How to choose the right drone camera

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How to choose the right drone camera

We often get questions regarding our choice of camera and the relevance of a high pixel count. I will take the liberty to elaborate on this, mostly because it seems to me that there is a lot of misconceptions.

Size matters, APS-C sensor quality

The consensus in the world of photography is that Image quality does not equate to pixel count, not even by far.

Below you can see a picture captured by a sensor that is 9.6 x 12.8mm (left), but also the Ricoh GRII sensor that is 25.1 × 16.7mm. The smaller sensor is 20 Megapixel while the Ricoh GRII sensor is 16.3 Megapixel (right).

How to choose the right drone camera

The size of sensor that a camera has, ultimately determines how much light it uses to create an image. In very simple terms, image sensors (the digital equivalent of the film previous generations might have used in their cameras) consist of millions of light-sensitive spots called photosites which are used to record information about what is seen through the lens. Therefore, it stands to reason that a bigger sensor can gain more information than a smaller one and produce better images.

Think about it this way, if you had a compact camera with a typically small image sensor, its photosites would be dwarfed by those of a DSLR with the same number of megapixels, but a much bigger sensor. Able to gain more information, the large DSLR photosites would be capable of turning out photos with better dynamic range, less noise and improved low light performance than its smaller-sensored sibling. Which as we know, makes for happy photographers.

A larger sensor will:

  • result in improved low-light performance
  • increase dynamic range
  • mean less diffraction
  • achieve greater depth of field

Despite a lower Megapixel count (16 vs 20 Megapixel) the Ricoh GRII offers a better image quality for photogrammetric processing (lower noise due to a larger sensor pixel pitch, and no antialiasing filter).

Anti-aliasing filter: Most consumer cameras have an antialiasing filter (an optical low-pass filter) to reduce moiré effects. An Anti-aliasing filter effectively reduces the effective resolution of an optical system.

Still today, 2017, the Ricoh GRII is listed among the top ten APS-C compact digital cameras in the world.

So when choosing a camera for your drone, go for the larger sensor rather than the higher pixel count.

Roger Öhlund, CMO SmartPlanes

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