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DJI Inspire 1 vs S900 & GH4 26th October 2015

DJI Inspire 1 vs S900 & GH4

The DJI Inspire 1 has become the go-to choice of drone for me this year and uses the X3 camera, with the X5 and X5R being released this month.

I found myself using my S900 less and less with the X3 camera packing a surprisingly big punch for such a small camera and the Inspire 1 being a much nicer drone to fly than the S900. In this article I am going to share some of the reasons I prefer the Inspire 1 over the S900 as we look at the DJI Inspire 1 vs S900 & GH4.

To start with lets look at the advantages of the Inspire 1 over the S900. (My S900 is equipped with a Panasonic GH4 so the camera comparison is that vs the X3 that is the standard equipment on the Inspire 1.)

Portability

Most of my drone filming is in mountainous or remote locations and so portability is a big factor for me. If I am taking an S900 out on a job I arrive with the huge flight case and then two large plastic boxes full of the additional kit required to fly it – spare batteries, transmitters, Lightbridge and a camera tripod to put the monitors on.

DJI S900 Case

S900 Case – big enough on its own

Inspire Case

Inspire Case – nicely self contained

This means that any job involving the S900 is a two person job – just in terms of getting to the shoot. It also means that in reality we can’t work too far from the road – I once carried it to the top of Snowdon and it nearly killed me! The Inspire 1 on the other hand can be packed away into the one case that it ships with, this includes 7 batteries, monitors, transmitters the lot. For my mountain filming I can put it all into one rucksack with the Inspire strapped onto the back and it can go anywhere that I can. (I have done ski days with my Phantom on my back – it makes you determined to avoid falling!)

IMG_2669

Flyability

I don’t know if flyability is a real word but nonetheless you know what I mean! The S900 is an ocean liner in the sky by comparison with the Inspire 1. I find the Inspire far more manoeuvrable and yet just as steady in the final footage. The time to get in the air is also less with the Inspire. If a director gives short notice to get the drone in the air on a commercial you can do it with the Inspire – everything is all self contained within the one unit, you have one switch for the drone and another for the transmitter. With the S900 you need to remember to switch on the camera, the drone, the Lightbridge and each transmitter and it all takes time!

rob

Camera Settings on the fly

A big advantage of the Inspire is the ability to change the camera settings whilst the drone is in flight. You can’t do this with the S900 and GH4 combination where everything has to be set on the ground and the drone has to be landed to make any changes.

With the Inspire you can adjust the exposure and shutter speed whilst you are in flight meaning that often the quality of the footage is better because you have more control over it. This will be improved still further with the arrival of the X5 and X5R as you will also be able to adjust aperture and focus using the DJI Go App.

The Inspire uses a built in version of Lightbridhe which allows real time viewing at 720p on my iPhone or iPad and a second monitor for the director to view as we fly. It also allows a second camera operator which is great for tricky jobs.

DJI Inspire 1

Flight Duration

Whatever the claims on the DJI website in real life I get about 12-15 minutes of filming from my Inspire – dependant upon how hard I am flying and using the high power batteries. With the S900 I do well to get 10 minutes with the GH4 and Zenmuse gimbal and often that is interrupted by me having to land to reset the camera settings!

Disadvantages

You can see that I am a big fan of the Inspire. Its easy to fly, packs away nice and small, has a good battery life and allows me to just the camera in the air. So what are the disadvantages? Well there is only one as far as I am concerned and that is the camera quality. I would describe the X3 camera as being like a GoPro Hero 4 without the fisheye lens – which makes it better than the GoPro in my opinion. It can’t rival the GH4 for pure image quality when both cameras are set up to their strengths.

In practise this is rarely an issue as all of the advantages of the Inspire mean that, although the picture quality is not quite as good from a technical perspective, the effect of the footage is often better on the Inspire. Its easier to fly and so the movement is nicer, we can adjust the camera in the air and so the shot is nicely exposed first time. If you are not convinced then watch this comparison between the two, I think the difference is small enough that for web-based video you are not going to mind:

DJI INSPIRE VS DJI S900/GH4 from DIGITAL CINEMA FILMS on Vimeo.

The Future

The new Inspire Pro is out now and I will be filming over the next few weeks so that I can bring you a comparison with the current X3 camera. The Pro uses the X5 which gives us a micro 4/3 sensor, interchangeable lenses, focus adjustment, 4K video at up to 30fps, 16MP photographs and 12.8 stops of dynamic range. The GH4 & S900 could soon be dead!

DJI X5

 

 

Rob Johnson

I am a film maker, drone pilot, climber, mountaineer and photographer based in the mountains of Snowdonia, North Wales.

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  1. Adam Robey • 15th February 2016

    Excellent comparison review. I'll be PFAW qualified very soon and you have helped me make up my mind which rig to go for. The Inspire Pro with X5 camera seems like a great package. Now to find the funds... Reply


    • Rob Johnson • 3rd March 2016

      Thanks Adam and I am sure you won't be disappointed - once you have found the funds! Reply


  2. aiden • 7th March 2016

    Great review I fully agree with Adam. Im currently on the road to getting my licence and it seems that the inspire is a great replacement for my P3P Reply


  3. Michael • 5th May 2016

    Hi Rob,
    thank you for sharing your knowledge.
    Do you in the meantime have any experience with the X5R?
    Here in Germany we use the Inspire with X3 and S900 with GH4 and are thinking of selling the
    S900 to be replaced by an Inspire and X5(R). All this providing the image quality is on the same level.
    I have seen a comparison of the X5 and GH4 by all-things-photography.com and the GH4 appears a lot better. Now the RAW output of the R perhaps puts it in the same league as the GH4.
    What is your opinion/experience?
    Thanks
    Michael Reply


    • Rob Johnson • 8th May 2016

      Hi Michael
      I haven't had a play with the X5(R). The specs look impressive on paper but I would need to have a play with it to give an honest opinion. It would certainly give you a more portable setup with a lot more flexibility when flying and in post production. If you get one it would be great to hear what you think.

      All the best

      Rob Reply


  4. Dave • 5th July 2016

    Hi Rob,
    Good review. Just wondered now a few more months have passed are you still happy with your decision to switch to the Inspire? I am having the same debate as to whether I get rid of my S900 and go for the Inspire. How trouble free and reliable have you found the Inspire to be? Also have you had any chance to play with the X5R yet?

    Dave. Reply


    • Rob Johnson • 15th July 2016

      I've no regrets at all and have found it very reliable, many times more than the S900 was. I haven't had a chance to play with the X5R yet, I can't justify the cost as the X5 is fine for everything I am doing at the moment. I will be interested to see what the Inspire 2 brings in the autumn, if it has collision avoidance like the Phantom 4 that would be a logical next step for me. Reply


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