DJI Mavic Pro AEB Testing

February 08, 2017  •  1 Comment

I recently bought the DJI Mavic Pro aerial camera (AKA, drone) to step up my landscape photography and try some aerial videography. For its size and portability, the Mavic is an incredible system, but there are drawbacks and one of those is the camera sensor size. DJI included a Sony 1/2.3" sensor with a resolution of 12 MP. The camera produces clean, sharp images during the day, but is more challenged in low light.

DJI Mavic ProImage from DJI I'm a new pilot and still just learning about the Mavic and aerial photography, and I have been trying to get a feel for the true capabilities of the Mavic's camera for shooting high dynamic range scenes such as sunset and sunrise. Last night I put the Mavic up to grab a couple of sunset shots to test out the auto exposure bracketing (AEB) settings. I set the camera to shoot AEB 5 shots in RAW with white balance set to Cloudy. I left the exposure adjustment set to 0 (EV 0). Here's the series of shots captured by the Mavic:

Shot  Shutter  ISO  deltaEV
1        1/30    164     0.00
2        1/30    104    -0.66
3        1/30    259     0.66
4        1/60    132    -1.31
5        1/15    204     1.31

I had previously noticed that the Mavic changed the ISO rather than adjusting shutter speed only. While most photographers would likely prefer the camera to not adjust ISO, I suppose it makes sense to limit the longest shutter speed for shot stability. It's also interesting that while the setting shows 0.7 EV increments between shots, the increment is really only 2/3 EV.

Base Exposure1/30 sec, f/2.2, ISO 164 The image above is the base exposure (1/30s, ISO 164). Note the loss of all detail in the brightest part of the sky and lack of detail in the darkest areas. This image was not too noisy, but some of the other exposures with higher ISO were quite noisy.

Now look at the HDR composite of all 5 images below. Surprisingly, the HDR cleans up really well with some liberal application of noise reduction in Lightroom (I saw far less noise in the composite than in the individual images), and the HDR image definitely has more shadow and highlight detail, especially in the bright part of the sky. (I had the gimbal cover on, so there are some reflections. Also, I was not in a very pretty location for this shoot!)

5-shot HDRLightroom HDR composite of 5 images While I was able to get decent results for this sunset using the Mavic's built-in 5-shot AEB function, manual bracketing is the way to go the best detail from bracketed shots in windless conditions when shutter speeds of up to a few seconds are possible. In this case, the brightest image needed a shutter speed of only about 1/8 second which would have easily been possible. A wider range of exposures, +/-2 or +/-3 EV, can also be captured using manual bracketing. In windier conditions, AEB may work better because the shutter speed will be faster, but probably at the expense of ultimate image quality by raising the ISO. It would also be nice if DJI would allow us to manually set the ISO and capture the bracketed shots by only changing the shutter speed.


Comments

John Mitteco(non-registered)
I'm having issues in AEB with the Mavic. As you said, In Auto mode, it not only changes the Shutter Speed of the exposures but it also changes the ISO throughout. Degrading the image.
This is also happening in Manual Mode with Shutter Speeds 1/4 second or slower in low light situations.
Pretty bummed out about it. Hard enough being without Aperture control, so trying to do all these work arounds that aren't working.
Manually Bracketing the exposures is almost impossible with any wind at all.
Any ideas?
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