DJI just announced the Zenmuse Z3 gimbal and camera, featuring a 3.5x optical zoom and 2x digital zoom – which can operate together in certain modes for a total of 7x zoom. The lightweight Zenmuse Z3 allows the Inspire 1 to capture photos or film videos more flexible and with greater control. It’s ideal for industrial applications.
The Zenmuse Z3 is not merely a zoom camera mounted on a three-axis gimbal; it has a custom-designed reaction wheel that is often used in orbiting satellites for increased stability.
Many photographers and filmmakers encounter this: when you capture photos with a long-focus lens, movements are magnified. Even using a tripod, stabilization issues increase as the field of view gets narrower.
Expensive aerial photography equipment for industrial application
A three-axis gimbal system helps the camera produce smooth and stable footage. However, with a long lens, the aircraft vibration itself can cause stabilization problems. For this reason, a five-axis gyroscope gimbal is often used in industrial applications. But its large size and high price make it out-of-reach for the average user.
Designed with an internal zoom, the Zenmuse Z3 weights 262g and supports a 3.5x optical zoom, giving it a focal length ranging from 22 mm to 77 mm.
If shooting with 2.7K, the Zenmuse Z3 offers a 2x digital lossless zoom.
To solve the stabilization issue, a custom-designed reaction wheel adds an additional layer of stability to the yaw control of the Zenmuse Z3. This works in tandem with the normal yaw motor to allow for more refined movement.
Custom-designed reaction wheel
The weight of the Zenmuse Z3 is 15g heavier than the X3, but it does not affect the flight time of the Inspire 1.
The Zenmuse Z3 retails at $899 US. Not cheap. But many would argue it’s an excellent value when stacked up against the $1799 US Zenmuse X5 (lens not included).
External packaging of Zenmuse Z3
Zenmuse Z3 shares the overall design of Zenmuse X3. But it uses a U-shaped holder. Not like the L-shaped holder of X3. And its white shell is larger than that of X3.
You can see the heat sink on the side of the Zenmuse Z3. Airflow is used for cooling, in conjunction with a fan.
There is a radiator fan and USB port on the back and a micro-SD card slot on the side of the gimbal. A standard 16G micro SD card is provided.
The connection part on the top of Zenmuse Z3 is the same as that of the Zenmuse X3.
It features a 3.5x optical zoom lens, which covers the frequently used focal length in aerial photography (22 mm to 77 mm).
The UV filter is changeable.
The gimbal has a simple structure with no exposed cables.
Many of you may be curious about the reaction wheel in the Zenmuse Z3. Let’s have a closer look.
Remove the shell. A large black heat sink can be seen. The internal mechanism is supported by a special metal structure.
Another heat sink on the left side. Circuit boards are under these heat sinks.
The CMOS sensor of the camera, which kicks out lots of heat during operation, is installed on the circuit board, where it is close to the fan, for heat dissipation.
See the round-shaped metal on the circuit board. That’s the reaction wheel. It can rotate freely.
Mounted on the Inspire 1, The Zenmuse Z3 without looks pretty awesome even without the shell
We make a mark on the reaction wheel to help see what it does.
Let’s watch the video about the reaction wheel of Zenmuse Z3.
Here, the Zenmuse Z3 is mounted to the Inspire 1. Then the craft is turned upside-down to film how the reaction wheel on the bottom of the Z3 works. The reaction wheel is a motor that can rotate clockwise and counter-clockwise, and is commonly used in satellite attitude control. Its working principle is quite simple, that is, to compensate the deviation of the Yaw axis by using the reaction generated by the rotating motor.
In the video, we put forces on the Roll, Pitch, and Yaw axes of the gimbal and shake the aircraft body. We find that the reaction wheel does little when we put forces on the Roll and Pitch axes. But it helps significantly when we put forces on the Yaw axis.
Therefore, it can be concluded that the reaction wheel of Zenmuse Z3 is designed for balancing the Yaw axis. The center of gravity of the camera shifts when the built-in zoom lens of Zenmuse Z3 is zooming. The reaction wheel on the Yaw axis can compensate the deviation caused by that shifted center of gravity.
What about photos taken with the Zenmuse Z3? How do the optical and digital zooms affect the picture quality?
This photo was taken at the wide-angle focal length of 22 mm. The perspective is similar to that of Zenmuse X3. Diagonal FOV of X3 is 94 degrees while that of Z3 is 92 degrees.
This photo is taken with the longest focal length of the 3.5x optical zoom. The object has been zoomed as close as possible. The focal length is 77 mm.
Digital zoom is only enabled during capturing photos or filming videos with a resolution less than 2.7K. (154 mm equivalent focal length)
Images are captured with the resolution of 1080p (including 2.7K) that allows additional 2x digital zoom and lossless images. When the 2.7K resolution is used, the digital zoom cannot be enabled. Note that the Zenmuse Z3 has an automatic digital zoom function. When filming at different focal lengths, a tap on the object on your device screen that you want to focus on. This is different from the Zenmuse X3, which is a prime lens with focus set at infinity. If you have used the Zenmuse X5 before, you can quickly pick up the focus operation of the Zenmuse Z3.