Crop factors and aerial photography

Our RTW trip in 2014/15 saw us use a GoPro 3+ for video and a Panasonic Lumix FT5 for still photographs. As we purchased these in early 2014 and used them extensively for 14 months, I thought we should at least look at what is available should we wish to upgrade ahead of the African leg of our journey. This was partially because Anne has said she will refuse to get out of the 4WD to compensate for the poor telephoto function on her still camera while photographing wildlife. In addition, our friend Kristjan has been posting excellent aerial video taken with his DJI Phantom 4 which made us, well me really, envious of the opportunities this form of photography allows.

So where to start and hence the odd title. The last time I purchased a camera, it took something called ‘film’ which seems to have disappeared. Our first visit to the camera shop has me bombarded with a kaleidoscope of unfamiliar terms, ‘DSLR’, ‘Bridge Cameras’, ‘4K recording’, ‘Crop factors dependant on CMOS size’. All beyond my simple understanding. Luckily the internet is full of useful reviews and I think on the camera front, we have narrowed it down to two ‘Bridge Cameras’ should we decide an additional camera is required.

Panasonic Lumix FZ330 or FZ330 25-600mm

Panasonic Lumix FZ330 or FZ330 25-600mm

Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 25-400mm

Panasonic Lumix FZ1000 25-400mm

This type of camera has many of the benefits of a ‘DSLR’ without the interchangeable lenses, but do have a smaller CMOS sensor. They do have good zoom capabilities which will allow Anne to stay inside the vehicle as she photographs the African wildlife.

The arial photography is more problematic. Drones have changed dramatically over the last few years with improved functionality, recording quality and increasing flight times. I last used a drone in December 2012, then they came with two pilots and two paramedics.

Slightly dented bike and rider about to be transported for repair.

Slightly dented bike and rider about to be transported for repair.

Ok Ok I did have amnesia and was airlifted to Newcastle (NSW) Hospital, so maybe it was not a drone after all. I am digressing and while the DJI Phantom 4 seems to be the drone of choice producing stupendous results, it comes at a price! So what to do, luckily our visit to the UK has coincided with the 2016 Farnborough Airshow. The perfect place to seek out an appropriate drone for our next trip’s needs. Early options seen seemed to have a little more functionality than we are seeking, 16 hour loiter time, detailed photo coverage from 13,000 meters (40,000 feet), infra red for poor visibility days and air to ground missiles to clear obstacles on the road ahead. Apart from the price! 11 meter wingspan may pose a problem, especially when mounted on the top box on the motorcycle. Could our loyal followers crowd-fund one for us? The British army has a number in boxes unused, probably just waiting for a good cash offer. This would allow our adventures to be followed in real time, filling in the gap between blog posts for those on the ever lengthening couch.

Thales Watchkeeper WK450 for those hard to reach photographic places

Thales Watchkeeper WK450 for those hard to reach photographic places

Amnesia or delusion kicking in again. So inside one of the many Trade Halls at the Farnborough Airshow to look for something a little smaller. The universities are producing a plethora of small prototype drones, so many choices, it would be hard to pick one but they did not seem keen on us having a long term field test.

Under development, so many designs

Under development, so many designs


Oh well, maybe I am overcomplicating this selection process, the DJI Phantom 4 seems to be the drone of choice, maybe we should just follow those knowledgeable people and if we are to buy a drone, this should be it. How do you find one product that does it all, seems like an impossible task, until, around the corner, there it is! Not only the answer to our drone dilemma, but I can continue to use the helmet mounted GoPro as before, problem solved by ‘The Hoverbike’!!

My future motorcycle/drone from Malloy Aeronautics

My future motorcycle/drone from Malloy Aeronautics

This prototype ‘Hoverbike’ developed by Malloy Aeronautics http://www.hoverbike.com will carry up to 110kg, has been hover tested with a rider, not me sadly, and development is ongoing. Our next motorcycle has been identified, no more BMW GS for us, we just need a little more development, a reasonable list price and we will be putting down a deposit for two.

– Anthony

11 comments on “Crop factors and aerial photography

  1. Anne is a woman after my own heart in leaving the close up shots to a telephoto lense. In Africa you may want the yellow “drone” 😉 Happy gadget hunting!

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  2. The wonderful world of travelling technology. I do like the idea of the drone – maybe you could use those 11 trillion hours of loiter time to carry your luggage so the bikes are bag- free?

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  3. The DMC-FZ1000 would definitely be my pick of the crop. Kirk Tuck is a pro and he refers to it often as his “grab and go” camera. This is a guy that does photography for a living and I highly respect his opinions and ideas. In fact a lot of my photography angles and ideas come out of watching his photos in his blog.

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  4. I’d definitely pick the DMC-FZ1000. The tele lens is superb and according to Kirk Tuck – a professional photographer who uses one as a grab-and-go camera for general travel shots, it’s definitely the best around at a reasonable price.

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    • We are undecided between the 1000 and the 300/330 The 1000 has the bigger sensor, but the 300/330 has better dust/waterproofing which is important for our kind of travelling.

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  5. That’s a very good point. Dust and humidity are lethal in Africa, so the 330 would definitely be an asset there! And low-light levels are only a concern during heavy rain season which I expect won’t be the case for you guys. Given that I’d go with the 330.

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  6. ha ha Anne I dont understand your hesitation in getting out of the car in Africa – dont you wanna get up close and personal with the “putty tats”. Have fun and dont get too burdened down with gadget decisions.

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