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Review Update: DJI Phantom Quadcopter for GoPro Hero3 with Zenmuse H3-2D Gimbal

Part 3 of my review series on the DJI Phantom with updated hardware

By Jeff Foster | September 13, 2013

Modifying the Zenmuse H3-2D Gimbal Mount

Not satisfied with the results from my earlier test flights and getting too much of the props, prop guards and landing gear into the frame, I modified the way the Zenmuse gimbal mounts to the Phantom slightly. 

I inverted the gimbal mount to lower the GoPro about 1/2" and also rotated the plate 180 degrees so the screw mount is up front further. I only installed one screw and then used gaffer tape and zip ties to further secure it and keep it from moving, shifting or vibrating.

I also added two loose zipties from the baseplate to the gimbal plate in case of a crash or mishap and I don't lose the camera/gimbal setup (this actually happened in one crash before securing the components together!)

The result lowers the camera and pushes it out forward another inch or so and results in a little less interference from the props/prop guards or landing gear coming into frame when the Phantom is in motion in flight.

You will also notice the red tubing ziptied to the landing gear, which I added to accommodate the lowered GoPro and to provide more stability in takeoff/landing. I'll be looking into other options for landing gear, gimbal/camera mounts and more in the near future.

Finally - I got a good balance from my slight modifications to the gimbal mount and was able to get some smooth flight footage at higher and low elevations. I shot this video from Jantzen Beach on the border of Oregon and Washington on the Columbia River in Portland. I was pleased with this setup, but you know I'm going to continue to do more mods for even better footage in the weeks/months to come.

 

DJI Self-Tightening Propellers:

This upgrade was just announced and I haven't had a chance to test them yet, but there is a demo on the DJI website that shows this tutorial for installing them:

Meanwhile, after losing a couple of the original prop cap nuts, I've opted for a combination lock washer with a hex nut and Locktite (blue) and check before every flight (see also video below for consequences of a loose prop nut).

 

Words of Caution when Flying your Phantom:

Not everything always goes as planned... yes, it's usually operator error but sometimes radio interference or wind conditions can affect your Phantom's performance and it WILL come crashing down to earth or possibly fly-away into the horizon. 

A few tips from my many crashes and incidents where I actually lost my GoPro in one case:

• Always do a pre-flight of your Phantom on-site. (Batteries fully-charged, prop retaining nuts tightened, etc.)
• Tether your GoPro to your Phantom's landing gear. (You will lose it when it crashes or it shakes-loose mid-air)
• Leave your WiFi enabled on your GoPro during flight. (You may need to locate the camera with your iPhone if it crashes in deep brush or trees)
• Always carry a toolkit and spare parts when flying remotely. (Just do it!)

Here's a quick montage video from some of my "incidents" while flying the Phantom:

For more information about the DJI Phantom and/or the Zenmuse H3-2D gimbal or to make a purchase in the U.S., check out the DSLR Pros website and contact them for more information.

CLICK HERE for my previous reviews and info on the DJI Phantom Quadcopter

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Jeff Foster is a published author of several how-to books and training videos in the motion graphics, animation and video production industries and is an award-winning video producer and artist. Visit his web site to learn more about his training methods, tips & tricks at PixelPainter.com

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