Lifting a DSLR - What would it take?

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I've been flying the Solo and posting over on the Solo board for a while now. I hope this is an OK question (not too stupid).

I'm a professional photographer. I got into drones because I have a pilot certificate and with a Section 333 I had a market advantage. The thing that's always ticked me off about the Solo package is the image quality. I'm not going to be happy until I can lift a DSLR to get the kind of images I want.

At the same time I need to watch my budget, I can't justify lifting $10k worth of drone and gear.

My perfect scenario is:
  • Lift a Nikon D800 (31.1 oz / 880 g)
  • Add a 24mm f/2.8 lens (12.6 oz / 355 g)
  • Mounted on a 3D gimbal which I can change the angle on.
  • Get a visual feedback on an iPhone or Android tablet
  • Be able to program Smart Shots (this is a stretch scenario, as I also like Tower to program flight paths).

I'd be willing to use a lesser camera, like the Nikon D7200. It weight less, but lacks the full frame.

Both cameras have HDMI and USB ports.

I'm not worried about being able to start and stop shots in flight, I'm OK with turning video on before takeoff or using my interval timer.

Is this even a feasible scenario?

Any pointers on what to use to accomplish this?

Thanks,
 
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I think the payload you're asking it to carry would be too much without changing the power profile via props/motors.
 
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I've been flying the Solo and posting over on the Solo board for a while now. I hope this is an OK question (not too stupid).

I'm a professional photographer. I got into drones because I have a pilot certificate and with a Section 333 I had a market advantage. The thing that's always ticked me off about the Solo package is the image quality. I'm not going to be happy until I can lift a DSLR to get the kind of images I want.

At the same time I need to watch my budget, I can't justify lifting $10k worth of drone and gear.

My perfect scenario is:
  • Lift a Nikon D800 (31.1 oz / 880 g)
  • Add a 24mm f/2.8 lens (12.6 oz / 355 g)
  • Mounted on a 3D gimbal which I can change the angle on.
  • Get a visual feedback on an iPhone or Android tablet
  • Be able to program Smart Shots (this is a stretch scenario, as I also like Tower to program flight paths).

I'd be willing to use a lesser camera, like the Nikon D7200. It weight less, but lacks the full frame.

Both cameras have HDMI and USB ports.

I'm not worried about being able to start and stop shots in flight, I'm OK with turning video on before takeoff or using my interval timer.

Is this even a feasible scenario?

Any pointers on what to use to accomplish this?

Thanks,
Hey Ed, My build would certainly carry it. In fact we designed for even larger cameras. Also the S1000 is one of the more popular frames for larger cameras. You can even put a Pixhawk in it. They are typically set up as 2 man units with one controlling the camera & gimbal. Also, the Matrice 600 will haul that equipment and has recently replaced the S1000. You can find the S1000 for around $4k & up. Here is one that was used for production that is for sale..Here is a s1000 totally equipped INCLUDING the Canon 5D and 24mm lens..
 
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I guess I should have paid more attention to the forum I was actually posting in. My bad. Just noticed it was the x8 forum.

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I'm not expecting my x8 to lift a full frame DSLR
but hoping to get a gx85 up
had a little setback but back on track now
 
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Hey Ed, My build would certainly carry it. In fact we designed for even larger cameras. Also the S1000 is one of the more popular frames for larger cameras. You can even put a Pixhawk in it. They are typically set up as 2 man units with one controlling the camera & gimbal. Also, the Matrice 600 will haul that equipment and has recently replaced the S1000. You can find the S1000 for around $4k & up. Here is one that was used for production that is for sale..Here is a s1000 totally equipped INCLUDING the Canon 5D and 24mm lens..
So a quad? I was thinking I'd need at least 6 motors, maybe 8.

I'll read through the thread, thanks.
 
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the reason some people choose 6 or 8 on heavy lift rigs is that it should provide some survivability if a motor fails and you have an expensive camera on board
lift is lift, its all about torque and prop size and power, quads can lift just fine
 
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the reason some people choose 6 or 8 on heavy lift rigs is that it should provide some survivability if a motor fails and you have an expensive camera on board
lift is lift, its all about torque and prop size and power, quads can lift just fine
Yes...Pixhawk survivability on a single motor loss on a hex or octo is good.

This is an older video but demonstrates it pretty well.

 
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Ed,
The D800 with 24-70mm f2.8 is a heavy rig for a multicopter.
I'd look into getting a good mirrorless camera. If you still want to use an SLR, you simply can't beat the Nikon D750. Don't use a zoom lens, you can't adjust it in flight anyway. I'd look into maybe a prime 35 or 50mm f1.4 lens. Very fast and light lens.
I agree with the others, a 800mm or larger hex or octa would be a good place to start.


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Ed,
The D800 with 24-70mm f2.8 is a heavy rig for a multicopter.
I'd look into getting a good mirrorless camera. If you still want to use an SLR, you simply can't beat the Nikon D750. Don't use a zoom lens, you can't adjust it in flight anyway. I'd look into maybe a prime 35 or 50mm f1.4 lens. Very fast and light lens.
I agree with the others, a 800mm or larger hex or octa would be a good place to start.


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I wouldn't send my 24-70 up for the reasons you stated. I'm looking at the 24mm.
 
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mirror less is gaining in every respect. It wont be long if not already that they are competing head to head with DSLR. if the GH5 holds up to the early hype that thing is going to be awesome
The only drawbacks on all these cameras on a drone is there are just too many weight adding features you don't ever use on a drone
the GX85 is still leading my choice list. the negatives, non articulating screen and no microphone jack are just not that much a feature on a flying gimbal.
It shoots 4K and has inbody stabilization
 
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My D800 has a 35.9x24mm CMOS image sensor with 36.3 million effective pixels. It can deliver a high quality image at ISO up to 1000, which gives me a huge range of settings to get the image I want.

The GX85 has a 17.3x13 mm image sensor with 16 million effective pixels.

I'm a still photographer looking for a way to get a professional camera into new locations. I'm not willing to skimp on image quality.
 
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I'm a still photographer looking for a way to get a professional camera into new locations. I'm not willing to skimp on image quality.
I'm not a photographer by any means. I have studied it some and read beginner books on it and wish I knew more. But the above statement implies better equipment = better image. And that goes against what little I have read where photographers like to continue to remind the amateurs that will buy all the latest high tech, that the equipment is just a small part of the image. I remember a quote from Ansel Adams; "Knowing what I know now, any photographer worth his salt could make some beautiful things with pinhole cameras".

While I would think that composition will always be #1, it seems that more and more professionals are relying more on the latest in tech & SW for post processing, and not what the shot originated on. We have all seen killer images/video from a Gopro and post is what allowed Michael Bay to use GP footage in the movie 13 Hours. Directors used to be more demanding that certain cameras be used. But lately the attitude seems to be shifting to "just get the shot' we'll fix it in post.

I guess I'm asking, if the images are going into post anyway could the average person pick the D800 image over the GH4/GH5?
Thanks
 
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I'm not a photographer by any means. I have studied it some and read beginner books on it and wish I knew more. But the above statement implies better equipment = better image. And that goes against what little I have read where photographers like to continue to remind the amateurs that will buy all the latest high tech, that the equipment is just a small part of the image. I remember a quote from Ansel Adams; "Knowing what I know now, any photographer worth his salt could make some beautiful things with pinhole cameras".

While I would think that composition will always be #1, it seems that more and more professionals are relying more on the latest in tech & SW for post processing, and not what the shot originated on. We have all seen killer images/video from a Gopro and post is what allowed Michael Bay to use GP footage in the movie 13 Hours. Directors used to be more demanding that certain cameras be used. But lately the attitude seems to be shifting to "just get the shot' we'll fix it in post.

I guess I'm asking, if the images are going into post anyway could the average person pick the D800 image over the GH4/GH5?
Thanks
Thanks for the comment. So the short answer is yes, it does make a difference.

I tell my clients about 13 hours and how the imaging was good enough to put on the big screen. What I don't them is that one of those scenes was at night where you're not going to notice the image distortion, and the other had so much dust in it that the image would have been dirty under any circumstances.

The key is matching the gear to the requirements. I'll use my D700 in scenarios where I know it's going to deliver the image I want. For example portraits where I know I'll nail the image in the camera and won't have to do much more than a few portrait touch ups.

The skill is more important than the gear - absolutely! I'll see people getting a photo with their phone, will offer to get them all in the shot, give them a few directions, move around for framing and give it back to them. Without exception they oooooo and ahhhhh over it and ask how I did it.

Fix it in post - yeah, but it's got to be in the image before I can fix it. So I just finished a job where I did some promo work for a business (using my D800). I knew I was going to do a knockout so I set up my shots for an easy knockout. I also set it up for color control and the ability to make level and color corrections in post. The more data you put into the image the easier and better the result is.

Average person distinguishing between the D800 and GH4/5- probably not, and if I was shooting for the average person I'd go for it. I shoot images that people use to promote their business or use to record special occasions. Under those conditions I don't want to compromise. I also have to get the shot around the client's schedule, meaning that I have to use gear that's going to give me the highest probability of delivering a great image.

I'm a believer in getting the photo right in the camera, and when I can control all the variables that's what I do. In aerial photography I can only control so many of the variables. In those cases I need to be able to modify the camera settings to get an image I can work with in post. This means making choices between ISO, aperture and shutter speed.

In aerial photography I'm usually going to want a fast shutter, around 1/1000 sec. To balance that out I can usually use a wide aperture, since the focal lengths and distance to subjects usually means a depth of field that goes out to infinity. This means the ISO is the variable I play with the most.


The D800 delivers a good image at ISOs up to around 1000. I routinely can take an image shot at high ISOs and crop it down to about a quarter of the image. Can't do this with cameras that deliver a lower quality image.

Another factor to consider is using lens physics to deliver the image I want. I frequently use lens compression to pull backgrounds in closer to the subject. So this isn't going to happen with the 24mm lens I mentioned in this post, but I'm very willing to lift a 200mm lens if I had the lift capacity and that was the lens that would deliver the image I wanted.

Anyone can take a great image under perfect conditions. Being a professional means being able to deliver a great image under a wide range of conditions. The more data you can get into the image the better your ability to selectively adjust levels, colors and framing.
 
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Thanks for the comment. So the short answer is yes, it does make a difference.

I tell my clients about 13 hours and how the imaging was good enough to put on the big screen. What I don't them is that one of those scenes was at night where you're not going to notice the image distortion, and the other had so much dust in it that the image would have been dirty under any circumstances.

The key is matching the gear to the requirements. I'll use my D700 in scenarios where I know it's going to deliver the image I want. For example portraits where I know I'll nail the image in the camera and won't have to do much more than a few portrait touch ups.

The skill is more important than the gear - absolutely! I'll see people getting a photo with their phone, will offer to get them all in the shot, give them a few directions, move around for framing and give it back to them. Without exception they oooooo and ahhhhh over it and ask how I did it.

Fix it in post - yeah, but it's got to be in the image before I can fix it. So I just finished a job where I did some promo work for a business (using my D800). I knew I was going to do a knockout so I set up my shots for an easy knockout. I also set it up for color control and the ability to make level and color corrections in post. The more data you put into the image the easier and better the result is.

Average person distinguishing between the D800 and GH4/5- probably not, and if I was shooting for the average person I'd go for it. I shoot images that people use to promote their business or use to record special occasions. Under those conditions I don't want to compromise. I also have to get the shot around the client's schedule, meaning that I have to use gear that's going to give me the highest probability of delivering a great image.

I'm a believer in getting the photo right in the camera, and when I can control all the variables that's what I do. In aerial photography I can only control so many of the variables. In those cases I need to be able to modify the camera settings to get an image I can work with in post. This means making choices between ISO, aperture and shutter speed.

In aerial photography I'm usually going to want a fast shutter, around 1/1000 sec. To balance that out I can usually use a wide aperture, since the focal lengths and distance to subjects usually means a depth of field that goes out to infinity. This means the ISO is the variable I play with the most.


The D800 delivers a good image at ISOs up to around 1000. I routinely can take an image shot at high ISOs and crop it down to about a quarter of the image. Can't do this with cameras that deliver a lower quality image.

Another factor to consider is using lens physics to deliver the image I want. I frequently use lens compression to pull backgrounds in closer to the subject. So this isn't going to happen with the 24mm lens I mentioned in this post, but I'm very willing to lift a 200mm lens if I had the lift capacity and that was the lens that would deliver the image I wanted.

Anyone can take a great image under perfect conditions. Being a professional means being able to deliver a great image under a wide range of conditions. The more data you can get into the image the better your ability to selectively adjust levels, colors and framing.
Thanks Ed, Makes perfect sense. We are doing a project for a TV series so they only need 720p as far as resolution, but we shoot higher to give them some room in post. They obviously don't want a GP file, but are very happy with the GH4. Like you said, match the client's needs. And I think photography still shows more of a difference in equipment than does video.

Aerial video is more of what I had in mind in my initial response. If you had a bird that would lift a GH4 or a6300, that would be a big step up from the GP.

Thanks again for the response. I always learn something from you in regards to photography.
 
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Thanks Ed, Makes perfect sense. We are doing a project for a TV series so they only need 720p as far as resolution, but we shoot higher to give them some room in post. They obviously don't want a GP file, but are very happy with the GH4. Like you said, match the client's needs. And I think photography still shows more of a difference in equipment than does video.

Aerial video is more of what I had in mind in my initial response. If you had a bird that would lift a GH4 or a6300, that would be a big step up from the GP.

Thanks again for the response. I always learn something from you in regards to photography.
I totally agree with the video issue. I'm not going to shoot video with my DSLR. It's "capable" but video isn't its primary job. If I had to I'd use it for video, but that's not where my passion lies. I think more like a single frame guy :)
 
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I think a large Hex on a pixhawk swinging 16 to 18 inch props with a servo driven gimbal would give you everything but the smart shots. And tower can come close to mimicking smart shots
 
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I think a large Hex on a pixhawk swinging 16 to 18 inch props with a servo driven gimbal would give you everything but the smart shots. And tower can come close to mimicking smart shots
I've been kinda sorta thinking this about using Tower instead of Solo. I actually use Tower in ROI more than Smart Shots. And if I'm being perfectly honest, a still frame kinda guy doesn't need Smart Shots. Well, OK I can think of a scenario or two where it would be nice, but push come to shove still frame is a lot more about planning, framing, and shooting.*

I'm in the VERY EARLY stages of investigating this. I've promised myself that I'm going to have to make enough money as a photographer to cover all my expenses and then put aside a few thousand for a large drone. I'll be hanging around this forum reading and asking the occasional dumb question.

*Edit - just re-read this and it might look as if I'm dissin' my video brethren. I'm not, you guys probably do more planning than I do, depending on your coefficient of anality.
 

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