Tried out the new DJI Phantom 4 Pro panorama mode yesterday. tl;dr – Wow. two thumbs up. A lovely little holiday gift from DJI with the 2017.12.25 firmware! First up, here’s my review plus a few tips of shooting panoramas with this new Panorama mode. Next up – more details on processing them.
The Past & Expectations
I’ve shot a lot of 360 degree photospheres, tried I think every 3rd party app available for them, in the end I always went back to shooting them by hand. Nothing else really worked, and they were always SLOW, often taking up to an entire full battery. Shooting by hand I could shoot a couple of panos with lots of overlap in a single battery, using AEB mode.
So, I was absolutely expecting the DJI app to be less than useful when I tried the new mode yesterday. Wow, I like pleasant surprises! It may not be perfect, but it’s pretty darned good and a huge upgrade over every app as well as handheld shooting 95% of the time. Most importantly, it is FAST. The drone just whips around completing an entire pano is less time than a handful of shots would have taken from any app in the past.
Here’s the sunrise panorama. You’ll see a bit of ghosting in a couple sections – see “THE BAD” below for the source.
- Fast! The new Panorama mode shoots a full 360 degree sequence in a about a minute. Looking at the five I shot, it averaged right about 1 minute +- 5 seconds. That’s an order of magnitude faster than any other app in the past – maybe twice that again.
- Consistent. I was as impressed with the consistency as the speed. I shot a full 360 degree shots in a row only changing shutter speeds (to create an HDR) and they had almost perfect alignment between the same exposures in sequence from shot to shot. While something like PTGUI doesn’t necessarily need that, it makes it easier for sure.
- Perfect coverage, I had no gaps at all. I’ve had issues w/ gaps in some auto apps and tend to overlap extra shooting by hand b/c it’s pretty easy to miss a shot. Which has the detriment of taking longer to shoot, process, and more storage space.
- The non-360 modes are useful, too. I shoot a ton of vertical panoramas so having the quick 3 shot vertical pano was nice. Same for the horizontal and equirectangular 180 degree coverage.
- Efficient Organization. Each panorama is saved into its own individual folder, which is a very nice touch. This saves a step when shooting a bunch of panoramas from doing that sorting and stacking.
THE LESS THAN GOOD
- No AEB Mode I’d love the option to use AEB shooting. It is tough to shoot a 360 pano w/ the sun and not have some degree of bracketing to get a good consistent exposure. Using Auto or Aperture Priority mode can work, but you are then trusting the camera to get the exposures right AND the panorama app to blend those exposure shifts.
- No in-app stitching (?). I don’t really care but having it auto stitch in-app would be nice. Honestly, I didn’t check to see if it did.
- NOTE – LITCHI v2 offers in-app stitching. I have not tested it yet, but I am making the assumption that Litchi v2 runs a panorama at the same speed as the DJI Go 4 application. I’m assuming that the pano mode isaccessible via API now, though, and that Litchi used for the v2 update which claims to have far faster panorama mode for the P4P. Since the functionality was added via Firmware update it seems plausible
- No Control for Overlap. I’d really like an option to shoot w/ a bit more overlap in particular when it comes to the horizon, e.g. between shooting level and aimed up, because…
- Needs a bit more coverage. The shots with the upward gimbal pitch are so far separated from the horizontal plane that it resulted in challenges stitching. Shooting from a few hundred feet up with the land falling away in one direction, a number of the shots ended up not being able to auto stitch since there was almost no horizon visible. I had to painstakingly go in and mark the stitch points on about half of the upward-aimed shots. I missed on a few just slightly, unfortunately ending up w/ some ghosting on a few arcs, which I didn’t notice it until doing some additional editing on the pic. And, well, I just left it for now. You’ll see it in a few spots along the horizon line in the example above.
- Too Fast for some cases? I did not try forcing a slow shutter speed – I’d imagine we’ll end up w/ drag going too low, though, because the drone is hauling! I’ll shoot a quick video of it doing a panorama close to the ground to share. But suffice to say it is not waiting around, but I can’t imagine the gimbal is steady enough to hand shutter speeds of maybe 1/60th or slower. More tests to come.
So, in summary. Two thumbs up. A nice upgrade via firmware for an existing piece of kit is always welcomed. See more details on the new P4P firmware upgrade on the DJI Forums.
Next up – processing the new panoramas, including quick edits for 3 and 9 shot stacks and creating full 360 degree photospheres! Coming soon…