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DJI Zenmuse H3-2D - Review

Standing on the shoulders of the industry leading Zenmuse Z15, the smaller GoPro version of the Zenmuse brings the same "pixel level" stability and reliability.

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Introduction


Weight (including Gopro Hero 3):230g (8.1 oz.)
Input Voltage:12V~16.8V
Working Current:Static current 400mA @12V, Dynamic current 600mA @12V
Operating Temperature:-10C~50C (14F~122F)
Dimensions (damping kit included):99.5mm x 85.5mm x 92.75mm (3.9" x 3.4" x 3.7")
Controlled Angle Accuracy:plus/minus 0.08
Working Angle Limit:Pitch 50~ -130 Roll 39
Supported camera:GoPro Hero 3

There's no doubt about it, DJI's Zenmuse Z15 brushless camera gimbal is a leader in it's class. DJI have now taken the same technology that the Z15 was built on, and applied it to a smaller, 2 axis gimbal, designed specifically to be used with the GoPro Hero 3. Ultra light weight, with "pixel level" stability and remote tilt control, the new H3-2D Zenmuse can be used with any of DJI's flight controllers, on any of their airframes from the Phantom upwards.

The H3-2D Zenmuse is specifically balanced from the factory, so that all the user has to do is mount it, install a GoPro Hero 3, and you're ready to go. No additional balancing is necessary. Within just a short amount of time, the gimbal can be mounted and bringing in professional looking video in no time.

In The Box

The H3-2D Zenmuse arrives in a small box, the name discreetly embossed in silver letters on the top and sides. Inside are molded inserts, that contain everything squeezed into place. On the top tray is the data cable that connects the gimbal to the GCU, a can bus connector cable, and a video output cable which has bare ends on one end of the cable.

The rest of the box contains the actual gimbal, the camera retention ring, gimbal dampening cross brace mount with dampers already installed, two additional sets of dampers of varying stiffness, and a bag of screws to bolt it all together.

As is the norm with DJI, all of the software and manuals must be downloaded from DJI's website. It is also a good idea to make sure that whichever flight controller you are using has also been updated to the latest version. In my case I planned on attaching the gimbal to my Flamewheel 450, which runs a NAZA M V2 controller (a review of which you can read here).

Installation

Installation of the gimbal was pretty straight forward. The instruction manual gives detailed instructions on how to attach the gimbal to the original NAZA M, the NAZA M V2, and the Wookong M. The dampening cross brace mount fits perfectly against the lower front portion of the Flamewheel 450, with the holes lining up exactly with the slots on the bottom of the airframe (by design, I'm sure). Four nuts and bolts hold one half of the mount to the airframe, the other half of the mount gets the gimbal attached to it via two screws.

The two halves of the mount are held together by four rubber dampers. These dampers absorb vibration from the airframe, keeping your video wobble free. There are three different sets of dampers, of varying stiffness, so that you can experiment and find the one's that suit your application best. I used the dampers that came installed already, and these have worked out good for me.

I attached the GCU to the bottom of the airframe. The GCU is the brains of the gimbal. This is the unit that does all the processing and figures out the corrections to make to the gimbal when the aircraft is moving. The ribbon data cable attaches to the gimbal and the GCU, and this cable is used by the GCU to tell the gimbal how to move.

The GCU was then connected to the NAZA M V2's spare can bus port using the included cable. With this last cable in place, the physical installation was complete. I took care to make sure that all cables were secured, and that there was no chance of any cable chafing against the plastic of the airframe. The GCU must be powered, and has a positive and negative wire coming off of the unit. The power input for the GCU accepts 3S to 6S lipos. I made a small harness that would allow me to plug my aircraft battery cable into the harness, and then the flight battery into the other end of the harness. This way I could either power just the aircraft, or both the aircraft and gimbal from the same battery.

Incidentally, those white landing skids are new from DJI, and have a molded in "spring" to help absorb hard landings. They are designed to be used on any of the Flamewheel airframes, and come with all the screws necessary to attach them.

Important Note

It is very important to never power up the gimbal without the GoPro installed. The gimbal is finely balanced, and if powered up without the weight of the GoPro, you could very well damage the gimbal.

The GCU features a video out port, and with the included cable you can attach the GCU to your own video transmitter, receiving live video on your own monitor. This will be a key feature for FPV flying, as well as those who simply want to be able to frame their shots a little more accurately.

The final step was to attach the actual GoPro camera. The expansion port on the back of the GoPro plugs neatly onto the PCB board of the gimbal. This alone is enough to hold the camera in place, but in addition there is a "u" shaped aluminum bracket that wraps around the GoPro (leaving all crucial lights clear) and is secured with two screws on the back.

Setup

Setup is completed in the flight controller assistant software, and the GoPro assistant. As already mentioned, it is important to make sure that both the gimbal and the flight controller are running the latest firmware updates. You can connect to the gimbal with a USB cable through the GCU, and the gimbal assistant software will run the updates much the same way as the other DJI software assistants.

In the NAZA M assistant I chose a channel that wasn't assigned to a function (in my case, X1), and assigned that channel on my transmitter to a slider on the back of my Futaba 14SG. This allows me to control the tilt function with the slider. I used some sub trim on that channel to offset the center of the camera so that it pointed slightly downwards. This way I could keep most of the props out of the field of view, and I would know that it was in position when I heard the center beep on my transmitter.

Flying

Flying the gimbal around is nothing different than flying your original multicopter. My F450 handled the extra weight well, and I moved the flight battery rewards to help offset the weight of the gimbal, and keep the aircraft's center of gravity centered on the aircraft. With a fully charge 2200mAh 3S flight battery, I was able to get consistent five minute flights before the first level of voltage protection kicked in (the red flashing LED).

I didn't utilize the video out port on the GCU, and my aircraft was strictly a line of sight flier. This meant I had to guess what the camera was looking at, and I basically treated my quad as a virtual camera that I could push around the sky. Even without the aid of a video down link, I was able to get some pretty nice shots thanks to the GoPro's wide field of view.

The tilt function has a nice slow delay, which means you can quickly change your mind on a tilt and not have the gimbal jerk back and forth. It also has a safety cut off feature, where if you apply slightly to much pressure to the powered up gimbal, it will shut itself off to prevent damage. I accidentally discovered this when trying to press the record button on the GoPro. After a few seconds of being disabled, the gimbal powers up again, returning itself to the level position. It will also go into this shut down mode if you tilt the aircraft beyond the gimbal's operating limits (I.E. a tumbling aircraft), so no flips or rolls should be tried while running the gimbal.

Another neat feature of the gimbal, is that it actually powers the GoPro in flight. So this means that the charge state of your GoPro's battery is irrelevant, as it will be powered directly from the Gimbal. I've actually flown around several flights, landed, and found my GoPro fully charged.

The gimbal is a two axis gimbal, on the pitch and roll axis, so if you don't fly smoothly you will see a little yaw wobble. I was able to eliminate most of the yaw wobble by flying in manual mode. In manual mode, I have a lot of expo set so that I can fly smoothly with gentle inputs. The advantage to flying manually is that you don't have the constant corrections from the self stabilization features of the flight controller, resulting in smoother video. Of course it should go without saying, only fly in manual mode if you have experience flying an R/C aircraft. If you're not comfortable flying in manual mode, you can give Atti. mode a try, and compare the difference in video to GPS mode.

Video/Photos

This first video shows the actual gimbal in action, as well as the tilt function.

DJI GoPro Zenmuse H3-2D (0 min 52 sec)

This video shows the results from the GoPro camera, shot at various locations.

DJI H3-2D GoPro Zenmuse - Raw Video (4 min 10 sec)

Finally, here's an example of what you can achieve after a little post processing.

DJI H3-2D Zenmuse (3 min 2 sec)

Conclusion

The H3-2D Zenmuse gimbal is an excellent addition to DJI's line up. Using the same technology as the Zenmuse Z15, at a fraction of the price, incredibly smooth video is now within reach to hobbyists. It operates perfectly with very little setup time, and with the addition of a video transmitter would make an excellent FPV platform. It is beautifully machined with high quality brushless motors, and with the ability to update the firmware by the end user, there is no telling what functions we may get in the future.

Pros: Cons:
Highest Quality Does nothing for yaw wobble. (1 more axis please!)
Incredibly Accurate
A fraction of the price of the Z15 Zenmuse
Very easy to install
User Upgradeable

Last edited by CSpaced; Aug 17, 2013 at 09:13 PM..

Discussion

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Old Aug 18, 2013, 08:24 AM
Registered User
Joined Jun 2013
45 Posts
How's about sharing H3 setup for the final video?
Thanks,
Steve
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Old Aug 18, 2013, 08:55 AM
DJI Support
Las Vegas/Lake Tahoe
Joined Feb 2010
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Very nice review Chris.
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Old Aug 18, 2013, 10:47 AM
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Oak Ridge, NC
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Tahoe Ed View Post
Very nice review Chris.
Thanks Ed.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Deluge2 View Post
How's about sharing H3 setup for the final video?
Thanks,
Steve
The camera was set to 720 @ 60 FPS.
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Old Aug 18, 2013, 11:25 AM
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Where can I get that landing skid?
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Old Aug 18, 2013, 11:26 AM
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USA, GA, Centerville
Joined Dec 2002
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Good review. I have been through the gamut of brushless gimbals and controllers since day one. I had some good results and a LOT of struggle. The H3-2D has been a pleasure in that regard; as I have said before it just works Yes, it costs more , and YES it is well worth it. I made this video after reading several folks comment that it wouldn't work in hard flight.

Bill Davenport
AMA 28141

Zenmuse H3-2D Torture Test GoPro 3 Black 1080/30/M (6 min 27 sec)
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Old Aug 18, 2013, 11:55 AM
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CSpaced's Avatar
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Quote:
Originally Posted by legionx79 View Post
Where can I get that landing skid?
Probably from DJI dealers soon....

http://www.dji.com/dji-officially-re...r-flame-wheel/
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Old Aug 19, 2013, 09:44 PM
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Good stuff!
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Old Aug 20, 2013, 10:18 AM
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Canada, ON, Rockland
Joined Aug 2008
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Did you add the gimbal to an existing f450 platform and if so did you have to re-adjust the gains?

I will be building one exactly like this for a friend and was just curious as to what to expect.
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Old Aug 20, 2013, 10:21 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by freechip View Post
Did you add the gimbal to an existing f450 platform and if so did you have to re-adjust the gains?

I will be building one exactly like this for a friend and was just curious as to what to expect.
I did add the gimbal to an existing 450, and I didn't have to adjust the gains. It flew great.
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Old Aug 20, 2013, 10:26 AM
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So the plan is to build it and test fly it.
Once it's flying how I want it I will add the Landing gear and gimbal.

This will be my first hands on experience with the Zenmuse product, looking forward to it and will surely post some pics and vids of the build and finish product.
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Old Aug 20, 2013, 10:28 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by freechip View Post
So the plan is to build it and test fly it.
Once it's flying how I want it I will add the Landing gear and gimbal.

This will be my first hands on experience with the Zenmuse product, looking forward to it and will surely post some pics and vids of the build and finish product.
Looking forward to it!
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Old Aug 20, 2013, 04:55 PM
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Great review ....

Make sure to use the latest Naza M firmware when using H3-2D.

http://download.dji-innovations.com/...e_notes_en.pdf
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Old Aug 20, 2013, 09:04 PM
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United States, CA, Big Bear
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Very nice review, You do an outstanding job!!!

I'm having a blast with my h3-2d, went down to a local lake with the family and was able to get a flight in before we got some t-storms.

Jenks Lake California (2 min 25 sec)
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Old Aug 20, 2013, 10:18 PM
DJI Support
Las Vegas/Lake Tahoe
Joined Feb 2010
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I too join the crowd. The H3-2D is a great gimbal. My company now wants me to film our communities to promote our services. I have two set up for next week. It is nice to have an alternative to my S800 and Nex5N with the Zen. These are not high paying gigs so having $8k in the air is not justified.

Here are some shots that I did in Las Vegas and Tahoe.

Tahoe Test Aug 10 2013 (2 min 37 sec)


I am still working on settling down the yaw axis which is always a problem for a 2 axis gimbal. Am I asking for the H3-3D, yup. I thought that I did not need the 3 axis Z15 but was I wrong.
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