Well, that didn’t take long. Just this January, DJI Innovations released its GPS-enabled Phantom quadcopter. Now, at this week’s National Association of Broadcasters show in Las Vegas, the company has unveiled a self-stabilizing camera mount that can be added to existing Phantoms, plus an upgraded Phantom that includes its own HD video camera. Additionally, DJI’s new iOS app allows users to view onboard video output in real time on their iPhone, iPad or iPod touch via Wi-Fi.
One of the big selling features of the Phantom has been its included mount for the GoPro HERO actioncam. Unfortunately, as I discovered when doing my review of the Phantom, the existing mount allows vibrations to travel from the aircraft into the camera, creating jiggly video distortion known as the Jell-O effect. Both new products are said to eliminate that problem.
A Phantom with its own camera
The new version of the quadcopter, the Phantom Vision, is actually the same Phantom we already know, but with the addition of a 1080p video camera which can also capture 14-megapixel stills. It’s mounted on the underside of the aircraft, right where the user-supplied GoPro would ordinarily go.
Its mounting system consists of one plate that’s attached to the quadcopter and another that’s attached to the camera – the only thing connecting those two plates are four rubber dampers (one at each corner), which reportedly allow few if any vibrations to get through. Similar third-party mounts for GoPros are already available on eBay.
Using an iDevice running the DJI app, users can view the output from that camera, control the camera functions, and tilt it up and down via an integrated motor. There’s currently no word on recording formats or media, although one would assume that an SD card is involved.
A self-stabilizing GoPro mount
Users who wish to use their own camera, but don’t want the shot tipping sideways as the Phantom banks into turns, might be interested in DJI’s Zenmuse HERO mount.
The Zenmuse HERO gimbal mount
The Zenmuse utilizes the same damping system as the Vision, but it also incorporates a two-axis motorized gimbal. Using algorithms running on a bult-in control module, that gimbal automatically moves the camera in order to compensate for the pitch and yaw of the quadcopter. As a result, the shot maintains a consistent, straight horizon at all times.
Using the control module and the iOS app, users can view the output from their HERO, tilt it, and start and stop recording. Given the Phantom’s 300-meter (984-foot) radio frequency range, presumably it’s possible to fly the quadcopter out of range of the Wi-Fi-based app – the camera would still keep recording, although users would no longer be able to see its picture in real time.