Stabilizing a video camera used to be a heavy, cumbersome, and expensive task. Today, with the help of smaller cameras and electronic gimbals, stable 4K footage has becoming increasingly affordable and compact. DJI has taken this idea to the max and created a handheld stabilized camera that can shoot 4K raw footage.
What Is It?
The X5R is a micro 4/3 camera with a built-in gimbal stabilizer that can be attached to the DJI Inspire 1 drone or DJI Osmo with the correct adapter. The X5 and X5R cameras are the same, but the "R" version can shoot 4K raw and costs $2000 more. The X5R/Osmo system is controlled with a smartphone that connects to the camera via WiFi. Controlling the camera movements can be done with buttons on the Osmo handle itself.
If you compare this system to a full-sized DSLR on a Ronin, you'll never want to use a full-sized rig again. The Ronin is more difficult to set up and infinitely harder to use. A 4K camera that has incredible low-light capabilities that is also automatically stabilized without any sort of calibration is an amazing achievement.
Of course, it's not a flawless option. I personally wish that there was some sort of built-in screen so that I wasn't forced to use my smartphone 100% of the time. The GoPro Silver can either be controlled with a smartphone or you can use the small LCD screen on the back instead. Having to continually hook up my smart phone, turn on the gimbal and wait for it to boot up, go to settings on my phone (while it's sideways), connect to the Osmo signal, then open the DJI Go app and wait for that to load made the whole process a bit more cumbersome and slow than using other cameras. Don't get me wrong: I still want the option to use my phone; I just wish that there was a faster option for those moments when you don't have time to deal with a phone or if your phone's battery dies.
The X5R has built-in fans that cool the raw processor and SSD drive. These fans were shockingly loud and will be a dealbreaker for many shooters who are also trying to record clean audio. The X5 does not have these fans and is quieter.
The battery life on the X5R is horrible. Because it has a raw processor that requires as external SSD drive and fans to cool it, it can run through a full battery in less than 25 minutes. From what I have read, the standard X5 camera should last at least 45 minutes, which is much more reasonable.
The 4K video quality out of the X5R is fantastic. In bright light, the camera was able to produce extremely clean and sharp images, but the real value is in its low light performance. The X5R is fitted with a 15mm f/1.7 lens. Pair that with impressive ISO performance, and you have an extremely versatile camera that fits in the palm of your hand.
This was the first time I attempted to shoot raw video. I guess I just assumed that raw video would be another video format that Premiere could edit. It's not that simple. First of all, the X5R records in some proprietary format. To make these files readable, you'll need to use DJI's software, "Cinelight." Cinelight is only available for Macs, and we only work on Windows machines here at Fstoppers. With Windows, you'll need to use "DJI Camera Exporter." You'll have to transfer the files and convert them, open them in an editing program, and pre-render so that it can play back smoothly. This can all take literally hours, but at this point, you are ready to start working with the files. You'll need to first color-grade the footage because it'll look horrible. After you spend time doing that, you'll need to export it again so that you can actually edit it.
I spent hours watching videos and scouring the internet for answers on how to edit the raw footage out of a X5R camera. If you want to read every excruciating detail, check out this forum thread. Keep in mind many of these issues have been worked through today.
Because I've never shot raw video before, I'm not sure if working with all raw video cameras is this complicated or if it is just a DJI thing, but it's not for me. If I was working on a movie or on TV commercials, I would be happy to spend the extra time to shoot raw video, but we aren't those type of shooters. We are "run and gunners," and because of that, I'm staying away from raw all together.
If you'd like to see a side by side comparison of the X5R shooting raw vs the X5 check out this great review by cinema 5D.
The X5R plus the Osmo handle is one of the coolest pieces of gear I've used in years. At almost $4,000, it's pretty expensive, but you are paying for the ability to shoot raw. Since I personally have lost interest in shooting raw, the standard X5/Osmo system will probably be a purchase I make in the near future. If you're looking for a handheld video camera that can shoot pro-quality footage, buy this system today. I don't think anything else currently on the market can compete with it.