I recently had the chance to spend 2 days with customers training on the new DJI Inspire 1 platform.  We took 2 relatively inexperienced pilots and had them up to speed on the Inspire 1 in a very short time.  The user friendly features of the DJI Pilot app really helped ease the learning curve. 

In the box:

The first thing you will notice is the sturdy carrying case.  This case is a few steps up from the corrugated box that we all expect.  But it is not equivalent to a waterproof Pelican case.  This case is a semi rigid case with a zipper closure.  Inside you will find the Inspire 1 neatly stowed in “transport mode,”  the transmitters, and cutouts for 4 batteries and spare propellers.


Setup is very simple with the Inspire 1.  If you can successfully operate a Phantom 2, the Inspire 1 will feel very familiar.  Powering on the transmitter and Inspire 1 is accomplished the same way the Phantom 2 is.  A short press on the power button followed by a 2nd, longer press is required to both turn on and off.  After powering up and launching the DJI Pilot app, you are greeted with a very colorful and well designed app.  Tapping on the camera icon brings up the primary page used by both pilot and camera operator.  This page gives the user access to basic setup, radio configuration, Inspire 1 flight control parameters, as well as camera control, view, and playback.  Following the built-in video tutorial takes the user through exiting travel mode (landing gear in stowed position), attaching the gimbal, and operating the camera.


Flying the Inspire 1 is a bit unique in some regards.  Arming and flight in P-GPS (position hold GPS) is similar to the Phantom 2.  One thing you will notice right away is how the flight controller will aggressively brake (ie. pitch back opposite to direction of travel) as soon as the sticks are released to center.  This can be helpful to novice pilots but I found it to be slightly annoying.  The Inspire 1 holds position solidly, with no signs of struggling.  Large gusts can upset the inspire 1 but the flight controller handles disturbances with a minimum of drama.  One great feature of the Inspire 1 is that it is FAST!  DJI claims a top speed of 75 km/ hr and I believe it.  The flight controller does lose some altitude on high speed runs, so be prepared to add a bit of throttle to maintain height at top speed.  Keep in mind that high speed jaunts will suck the battery dry in under 10 minutes!  We flew in 10 degrees Fahrenheit – so your mileage may vary.


OK, now on to what everyone is waiting for:  the camera.  This camera is a totally new design with an integrated 3 axis gimbal.  The camera shoots video in full 4K HD and has many choices in regard to video format and frame rate.  For still photos, the camera allows access to exposure control, ISO, and focus.  The lens is a 20mm unit (35mm equivalent) and has none of the optical distortion you may be used to with the Hero series of cameras so popular today.  The camera shoots very nice video and still photos, but does have limitations.  The biggest thing that stands out in my mind is the dynamic range of the sensor.  This is most noticeable in situations where you have very bright and very dark in the same frame.  The camera tends to overexpose areas of snow for example in forest scenes.  Compared to a camera like the Panasonic GH4, picture quality differences are easy to see, but that is comparing apples to oranges.


Overall the DJI Inspire 1 is an excellent tool for aerial photography and videography.  It is a relatively inexpensive and very capable machine.  The flight characteristics make it very easy for a novice to learn and control.  Experts may not like the way the flight controller brakes, but this is not a problem in ATTI mode.  The camera is very good for its size.  If you are currently shooting with a Go Pro Hero 3 or 4, this will be a major update.  Professionals may like the Inspire 1 because it is a good compromise between camera quality and size.  A GH4 on an S900 or S1000 is significantly larger, heavier, and more complex than the Inspire 1 even though the capabilities are maybe 20% higher.