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Is the Blackmagic PYXIS a good camera choice for heavy lift drone filming?


Cinema Camera photoshopped onto heavy lift drone
Mock up of the Blackmagic PYXIS on a FPV Cinelifter

Many camera nerds have been waiting for Blackmagic Design to release a box-style cinema camera. Now it's finally here, people in the heavy lift drone industry are wondering "is this a good camera choice for cinelifter or heavy lift drone filming?"


What normally dictates the camera used on productions with heavy lift drones is the camera setup that the director or producer wants to use, or a camera that closely matches that setup. This has seen cameras like the RED Komodo and Sony FX6 become popular payloads for heavy lift drones. However, there are also other factors to consider when choosing a camera for heavy lift drone filming, particularly for first-person view (FPV) drone filming.


Many modern cameras have a feature called in-body image stabilisation (IBIS), which is a mechanical system that allows the sensor to float and absorb vibrations as a result. This helps hand held footage look smoother, but extreme movement of the camera produces artefacts when the sensor hits the end stops of the floating system. Dynamic movements and vibrations of FPV drones can easily cause IBIS sensors to hit their end stops, ruining footage. That being said, IBIS cameras can be used in some indoor and slow flying scenes, or with an adapter to lock the sensor in place.


The Blackmagic PYXIS doesn't have IBIS and therefore ticks the first box on the heavy lift drone checklist. So how does this camera compare to popular choices like the Komodo and FX6? All of them have full frame sensors and can shoot up to 6K resolution, however where the Komodo stands out is its global shutter. Even though the frame readout times of the Sony and Blackmagic cameras mentioned are low, the RED camera has the edge for dynamic shots. However, FPV drone clips are usually short and fast and, as a result, most viewers wouldn't tell much difference between the RED, Sony or Blackmagic cameras mentioned.


Where the RED and Sony have an advantage over the PYXIS is mass. The Komodo and FX6 both come in at around 1kg (~2lbs), whereas the PYXIS comes in at 1.5kg (~3.3lbs). This extra mass will negatively impact flight time and dynamics of the drone, but this setup will still be flyable.


Although not necessarily an important advantage, I like that the screen on the PYXIS is on the side of the camera. Whereas, the FX6 doesn't have a screen and the top mounted screen on the RED is exposed when mounted on a drone.


The final advantage of the PYXIS is the price. This camera comes in at close to half the cost of a RED Komodo, which has already been noted by many RED Komodo owners that are now looking to sell their cameras in favour of the PYXIS.


To summarise, the PYXIS is certainly usable for a heavy lift drone camera setup and the price point is compelling, but the extra weight of this camera relative to its competitors in the heavy lift market mean that we will still see the Komodo and FX6 as A-cams for the time being.


If you have a film project and you are looking for suitable FPV camera solutions to bring to your project, then feel free to reach out to dan@flyflowmedia.com




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