What's going on, guys? Billy, here. And the Zenmuse H20N is DJI's newest payload for the DJI M300. If you're interested in learning more about the M300 itself as a drone, you can check out the video that I've made highlighting all of its specs, capabilities, the design and everything else that you need to know.
The cool thing about this drone, though, is that you can mount different payloads to accomplish different tasks. Because all the payloads are so different, though, I've been making these in-depth guides for each of them.
So in this video, I'll break down everything the DJI Zenmuse H20N here is capable of. Now, as I've mentioned in my previous videos, the main camera that most people would choose to purchase is the Zenmuse H20T, as it offers four different modules in the same camera system.
We have a wide-angle camera, a telephoto camera with optical zoom, a thermal camera, and a laser range finder, which comes in handy when combined with some of the smart modes that this drone has to offer.
DJI Zenmuse H20N
For more specialized drone missions, though, DJI has developed the Zenmuse H20N. It uses the H20 platform, taking the same camera housing and swapping out the RGB sensors for Starlight Night Vision sensors.
And it also upgrades the thermal camera by way of adding a second thermal sensor. So, that means we've got five total modules inside this payload, four of them being cameras and one of them being the laser range.
So to break things down, this smaller camera, right in the middle is the wide-angle camera that comes equipped with a two megapixel Starlight imaging sensor that can capture video and 1080P at 30 frames per second. As you'd expect, the ISO range of this sensor is crazy with an upper limit of 102,400 ISO.
The main sensor here on this Zenmuse H20N payload, though, is definitely the Zoom camera that also comes equipped with a Starlight imaging sensor for seeing in super low light conditions. It offers many features and talking points that the wide camera just doesn't have.
Along with the four megapixel photos and the 2.7K video that it can capture. It also can utilize the night scene shooting mode, both in photo and video.
It, of course, also has a total zoom range of 120 times when combining optical and digital zoom. Now, as I mentioned with this payload, we've also got two separate thermal sensors to cover.
Let's start with the larger sensor in the bottom-right corner that most M300 owners will likely be familiar with.
While it shares a lot of the same specs as the thermal camera found on the Zenmuse H20T, like a 640 image resolution, 30 frames per second video recording, and similar color palettes. This wide-angle thermal camera has a wider field of view at 45.5 degrees, giving us a 12-millimeter equivalent lens. This, again, is just a touch wider than the 40.6-degree, 13.5-millimeter equivalent thermal camera found on the H20T.
Now, the reason I'm calling this the wide thermal camera is because the other thermal camera has its telephoto focal length, making it more of a telephoto thermal camera, just like the wide lens.
This camera allows you to capture photos and videos with a 640 resolution, and it can capture video at 30 frames per second. So, it's nice and smooth when viewing through the live feed and reviewing videos saved to the SD card.
The only difference is that you get a tighter frame with that increased focal length. So, the field of view is 12.5 degrees with a 196 millimeter equivalent.
Putting the DJI Zenmuse H20N to the test
Now that we understand what the DJI Zenmuse H20N camera is all about, let's move on and take a look at some examples to understand what this camera is actually capable of out in the field.
Right off the bat, I noticed that when using the wide camera to fly around, the image seemed to be a little overexposed, but when I dialed the auto exposure adjustment back, the image became a lot easier to see with the increased contrast. The wide camera really isn't useful for much anyway, other than flying around.
So, the two megapixel sensor is fine, like 1080p is plenty of resolution to navigate around. The zoom camera, on the other hand, gives you a much clearer image all around. It has double the megapixels. It can shoot at nearly 2.7K, and the dynamic range is far superior.
My workflow has been to fly the drone around with that wide camera, and when I actually want to get a close look at something, I quickly toggle to the zoom camera on the DJI Zenmuse H20N using the onscreen button.
Now, of course, this camera can zoom and let me say, you can get a really close look at things that are super far away. We have up to a 20 times optical zoom built in, so this is a completely lossless zoom. And then after that we have a digital zoom to punch in even further to 32, 64 and 128 times.
This is useful for getting a closer look at things that are further away, obviously, but it allows you to keep your drone further away from obstacles, so you could quickly surveil.
On the thermal side, we have a bit of zoom to play with, as I mentioned, with these two separate cameras. So, the wide-angle camera is what we're usually used to on other drones and payloads like the M30T and the H20T.
This camera is still tack sharp for any type of Search and Rescue or inspection mission that you might be conducting. But the eight time zoom is really where this camera starts to show off.
Working our way up the ladder when we punch into that four time zoom. This is just a digital crop on the wide thermal camera, but tapping that zoom button again clears everything up as it switches from the digital zoom to that second camera.
This now gives us about a 196 millimeter focal length so that we can get a closer look at our subject. From here, we can continue to punch in up to 32 times with a digital zoom, which I have to say is actually pretty decent.
I'm used to digitally zooming on thermal cameras, basically being pointless, but this actually retains some detail, making it somewhat usable.
Okay, so those are all the daytime examples that I have from this camera to share with you. I'll leave a download link in the description, so you can bring them onto your computer for yourself and view them in their full resolution.
But now we're going to move into some nighttime examples, which is where this camera was built to excel.
The DJI Zenmuse H20N at night
Now, before we get into the examples here, let me set the scene. I headed out to a completely dark parking lot just off a walking trail outside of Philadelphia and took my DJI Mavic 3 Classic up in the air from this clip here. Even at 12,800 ISO, you can see that absolutely nothing is visible. The streetlamp is really the only thing that you could possibly see.
You probably didn't even know that my car was sitting here in the pitch darkness. The Mavic 3 series has a counter that is built to shoot excellent low light video, but in a scenario where there's absolutely no light, it's just about useless. That's where the Starlight sensors here on the DJI Zenmuse H20N really are helpful.
Now, much like the daytime examples, the wide camera is just kind of there to help you look around, but won't accomplish much regarding useful collecting information. It certainly does give you a much better look at what's more around than the Mavic 3 Classic did. But to get that true night scene view, you need to flip over to the zoom camera.
This camera basically gives you the power to see at nighttime in a black and white view when it is completely pitch dark. It's very sensitive to highlights. So, I found that even when I start shining the flashlight from my iPhone, it drastically improved the usability of the camera. The frame brightened up, and the frame rate improved, so the motion wasn't as blurry.
Popping my drone up over the trees and looking down into the cemetery shows, again, how powerful the Starlight sensor in the Zenmuse H20N is. There's absolutely no light to help this camera see, but it's still able to show the outline of the tombstones and roads.
My only gripe with using it in an environment this dark is how low the frame on the camera as it tries to compensate for there being absolutely no light. Like you can see, as I make small movements, the frame lags a bit. There's a bit of motion blur, and that's because the frame rate drops to 10 fps as it tries to accommodate for such a dark environment.
This all just comes down to the basics of how a camera works. Like if your shutter speed and frame rate drop too low, then your video will be unusable.
Photos, on the other hand, are an entirely different story, like you can. One single frame, drag that shutter so that you can allow more light to hit the camera sensor, therefore, giving you a brighter overall image.
To give you a visual example, here is a quick test that I ran with my iPhone. This video is completely unusable because the shutter speed can only go so low, so the image is very dark. When I take a photo though, the camera can just drag its shutter for much longer, so you get a much better image.
It's so much brighter than the video was. This is why the smart low light photo looks so good. Coming off DJI's M30T, you can let the camera sit there and take as long as it needs to spit out a usable image. This here is the same parking lot with absolutely no light, and it makes a perfectly usable photo.
Same with me standing in the middle of this dark walking path. It's pitch black, but the camera can drag its shutter to let more light in. Thus giving us a bright image.
The only issue is that when you're trying to conduct a search and rescue operation, photos don't provide actionable data. Like you can't go around and try to capture a number of photos, away from the process, and then hope that you find your missing person. It just wouldn't work.
That's why with the Zenmuse H20N, DJI gave you the best of both worlds. They gave you a great camera that can capture low-light images. And then they allowed you to use it in video form, right? So, you can actually get a low frame rate option to fly around and see what it is that you're looking at in real time.
So, I think that the best way to use this will be supporting ground teams that have flashlights. Because as I showed you, when I pulled out my iPhone and showed that flashlight, it really did improve the camera's usability. So, you can only imagine that adding a bunch of light with heavy flashlights with cars or even streetlights will help improve the usability of this camera much more.
Now back to the camera. I want to show some examples from the thermal sensors because I think that this is where the Zenmuse H20N really shows its power from above the trees at about 300 feet (ca. 91 m). The wide camera can easily pick up heat signatures on the ground, like say a person that you might be looking for with any other drone equipped with a thermal camera, you could try and fly lower to get a better look at your area of interest, or you could rely on the digital zoom, which really wouldn't give you much more clarity.
With that second camera, though, you can get an eight times optical zoom for a far better look at that subject again from a very high altitude. Making it much quicker to zoom down and verify what you're looking at.
Getting back to our view up over the trees of the cemetery, the wide thermal camera on the Zenmuse H20N gives us a great overview of the land, allowing us to effectively scan the area for any heat signatures.
With the added zoom, we could hold our vantage point and get a closer look on the ground without having to move around. Basically, as I've been harping on for this entire video. I find this to be a far better way to search areas at nighttime, as the 30 hertz refresh rate makes the video feed silky smooth.
Because of this, I like to use the thermal camera as my main method of collecting information and navigating at nighttime, and then if I need to get a more clear view, I flip over to the zoom camera, as it shows more detail at nighttime. If you were trying to find someone at night, for example, and you needed to confirm their identity, this would be an excellent way to do so.
Like all the other examples, I'll have some files left down below in the description, so you can check them out for yourself, and their full resolution on your computer.
DJI Zenmuse H20N Pinpoint and Smart Track
Now, that is not all we have to cover in this video because the Zenmuse H20N does have some other tricks up its sleeve. Some other features that are found in DJI's, other H20 payloads, the H20 and the H20T, those being Pinpoint and Smart Track.
Pinpoint is a pretty simple feature that adds points displayed through augmented reality icons, right on the live feed from the camera within the DJI Pilot app.
This is great for marking areas of interest during inspections, and when paired with DJI's Flight Hub, it can relay information back to your team regarding key locations.
So if you, as the drone operator say, find a person of interest, ground teams can intervene through real-time data. And the reason that this is so accurate is because of the laser rangefinder.
Smart Track on the Zenmuse H20N
Smart Track, on the other hand, is a feature that resembles Spotlight and active track in other DJI drones as the camera trains on a subject and adjusts the zoom to keep it in frame.
While the zoom camera does all the tracking, you can then switch to the wide camera to get a full perspective as well. Or even the thermal camera, if that's something that you want to do.
Now, taking this a step further by utilizing the laser range finder, the drone can determine the location of the subject that you're tracking. It's able to accomplish this by taking all the available information, the aircraft location, direction, distance, and height, to then provide that location, which, like Pinpoint can be relayed back to your team through DJI Flight Hub.
I should also probably mention that the laser rangefinder can be used as a standalone tool, showing you the distance between the subject that you're pointing at and the drone itself.
You can also see where the laser is pointing at as you move it around on the map, pinpointing exactly where that subject of interest might be.
Another great feature available on this payload is high-res grid photo that lets the Zenmuse H20N capture zoomed in photos from the higher resolution zoom camera to create one large high-resolution panorama image. The more zoomed in you are, the more photos you have to take, but this will result in a higher resolution image.
The software automates this entire process, making it effortless to capture these photos. The thermal camera also has some wonderful features that you can use on the fly.
Directly from the app, you can find temperature data by tapping on the screen. Using area measurement, you can find the hottest, lowest and average temperature of a selected area.
You can receive alerts through the temperature alarm feature when a certain area exceeds your predefined temperature limit. And there are plenty of ways to customize the viewing experience through isotherms and different color palettes.
DJI Zenmuse H20N conclusion. Who is it for?
So, the Zenmuse H20N is unlike any camera made for DJI's drones, but that doesn't mean that it's been made for everybody.
I think that the DJI Zenmuse H20N is a very niche platform. A niche payload that's been made specifically for First Responders. Those that are going to be using their DJI M300 for search and rescue, for trying to find a missing person. Maybe law enforcement trying to say track down a suspect, or trying to find someone at nighttime because the camera system has been suited for that purpose.
If instead you're conducting, say, inspections of roofs, of rooftop, units of power, plants, of dams, of really anything, anything inspection related, you're gonna want to go with the H20T because those color cameras are just so much better, right? They're 20 megapixels. They offer such a higher resolution in terms of their photos and videos, and therefore give you so much more detail to play with.
This though has been made for nighttime operations and it sucks because I think that the thermal camera would be great to use for those inspection purposes to be able to zoom down and get a closer look at, say, those AC units on the top of a roof. But nonetheless, I still think the DJI Zenmuse H20T will be your best bet if you're going to be conducting aerial inspections.
While the Zenmuse H20N here is your best bet if you're conducting the search and rescue missions, right? If you were in law enforcement, this will be the camera for you.
Anyway, thank you guys so much for watching. Please let me know if you have any thoughts down in the comment section below about the DJI Zenmuse H20N.
And as always, I'll talk to you later. Peace.
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