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Arikhan

Drone for a A6500 / A7R ii / A7S ii

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I would like to buy and use a drone for a Sony A6500 / A7R ii / A7S ii. So the drone should have a total payload of about 1,5kg (camera + lens). It should have FPV and - if possible - remote control for the mounted camera. 3-axis gimbal is also required. Budget is max. 5.000 Euro (for ready to fly drone only).

Are here people experienced with this? Any recommendation for companies / experienced people for such a built?

Thank you!

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EOSHD Pro Color for Sony cameras EOSHD Pro LOG for Sony CamerasEOSHD C-LOG and Film Profiles for All Canon DSLRs

There are plenty of drone available to lift your Sony camera. Now while finding the airframe and dynamic parts is relatively easy, having a good machine, tuned correctly is more challenging. You'll have to balance the drone properly, set the right PIDs for the flight controller, handle the vibration, balance the props and possibly the motors, use one of these huge 6S or 8S battery that are very expensive with a dedicated charger. Chargin the battery itself is an operation (balancing, need DC source for fast charging, must not overdischarge, etc.). Your flight time will be limited to 10-15 min max.

The key point is the gimbal, it must be able to handle the load and be balanced correctly. Everytime you change the lens you will have to rebalance the gimbal and/or change the gimbal settings (PIDs, motor load, etc.).

A DJI S1000 can handle the weight and there are plenty available on the used market.  The Z15 gimbal would work but there isn't much room for fine tuning with DJI. A S900 + FTBO G10 could work too.

Then comes the problems of controlling everything, expo settings, triggering the camera, etc. If you opt for a do it yourself solution, the flight controller won't be synchronized with the gimbal and you'll have limited access to the cam settings. In terms of video you can choose the DJI lightbridge 2 or Amimon for digital link.. You can also go the analog route with a 5.8 GHz system and cam switch for the FPV/HD cam. If you need two video feeds (pilot and operator), you can combine the solutions). But the 5.8 GHz system won't be as user friendly.

Honestly at this price point I would consider the Inspire 2, it will make your life so much easier. Well, the kit price point is around $6000 with the X5S camera (micro 4/3).

In the end it really depends of your technical skills and will to get your hands dirty with building and tuning.

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@OliKMIA

Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Quote

Honestly at this price point I would consider the Inspire 2, it will make your life so much easier. Well, the kit price point is around $6000 with the X5S camera (micro 4/3).

I know that a Inspire 2 / X5S would be probably the best solution to immediately start with. Though, my requirements make this impossible:

  • I need the drone also for high res aerial stills photography - and therein a A7R ii (42MP, great DR, great IQ) is hard to beat, when considering weight
  • a main requirement is also low light aerial videography - and the Sonys (Full frames A7x ii generation and A6500) are herein hard to beat. A m4/3 can NOT hold up

So, a m4/3 camera would fail here...

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You got some great advice from OliKMIA. I would say...you probably need to go up $1000 more and invest into a M600 system. The new one has a few failsafe additions that helps to ensure you would not lose your done. I've spoken to a professional shooter and he loves flying the M600 and tells me it's the best bird he has. That said, M600 or even S1000 are very big and take a lot of space. Then you might want an extra set of batteries, etc. and the weight and room required just grows. 
The inspire can handle high res aerial still photography. You can almost stitch anything that is not moving and get 50-100 mp images. Low light video is a different story. 

One last thing, flying any big drone, especially when shooting video requires two people. One pilot and one shooter or you most likely crash into something. 

Also, if you have not flown a drone before. I'd suggest starting with a used phantom 4 (they are very cheap now). 

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@salim

Thanks for advice! I shoot drone footage for more than 2 years now. My first drone was a DJI P2 with a GoPro 3 BE. I am familiar with drone flight and shooting - but only with smaller drones like the DJIs. I ALWAYS shoot drone footage with a second person. 

Quote

The inspire can handle high res aerial still photography. You can almost stitch anything that is not moving and get 50-100 mp images.

It's NOT all about stiching. A m4/3 camera will NEVER get similar IQ as a A7R ii + an excellent/outstanding wide angle lens. I've done already some test shots with a A7R ii + Nikon 20mm 1.8 from a very high building to simulate a little bit perspectives of aerial photography and the results were amazing. Stiching with a m4/3 is NOT an option...An A7R ii + light weight Nikon F1.8 primes (20mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm) give me a lot of options for excellent IQ and different focal lengths, even for my second important requirement - low light....

My requirements are all about maximum of photographic quality (OK...maximum for this kind of budget)

Thanks for the tip with the M600 / S1000. As I am NOT a do-it-yourselfer with drone electronics and remote/transmitter systems, I need a reliable, professional solution for cameras up to 1,5kg. I have to buy a ready2fly-drone, capable to fit my requirements.

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Yeah, I can imagine you want the max IQ thus the M4/3 is not an option for you. The Matrice 600 could do the job but you'll be way over budget after adding all the options (batteries, radio, ronin MX or Z15, etc.). Plus it's a huge drone, almost 4 feet wide and kind of overkill for a 1.5 Kg camera. You must recharge 6 batteries for a 10-15 min flight...

Since you don't want to build and tune your drone you will have to find a shop or someone that can do a custom build for you. Personally I would get an X8 with carbon arms for good rigidity and less wobble (common issue with the S1000). Now with that type of drone you'll have to get your hand dirty no matter what. Vibrations and balancing is the worst part. Change the lens or modify the temperature and you may have different type of vibrations and resonance from the power train to the gimbal which will generate jello (rolling shutter) especially when filming video with the Sony camera.

Sorry I don't want to ruin the party, I totally understand that you don't want to mess with the technical aspect of it but I know by experience that these big rigs are very sensitive and many little problems can occur.

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I was looking in to the same thing. I have a P4p that is the first drone with a usable camera for photography and I’m looking for a even better solution.

I agree with Oli and the I2 is IMO the best compromise, still a manageable size, ready to fly and you can control everything from the App including zoom and focus. Yes, the quality is for sure less than an A7 series but is much more practical. You are ready to fly in less than 2 minutes.

The Matrice 600Pro is very big and heavy. It is also very dangerous, I’m not sure that moving from a Phantom to this class of drone is a smart thing to do but you know your skill better than me so is up to you.
With the M600Pro you cannot control the camera (A7x) other that the shutter, you cannot even start and stop the video from within the drone app. You could use the wifi+app of the camera to have some control at closer distance but it is still a pita. You probably would need a follow focus system that is also expensive and cumbersome. If you have not used a gimbal like the Ronin MX you will also need to balance the camera/lens combination every time that is time consuming especially at the beginning. (I have a Ronin M)
The M600Pro is a kit that you need to assemble yourself so is not really ready to fly.

With 5’000 EUR you don’t even start… the M600Pro is 5’700 + 1’800 the gimbal + 2700 (3 x 900 Battery set for 20-25 min flight) + some accessory you are well above 10’000 Euro…
I suggest that you research a bit on the DJI forums around the M600 to see what kind of complexity it has.

At the end is a choice between easy to use, transport and quick setup vs. complex and time consuming setup, compromised usability for better quality.

My dream would be the X5s (I2 camera) on a Phantom size drone….

Why not rent a GH5 with a couple of lens and test the photo quality it will be almost the same as the X5s on the Inspire 2?

 

 

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@gt3rs

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With 5’000 EUR you don’t even start… the M600Pro is 5’700 + 1’800 the gimbal + 2700 (3 x 900 Battery set for 20-25 min flight) + some accessory you are well above 10’000 Euro…

Exactly this...About 2x my budget. So, no need to even consider this kind of drone at the moment.

After taking a look, it seems even the S900 with a X15-A7 gimbal could fit my needs...I just have to talk to experienced people, capable to customize such a package - because it was originally optimized for the A7S and not the A7S ii or A7R ii...

Quote

Why not rent a GH5 with a couple of lens and test the photo quality it will be almost the same as the X5s on the Inspire 2?

I had it one week in my hands. Nothing to compare in stills photography (and low light filming) with eg a A7R ii.

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1 hour ago, Arikhan said:

@gt3rs

Exactly this...About 2x my budget. So, no need to even consider this kind of drone at the moment.

After taking a look, it seems even the S900 with a X15-A7 gimbal could fit my needs...I just have to talk to experienced people, capable to customize such a package - because it was originally optimized for the A7S and not the A7S ii or A7R ii...

I had it one week in my hands. Nothing to compare in stills photography (and low light filming) with eg a A7R ii.

Just don't underestimate the issue that you have no control over the camera settings. Especially for filming is a big pain to land, stop recording, change setting, restart recording and takeoff etc... especially on a 16-18 minutes max fly platform. I'm a Canon user so I don't know how well the wifi app for A7 x II works and what kind of distance and other limitations it has. Getting the exposure right on the ground is hard...

Probably the best for you is to look for a used S900 ready to fly package including remote, lightbridge, gimbal and visit the guy that is selling in person for a demo so you can get a better idea on the effort involved. I have a friend that has a s900 and with an a7s and since he brought a p4p is basically never using it just because of the time to set it up and the inconvenience of flying it.

 

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1 hour ago, gt3rs said:

Probably the best for you is to look for a used S900 ready to fly package including remote, lightbridge, gimbal and visit the guy that is selling in person for a demo so you can get a better idea on the effort involved.

That would be for sure the best, to get an idea how this solution works during real jobs. As we all know, manufacturers and resellers don't advertize very often the limitations and possible usability issues of such systems...Thank you for advice and practical tips!

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I know this thread is old, but I hope it still has some traction. My question is a bit different and has to do with rapid image capture over a long flight. I have a large hexacopter capable of flying with the A7Rii for about 40 mins. The problem is, I am often losing images. What i mean is, a camera trigger command is given, but the image is not written to the SD card. I have had success capturing with full resolution on the A7Rii for about 1300 frames @ 1 frame every 1.5 seconds, but other times I am only getting between 20-25% of the images I am expecting. I have a V30 150MB/s SD card, class 10 U3, so pretty fast, but I think this may be the problem. I am wondering if anyone else has run into a trigger interval limit, where any faster the images don't capture. Thanks for the input. I am using the unit for high resolution mapping and 3D terrain models. Thanks in advance for the input.

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15 hours ago, GeneS said:

I know this thread is old, but I hope it still has some traction. My question is a bit different and has to do with rapid image capture over a long flight. I have a large hexacopter capable of flying with the A7Rii for about 40 mins. The problem is, I am often losing images. What i mean is, a camera trigger command is given, but the image is not written to the SD card. I have had success capturing with full resolution on the A7Rii for about 1300 frames @ 1 frame every 1.5 seconds, but other times I am only getting between 20-25% of the images I am expecting. I have a V30 150MB/s SD card, class 10 U3, so pretty fast, but I think this may be the problem. I am wondering if anyone else has run into a trigger interval limit, where any faster the images don't capture. Thanks for the input. I am using the unit for high resolution mapping and 3D terrain models. Thanks in advance for the input.

I used to have the A7rii a while back but dont have it anymore so dont take what I say as gospel. Your problem is very 'unlikely' to be related to the card you are using. The problem is most likely related to the camera itself. The A7rii only has a camera to SD card write speed of a maximum of 36 MB/s.

https://www.cameramemoryspeed.com/sony-a7r-ii/sd-card-comparison/

Given that an uncompressed raw file is 83MB, you are unlikely to be able to capture shots with a 1 second interval. Switching to compressed raw might help but then the camera needs some time to 'compress' the raw. Obviously jpegs would be more effective but I still dont know if it is possible. You can see from Sony's own timelapse app for the A7rii they add a caveat....

https://www.playmemoriescameraapps.com/portal/usbdetail.php?eid=IS9104-NPIA09014_00-000003

'*Since the file size of the image is large, the [Interval] may be longer than the set value when shooting in uncompressed RAW format.'

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On 11/4/2019 at 12:02 PM, GeneS said:

I know this thread is old, but I hope it still has some traction. My question is a bit different and has to do with rapid image capture over a long flight. I have a large hexacopter capable of flying with the A7Rii for about 40 mins. The problem is, I am often losing images. What i mean is, a camera trigger command is given, but the image is not written to the SD card. I have had success capturing with full resolution on the A7Rii for about 1300 frames @ 1 frame every 1.5 seconds, but other times I am only getting between 20-25% of the images I am expecting. I have a V30 150MB/s SD card, class 10 U3, so pretty fast, but I think this may be the problem. I am wondering if anyone else has run into a trigger interval limit, where any faster the images don't capture. Thanks for the input. I am using the unit for high resolution mapping and 3D terrain models. Thanks in advance for the input.

I'm not sure to understand how you work with your drone and camera. When you say "a camera trigger command is given, but the image is not written to the SD card.".

Do you have a physcial switch (servo) that actually press the shutter? Or perhaps it is commanded via a command cable attached to the camera and mapped to a channel and your radio?

On the other hand, it seems that you put your camera in "timelapse" mode and keep shooting during the entire flight.

In any case, it seems that your problem is related to the camera buffer and/or memory card speed issue as someone indicated before me.

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Hello and thank you for the reply.  

To hopefully clarify and give you a better picture of what is going on:

The camera trigger command is given through the gimbal which is attached by both HDMI and micro USB. The camera is also powered from the drone through the gimbal. Trigger commands are generated by a mission planning software that calculates trigger interval based on desired overlap, groundspeed, image footprint size, etc. A mission plan file is generated, then loaded into memory on the drone. It then executes this flight plan, including camera trigger locations based on either gps for position based camera trigger or intervalometer for timing based trigger. Our ground station controller (how battery, telemetry, satellite signal strength and all other drone info is monitored) displays when a camera trigger command is given, and this is also recorded in the drone flight log file. The trigger commands are approx 2 seconds apart. So, 1 photo every 2 seconds for about 45 mins. I am shooting in JPEG, as I don't need RAW for mapping. 

My problem is with inconsistency of image capture. For example when flying an approx 160 acre site that required multiple flights to cover; the first flight of approx 45 mins captured 1394 images based on 1401 camera trigger commands. So, 99.5 of the camera trigger commands yielded a photo on the SD card. After changing batteries and putting the drone back up to finish the second half, the drone returned with only 271 images out of a similar number of camera trigger commands. All drone and camera settings were identical. Manual focus set to infinity on our Sony Sonnar T* FE 35mm f/2.8 ZA Lens, ISO 250, f/8, 1/1000sec shutter. Also copied and cleared all existing images from previous flight from the SD card, so full memory capacity. I'm using SanDisk Extreme PLUS 150MB/s, XC1, V30, U3 Class 10 SD card.

If the problem lies in the buffer or memory card, why was it able to successfully write 99.5% of the images on the first flight? I've had this issue in other locations with flights of varying times as well, so it isn't limited to long flights and 1000+ image attempts. Works as expected sometimes and not at others. All other variables seem to be the same.

I appreciate your thoughts on the issue. The community of those knowledgeable about higher end cameras as it relates to drone applications is definitely on the smaller side. Thanks for your time.

GS

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One jpeg every 2 seconds doesn't sound like it would be taxing enough on any part of the system to cause failures like that.

I'm guessing we can rule out heat with it being air cooled by the flight!

You say you are clearing the images from the card but are you re-formatting it as well ?

Does the SD card show an amount of spaced used that would correlate with the number of shots you'd expected to take or is it an exact match to the number of shots its did take ?

Reason I'm asking those two questions is that Sony use a database system on their cards that may be corrupted.

The missing link for virtually all, if not all, users on here who owns an A7Rii (me included!) is that we don't use them for aerials so you seem to have the reverse problem that you would with drone forums where they would by and large not be using that sort of camera so its tricky to get someone who knows about both ends.

Sounds obvious but would it be possible for you create a mission plan where it didn't actually leave the ground but has the same sort of trigger pattern so that you could at least see/hear what the camera is up to?

It could be something as simple that it is throwing some error pop-up (or one of their typical "you can't do that in this mode" ones) that is blocking the image being taken until it times out. 

If you can do that on the ground and it doesn't show any problems then its down to something when its airborne.

This is absolutely pure speculation but I wonder if its possible that there is some sort of inhibitor regarding the IBIS that might not take too kindly to some of the movements that then triggers a masking period that stops it shooting again until its expired?

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Thanks BTM_Pix. 

I did not reformat the SD card, only copied and deleted data. Also, I didn't check if the memory held the amount of data expected for the full number of images or not. That is a good idea though.

Will reformatting reinstall the database system and wipe the corruption from the SD card if it is there?

I may be able to create a ground mission. It is tricky to arm and execute this however, as the drone senses where it is and compensates based on the gps. It will obviously not be moving, so I don't think it will work. It wont spin up and arm if all system checks don't pass, and I don't think they would. Might be possible with the arms and props removed, not sure though.

Is there any sort of log of commands and messages that can be downloaded from the camera after use for diagnostics and troubleshooting? Like a black box recording for the camera?

I do think that the IBIS may be a possible culprit, both for the capture/write issues as well as for some image processing issues after the fact. The photogrammetry software I am using back calculates the internal lens geometry for each frame, and when that geometry changes slightly as a result of steady shot movements, it creates some trouble for the point matching algorithm that stitches together all the frames and generates a 3d model based on this mosaic.

Good to know that 1 frame every 2 seconds shouldn't be a problem. Has anyone done short interval time lapse for long periods of time that would mimic my setup. Again, thinking 1 frame per second for about 45 mins to replicate. Has anyone ran into a functional limit on photo interval past 30-40 frames or so when the memory cache runs out?

Thanks for the input and keep it coming!!

GS

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34 minutes ago, GeneS said:

Thanks BTM_Pix. 

I did not reformat the SD card, only copied and deleted data. Also, I didn't check if the memory held the amount of data expected for the full number of images or not. That is a good idea though.

Will reformatting reinstall the database system and wipe the corruption from the SD card if it is there?

I may be able to create a ground mission. It is tricky to arm and execute this however, as the drone senses where it is and compensates based on the gps. It will obviously not be moving, so I don't think it will work. It wont spin up and arm if all system checks don't pass, and I don't think they would. Might be possible with the arms and props removed, not sure though.

Is there any sort of log of commands and messages that can be downloaded from the camera after use for diagnostics and troubleshooting? Like a black box recording for the camera?

I do think that the IBIS may be a possible culprit, both for the capture/write issues as well as for some image processing issues after the fact. The photogrammetry software I am using back calculates the internal lens geometry for each frame, and when that geometry changes slightly as a result of steady shot movements, it creates some trouble for the point matching algorithm that stitches together all the frames and generates a 3d model based on this mosaic.

Good to know that 1 frame every 2 seconds shouldn't be a problem. Has anyone done short interval time lapse for long periods of time that would mimic my setup. Again, thinking 1 frame per second for about 45 mins to replicate. Has anyone ran into a functional limit on photo interval past 30-40 frames or so when the memory cache runs out?

Thanks for the input and keep it coming!!

GS

 

Re-formatting will resync the database with the actual contents of the card versus what it thinks is on the card.

If you have been taking images off the card and then deleting them in the folder of the SD card then that might well cause it to lose sync as the database thinks they are still there.

The issue in this link was related to the mark iii but could still be relevant in terms of symptoms.

https://fstoppers.com/news/sony-warns-file-loss-bug-a7r-iii-and-a7-iii-315309

If I was trying to trace the issue then the two variables beyond a simple issue of database corruption that I'd try to eliminate would be the airborne aspect and the ground control system.

What I would do is get one of these cheap time-lapse controllers (about £13 on Amazon)

61lOI4AmHmL._SL1001_.thumb.jpg.c8633b464e97974d2e049fcd9c1d9366.jpg

You can then programme it to do a 1 or 2 second interval timelapse while the camera is on the ground and prove whether its some sort of basic capacity/timing/file handling issue with the camera.

Presuming it passes that test ( and I'm guessing that your rig would have the lifting capacity for the extra 145g it weighs) you could then run the same time-lapse programme on it while the camera is airborne doing a typical mapping session.

As you will have proven the time-lapse works on the ground then this would then determine whether it is a problem with it being in the air.

If it passes that test then you can re-test it properly with the ground control system (after re-formatting the card ;) ).

If you don't want to use the timelapse controller and don't mind delving in a bit further, you can install the Open Memories tweak on the camera which will let you install an internal time-lapse app

https://sony-pmca.appspot.com/apps

I've used that hack to change languages from both of my Japanese bought Sony cameras but to be honest though, if it was just for the time-lapse, and your rig can handle the weight then I think its easier to hand over the £13.

 

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