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For the serious photographer, you may know already who DxOMark is. For those who don't, they test cameras for high standards of quality. In fact, you may say they are the gold standard for camera reviewers. The Phantom 4, Phantom 4 Pro as well as the Inspire 2 cameras get the once over by this company. What do they have to say about the cameras on those drones?

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Their conclusions are puzzling, as DXO conclusions usually are. We need to remember than DXO is rating primarily SENSORS while practical photographers rate the resultant image quality which is affected by the overall system which also includes lenses etc.

I own a P4P and while the image quality is surprisingly good, there is simply no way it can compete with cameras such as the 1D MkII or even the venerable old D2X, both of which DXO rates under the P4P. I have owned all 3 of those cameras, and I would put the P4P a definite 3rd in that list when judging the photos each produces.

The main limitation P4P and all small cameras is the tiny lens whose physical size makes it subject to diffraction issues even when wide open. Little lenses make fuzzy pictures, fact of life. And sharpening only helps so much. IMHO diffraction limits the P4P to about 5 megapixel sharpness, at best. But it's a very good 5 megapixel equivalent camera and that ain't bad and much better than any other consumer drone I know about. And the P4P does have a dynamic range like no other drone camera, and that counts for a lot. Those raw files are a pleasure to work with and offer a range of interpretation possibilities beyond any previous Phantom model.

FWIW I have processed many still images from both an X5S and my own P4P, and I have to say that for many subjects the P4P STILL image quality is superior to the X5S, mainly because X5S suffers from pronounced blue/yellow fringing around the edges which I believe is more of a sensor issue than a lens issue. I have seen that with 15, 17, and 25mm lenses and on 2 different X5Ss. Image quality takes a hit when that fringing is removed in post. The X5S might be a bit sharper at the center, but while both the X5S and the P4P fall off quite a bit toward the edges, the P4P seems to have a less jarring difference between center and edge sharpness. But for video I would have to give a definite nod to the X5S.

But hey...the P4P is a dream come true for anybody who has ever hauled around a giant octo with a 5lb, $6,000.00 dslr package just begging to drop 400 feet onto the nearest BMW. And that's a fact.
 
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I've owned the 1D MkII as well and I'd argue the quality is on par with the 13 year old Canon camera. Yes, the ID MkII has a bigger sensor, but the P4P is 13 years newer and benefits from 13 years of improvements.

Also, diffraction is related to f/# and not how big the glass is and with the P4P we can lower the f/# to f/2.8 -- well below the point where diffraction is noticeable. In fact, until you get above about f/6.3 the effects of diffraction are pretty small. I usually shoot at f/5 or f/5.6.

So, the rating for the P4P being on par with or a bit better than the 13 year old 1D MkII should come as no surprise -- what would have been a surprise would be the P4P surpassing my Nikon D800E. When shooting with my D800E I tend to keep the aperture below f/11 and most of the time more like f/7.1.


Brian
 

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