Photographer’s guide to purchasing DJI Inspire 2 and Zenmuse X7

After my last article reviewing the quality of still images of Zenmuse X7 camera many people were asking me questions about buying this setup.

Buying the Inspire 2 and Zenmuse x7 camera is a huge investment. While smaller consumer drone like Mavic Pro or Phantom 4 will cost you between 1,300€-2,000€, the I2+ZX7 system can easily cost 10-times more.

However, you can start building the system step by step and saving some money along the way. Photographers don’t need everything that film makers do. Here is a step-by-step approach to get you started:

Basic setup:

Inspire 2 drone (3,399€)
Zenmuse X7 camera (2,999€)
This is the base for building your system. You want to explore different combos that DJI store is offering at given moment or at your local retailer.

Lenses:

If you are tight with your budget you can start with one lens only. My recommendation is the wide angle:
Zenmuse X7 DL-S 16mm lens (1,499€)
This gives you 24mm focal length (35mm equivalent)

However, you will save money (long term) when purchasing the whole 4-lenses set:
Zenmuse X7 DL/DL-S Lens Set (4,899€)

If you cannot afford the whole set of four lenses, my advice is to purchase 16mm and 50mm lenses. Why? First, in practice it is very rare you will be changing lenses a lot while working with limited battery time and short ideal light conditions. So choosing two extreme ends will give you most versatility whether you need wide angle view or narrow view. You can use image stacking technique with 50mm lens to get wider angle — see the image below — 3 horizontal images stitched to get a wider angle.

DJI Care Refresh

DJI Care Refresh offers up to two replacement units within one year. you will need two plans:
DJI Care Refresh for your Inspire 2 (339€)
DJI Care Refresh for your Zenmuse X7 (519€)

Whether you decide for this type of insurance or not is up to you. Given how easy is to make a mistake and how unpredictable are the flying conditions I opted in for both options.

Extra batteries

Inspire 2 drone uses twoTB50 Intelligent Flight Batteries. This means that you will need to purchase extra batteries in pairs. One additional set of batteries is highly recommended and will set you back for 398€.

I ordered extra two pairs of batteries which means I can make three flights each session. And I always use all three of them, wishing I’d have one more pair…

CrystalSky monitor

This is something where you can save some money. While super nice to have and it makes a huge difference in bright sunlight it is not necessary to use DJI’s ultra-bright screen. You can easily use your smartphone or a tablet that you can mount on included remote controller.

However if you do decide to purchase CrystalSky screen (549€-979€) don’t forget to add to cart the Mounting Bracket (89€) as well.

Serious about Video?

Good news is that you can make videos in high quality 4k resolution to your SD card (16Gb comes included with the I2).

The base 4k video quality with Zenmuse X7 is a huge improvement over any other consumer drone such as Mavic or Phantom models. The quality of this video is amazing and most of photographers will never need anything more.

However if you are interested in squeezing the best out of Zenmuse X7 camera you should consider purchasing:
CinemaDNG & Apple ProRes Activation Key (1500€ for both licences)

Here are two interesting threads about which (if any) pro video format to use. DJI Forum and InspirePilots.

CINESSD Reader (169€) and CINESSDs (569€-999€) are required when recording to CinemaDNG or ProRes.

Other accessories

Two more accessories are worth mentioning. Many countries require use of a parachute when flying above man-made objects (buildings, roads…) so you should get a parachute that can be triggered remotely when needed. This is the one I got at Kopterworx. I haven’t triggered it yet and I hope I never will.

And the other very useful accessory is a carrying backpack. Since Inspire 2 is quite bigger than other consumer drones it needs a custom made backpack. I found Lowepro DroneGuard Pro Inspired to be the best solution for the job. After using it for couple of weeks I need to say that it is very well made, it fits all drone gear I need with me and is comfortable to carry. Unfortunately there is no room for anything else — not even a jacket or a water bottle. Not suitable for longer hikes.

Summary

If you are going to use Inspire 2 and Zenmuse X7 camera set mostly for still photography, you can save some money on not purchasing video licences and SSD disks. You can also save some money on gear that is not necessary to get the drone up in the sky and shoot. Here are some example of combos you can build:

  1. The Basic: I2+ZX7 with 16mm lens and a pair of spare batteries: 8,295€
  2. A Common Sense: I2+ZX7 with 16mm and 50mm lens, a pair of spare batteries and Care Refresh (drone and camera): 10,552€
  3. The Photographer’s Dream: I2+ZX7 with all four lenses,two pairs of spare batteries, CrystalSky screen, and Care Refresh (drone and camera): 14,214€
  4. The Hollywood: I2+ZX7 with all four lenses,two pairs of spare batteries, two remotes, two CrystalSky screens, two 240Gb CINESSDs, a reader and Care Refresh (drone and camera): 18,888€

So which one are you purchasing?

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