DJI is making a cinema camera with a built-in gimbal and LIDAR focusing

The Verge - Wed Oct 20 14:40

Drone-maker DJI has announced a cinema camera that comes with a built-in gimbal, can shoot at up to 8K resolution, and uses a LIDAR rangefinder that promises a “sharper, faster, and more reliable focusing experience,” even in low light. It’s called the Ronin 4D, and while it’s aimed squarely at professionals, it’s loaded with interesting features and shows that DJI is continuing to develop its camera tech outside of drones.

The Ronin 4D’s camera is called the Zenmuse X9, and it’s full-frame, has interchangeable lens mounts for DJI’s DL and Leica’s M systems, and includes nine (nine!) built-in ND filters for controlling your exposure in the sun. The 6K model can do 6K at 60fps and 4K120, and the 8K model can do 75fps at its max resolution. The X9 can shoot in RAW or 422HQ flavors of ProRes, or H.264 if you’re trying to keep file sizes in check, or need a fast turnaround for your footage. Until this point, DJI’s Zenmuse cameras have mostly been designed to fly on its drones, but (unfortunately for drone enthusiasts) the company tells me that the X9 is meant specifically for the Ronin 4D.

It seems like a pretty cohesive unit.
Image: DJI

DJI says that the 6K version of the Ronin 4D will be available in December and that the 8K version will be available “at a later date.” There’s also a ton of accessories coming for it, including a wireless monitoring system (which will also allow for remote control of the camera’s settings and gimbal movements, making the camera operator’s job easier) and a focus motor that will even let you adapt manual-focus lenses to use the LIDAR system.

Please enjoy this incredible demo image DJI provided. I’m sure the camera operator on the wire appreciates the remote camera controls.
Image: DJI
The LIDAR focus system, which has a 10-meter range and can control autofocus or provide a waveform to help with manual focusing.
Image: DJI

As for the built-in gimbal, DJI says it’ll be able to stabilize along four axes (hence the 4D in the name), including up and down. According to the company, this should help further reduce bumps or camera shake from an operator walking or running, which would be impressive — you can get that done with other stabilization tech, but it requires a good deal of skill, as basically any of my Steadicam footage will attest to. DJI says the Ronin 4D is “lighter and smaller than most cinema cameras mounted on a professional three-axis stabilizer.”

Unlike DJI’s Osmo camera / gimbal systems, or even some of its lower-end Ronin gimbals, the Ronin 4D isn’t aimed at consumers or prosumers. The 6K version costs $7,199, the 8K version is $11,499, and both come with a decent kit: the gimbal, camera, LIDAR range finder, a monitor and hand grips / top handle, a carrying case, and a battery (the 8K camera also comes with a 1TB SSD). In the realm of production cameras and stabilization systems, that’s actually on the lower end (DJI’s cinema-focused Ronin 2 stabilizer costs over $8,000 without any camera attached, and Sony’s FX9 6K camera costs $11,000 for just the body), but if you were hoping to use the LIDAR focus system to absolutely nail focus in your vlogs, you may want to rethink that.

Pictured: what shooting with the Ronin 4D looks like under more normal conditions.
Image: DJI

Despite the professional focus, the Ronin 4D still looks like a really desirable piece of tech. It also makes sense coming from DJI — the company has obviously been putting a lot of work into its drone cameras and gimbal systems, so it was only a matter of time before it put them together. Plus, it’s always possible that a version of the LIDAR system will make its way to DJI’s handheld Osmo cameras, which could make for a very interesting vlogging setup.

As for DJI’s hopes of the Ronin 4D being a cinema camera, it’ll be interesting to see what kind of productions pick it up. It definitely seems like it’ll be worth considering for anyone shooting fast-paced footage, like documentary or commercial filmmakers. Whether Hollywood is looking for an all-in-one camera and gimbal versus a piecemeal system that gets you more control is hard to say — though DJI is working on getting Netflix classification, so the Ronin 4D should be an option for anyone looking to shoot an original for the streaming service.