Solving focus issues with the DJI X5 series cameras

Posted by Kerry 04/03/2016 2 Comment(s) Tips and Tricks,

We see a recurring theme in forums and Facebook groups of people complaining about focus issues with the DJI X5 series camera when they didn't have issues with the X3. They blame the camera, they blame DJI, but virtually every time it comes down to user error. Yes, that is a very bold statement and we have said from our very first day with the camera that this is not a point-and-shoot, this is very much a "photographer's camera". When we go up to the Micro 4/3 sensor and add variables including Aperture and Focus, the X5 cameras become a VERY different beast from the X3 cameras, or Phantom 3 cameras.

Once you understand what is happening with the camera and how to ensure that you are using the right settings, you may well be surprised with how much better your images look. What we need to do is to understand what the problem is, and how to solve it, what I am not going to go into is the physics of why it happens because that is a serious pile of techno-babble, feel free to Google this stuff for the technical explaination.

What is Happening With Focus

When we are dealing with focus, we are moving lenses around, dealing with issues of sensor size, and having to deal with an adjustable aperture, all of which have an effect on the final focus points. To make this as simple as possible, I will be using screenshots from an IOS app called TrueDOF (after changing the settings to 4/3) so we can see what is causing the majority of focus issues.

Just as a refresher, we need understand exposure and then we will see how this relates to the focus problems some people seem to have. We should be comfortable with ISO, which is the sensor's sensitivity to light. The lower the ISO, the less light, the higher, the brighter the image. On a bright day, we bring down the ISO as much as possible as we don't need high ISO settings in bright light. When shooting video, we don't want a fast shutter speed because that will add a jittery effect to the video, so we are generally locked down on shutter to close to 1/50th of a second. This leave the aperture as being the primary way to adjust the exposure. The higher the aperture number, the smaller the aperture opening, letting less light into the camera...and this is where focus starts to fall apart.

15mm Lens - f/8 - No Focus Range

15mm Lens - f/8 - 98' Range

Looking at this shot from TrueDOF, using the DJI 15mm lens, at a distance of around 75 feet, we have ZERO focus even just under f/11. As soon as we open the aperture to even f/8, all of a sudden we have a focus range of close to 100 feet.

f/11 - Poor Focus

f/8 - Good Focus

Let's take a look at two more settings, this time using a 45mm lens.

45mm Lens - f/11 - No Focus Range

45mm Lens - f/8 - 77' Focus Range

Again, at f/11, we have no focus range at all and at F8 we have a 77' focus range.

What does this information tell us? Put simply, you can never trust on getting a good focus at reasonable distances above around f/8. But what about exposure? If you are at the lowest ISO, and want to keep a 1/50th shutter speed, the ONLY option is to raise the aperture right? Fortunately, there is a solution....ND Filters. Even with only dropping 4 stops, we can increase our focus range substantially, ensuring the entire scene is in focus.

Our most popular ND filters for the X5 series camera are the Polar Pro X5 3 Pack for $99.99 which includes a circular polarizer and an ND8 (3 stop) filter, and the Polar Pro X5 6 Pack for $199.99 which includes a CP, ND8, ND16, ND32, ND8/PL, ND16/PL.

Hopefully by understand what is happening with aperture and how it affects the focus range, this will help you to get the best focus possible out of your X5 series camera.

2 Comment(s)

Elliott Dunwody:
04/04/2016, 07:32:40 PM,

Very good article and downloaded the app. Thanks

05/12/2016, 02:04:34 PM,

Thanks Kerry, i am about to buy the Inspire pro and will heed your advice. Only thing i missed is the word "diffraction" to explain why dof decreases after about f11

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