Day 169 – New camera

Not a fancy Canon or Sony or whatever. Just the lens and sensor from my Mavic drone.

Well, I say “just”, but it’s quite a big thing for me to get it replaced.

I think I might have mentioned on here that there was a bit of an issue with the old one: there seemed to be some delamination under the front lens cover and that made the images smeary and yellow. It was evident in the top image that I shared on this post – despite my best efforts with the editing software.

The photo was taken at the beginning of the year and gradually, the problem got worse until I had two choices: stop taking photos with my drone or buy a new drone.

Actually, I was forced into the first one – the distortion and discolouration became too much to overcome with Lightroom. I mean – just look at this:

Ugh.

And I seriously considered the second choice as well; but then the virus happened and – having a bit of extra time on my hands – I looked at the price of a new drone.

Wow. Ouch. Eina. Lawd!

And while the new drones have a few extra features here and there and yes, they are HIGHLY desirable, in all honesty there was only one issue with my current drone. So instead, I looked into getting a camera replacement done. It seemed possible, but no-one was at work at any of the repair places during lockdown because they’re not classed as “essential services”.

Unless of course you want your drone camera replaced.
In which case they are quite literally the dictionary definition of “essential”.

Fast forward to this week and I finally bit the bullet and got round to taking Florence to Fixology in Sea Point, who sorted it within an hour while I walked on the Promenade:

Yes, rather expensive (the camera replacement, not the wander on the Prom), but not outrageous and better than having an otherwise lovely piece of precision technology sitting on your desk doing nothing.

Anyway, it was a bit breezy last night, but I did have a low level test flight around the garden and the images from the camera look spot on (as they should).

With plans for the next couple of weekends, I’m rejuvenated and looking forward to getting some decent footage and images of activities and landscapes.

Watch this space.

Day 21 – Mildly delayed

I have been trying to get these daily posts out at 8am, but this one is slightly late.
I’m pretty sure that no-one will notice – is there really anyone frantically hitting refresh at 7:59, like they’re hoping to be the first in line for concert tickets on some underprepared concert ticket website that will then crash 10 seconds later?

Remember going to concerts?
That was fun, wasn’t it?

Anyway. I digress. Often.

Yesterday was a flat, dull, calm, grey day. Horrible for photography, but great for taking the drone up for the first time in ages and having a quick spin out of the back garden. It needs some work on the camera (the drone, not the back garden): the lens plate is slightly damaged, but apparently fixing that is not an essential service, so it’s not going to happen for a while yet. So I was left having to do a  little bit of fiddling in Lightroom, which did at least give me a different image for my photo-a-day Lockdown album on Flickr.

And then, after a quick rain shower, and just as it seemed that all hope of any colour was lost, a watery peach sunset, which I togged from the top of the braai chimney while the braai was in use.

I would not advise this approach.

This photo really is nothing special, but as a symbol of hope and optimism after a miserable grey day, it’s still nothing special.

Today is also grey. Hold tight for the sunset.

New drones

Bad news. I no longer have the coolest drone on the market.

That’s because last week, DJI released two new Mavic 2 Pro drones: the Zoom and the Pro. There’s been a huge number of comments on these new offerings across the droning community for a while now, but no-one has actually had any hands-on experience with them, because… well.. obviously they weren’t available.

Now they are, and obviously, one of the first to have one (or two) was Casey Neistat – a guy whose opinions on these sort of things I value tremendously. I started to watch his review with my Mavic 1 sitting next to me and an understanding that, inevitably, these new drones would render Florence pretty much defunct as the flagship, cutting edge consumer unit.

Before I continue, here’s his review:

tl;dw: unsurprisingly, two great drones. He prefers the one with the optical zoom (the… er… M2 Zoom), the other one (M2 Pro) is also good, but falls down a little on value for money.

So yeah, my Mavic 1 is now old news.

Or is it?

Because first off, there’s every reason for these models to be better than Florence. They have the benefit of being released 20 months later than her, and in a marketplace which features such cutting edge technology – technology that still regularly astounds people that see my drone – that’s a massive, massive advantage. Not least in that DJI can look at their consumers’ wishlists and react accordingly.

They’re more expensive too. Sure, you’re getting a few more features, but aside from the improved cameras (and you can look at the video for direct side-by-side comparisons), there’s not really that much else added.

The M2 Pro FlyMore package (the direct equivalent of how I bought Florence) comes in a cool R10,000 more than I paid for my Mavic back in January last year. And because of that, Casey suggests that for the quality of picture vs value for money, Florence can still hold her own against the M2 Pro. Boom.

There are two other points to take into consideration as well, and these ones are personal, so I fully accept that they might not be the same for everyone.

Firstly, if you are buying your Mavic 2 drone next month when they get to SA, then enjoy it. You’re going to have an amazing time. But you will have already missed out on the 20 months of fun that I have had. Sure, I could have waited for the Mavic 2, in much the same way that you could have waited for the Mavic 3. But I have had such a good time all over the world with my drone: I have no regrets whatsoever.

And secondly, because money doesn’t grow on trees, my choice of which bits of technology I want to upgrade has to be tempered somewhat. Sure, if I won the lottery tomorrow I’d be at the DJI Store on Wednesday.
But that’s (probably) not going to happen.
A far more sensible approach is to wait until your technology begins to limit what you can – and what you want to – do with it. I’ve done that on a couple of occasions with cameras (indeed, I’m just beginning to get there with my current entry-level Canon DSLR).

I’m nowhere near that point with my drone. I haven’t even scratched the surface. The problem is that it’s just such fun to fly. You head out with the best of intentions to shoot some amazing video or some such, you pop it up into the air and just “warm up” with a few runs in and out over the beach or wherever, and you’re having such a good time that you do a few more.

And then suddenly:

Maybe that video thing can wait til tomorrow.

And guess what happens tomorrow?
I simply don’t have the discipline to overcome the amount of fun I have when I launch my drone.

So, while my Florence is now technologically aeons behind in this exciting, fast-paced field, I’m very happy to keep working playing with my Mavic 1.

It’s still amazing. It is.

Now: DRONES ON MARS!

If there’s one thing that everyone on Earth can clearly agree on, it’s that there can never be such a thing as too many drones.

And it seems that NASA are now planning to start the drone craze on Mars as well with a new helicopter device:

The US space agency said Friday it plans to launch the first-ever helicopter to Mars in 2020, a miniature, unmanned drone-like chopper that could boost our understanding of the Red Planet.

I’m not sure how they plan to get a GPS lock, given that there are no S’s around Mars, but this is NASA, and if they faked the moon landings, well, then they can do most anything. And that likely includes coming up with a superb name for this craft, just like they did with ApolloChallengerDiscovery and Titan.

And that name is… [drum roll]…

The Mars Helicopter

[sad trombone] Oh.

And they’re starting small:

Its first flight calls for a brief vertical climb of 10 feet (three meters), followed by hovering for a half minute.

Wow. 10 feet. 30 seconds. Hold the front pages.
Don’t push yourselves, NASA.

I clearly need to get my Mavic out there, stat. I’d be buzzing Olympus Mons, shooting high quality 4K video and doing dronies on Curiosity while NASA’s rookies were still putting the paperwork and requisition forms together, wondering if they could maybe risk trying a gentle turn to the right.

If you’re reading this, NASA, I am available for this kind of thing (in between my lab antics with TB). I’ve flown over the Northern Cape: I know what desolation looks like.

But I don’t think I need to be in Texas or Florida or California or wherever you’re running your circus from at the moment. If you can control a drone on a planet 55 million kilometres away, I really don’t think it matters if I’m across a bit of sea from your place.

And I’m certainly not going to Mars.

Have drone, won’t travel.

Two panos

I’m not a huge fan of panorama photos.
Well, I like the idea, but all too often, the actual product never really matches up to what I was hoping for (or even expecting).

Unless you’re going to plan ahead and take your own individual photos and stitch them in lightroom, it’s not going to be a great result.
That said, if you’re willing to acknowledge that you are using a mobile phone and not a DSLR, then your pano app can be fun for sharing a scene on whatsapp (or… er… a blog).

I popped the Mavic up above the early morning mist at home this morning and got this. It’s 21 images stitched together by the DJI software, but then you only get a 0.6MB image.
Still, what a shot (though I say it myself)…

One of those occasions where you really wonder if anyone would notice if you sent it up another 80m.

I didn’t. Obviously.

And then this, from Camps Bay this lunchtime. We had a spare half hour and so we grabbed a quick ice cream and a walk on the beach.

Full size here (10928 x 3520 nogal).

We’d forgotten how amazing Camps Bay can be out of season.
It was nice to be reminded.

 

UPDATE: I went back the next day and took a real panorama. You… well, you can see the difference. 🙂