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Hands-on Gear Review
DJI Inspire 1 V2.0 Review
Price: $3,100 List | $1,848.90 at Amazon
Pros: Great video quality, dual controllers, virtually no propeller intrusion, battery heater
Cons: Expensive, difficult to use, flight control requires adjustments
Bottom line: An incredible value for professional videographers
The Inspire 1 is at the low end of DJI's professional level line (though we know professionals who use the Phantom 4 for their shoots), and we mostly included it in our review to see how the other models would compare to higher end, more expensive rigs. The Inspire definitely does feel more professional with its much larger, carbon fiber frame. It also flies very stably and produces great video footage. Its big advantage is the dual controller system. For difficult shots this allows one person to solely focus on keeping the drone in position, and another person to solely focus on keeping the shot framed perfectly. This functionality definitely raises the the Inspire above the rest of the field, makes it well deserving of its 'professional level' moniker.
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Our Analysis and Hands-on Test Results
The graph below compares the Inspire's overall performance in our testing (in blue) to that of the other models we tested.
Here we further discuss how the Inspires performed in our individual tests.
The Inspire 1 picked up a score of 8 out of 10 in our video quality testing. It shared this score with one other model in a metric where gimbal models scored from 6 to 10 (non-gimbal models scored 3's). The Inspire's 4K camera captured crisp footage with good colors. The Inspire and GoPro Karma Quadcopter both produced similarly high quality video, but if we had to choose the absolute best it would be the Inspire by a hair. One aspect of video quality that the Inspire has on lockdown is propellor intrusion. Its design essentially eliminates the possibility of propellers ever being within view of the camera. The Inspire is the only model we tested that came with two controllers, meaning you can set it up to have one person fly while another person independently controls the camera position. This design allows the camera to rotate a full 360˚, providing a lot of versatility in terms of framing and capturing footage. Using both a pilot and a dedicated camera operator really can up the quality of footage, but it takes a lot of practice to execute effectively. This is definitely a feature geared towards people who are trying to make filmmaking a career, rather than hobbyists.
Ease of Use
The Inspire 1 is definitely not designed with amateurs in mind, and it received a relatively low score of 6 out of 10 in our ease of use metric. This made it the lowest scoring gimbal model, where scores ranged from 6 to 9, but still better than the non-gimbal models, which scored 3 and 4. Out of the box setup was much more complicated than any of the others models. It took us over an hour to get it up and running, even with the help of our professional drone pilot. This was partially due to the complexities inherent in being able to fly this drone with one controller or two. In the two controller configuration one person flies while the other person controls the camera angle independently. The controller design is similar to that of other DJI models and we like the feel of the joysticks.
For us, first flight with the Inspire 1 was quite stressful. After getting it off the ground with DJI's automatic takeoff feature, we found it to be far too sensitive in the air. It felt that even a light touch of the joystick would send the drone leaping in one direction of the other. We had to bring it back down and adjust a number of advanced settings to get the responsiveness to a level that felt reasonable. After this it felt fairly easy to fly, and was actually one of our favorites to fly, but making those adjustment would most likely be daunting for someone who isn't familiar with drones. It definitely would have taken us a lot of research and effort if we didn't have our professional pilot to help. Here again, the Inspire offers many levels of customization that would be great for someone flying as a profession, but might require too much dedication for a hobbyist.
Here again the Inspire 1 was a great performer. It scored an 8 out of 10 in this metric where gimbal models scored from 6 to 9 and non-gimbal models scored 5's. It was very stable in takeoffs and landings and when hovering. Its autonomous flight functions were superb with both orbit point of interest and cable cam producing very stable flight and footage. The fact the the camera can rotate 360˚ made cable cam even more stable, as you could pan the camera around without changing the position of the drone. Most models would require spinning the entire drone around to pan the camera in cable cam mode, which results in a more complicated and often less stable maneuver. The return to home function also worked flawlessly in our testing, though we would like to stress this function is only for emergencies and shouldn't be used to end each flight. The Inspire's obstacle avoidance sensors actually worked and warned us when we were getting close to obstructions. We wouldn't put much faith in any automatic obstacle avoidance, but we had the most confidence in the Inspire to save us if we actually made a mistake and flew straight towards a tree. The battery produces a maximum flight time of 18 minutes. This is significantly shorter than some of the smaller models, but is still plenty of time to capture even intricate shots. The battery also has a heater to improve cold weather performance, another extra feature that makes the Inspire feel all the more professional. The only reason the Inspire didn't get top honors in our flight performance metric was its responsiveness. Out of the box it was too responsive, jumping at the slightest touch of the joystick. This resulted in very jerk flight until we made a number of adjustments to its settings, then it was silky smooth.
The Inspire's propellers raise when in flight and lower for landing.
The Inspire 1 earned a score of 9 out of 10 in our video downlink testing. This put it decently ahead of the worst scoring gimbal model, which earned a 7, and well ahead of the non-gimbal models, both of which scored 4. The Inspire's downlink provided a super crisp and clear video on the onscreen display. This quality was completely consistent in all of our testing, even when taking it on a 3000 foot flight. That quality also remained consistent across both controllers.
DJI has notoriously bad customer service. The company earned the worst score of 3 out of 10 in this metric, far off from the top score of 9. We often found long wait time on their phone line, emails rarely got a quick response, and when we did get a response it was usually a form letter asking us to fill out extraneous forms. Our normal suggestion for DJI products is to purchase them through a retailer with good customer service and a good return policy. However, the Inspire 1 is not available from as many retailers as other models, so you'll want to be careful who you buy from.
The Inspire 1 lists for a whopping $3100, though it is often available online for significantly less than that. For an amateur, this is a poor value. Even though you get a high quality drone, it is one that will require a lot of time to become proficient with, probably more time than most would be willing or able to put into a hobby. If capturing video footage is your job, or you would like it to be, then the Inspire is an incredible value. You get all the major perks of a professional level model for much less than any of the competitors.
The Inspire 1 comes with the added functionality of a product geared towards professional users, but at a much lower price than any other other pro level product. If you're a professional on a budget, or trying to build up your own production company, this is an incredible value. If you're an amateur, you probably don't need nor have the time to learn how to use this extra functionality, and would be better off with the simpler but still incredible footage produced by the Phantom 4 or Phantom 4 Pro+.
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata
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