Join Jim Heid for an in-depth discussion in this video Adjusting focus, part of DJI Mavic Pro: Tips, Tricks, & Techniques.
- I've said I like to call drones flying cameras. That's so much of what they're all about for me. In this next set of videos, we'll explore the Mavic Pro's camera, and I'll share some tips for getting the best results from it. I'm going to assume you're familiar with basic photo concepts, terms like focus, exposure, shutter speed, ISO. If you aren't or if you get lost during some of those discussions, you might want to check out some of our introductory photography courses. Now, whether you're shooting still images or video, three of the most important things you'll want to get right are focus, exposure, and color balance.
Focus, well, you want results that are sharp. Exposure, you want shots that have a good range of light and dark areas. If they're overexposed, bright areas will be blown out to all white with no details visible. If they're underexposed, dark areas will go completely black and they'll have no details in them. As for color, you usually, though not always, want it to be accurate. In the photo and video world, that means adjusting the camera's white balance setting, adjusting the camera so that white renders as truly white and not tinted off white in some way.
Like every modern digital camera, the Mavic Pro has auto-focus, auto-exposure and auto white balance features. And they usually do a great job, usually. The fact is auto everything can work against you sometimes, especially when you're shooting video. That's because the settings can change as you're shooting, causing a weird shift in focus or unwanted shifts in exposure or color balance in the middle of a video clip. The solution to these unwanted automatic activities is to go into manual mode. Let's take a look starting with focus.
In auto-focus mode, the drone will attempt to lock focus each time it comes to a stop. The problem is the Mavic hovers so well that this auto-focus routine can kick in when you're hovering, especially if you're flying on a day without much wind. When you're shooting video, that's a bad thing. It can create a kind of pumping effect as the lens hunts for proper focus. Not what you want. The solution is to put the drone in manual focus mode. To do that, just tap the focus button. This switches into manual focus with the focus locked to its current setting.
So, a good habit to get into when you're airborne and shooting video is to let the drone auto-focus, then switch into manual focus. If you need to focus again, you can either swipe up and down on the focus slider, or I find this usually works better, just tap back into auto-focus, tap the area you want to focus on, let the drone auto-focus, and then tap back into manual focus. And speaking of auto-focus, you can also trigger it yourself by tapping on the screen. I'll switch back into auto-focus mode here and tap on the part of the frame that I want the drone to focus on.
There's that little pumping effect you may have seen, and there it is. And again, switch to manual focus afterwards if you don't want the drone to kick into auto-focus in the middle of a video clip. Now, you can also completely turn off that occasional auto-focus feature if you want. To do that, start by tapping the camera settings button. This takes you to an area that we'll use a lot in the next few videos. Next, tap the gear and then turn off the feature called Enable AFC Mode.
Now, the drone won't try to auto-focus every time it comes to a stop or hover. You can still use auto-focus though the way I just did, just tapping on the screen. This approach gives you a nice middle ground. You don't have to worry about the drone trying to focus in the middle of the video clip, but you still have auto-focus just a tap away. One more auto-focus tip. The Mavic's remote controller is set up so that you can auto-focus on whatever's in the center of the frame by pressing the C1 button on the controller. That's the left hand button on the underside of the controller.
The Mavic Pro also has a feature called focus peaking. If you shoot with a mirrorless digital camera, you might be familiar with this. It's a feature that helps you manually focus. To turn it on, go into general settings, tap the three dots at the top of the screen, and then in Peak Focus Threshold, I'll choose a value. Normal works well. And now, as I manually focus, notice that areas that are in focus have this red highlight. You can see it across the center seam of the drone that we're focusing on here.
That's the camera's way of telling me hey that highlighted stuff will be tack sharp. It's worth mentioning that the focus peaking display also appears when you're in auto-focus mode. This can be a useful way to determine how much of a shot will actually be in focus. Whether you're a fan of auto-focus or manual focus, focus peaking can be particularly useful if you're flying using a smartphone with a small screen where it can be hard to see if something's really in focus or not. I'm going to go back and turn focus peaking off so that those red highlights don't distract us as we look at the next topic, exposure.
- Safety checks
- App settings
- Startup, takeoff, and landing
- In-flight data displays
- DJI GO tips
- Flight modes
- Streaming live
- Adjusting focus
- Exposure and white balance
- Still photography and panoramas
- Shutter speed
- Aerial video
- Using the gimbal
- Using the remote controller