Archive for the ‘ ACCESSORY REVIEWS ’ Category

Trying out the DJI Ronin-M

I recently had the opportunity to do some shooting with a DJI Ronin M stabiliser system and thought I’d share my experiences with the device. I don’t really want to call this a review as my time with the Ronin was quite limited due to work commitments so it’s more about initial thoughts.  I’ve owned and operated some small Steadicam units in the past and while I did get to grips with my Steadicam Pilot to a degree I barely used it due to the hassle involved with transporting it, setting it up and maintaining a sufficient skill level to get great results.

I received the Ronin-M just before leaving for  shoot for Harley-Davidson in Austria so decided to drop straight in to the deep and end try using it on the shoot without any practise. The only thing I did before packing for the trip was to unbox it and check I could mount my Canon C100.

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The nicely designed box seemed to want me to read the manual before proceeding, I’m afraid I didn’t oblige and opted to use my manly construction instincts instead!

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Once down to the next layer things look a lot more fun. If I’d actually read the manual I would have realised sooner than the big item on top was not actually part of the Ronin itself but rather a clever fold out stand.

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Looking at the remaining contents i couldn’t help being reminded of the Mechano set I opened on Christmas day when I was eight years old. The gimbal assembly itself actually folds down fairly flat which is much better for travelling than the huge case my steadicam required.

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Building the handle was straightforward, a centre handle is attached to the top of the gimbal and secured with a locking lever. Carbon rods then attach to each side of the centre handle and the whole thing can be positioned on the fold out stand.

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The supplied Li-Po battery attaches to the back of the gimbal and secures with two locking knobs. Much like DJI’s quadcopter batteries, the Li-Po on the Ronin-M is charged with a supplied charger and indicates current charge level when the power button is pressed.

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The Ronin-M is supplied with a mounting plate along with various bolts and a couple of allen keys. Fitting this to my C100 was easy and I was able to secure it with two bolts.

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With the camera mounted I finally gave in and referred to the manual for advice on how to balance the camera. Sliding the camera plate forward and backwards in the reciever adjusts the forward pitch balance and side to side tilting is balanced by sliding the receiver unit left and right on their rods. I found I had to remove the side handle from the C100 and lower the mounting bar fully in order to make the camera balance correctly.

There’s one further adjustment to make which moves the whole gimbal forwards and backwards in relation to the top handle, this is done with an adjuster wheel and locking clamp built in to the top of the gimbal unit. Getting everything to roughly balance only took a few minutes which is a world away from working with a steadicam, I remember spending days trying to balance my Steadicam and I’m still not sure I fully achieved it.

With the camera balanced I switched on the Ronin-M, I was half expecting it to start testing all the axis like my Inspire 1 does but none of that here, you just feel all the motors suddenly go tense and the device is ready to go.

With that I switched it off, packed it in to a peli case and flew out to Austria. I’m sure I should have gone through some kind of calibration and fine tuning process but it seemed to work well enough out of the box so I just left it all default.

I used the Ronin a few times whilst at the event and what impressed me the most was how easy it was to use. For the most part the gimbal tries to remove any unwanted movement you apply to the camera but if you do want it to pan or tilt it does a good job of recognising what you want to do and follows accordingly. I found the seemed to work slightly better for side to side panning than tilting up and down but I’m sure the sensitivity can be adjusted if desired.

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I opted to keep things really simple and used the screen on the back of the C100 to monitor the shots. I could have mounted an additional HDMI monitor to the top handle if using it more but for this job ease of setup was the key.

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One slight problem I did run in to was that the Ronin-M seemed to develop a droop to the right over time. When initially switched on the camera would be perfectly level but as I started to use it the level somehow seemed to drift off as can be seen in the shot below (0:38 in the video). I actually left that one in the edit as I liked it anyway.

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I fired up the DJI assistant app on my iPhone which allows adjustments to be made to the Ronin vie Bluetooth and found that I could bring the camera level again but it still continued to drift off again once levelled.

I found that lifting the Ronin-M could produce fairly convincing jib type shots, one example is the shot where I was standing in the audience below (1:00 in the video).

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If I’d had more time with the Ronin I would have looked in to this issue further but I highly suspect it’s due to me not doing any form of calibration. If you’re familiar with the Ronin then please feel free to leave a comment and tell me what I missed.

I really enjoyed the time I spent with the Ronin-M. Unlike the Steadicam I’ve used in the past it’s very portable and easy to setup on location. Much like a Steadicam it can be a bit of a hassle putting the thing down as it really needs to be placed on it’s stand when not being held.

If I buy one I may even have a go at using it on a Harley instead of doing my reverse shots like this!

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I’ve highlighted the Ronin-M shots in the video below to give some examples of where I used it. I’m sure it would have been perfect for that closing shot of the harley’s pulling away down the road as well but that was actually me holding my Phantom 3 out of a car’s sunroof!

Pricing wise I think the Ronin-M offers good value. If buying in the US the I’d highly recommend buying from B&H, they currently retail the Ronin at $1,399. Click here to find out more.

For other countries where shipping costs increase it may be cheaper to buy direct from DJI.

Here’s the video…

 

As always, any questions or comments are welcomed.

Paul

 

 

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Which DJI Inspire 1 hard case?

One of the best things you can do to maintain any piece of gear is to keep it in a decent case. This is especially true with something like the DJI Inspire 1 as it’s an inherently fragile device.   The case that’s supplied with the Inspire 1 is actually a really clever design, it’s very lightweight and supports the Inspire and it’s essential accessories well.

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The downside to the supplied case however is that it’s not very durable, I managed to break a zip on mine within a week, it’s just not a professional grade case. If all you need is somewhere to store the Inspire while it’s at home or in the car then you’ll probably be fine as long as you treat the case gently and don’t expect too much of it, I certainly wouldn’t ever think of checking it in the baggage hold of a plane though.

If you need to check your inspire 1 in to baggage holds or you just want a case that’s going to last then it’s worth looking at something a bit more professional. When choosing a case for the Inspire you first have to make a decision about how you want to store the aircraft.

inspire-modes

The Inspire 1’s standard case is what’s referred to as a “travel mode case”. Before the Inspire can be placed in such a case it needs to have the camera gimbal removed and then be placed in travel mode, essentially making it as flat as possible.  Some case manufacturers are also producing “landing mode cases”, these allow the Inspire to be placed in the case without changing to travel mode and some cases also allow the option of leaving the camera and gimbal attached to the Inspire as well.

Below are a selection of Inspire 1 cases that I’ve reviewed, I’ve created a separate post for each review as there are many photo’s and lot of thoughts posted for each case. To view the full reviews just click the images or the links below.


HPRC 2730WINS Wheeled Hard Case for the Inspire 1

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Type: Travel Mode
Weight: 20.7 lb / 9.4 kg
Ext Dimensions: 24.4 x 20.5 x 13.8″ / 620 x 520 x 350 mm
Price: $323 from B&H Photo

Read the Full Review


 

Go Professional GPC-INSPIRE-1T Travel Mode Case

 gpc case

Type: Travel Mode
Weight: 26.9 lb / 12.2 kg
Ext Dimensions: 31.5 x 20.8 x 12.5″ / 80.1 x 52.9 x 31.8 cm
Price: $429 from B&H Photo

Read the Full 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)

Read the Full Review

 


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HPRC 2730WINS DJI Inspire 1 Case Review

HPRC 2730WINS Wheeled Hard Case for the Inspire 1

IMG_467440

Type: Travel Mode
Weight: 20.7 lb / 9.4 kg
Ext Dimensions: 24.4 x 20.5 x 13.8″ / 620 x 520 x 350 mm
Price: $323 from B&H Photo

The HPRC2730WINS  is a watertight wheeled hard case with a retractable handle that contains a custom designed two level foam interior for the Inspire and accessories. The hardshell case is reported to be impact and drop resistant, corrosion resistant, and features a neoprene seal that when properly closed is designed to keep the case watertight if submerged in shallow water.

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The case feels suitably sturdy, it’s quite heavy at 9.4KG but compared to some other cases I’ve seen it’s actually fairly compact. The materials used are not the most rigid I’ve seen, the plastics feel a little softer than say a pelican case or similar but it still feels like it will offer plenty of protection.

The HPRC case is around the same size as the standard Inspire 1 case in terms of width and length although it’s quite a lot deeper.

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There’s two latches on the front and one on each side of the case, these use a dual action lever design where you engage the catch on to the lid and then secure it by pressing down the bottom part of the latch. The system seems to work well and the latches are protected against knocks by ribs running the full height of the case. The case also has locking points for a padlock.

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The handles and fittings feel comfortable, I like the use of rubberised sections on the handles offering a bit more grip than just the plastic alone. I’m not so keen on the way the rolling handle makes contact with the ground when the case is upright though.

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The pull out handle mechanism on the base is designed in a way where it’s possible to pull out and then re-insert the handle with just one hand. I often find myself walking through airport pulling two roll along cases with me and when you’re walking in big queues of people it can be a hassle having to use two hands to perform that simple task. The handle itself feels suitably strong and man enough for the task.

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The wheels are a good size and are made from a material that thankfully seems to have some give allowing for a bit cushioning on rough surfaces. Although these may not be quite as effective as rubber inline skate type wheels they certainly feel better than the solid plastic ones on some of my pelican cases. The case also features a pressure release valve, essential for pressure changes at altitude. Unlike some cases on the market the hinges do not run the full length of the case, although they do seem up to the task.

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Opening the case revels a common annoyance as the foam isn’t attached to the lid, nothing a bit of spray glue wouldn’t fix though. The case features a dual layer foam design, the top part holds the Inspire, two controllers, camera case, two batteries, battery charger and props. The bottom layer has three cutouts for additional accessories.

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I found my iPad mini fitted nicely in to the front cutout although it’s not the most practical design as then other items have to be stacked on top of it. The same is true of all of these cutouts really, although it’s possible to put quite a few items in there the contents are going to be rattling around and potentially getting scratched or damaged. If I were travelling with this case I’d want to pack these items in with additional foam or bubblewrap.

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The upper layer of foam is much better, the batteries, controller and camera case fit in to their respective slots perfectly with just enough grip to stop them moving around. The slot for the controller is especially impressive, it really is cut to perfection.

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The same is true when the Inspire itself is slid in to the case, the small carbon support rods slip in to the pre-cut slots and the main arms then rest on the top surface of the foam. The inspire feels nicely supported in this design.

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The enclosed area for props doesn’t work quite so well however, the props knock against the nose of the inspire which projects in to the pocket slightly. Also, while the cutout for the charger does hold it well it does leave the cables lose move around inside the case.

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This brings me to what I feel is the weakest part in the design of this case. With everything packed the top of the Inspire is protruding well in to the lid area of the case and with the foam removed it’s actually quite easy to push down on the lid and feel it hit the top of the Inspire, there’s only around 1cm of clearance. Even with the foam installed I wouldn’t feel comfortable having something heavy like another case dropped on top of this one as I’m sure it could apply pressure on to the Inspire and cause damage.

This seems a shame really, especially as it’s tall for a travel mode case and there’s more than enough vertical space in the case to allow the Inspire to sit a little further down inside it. If choosing this case I’d be tempted to remove some of the bottom layer of foam and allow the top to drop down a little further inside, just half an inch would probably be enough to put it out of harms way.

I’m really not a fan of cases that allow items to interact with each other. With the lid closed there’s an air gap around the contents and if any items become dislodged there’s a chance they could knocking against the inspire. This can be addressed with bubblewrap or soft foam on a longer journey though so it depends how much you plan to put the case in the hands of others.

Conclusion
Given how the Inspire is susceptible to pressure through the lid and there’s room for items to move around I wouldn’t recommend this case for air travel unless additional protection was added and the inspire was lowered inside the case.

I do however like the precision cutting of the foam and that the case is fairly compact. The price is also competitive so if you’re looking for a better case than the standard one and you don’t plan on trusting it to baggage handlers this could still be a good choice.

Find out more about the HPRC 2730 at B&H Photo.

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

 

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Go professional GPC Inspire 1 Travel Mode Case Review

Go Professional GPC-INSPIRE-1T Travel Mode Case

 gpc case

Type: Travel Mode
Weight: 26.9 lb / 12.2 kg
Ext Dimensions: 31.5 x 20.8 x 12.5″ / 80.1 x 52.9 x 31.8 cm
Price: $429 from B&H Photo

The Go Professional Inspire 1 travel mode case features a water-jet cut custom foam interior and a water-tight and impact resistant outer shell. In addition to the aircraft the case will hold two transmitters (radio controllers), six flight batteries and one charger, two monitors with a screen up to 10″, and features three cavities for miscellaneous items such as spare props, cables, and other items.

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Compared to the standard Inspire 1 case and the HPRC 2730 this one is a bit of monster. Although not quite as tall as the HPRC it’s just as deep and 7 inches wider. It also weighs in at a whopping 12.2KG (26.9 lb)

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The construction of the Go Professional (GPC) case is again a very rugged shell with latches and bracing. This style of case has stood the test of time and looking at the GPC case I have no reason to think this will fare any worse. The case features a long handle on the front, given the size this may prove useful for two handed lifts.

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The latches on the GPC case use a spring loaded lever mechanism whereby you just push them down in one movement to close them but in order to release them a small button must be pushed in on the back of the lever. The latches are protected by bracings running the length of the latch. The case features three latches on the front and one each side.

Two locking points are included on the case and these feature a metal reinforcement.

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The three hinges look substantial and include heavy duty bracing for protection and strength. The case also includes a pressure equalisation valve.

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The case is fitted with four inline skate type wheels, these make for a really smooth ride and work well on many surfaces. It may seem like a small thing but having this type of wheel can do a lot to protect your gear from unwanted vibrations and jolts.

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Unfortunately the pull out handle on the case does require two handed operation but once extended it seems to work well.

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Looking inside the case reveals the nicely finished water cut foam finished with a blue surface layer. Unlike the HPRC case this one is all one piece and finishes flush with the foam in the lid to stop any items coming in to contact with each other.

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While the controllers and batteries do fit in to the slots provided I would have liked to have seen these designed to grip the items a little more. Neither the controllers or the batteries fit snuggly in to the provided spaces and there’s room for them to wobble around. The battery slots especially could have been designed better, the slots don’t grip the batteries at all and they sit proud on the foam. Given that the foam in the lid will be pressing against the power buttons on the batteries I wonder if there’s a chance they could be activated in the case.

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The camera case fit’s nicely and there’s plenty of room for iPads, chargers and other accessories on the right side of the case. It’s nice that the iPads are well protected in this case and not susceptible to damage from other items.

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The Inspire itself fits nicely in to the case and it’s nice to see that it sinks down low enough inside the foam. Each motor boom slot on the sides has a foam block position at the bottom to support each boom. Although the arms themselves are not supported this looks to offer plenty of support for the Inspire.

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Conclusion

While being on the large side I’d definitely trust The Go Professional travel mode case to protect my Inspire to baggage handlers. The case itself is very heavy at 12KG but it’s contents are relatively lightweight and fully packed the case should still be less than 20KG which is both manageable and meets most airlines weight limits for hold luggage.

While great for travel, the case is probably a bit big and heavy for day to day use, you certainly wouldn’t want to have to carry it very far! I do think the batteries could have been handled better but as a protective case it performs very well indeed.

Find out more about the GPC Travel Mode case at B&H Photo

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

 

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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!

Conclusion

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

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