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DJI announce Zenmuse Z3 drone camera with 7x zoom

zenmuse z3

DJI drone pilots are about to gain more flexibility when shooting from the air with the announcement of DJI’s first zoom-capable camera for its UAVs. Compatible with the Inspire 1, Matrice 100 and Matrice 600 drones, the Zenmuse Z3 features the same Sony 1/2.3-inch sensor found on the Inspire 1 and Phantom 4, but with new optical elements and physical (3.5x) and optical (2x) zoom functions.

DJI are aiming the camera at 'industrial applications' like surveying and search and rescue - perhaps an indication that image quality has been traded off for the flexibility of a zoom?
Wide (left) and 7x zoom (right). DJI are aiming the camera at ‘industrial applications’ like surveying and search and rescue – perhaps an indication that image quality has been traded off for the flexibility of a zoom?

The camera’s physical zoom range is from 22mm to 77mm and has a variable aperture, from f/2.8 at the wide end to f/5.2 at the long end.

The camera shoots 12MP stills (to Adobe DNG Raw files as well as Jpeg) and 4K video at up to 30fps, although the company say the camera has been optimised for stills – a bit unclear what that actually means.

Zoom control is possible through the DJI Go app, where it’s possible to simply swipe the touchscreen of your device to zoom. You can also control zoom level through your drone’s regular flight controller.

DJI claim a flight time of ‘up to’ 19 minutes with the Zenmuse Z3 mounted on an Inspire 1. Flight times of up to 30 minutes can be had with the dual-battery M100 and it will be possible can fly for up to 39 minutes with the M600.

We haven’t seen vision (either stills or video) from the camera yet – it will be very interesting to see how much the optical quality of the camera has had to be compromised and what that means for it’s practical use as a tool for newsgathering. It could be that the flexibility of the zoom outweighs any loss in quality – and anything that makes getting a shot easier under pressure is surely worth a look for drone pilots.

The Z3 will be priced at $1000 US and will be available ‘soon’ – more details on the DJI site here.

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