin with.

Well done Lee, this is one of the best AP night scenes Ive seen. Just one thing. ..you mention in your blog you chose the most difficult scene you could. Actually these cameras fair much better in low light / low contrast than they do in bright sunlight with lots of shadow. The X5 is a huge step forward but its a lot trickier than your experience of this night scene suggests. Keep up the great work..... would love to see a daytime video !

Martin Del Vecchio's picture

That is not a Micro Four Thirds lens; it's for Canon and Nikon full-frame cameras.

In addition, that lens weighs 1,140 grams, or about 10 times what these Micro Four Thirds lenses weigh.

In short, it's not a drone lens.

Hey Lee, surprisingly I had the opposite opinion of the Inspire X5.....I bought mine last month and used it on a professional shoot filming a movie in Utah and promptly returned it when I got home. I found the footage marginally better than what I could squeeze out of a Go-pro Hero 4 and with the same if not worse noise in the shadows.
The compression is really really bad and it doesn't justify the price tag. Plus the advertised ISO range on the website claims to be 25,600......but that is only for still picture mode. In video mode it is 6400, which is the same as a Go-Pro hero 4. When comparing the 4k footage side to side, there was a slight better performance on the X5 with dynamic range -12 stops v.s. Gopros 10 stops....but the X5 had a bizarre flat look to it that made everything in the background look very very flat, almost CGI like. I found this was the same problem in the still mode as well, and changing the f stop made very little difference. I never got a single picture that I liked that didn't look super flat like it was shot from a 200mm lens.

After much complaining and many many many calls to DJI they finally allowed me to return it, (they have a 7 Day return policy if you order directly from the DJI website, but they don't ever tell you that, and make it very difficult for you if you go past that date)

I am now deciding to take the money and sink it into a DJI s1000 or s900 and lift up my Sony a7rII......it seems until the price comes down on the X5R, it simply isn't worth it for the money. But then again if the X5r has the same flattening effect for the stills and video then it isn't worth the money either. DJi has an amazing line of drones, but their camera equipment has a bit of catching up to do.

Just my opinion, thought I'd play devils advocate and save someone who might make the same mistake as me.