Gadgets & Gizmos

Will the editor replace a plane and helicopter with a new drone? Just maybe! Better Photography recently borrowed a DJI Mavic Air, a small drone with a built-in camera and a remote control. And there are a lot of things to like about this little package, especially if you're new to aerial photography and wanting a drone that is easy to fly and operate.

To begin, the drone itself is small and compact, especially when folded up and stored in its carry case. It will easily fit in your camera bag instead of a 70-200mm zoom, for instance. You no longer need a large, dedicated hard case to transport it around (although they are still needed for larger drones, of course).

The remote controller works in tandem with your smartphone, the latter giving you a live video feed of what your drone is seeing from up above. All you need to do is download the DJI Go 4 app, plug your phone into the controller and you're ready for flight.

Now, you can't just fly anywhere, of course. In Australia, there are CASA rules and regulations that you need to be aware of and abide by. Our office just happens to be in a drone friendly area, but you need to check this yourself – and this is easy to do by downloading another app called Drone Complier.

Making sure the batteries are charged, start up the remote control, start up the drone and follow the instructions online. The DJI Go 4 app will even point you towards some introductory videos to help you make your first few flights and we can report that if our editor can do it, anyone can!

When folded, the Mavic Air measures 168x83x49 mm and weighs 430 g. It has a maximum flight time of 21 minutes (with no wind). The camera only has a tiny sensor with 12MP resolution, but it has a 3-axis gimbal and can shoot stills, 4K video and 32MP sphere panoramas. This camera might not be the answer for professional producers, but for the enthusiast looking for a different angle on the world, the quality of its images is very good.

And importantly, the Mavic Air has lots of cool new features, like SmartCapture, meaning you can launch and fly the Mavic Air using hand gestures and then take photos and videos as you like. No doubt this will have a lot of appeal to photographers and video producers who like to be in the picture themselves! RRP $1299.

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One of the challenges of using super-telephoto lenses is their size and weight. Even with weightlifter arms, holding a 400mm f2.8 or 600mm f4 for long periods of time gets pretty tiring, so much so that many photographers have opted for the lighter 100-400mm and similar zooms. While these zooms are remarkable for their size and price, they don't quite provide the sharpness and clarity of a super-telephoto.

So, what if someone could design a super-telephoto that is a lot lighter? Would that solve the problem? You bet!

Canon has released not one, but two lightweight super-telephotos, the EF 400mm f2.8L IS III USM and the EF 600mm f4L IS III USM. Both are claimed to be the world’s lightest in their class, making them ideal for action and wildlife photography.

In addition to weight, super-telephotos have to be kept incredibly still to ensure sharp images – or you use fast shutter speeds to compensate. Then again, the five-stop Image Stabilizer (IS) technology in these new lenses will let you shoot hand-held, as camera shake is significantly reduced.

So how light are these lenses? When we handled the 400mm, we wondered if it were a mock-up! The EF 400mm f2.8L IS III USM’s weight is 2840 g (previously 3850 g), and the EF 600mm f/4L IS III USM’s is 3050 g (previously 3920 g). These are really significant weight savings!

Sporting the familiar white finish that Canon L-Series super-telephoto lenses are known for, the light colour acts as a thermal insulation coating to ensure the lenses operate consistently in all temperatures. The protective weather sealing guards against dust and moisture, while inside, fluorite lens elements virtually eliminate chromatic aberration, boosting resolution and contrast, according to Canon. The Air Sphere Coating (ASC) is designed to reduce flare and ghosting and both lenses have a nine-bladed diaphragm, producing a pleasing 'blur'.

The lenses incorporate a ring-type USM autofocus motor which, along with a high-speed CPU, enables fast and quiet focusing. And when shooting video, the lenses provide pull-focus effects with power focus controls and focus presets. Instant adjustments can be applied via the full-time manual focus control and focusing speed can be customised with electronically-controlled manual focus for extreme precision.

Two preprogrammed focusing positions can be recalled instantly with the twist of the preset ring. Controls for focusing mode, focusing range, focus preset recall and IS are all conveniently located for seamless control.

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Double Copies On-Location

Make a backup of your backup with the DJI Copilot.

There’s more to the DJI Copilot than meets the eye because even without a laptop, you can make multiple backups to multiple external drives, all with the DJI BOSS app on your smartphone or tablet!

LaCie’s DJI Copilot is a complete backup solution without a computer. It means that no matter where you are, you can quickly insert an SD card into the DJI Copilot and make a copy of your files. You don’t need to turn on your laptop. You don’t need an external power supply.

And you don’t need a smartphone or tablet either, but if you happened to have one nearby, there’s a lot more you can do with the DJI Copilot and the Copilot BOSS app.

The DJI Copilot is a BOSS (Backup On- Set Solution) device with 2TB capacity, an SD card slot and two USB ports so you can copy files directly from your memory cards or the camera.

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A further connection allows you to connect the DJI Copilot to your smartphone or tablet with a cable (three different connectors are supplied, so you’ll have no trouble attaching your device).

The advantage of connecting the DJI Copilot to your phone or tablet is that the Copilot BOSS app gives you even more control over your files, using the device’s LCD screen.

The Copilot BOSS app will let you view your files, play your videos, rename files and even delete files you don’t want.

LaCie’s DJI Copilot attached to a smartphone. 

Make more Copies

What might not be immediately obvious is that the DJI Copilot can also copy your backed-up files to another hard drive, like a LaCie Rugged, for example. This means there is no limit to the number of backup and archive copies you can create, all out on location, all without a laptop.

Using the USB Type A port, plug in the other hard drive to the DJI Copilot and you will see it recognised by the Copilot BOSS app on your device. Now, select the folders or files you want to copy on the DJI Copilot, and then choose the folder on your other drive where you want the files to end up.

Sensibly the app doesn’t need to be connected to the internet to work.

Like LaCie’s Rugged range of portable drives, the DJI Copilot is splash resistant, dust resistant and drop resistant, so it will handle tough use out on location. It includes a rechargeable power supply and can also act as a phone charger if required – you see, LaCie really has thought about everything, including a three-year warranty!

For more information, visit, a specialist photo supplier or better computer suppliers Australia-wide.

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