Drone maker DJI has today announced its first aerial zoom camera, the Zenmuse Z3. The new model is optimized for still photography and combines a 3.5x optical zoom with 2x digital magnification, resulting in a 7x overall zoom factor, covering equivalent focal ranges from 22-77mm. Aperture ranges from F2.8 at wide angle to F5.2 at the long end of the zoom. Inside the 262-gram camera body images are captured on a 12MP 1/2.3-inch Sony sensor that can also record 4K video at 30fps and save DNG Raw files. 

 Drone shot at 22mm equivalent focal length
 Done shot at 77mm equivalent focal length (7x zoom)

The camera can be used on the DJI's Inspire 1, Matrice 100 or Matrice 600 drones and the company's dedicated HD video downlink allows for transmission from a distance of up to 3.1 miles (5km) away. The zoom is operated via the DJI GO app or the Drone remote control. DJI says it has refined and improved image stabilization, as any camera movement is magnified at the longer end of the zoom lens.  The Z3 also comes with an upgraded gimbal. The camera will be available from July 28th and retail for $899.

SHENZHEN, July 14, 2016 - DJI, the world’s leading aerial-imaging company, on Thursday announced the Zenmuse Z3, DJI’s first integrated aerial zoom camera optimized for still photography.

The Zenmuse Z3 will offer up to a 7x zoom. The camera incorporates DJI’s leading gimbal technology, which has been upgraded to work optimally with its zoom capabilities.

“The Zenmuse Z3 pushes the possibilities of use for industrial applications,” said Senior Product Manager Paul Pan. “Before this camera, the only way to zoom in on a subject or object was to fly closer to it. Now, pilots in a search-and-rescue situation, or conducting surveys or inspections, can maintain distance and still zoom in for sharp, detailed images.”

The zoom camera is aimed at providing new capabilities for industrial applications, such as inspection and surveying.

The Zenmuse Z3 is compatible with the Inspire 1, Matrice 100 and Matrice 600 drones and uses the company’s dedicated HD video downlink, Lightbridge and Lightbridge 2, providing up to 3.1 miles (5.0 kilometers) of HD transmission range.

The Zenmuse Z3 is fully integrated into the DJI GO app and provides a seamless user experience, including a live feed from the camera and the ability to change camera settings, swipe to zoom in and out, capture photos or video and to activate intelligent flight modes. Users may also choose to employ camera controls, such as capturing photos and video and zoom, through their drone’s remote controller.

The Zenmuse Z3 weighs 262-gram and achives up to a 7x zoom via a 3.5x optical zoom, combined with a 2x digital zoom. This gives the Zenmuse Z3 an effective zoom range of 22 millimeters to 77 millimeters. It has a maximum aperture of F2.8 and F5.2 at 22 millimeters and 77 millimeters, respectively.

When the camera zooms in, the smallest movements are magnified. Adding an additional layer of fine-tuning to the yaw control of the Z3 is a custom-designed reaction wheel. This works in tandem with the normal yaw motor to allow for more refined and controlled movement and greater stability.

The Zenmuse Z3 features the same highly refined Sony 1/2.3-inch sensor that is found on the Inspire 1 and the Phantom 4, leading the class in image quality. It can shoot still images at 12 megapixels with additional Adobe DNG Raw Support for maximum editing options in post-production. The camera also shoots video at up to 30 FPS in 4k resolution.

Flight time with the Zenmuse Z3 is up to 19 minutes on the Inspire 1. Pilots can extend flight time up to 30 minutes with the dual-battery-equipped M100 and up to 39 minutes with the M600.

The Zenmuse Z3 is priced at USD899 and will start shipping after July 28, 2016.

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