DJI’s LiDAR module gives you autofocus even with f/0.95 manual focus lenses

Oct 22, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

DJI’s LiDAR module gives you autofocus even with f/0.95 manual focus lenses

Oct 22, 2020

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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One of the biggest problems I hear people talking about when it comes to gimbals it the lack of autofocus. In an ideal world, we’d either be able to hold the gimbal with one hand and easily move the focus wheel manually with the other or we’d just have a separate focus puller to deal with it for us so we can concentrate on the composition. But it’s rarely that easy for most of us.

It would be great if camera autofocus was perfect, but it isn’t. DJI’s is about to release a LiDAR sensor module to go with their new RS2 gimbal, which sits on top of your camera and talks to the RS2’s focus motor to let you get autofocus on your gimbal with just about anything. MAKE.ART.NOW’s Josh Yeo took it for a spin with the Mitakon Speedmaster 50mm f/0.95 III.

Josh opens up the video talking about a shooting challenge he faced in the past when he found himself alone in the studio. He shot back then with the original DJI Ronin S in track mode with some predefined spots for the gimbal and filmed himself moving between them. He relied on the autofocus of the Sony A7III with a native G Master lens. Which, as you can expect, wasn’t great.

Once again, he’s found himself alone in the studio, only this time he has the new DJI RS2 gimbal along with the upcoming 3D Focus unit, which uses a pair of LiDAR sensors to find the subject in 3D, determine the distance from the sensor and then adjusts the focus motor on the gimbal to rotate the focus ring on the lens. Instead of predetermined targets for the gimbal to hit, Josh also used the app’s built-in subject tracking to make the gimbal follow him automatically. And he shot it all wide open at f/0.95.

The opening sequence is fully edited and looks like it’s absolutely flawless, but then Josh walks us through the setup and some of the unedited footage so we can see how it all works together and where its strengths and weaknesses lie. It’s limited to a centre focus point and you will need to re-calibrate it each time you swap lenses, and there are range limitations.

But it’s a pretty good start and really opens up the possibilities for the future of autofocus.

This isn’t the first time we’ve seen LiDAR modules for cameras. A prototype device that communicates with the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema Camera 4K by CDA-TEK was shown off last year, but DJI’s solution is completely independent of the camera or lens autofocus capabilities as it doesn’t communicate with them at all. And, as Josh shows in the video, it works even when the camera’s turned off. You do need an RS2 gimbal, though (I expect it probably works with the RSC2 as well – or will at some point).

The 3D Focus LiDAR module is an optional extra and doesn’t come supplied with the RS2 gimbal. It’s not quite out yet, either, but when it is, it will cost $169.

[via Sony Addict]

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John Aldred

John Aldred

John Aldred is a photographer with over 20 years of experience in the portrait and commercial worlds. He is based in Scotland and has been an early adopter – and occasional beta tester – of almost every digital imaging technology in that time. As well as his creative visual work, John uses 3D printing, electronics and programming to create his own photography and filmmaking tools and consults for a number of brands across the industry.

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2 responses to “DJI’s LiDAR module gives you autofocus even with f/0.95 manual focus lenses”

  1. Gregoire Labadens Avatar
    Gregoire Labadens

    and tracking (with the Raven Eye)

  2. pincherio Avatar
    pincherio

    8:15 The time of flight sensor only works with the RS2. It also doesn’t work with fly by wire lenses and actually works best with cine lenses or full manual lenses with hard focus stops.