The DJI Phantom 2 is the second generation quadcopter from the industry giant, boasting better performance and longer flight time and it's remained pretty much a “hobbyist” craft as it comes from the factory – but I'll show you why the DLSRPros Cannes Cinema Edition P2 Aerial Kit has turned this “RC toy” into a serious, useful aerial videography tool.
A little over a year ago, I tested and reviewed the first DSLRPros Ultimate Cinema Edition Aerial Kit on ProVideo Coalition and shared the various updates and additions they offered along the way. That was based on the original DJI Phantom 1 quadcopter platform and consistently performed extremely well for many flights and aerial shoots. I was delighted though, when they announced they would be releasing the new Cannes Cinema Edition P2 Aerial Kit, because it's based on the DJI Phantom 2 platform with the new proprietary DJI 5200mAh batteries, P2 props and the Zenmuse H3-3D 3-axis gimbal for the GoPro Hero 3/3+. But what I wasn't expecting is the enhanced electronics/features that allow you to use the Ground Station app on an iPad to set waypoints/missions to fly your craft autonomously.
I also featured this kit on my recent 2-Day Drone Photography & Video Workshop on CreativeLive, where I go over the features of this build with my colleague Mark Johnson. We didn't get to show the Ground Station setup with the second monitor/receiver we had setup during the live video stream due to time limitations, but I'll cover some of that later in this article.
As a somewhat experienced DSLRPros Phantom flier, I can really appreciate the Black Edition Futaba D8FGS transmitter/controller with the pre-programmed options including the fluid pan mode (cuts the range of travel of the controls to 60/30%) plus the Long Range 7″ HD LCD Diversity FPV receiver/monitor. They've included two 2600mAh LiPo batteries and charger just for the Futaba so you'll never be without transmitter power on a long day's shoot. In addition to viewing the FPV monitor, I love how the OSD (On Screen Display) info tells me exactly everything I need to know about my craft, including the GoPro settings, distance and altitude, battery voltage, number of satellites the GPS is receiving and much more.
Not to mention you get 5 of the P2 batteries in this kit with 2 LiPo charging bricks so you can keep flying all day! And everything fits nicely in a custom-designed rolling hard case that will allow you to travel with your props attached but still fit in the overhead compartment on larger commercial airliners.
What's Included in the Kit:
- DJI Phantom 2 Go Pro Aerial Rig
- DJI Zenmuse H3-3D Gimbal (3-Axis gimbal pre-installed and tuned)
- DJI Self-Tightening 9″ Props (set of 4)
- DSLRPros 9″ Carbon Fiber Props (set of 4)
- DSLRPros 9″ Prop Guards
- DJI On-Screen-Display (OSD) – provides basic flight data over FPV Live Stream
- DJI 2.4 GHz BTU Data Link Radio (Adds 16 GPS Waypoint Navigation Capability)
- DSLRPros Futaba D8FG Radio Transmitter (for Long Range, Reliability & Special Advanced Control Profiles)
- Deluxe DSLRPros Radio Tx Lanyard
- DSLRPros LiPo checker
- 2 DSLRPros Long Life 2600 mAH LiPo Tx Battery
- 5 Total DJI OEM 5200 mAH LiPo Batteries
- DSLRPros TXS-8 Pro LiPo Charger
- 2 Total DJI Flight Pack Charging Blocks (Required to reduce charging times via parallel charging)
- DSLRPros P2 Tough Case with DSLRPros pre-cut foam (L22.8″ x W18.3″ x H11.7″)
- Integrated 5.8 GHz Long Range Diversity FPV System (7″ HD Field Monitor, Long Range Diversity Rx/Tx, Pole/Panel Antenna)
- GoPuck 5x (6600 mAH)
- DSLRPros Fire Safe LiPo Guard Bag
- DSLRPros Anti-Gravity Motors Set of 4
Below is DSLRPros promo video for the kit that shows some of the major features of the kit:
About the Zenmuse H3-3D 3-Axis Gimbal
The biggest single advancement in design from a videographer's standpoint is the Zenmuse H3-3D gimbal for the GoPro Hero 3/3+. The 3rd axis means much more stability in the yaw axis for steadier flight and smoother turns. This is the gimbal we've been waiting for and it only works on the P2 system (not available for P1). There are also secure clips for the gimbal so it won't fly off during a turbulent landing or crash – so no need for those zip-ties anymore!
While I love how stable the new H3-3D 3-axis GoPro gimbal is on the P2, I must say I was disappointed with the FPV connection to the GoPro. Especially compared to how the H3-2D gimbal functioned on the previous versions. Instead of the GoPro mounting to the gimbal with the rear connector to the camera that provided external power and FPV signal as in the previous version, DJI has gone the cheap route with a flimsy ribbon cable that attaches to a small USB connector card that plugs into the side of the GoPro – similar to a Tarot T-2D.
Aside from the fact that you must remove this connector every time you need to charge your GoPro or swap the SD card, the ribbon cable isn't securely attached to the USB card/connector and often wiggles loose or doesn't make proper contact. I've found that I've totally lost FPV mid-flight a couple times because the movement of the gimbal in-flight or just wind has moved the cable connection just slightly out of position. You must land the craft and wiggle it more – remove/re-insert the cable into the connector.
DJI must be aware this is an issue, since all the forums are buzzing about the cables breaking when people have crashed (I haven't done any “crash tests” with this kit and I really don't plan to) – also since they ship an extra ribbon cable and tape/patch with each gimbal for replacement. I have seen a couple DIY “hacks” to convert the H3-3D gimbal to the older plug-style connector that the H3-2D had, but they're really not very simple to do and requires quite a bit of modification to make it work. I wouldn't recommend it, personally.
Test Flights with the Kit
I've had several opportunities to give the DSLRPros Cannes Kit some challenging flights, both in the city and out in the countryside, and am very pleased with the results in various environments and flying situations. It's truly a pleasure to fly and is stable, dependable, and the increased flight time and range of the P2 allows you to stay in the air longer to be sure you get those critical shots. Here's a few clips from some sample flights I've done in the past couple of weeks with the kit:
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Data Link GPS Waypoint Navigation with Ground Station
Included with the DSLRPros Cannes Cinema Edition P2 Aerial Kit, is a complete long-range Data Link system (already installed and ready to go) which allows GPS waypoint navigation for your craft. The 2.4 GHz Bluetooth Datalink provides ground to air communication using the DJI bidirectional data communication modules, while the iPad Ground Station (not included) communicates with the “Ground” end via the BTU module. With the supplied GoPuck 5x (6600mAh) power pack, you won't need a computer to power the ground station, greatly increasing portability. The PowerPuck also allows you to give your GoPro a quick charge in the field as needed at the same time as powering your Data Link through it's 2amp rapid charge USB port.
I will typically mount the Data Link and GoPuck with Velcro to a bracket on my tripod in the field and use The Padcaster Mini frame to hold my iPad Mini to set my Ground Station mission. Depending on the flight area, I may mount my FPV monitor to The Padcaster Mini frame as well so I can watch the camera in flight and the Ground Station mission at the same time.
Using the Ground Station app is fairly straight forward – setting waypoints for where you want your P2 to travel and record the flight autonomously and often out of FPV or transmitter range – using a mission you upload to the craft and let GPS do the rest. Of course you must be sure of the surroundings for your planned flight and set your waypoints accordingly so you can be sure to clear all objects in the flight path, such as trees, power lines, buildings, etc.
In the current version of Ground Station, the flight can be interesting to watch but it does lack some sophistication in craft/camera controls at each waypoint. I'm sure there will be some refinement and options/features added to the software in time. Here's a test flight I did from the above flight plan:
In my opinion, the DLSRPros Cannes Cinema Edition P2 Aerial Kit is as near perfect as you can get for a complete aerial cinematography/photography system you can easily take most anywhere with you. The extra P2 batteries and double chargers will also help you shoot longer and more locations in a single day event. This kit is so well put-together that I can literally go to a location and just get it in the air without a lot of fussing around. I can truly focus on the shots I'm hoping to get more than worrying about flying or if the gear is going to hold up. And regardless of how many other hex/octo-copters you may have at your disposal, this kit will get you into places you can't reach with other systems and draws much less attention while you're shooting so you can hit several locations and angles in one shooting session.
I'm really looking forward to getting some more amazing shots with this kit and will post updates with some of my results here in this article, so check back again for those updates!
You can also watch a FREE re-broadcast of my CreativeLive video workshop the first week of September, Taking Flight: Drone Photography & Video with Jeff Foster and take advantage of special workshop pricing if you wish to watch it on demand.
Jeff Foster is a published author of several how-to books and training videos in the motion graphics, animation and video production industries and is an award-winning video producer and artist. Visit his web site to learn more about his training methods, tips & tricks at PixelPainter.com