Archive for the ‘ News ’ Category

Time for new cameras – Testing the Sony FS5 & A7sII

Shooting with the Canon C300 over the last few years has been a real pleasure, the form factor worked perfectly for my single op shooting style and I was rarely disappointed by the image quality. The C300 was always a little crippled by it’s recording capability though, it’s highest frame rate option of 50 fps at 1280×720 seemed disappointing even when the camera was released.

I generally like to shoot events at 50 frames per second because it allows me to record audio whilst retaining the option to slow things down a little in post if required. The C300 does this really well at 720p but while that was seen as just a smaller HD format three years ago, today it’s barely enough resolution even for web delivery.

During my final shoots of last year I decided that for 2016 I would need to invest in at least one new camera which offered the following options as a minimum…

  • Ability to shoot at least 50fps continuous at 1080p
  • Ability to shoot Super Slow Motion at 1080p
  • Ability to shoot 4K at 25p
  • Min 50 Mbps internal HD recording (with option to record higher to ext recorder)
  • Ability to autofocus when required
  • Ability to output better quality to an external recorder if required
  • Must work with Canon L Lenses (full capability frame via speed booster a bonus)
  • Small and light enough to carry all day whilst still offering professional features.

I won’t bore you with all the options I considered, there’s some great cameras out there and believe me I looked long and hard but the following are the ones that interested me the most.



Canon C300 MkII

After shooting with Canon C series cameras for a few years the natural progression would be to the C300 MKII, there were however a couple of reasons why I eventually decided against it.

Firstly I was interested in trying a camera system that would allow me to use the full frame coverage of my Canon L lenses. I’ve often felt restricted by the wider end of the lensing options available for the C300 and liked the idea of using an adapter to get full use of my lenses whilst making them a stop faster. The body design of the C300 and the C300 MKII don’t allow for adapters to be used due to the distance between the mount and the sensor itself.

Secondly, the C300 mkII’s body alone costs over £12,000, add to that a brand new set of batteries and CFast 2 media and I’d be looking a £15,000 investment. While this isn’t dissimilar to the cost of the original C300 other camera manufactures are now offering similarly capable systems at much lower cost.



Sony FS7

Looking at Sony alternatives my first thought was the popular PXW-FS7. Priced at around £8,000 the FS7’s feature set far exceeded my requirements and it’s powerful recording capabilities would definitely provide all I need for the next few years. My good friend Peter Naylor owns an FS7 so luckily I had chance to have a play with one.

The camera was bigger and heavier than I expected but with it’s detachable grip and adjustable arm assembly it’s designed to be operated on the shoulder and works really well in that format. I have to shoot with my camera in a lot of positions though and while the camera is adaptable to different shooting positions I found it a little cumbersome after shooting with the C300. I definitely couldn’t see myself carrying that camera round for 12 – 15 hours like I do the C300.

 Feature wise though the FS7 is a dream and I was very tempted to just buy one and see if I could get used to the form factor but I decided it would be prudent to do a little more testing first.



Sony FS5

Being tempted by the Sony FS7 I thought it might be worth also trying out the smaller PXW-FS5. While the camera doesn’t offer the same level of recording features as it’s bigger brother it does provide a respectable 1080 / 50 option at 4:2:2, albeit restricted to 50 Mbps internally. It also provides the ability to shoot super slow motion up to 200 fps using a buffering record method which while not as useful as the FS7’s constant 200fps record rate it would be enough for me to capture what I need.

The FS5 is also a lot cheaper than the previous cameras mentioned, retailing at around £5,300 and shooting on cheap SDXC media the cost of entry is a lot lower than an FS7.



Sony A7sII

I’ve heard a lot of good things about the little Sony A7sII, especially regarding how they perform in low light. Having seen some great footage shot with them and reading a lot of positive reviews I really wanted to try one to see if I could really go back to shooting with a still body style camera and all of the workarounds that go with it.

I get to film quite a few night time events each year, everything from band performances through to dimly lit bars and exteriors. These can present a real problem with noise so this little camera intrigued me and I wanted to see what all the fuss was about. At £2,900 this is the cheapest of the bunch although it would require a lot of additional accessories in order to provide a complete solution for use as a main camera, if at all.

Trying out the cameras

The biggest test for any camera in my shooting year are the events I shoot for Harley-Davidson as they are gruelling on both me and my shooting kit. I’m usually out filming for over 15 hours each day in conditions that range from burning sunshine on dusty beaches through to filming from the back of a bike in the pouring rain. I generally have to carry everything with me that I’m going to need for any given day so building a kit that’s adaptable, portable and doesn’t restrict me creatively is important.

I decided to test both the A7sII and FS5 at Harley events by hiring them and spending a week working with each. I’m not planning to write full reviews of the cameras as neither are particularly new now and there’s plenty of in depth reviews on the web if that’s what you need. What I am going to do though is describe the things I was surprised by after doing my own reseacrh, any issues I had and any features that stood out as being a big reason to choose or not choose that camera.

Sony A7sII – Harley-Davidson Euro Festival, May 2016

First up was a Harley rally in St Tropez, France and for that one I decided to try out the Sony A7sII. I hired a kit from Cameraworks which included a Metabones adapter, a Movcam cage and the Sony XLR-K1M audio adapter. I really wasn’t sure if the little A7 would work for me at all but I also had the C300 with me just in case.

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Using the A7sII that week was really interesting, paired with a Canon 16-35 f/2.8 on the Metabones adapter most of the time I found myself really enjoying the additional sensor real estate and rediscovering what those focal lengths really offer. I did of course have to fit an ND filter to the lens for the daytime shots but rather than mess around with a variable ND I opted to use a HOYA ND64 and then adjust shutter speed to get me the rest of the way to correct exposure. Whilst I like to stick to 180 degree shutter where possible I’m not precious about changing that depending on movement in the shot.

The A7sII has a really good OLED EVF, actually way better than anything I’ve used on a video camera to date, although the eye piece itself is far from comfortable and doesn’t block out external light fully. The LCD is a bit too small for my liking and I found that using the focus magnification feature was a must. In direct sunlight however the LCD was unusable so when it came to filming anything other than head height it was a struggle. I had to use the EVF to focus and then watch what little I could see on the LCD to frame the movement in my shots, a little to ‘spray and prey’ for my liking.

The big drawbacks of the A7 for me were the fiddly menu system, the button layout and the general handling. This it to be expected though and wasn’t really a surprise. I programmed the user buttons on top for record start/stop and zebra toggle and then used the fiddly buttons on the back for everything else. 

The other feature that I was really looking forward to was the five axis stabilised sensor and that proved to be quite useful. There is a little caveat though as in certain situations it also rendered a few shots unusable do to the image visibly warping with certain camera movement.

As expected the low light capabilities of the A7sII were it’s real party trick. I was filming some people on a beach one evening and couldn’t believe how clean the images looked with ISO levels I wouldn’t normally dream of using. After the event I felt that while I managed to shoot the entire thing with the A7sII I’d prefer something a little and better designed for the job. I really wanted one for those night time shots though!

Here’s the video I shot with the A7sII, please note that it also contains footage from the DJI Osmo for the crane style shots and riding shots.


Sony FS5 – Harley-Davidson H.O.G Rally, June 2016

When the rental Sony FS5 arrived prior to leaving for this shoot I was shocked at how small and light it was. I’d seen pictures of it beside the FS7 and it was obviously smaller but sitting there without it’s top handle or side grip it looked like a handycam. The first thing I did was fit my 50mm 1.2 via the supplied Metabones Speed Booster and then spent an hour just wandering round in awe of this tiny package capable of shooting almost full frame at f/1.0!


Once fitted out with it’s rotating hand grip and top handle however the FS5 is actually a really nice size to use, it compares well to the handling characteristics of the C300 and certainly ticked the portability and handling box and .

I found the small OLED EVF on the back of the FS5 to be quite good, it’s not as nice as the one on the A7sII but it’s as good as the EVF on the C300 and I found I could hit focus quite easily. The way the EVF pivots up and down is useful however I did find it to be a little loose and struggled to keep it in the position I wanted when shooting. 

I was disappointed by the LCD though, it seemed too small and again was almost impossible to use in daylight conditions, the one on the C300 is much better. It’s okay indoors or in the shade but I did feel frustrated by it shooting during the day and much like the A7s I relied on the EVF most of the time.

Without doubt one of the best features of the FS5 for me is the variable electronic ND. Being able to smoothly dial in exposure without messing with your shutter speed or aperture is extremely useful and having the ability to choose an aperture and have the ND work around you automatically is amazing. I’m surprised Sony haven’t been shouting more about this technology and I expect it won’t be long before we see it appearing on many of their other cameras, (A7sIII with variable ND anybody?).

I really enjoyed the FS5‘s Super Slow Motion recording feature, the buffering can be a pain but once you master how the start and end trigger system works it’s a lot of fun and I used it way too much on this shoot as you will see in the video below! The trouble with the buffering is not so much that you can’t capture the shot you need, it’s that you have to wait while it does it’s thing afterwards! It’s good fun watching the slow motion buffering after your shot but when something is happening in front of you that you really want to shoot it’s also frustrating. This is where the FS7 would be more capable but for me the smaller form factor is more important and I can make the buffering work with careful timing.


Another thing that I found useful was the ability to quickly switch to Centre Scan Mode, I programmed this feature to one of the buttons on the hand grip and being able to quickly select between using the full sensor or a crop was great. The camera will also do a digital zoom up to 2x which feels quite bizarre if shooting with primes as you can use the rocker switch on the handle to make it feel like a powered zoom lens! Sony say they preserve the image quality using special technology and to be fair the results did look pretty good but I was a little cautious of that one and didn’t use it.

There were a couple of things that disappointed me though. The first is the fact that every time you format a card in the FS5 it starts the clip name as Clip_01. This seems like a small thing but I’d expect to be able to set continuous file naming in any camera that expects professional use.

Another thing that caught me out was the dual card recording. I like to shoot to both cards at the same time just to provide some redundancy in case of a card error and while this works really well on the FS5 there is a gotcha waiting to catch you out! When shooting Super Slow Motion the camera only records to card 1 and if you’re not paying attention to which card you’re importing footage from you can easily use the wrong one and lose all of your slow motion shots. I discovered this to my horror after losing all of my slow motion shots from a morning so it’s something to be very careful about.

Here’s the results… again this one contains DJI Osmo shots as well.


After trying both the FS5 and The A7sII I was impressed by both of them for different reasons. If I could only choose one it would definitely be the FS5 as for me things like the built in variable ND filter, bigger batteries and on board XLR audio far outweigh the better low light performance and ultra compact format of the A7sII.

I decided to get both though! The FS5 works great as a main walkabout camera for event work and is also more than capable of performing the various other corporate shoots that I work on. The A7sII takes over in low light at events. I’ve recently starting using the A7sII on a PilotFly H2 Gimbal which works great and it also makes a very good B camera for 2 camera interviews with the FS5.

Here’s one more Harley video shot with my own FS5 and A7sII. There’s also footage from the DJI Osmo in this one as well.

I’m sure there’s loads I haven’t covered but this post has become way too long already. Please ask any questions you might have in the comments and I’ll do my best to answer.





Coming back soon

If you’ve been following my blog for a while you’ll know that I’m not the most consistent blogger in the world, in fact having not posted for nearly 10 months I’ll be amazed if anybody even see’s this post!

I feel like I should be apologising for this sheer mistreatment of my readers but alas it’s just the way I am when it comes to creativity, inspiration and expression. Over the last year music has once again become my main creative outlet and I tend to be quite monogamous when it comes to satisfying my creative needs and all of my other outlets tend to suffer somewhat.

With that said, I do plan to start posting more in the coming weeks as i have a lot to write about. Many things have changed kit wise over the last 10 months, the Canon C300 & C100 have been replaced by Sony cameras and all the accessory purchases and workflow changes I’ve been making will hopefully be of interest to others considering the same move.

As I’m also now operating my drones with all the paperwork in place I’ve been doing a few aerial projects as well, more on that soon but for now here’s a little snippet of a job I did a few weeks back.

New X5 Inspire 1 Cameras from DJI

DJI have been pushing out so many new products lately it’s getting hard to keep track! One of the most interesting for Inspire 1 pilots is this new Zenmuse X5 camera.

The new X5 camera features a micro 4/3 sensor and much like the existing X3 camera on the Inspire 1 comes complete with an integrated 3-axis gimbal.



dji x5


Two versions of the X5 camera have been announced. The standard X5 retains most of the recording specifications of the existing X3 camera but the larger M4/3 sensor which improves stills resolution to 16 MP and has a reported dynamic range increase to 12.8 stops. As with the smaller X3, the X5 records to Micro SD cards and retains similar bitrates which max out at 60 Mbps for 4K (UHD) recording and less for 1080 (HD) recording.


DJI makes the X5 available either without a lens or with it’s new 15mm f/1.7 Prime. As shown in the image below DJI also recommend two other lenses in the form of the Olympus 12mm f/2.0 and the Panasonic Lumix 15mm f/1.7. Whilst other M4/3 lenses will likely work with the X5 DJI has based these recommendations on weight and balance for the integrated gimbal.

Click here for the latest pricing on the X5 Camera

X5 lenses

The second variant of the X5 camera is the X5R. The R version uses the same gimbal and sensor but the camera uses a different design which removes the recording block from the camera body. The X5R adds the ability to record lossless 4K RAW CinemaDNG files to an SSD drive. Whilst the recording resolutions and frame rates remain the same as the standard X5, it’s capable of recording at bitrates up to 2.4Gbps which is a huge leap from the standard version.

Click here for the latest pricing on the X5R Camera


x5r 2


So what are the advantages of this new camera over the standard X3 camera? Without testing the camera myself it’s hard to judge how the two compare but in theory the much larger Micro 4/3 sensor should provide a lot more exposure and focusing flexibility than the little X3 camera. The ability to set lens aperture and focal distance from the ‘Go’ app running on the remote means that more creative control can be achieved. Being able to set depth of field and finding correct exposure becomes less about shutter speed manipulation and more about the balance between ISO, aperture and ND filtering as it is with most full size cameras. Here’s a graphic that shows just how much bigger a Micro 4/3 sensor is compared to the one in the X3 camera.

sensor sizes

Early demos and footage releases have revealed that the X5 is certainly capable of improved dynamic range and certainly for stills use it should prove to be a lot more capable than the X3. With video however I’d estimate that it’s likely to be more about gaining control of the image and using that control to achieve the best results from each location. Having proper lenses and aperture control also brings with it a much greater risk of getting bad results so to make the best of the X5 a greater knowledge of shooting will be required than with the little X3 which is very forgiving indeed.

Both of the new X5 cameras require an upgraded vibration absorbing board to be fitted to the Inspire 1 to enable them to be attached. The new mount pushes the dampers further out sideways to provide better lateral support for the camera.

Find out more about the X5 Vibration board here

X5 mountBecause the X5 cameras hang lower than the X3 the Inspire 1 needs to have it’s feet extended to stop the camera hitting the ground. Stick on feet extenders are included with both cameras.

DJI have also announced released a version of the Inspire 1 which can be purchased with an X5 already mounted. Names the Inspire 1 Pro, this new version comes with the new vibrations board and feet extensions as well as a newly developed quick release prop mounting system which as yet is unavailable for existing Inspire 1 Owners.

Inspire 1 Pro

Click here to find out more about the Inspire 1 Pro 


Also announced is a new wireless follow focus device called the ‘DJI FOCUS‘.  Allowing focus to be controlled remotely by a dedicated focus puller.

X5 follow focus

As well as working with the X5 camera this new device can also be used with other lens systems both air and ground based and is supplied with various data interconnect cables, the remote focus motor, lens gears and removable marking rings.

Find out more about the DJI Focus here.






DJI Release the Phantom 3 Standard

DJI have today released another model in their Phantom 3 range of quadcopters, the Phantom 3 Standard. Priced at an amazingly low $799 (£649) this new model brings the entry point into the Phantom 3 range even lower than the Phantom 3 Advanced at $999.

Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 13.53.48

The Phantom 3 Standard connects to the same DJI ‘GO’ app that’s used by the rest of the Phantom 3 range. The biggest difference between the new standard model and the rest of the Phantom 3 range is that it uses WiFi rather than ‘Lightbridge’ to transmit a live preview to the controller and also to link the controller to the device running the app.

Unlike the Phantom 3 Professional and Phantom 3 Advanced models the Phantom 3 Standard does not come with DJI’s Vision Positioning System or the ability to use Russian GLONASS satellites in addition to GPS satellites.


Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 13.54.04

The specs of the built in camera on the Phantom 3 Standard do stir things up a little as the maximum video resolution of 2.7K UHD is higher than that of the Phantom 3 Advanced which can only shoot up to 1080p HD. DJI do not currently state whether the Phantom 3 Standard shares the same Sony EXMOR sensor as the other models however it does share a 40 Mbps bit rate and many other specs with the Advanced model.

The Phantom 3 Advanced does however offer more framerate options than the Standard and the Professional model increases specifications to 4K UHD and 60 Mbps. All three models offer 12 MP stills.

Phantom 3 Standard

  • UHD: 2.7K: 2704 x1520p 30 (29.97)
  • FHD: 1920x1080p 24/25/30
  • HD: 1280x720p 24/25/30/48/50/60
  • Max Video Bitrate: 40 Mbps

Phantom 3 Advanced

  • FHD: 1920x1080p 24/25/30/48/50/60
  • HD: 1280x720p 24/25/30/48/50/60
  • Max Video Bitrate: 40 Mbps

Phantom 3 Professional

  • UHD: 4096x2160p 24/25, 3840x2160p 24/25/30
  • FHD: 1920x1080p 24/25/30/48/50/60
  • HD: 1280x720p 24/25/30/48/50/60
  • Max Video Bitrate: 60 Mbps


Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 13.54.12

The controller supplied with the Phantom 3 Standard has less functionality than the other models although it does still feature a shoulder mounted gimbal control dial and definable S1 and S2 switches on the front of the unit.

The signal transmission distance will vary depending on environmental conditions and local regulations, but the Phantom 3 Standard can reach distances of up to 0.5 miles (1 kilometer) away from the pilot. The Advanced and Professional models in comparison can reach distances up to 1.2 miles (2 kilometres) using DJI’s Lightbridge technology.


Screen Shot 2015-08-05 at 13.54.21

The Phantom 3 Standard uses the same Intelligent Flight Battery as the other Phantom 3 models. DJI have announced that it also features updated motors that are more efficient and allow even longer flight times of up to 25 minutes.

At such a low price point it’s incredible the DJI are able to offer a quadcopter complete with a 3-Axis gimbal, 720P HD live video feed and a 12MP 2.7K HD camera. Whist the connection range may be shorter than the Phantom 3 Professional and Phantom 3 Advanced models it’s worth remembering that many countries limit operational range anyway, for instance in the UK the CAA limit the operation to within 500m of the operator, well within the specified range of the Phantom Standard.

The Phantom 3 Standard will begin shipping on August 10th. Click here to order yours direct from DJI with Free Delivery to most locations.

Purchasing Links:
DJI Store 

DJI Phantom 3 Standard
DJI Phantom 3 Advanced
DJI Phantom 3 Professional

B&H Photo (USA)
DJI Phantom 3 Standard
DJI Phantom 3 Advanced
DJI Phantom 3 Professional


Multirotor Axessories Landing Mode Inspire 1 Case Review

Multirotor Axessories Landing Mode Case

martin spencer case

Type: Landing Mode
Weight: TBC
Ext Dimensions: 26.5 x 20.5 x 14.4″ / 67 x 52 x 39 cm
Price: £340 (Available in UK & Europe only)

 I discovered this case purely by accident when watching YouTube one evening. It’s put together by a guy named Martin Spencer in the UK under the brand of Multirotor Axessories. Unlike the previous cases I’ve looked it this one’s built to allow the Inspire to be transported in landing mode and with the option of leaving the camera attached.

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As you can see from the photo’s, while the case is obviously larger than the standard Inspire case it’s actually quite compact. The material used feels really hard and actually looks nice too, it’s a dark grey colour with flecks of lighter and darker material running through it.

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The case features carrying handles on the front and each end. While these are not the chunkiest handles I’ve seen they do feel solid. The handles don’t however have any rubber parts which is a shame.

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The front features an automatic pressure release which should hopefully stop the case expanding or becoming compressed as altitude varies. Round the back is a pull out handle along with rubber feet.

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I found the mechanism to release and lock the pull out handle to be a little hit and miss on the first few uses. The handle wouldn’t stay extended and kept pushing back inside the case however the more I tested it the more reliable it became. Something that will need looking at over time.

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The wheels are large and fitted with hard rubber tyres which should provide a nice smooth ride on hard surfaces and pavements. There isn’t a lot of protection around the wheels though so that may be something to keep an eye on over time to see how they handle the rigours of airport baggage systems.

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The four latches use a lever and lock system to secure the lid. Unlike some of the other cases I have, there are no springs or gadgets at play with these, they simply snap in to place and snap open. While there is ribbing to protect the latches they do remain a little exposed and proud of the ribs, it would have been nice to see them recessed a little more to stop any unwanted knocks or accidental activations.

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Looking inside the case reveals the custom designed foam and it has to be said that this one really impresses me, there’s some very clever design work here. The foam feels really high quality, even the lid is lined with custom designed solid foam with cutouts for the top of the inspire and tube holders for props.

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There’s even cutout parts included that allow you to store alternative items if you only have one controller. The Propeller tubes are a really nice touch, these even have small pieces of foam inside each end cap to keep your props safe. The prop tubes are positioned so that when the lid closes they secure in to the slots where the Inspires motor booms fit further securing everything in place.

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Another nice little touch is that the case comes with a small plastic box for all those little bits and bobs that don’t have anywhere specific to live in the case, and of course there’s a space for the box in the foam as well.

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Look deep within the case and you’ll find that every opportunity has been made to make use of the space available, there’s even extra battery storage below the controllers and the Inspire itself. The Inspire drops in perfectly in Landing mode and there’s plenty of space around the camera gimbal.

The Inspire is supported by it’s legs and partially by some foam parts deep within the case which contacts the carbon motor booms. With the Inspire in position the landing gear is very close to the bottom of the case with just a few millimetres of foam between them and the case itself. I’m not sure how much of an issue that would be in the event of an impact but I opted to added a little more foam at the bottom on my case just to offer a little more protection.

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While the cutouts for the controllers are perfectly cut I found that by default the bar on the back of the controller could make contact with the tail of the Inspire. The case is supplied with some small foam shims for limiting the depth of the iPad slots so I used one of those to fill the rear most cutout which solved the problem. The Controller still slides in and out with ease but is held nicely in place.

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The battery slots are cut perfectly, they grip the batteries just enough to hold them in place.As well as the six battery slots at the side of the case there’s also one under each controller and another under the body of the Inspire allowing for nine in total.

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The iPad slots work offering great protection and as mentioned earlier spacers are provided allowing you to customise how low the iPad sits inside the slots. Shown is my iPad Mini on it’s side, a larger iPad would be placed on end without using the spacer. There’s a large cutout at the front for a sunshade and a deep square one for FPV goggles, although I used that for my cables. Interestingly behind the tail of the Inspire there’s also a deep oval cutout for the Inspire Handle, although as that’s yet to be released it remains untested… good thought though!


I really like this case, the layout and finishing inside is top notch and Mr Spencer has really put a lot of thought in to every aspect of it’s design. I mentioned when looking at the HPRC case that I’m not a fan of designs that leave room for things to move around and while this one also has some space when the lids closed it’s designed in a way where that shouldn’t happen, especially with the prop tubes forming a barrier between the Inspire and the accessories.

Without long term testing it’s hard to say how the case itself will stand up to the rigours of travel. While I’m not overly concerned about it’s quality the fittings are not quite as substantial as those on my pelican cases and I do think the latches could have been better protected when closed.

One thing that concerned me a little was having the camera gimbal shaking around inside the case. I’m sure that would be fine for short trips in the car and for storage but I wanted to find a way to offer some support to it.

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Hunting around the house I came across this foam cleaning pad. I tested it with the Inspire on the floor and it worked perfectly, just enough pressure to stop the gimbal moving around but not enough to apply much upward pressure. It also fitted inside the case a treat! If you’re travelling any distance though the safest place for the camera is still in it’s box!

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All in all I really like this case and this one is staying right here with me! It’s a shame that Martin doesn’t ship outside of Europe as I’m sure this one will be popular.

To find out more about this case you can email Martin at Multirotor Axessories. Please let Martin know that you read about it here.

If you’re in the US and looking for a landing mode case check out the new Landing Mode Case from GPC, I should be getting that one in for review soon.

Click here for more Inspire 1 Case Reviews.
Inspire 1 Cases – Overview