DJI Cendence: Hands-On Expert Review

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dji cendence transmitter lead

In this article I delve deeper into the DJI Cendence and talk about the practicalities, user experience and some of the details that DJI didn’t mention or that you may have missed. If you just want to learn an overview on what the Cendence offers, this blog isn’t for you – if that is you, I recommend you check out the product page for that.

I should point out that the patch antenna only comes included with the Cendence with purchases made before April 2018.

Key Features

Before we get into it lets quickly recap over the Cendence’s key highlights:

  • Compatible with Inspire 2 and Matrice 200 series
  • Five analog control channels and over ten customizable buttons
  • Interchangeable batteries and antenna
  • HDMI, SDI, USB, and CAN ports provide robust expansion capabilities
  • RRP £949 (inclusive of VAT)

Who is the DJI Cendence aimed at?

The Cendence if definitely a pro piece of kit and I can see it being a great tool for either one-person operators or for camera/gimbal operators.

As a camera operator in a two-person op scenario, one of the key attractions for using the Cendence is the knob in the middle which can be used for adjusting the focus smoothly and accurately. Although you can adjust the focus manually with the standard controller or through the app, there’s no finite control.

What about the DJI Focus though? If you’re cam-op is operating the focus, this eliminates the need for the DJI Focus wheel which you previously had to bolt onto the side of your RC. However, if you want to have someone as a dedicated focus puller, you’d still want the Focus wheel as a separate module.

dji-inspire-2-controller-focus-no-handwheel-mount

Single person operators will love being able use the two spring loaded wheels when one is assigned to panning and the gimbal, and the other to tilt it. Before this, you only had the one spring loaded wheel so you could only ever have control of one of the two axis at anyone time. Now you can adjust the pan and tilt of the camera without having to adjust the orientation of the aircraft.

For the time being, for a pilot in a two person operation, I can’t see the Cendence offering much value unless DJI release a velocity clamp function which could be adjusted by the focus knob or by the sliders on the side of the controller.

DJI-Cendence_patch-antenna-folded

DJI Cendence for Live Broadcasting

As well as the HDMI out, the Cendence also has an integrated SDI out port (which uses the standard BNC connector), making it ideal for outputting a direct standard broadcasting signal which is great for those wanting to broadcast to live TV or for integration with other video downlink systems like the Teredeck.

Before this, the only way to get an SDI feed from a DJI product was to use the HDMI out and plug that into a third party HDMI to SDI converter.

DJI-Cendence_connectors

Extended Range and Signal Quality

Here in the UK, unless you have expressed permission from the CAA, whether you’re a commercial operator or a hobbyist, you cannot legally fly further than 500 metres so even with the standard RC that comes with the Inspire or M200, you already have the capability to fly over 14 times the legal distance.

The stock omni directional antenna, provide the same range and quality as you’d get with the standard Inspire or M200 RC as they use the controllers have the same transmitting power and the antenna have the same gain.

DJI-Cendence_review-feature-image

It’s only when the Cendence is paired with the patch antenna where you will see dramatically improved range thanks to the higher gain. It is important to note that the patch antenna is highly directional so to get the best range it always needs to be facing in the direction of the aircraft.

DJI-Cendence_patch-antenna

Where the patch antenna may prove valuable for people operating within 500m is that, because it’s directional, you shouldn’t pick up as much interference which will give you a cleaner video feed, especially in RF noisey environments.

DJI-Cendence_antenna-options

Unfortunately the antenna mount appears proprietary so we’re still locked into using DJI antennas.

DJI-Cendence_omni-directional-antenna-port

Size, Weight and Ergonomics

Coming in at 1.1kg, with the standard antenna or 1.4kg the patch antenna, the weight of the controller is slightly heavier than previous controllers and that’s before adding a monitor or using the patch antenna. Fully loaded with the Cendence and CrystalSky 7.85″ it comes to 1.8kg. For reference, the Inspire 2 controller weighs only 1kg. Although DJI do provide their own chest strap to hold the transmitter, if I was to use this setup for extended periods of time I would look at using a transmitter tray instead (note: The Cendence will not fit on a Secraft tray).

DJI-Cendence_on-chest-mount-lanyard

It is a big transmitter and because all the switches, knobs and sliders are spread out over the controller, you do need to have big hands. I passed the transmitter around the office and although everyone could hold it, they couldn’t necessarily all hold it and operate every button while keeping a grip on the sticks.

DJI-Cendence_large-small-hands-operator

Interchangeable Battery

The external battery is a much welcomed feature as many people found with the Inspire 2 controller, the battery life wasn’t great. You can recharge the battery either when it’s in the controller (as done previously) or you can remove it and pop it on a charger (not included). Another bonus is that the batteries for the Cendence are the same as those used for the Crystalsky. Unfortunately you cannot power the Crystalsky fron the Cendence but the CrystalSky does recognise when the Cendence has been powered on and will automatically turn itself on and open up the DJI Go 4 app which is a neat little touch. If you are still using a tablet or mobile device, you can still charge it via the USB port. Note that if you don’t want to use a Crystalsky, you will have to buy the Cendence Mobile Device Holder to hold your device – the standard inspire 2 holder it not compatible with the Cendence.

DJI-Cendence_battery-removed-connector

Dust Covers

DJI have provided rubber covers that fit over the sticks to prevent debris from getting into the gimbal. In my personal experience I’ve never found this to be an issue with previous controllers but I can’t see any harm in installing them anyway. My initial concern was they they may limit the range of movement or make the sticks feel slightly stiffer but I was surprised at how free they still felt.

DJI-Cendence_stick-covers

The SDI port also comes with a rubber cap to help protect it when not in use. My only criticism of this is that there is nothing that will keep it attached to the controller when the SDI port is in use so it could easily get misplaced.

DJI-Cendence_SDI-port

Display Screen

The display on the controller provides different key information depending on whether it is in Master (Pilot) or Assistant (Camera Operator) mode.

Cendence-display-pilot-camera-operator-settings

Focus Knob

The focus knob in the middle of the controller is fantastic. It’s very firm and doesn’t click, making it very easy to accurately and smoothly pull focus, unlike you could before with the standard Inspire 2 controller or via the app.

Another benefit of it being so firm is that you don’t need to tip toe around it in fear of knocking it.

DJI-Cendence_focus-pot-dial

Multiple Configurations

I often work with various camera operators so I love that the Cendence allows your to have up to 5 user profiles that can all have their own button configurations and settings. No more having to re-adjust everything every time you change operator.

Another feature I noticed was that you can also save and export these user profiles to another Cendence unit. Pretty neat!

DJI-Cendence-Go-App-Screenshot-User-Settings

Summary

With the steep price point aside, it’s a beautiful product. It feels well made and it definitely has the potential to be a great tool, especially for one person operators (with big hands) flying the Inspire 2 or M200.

If you’re interested in getting yourself a Cendence, you can head over to our store and place your order today. Or if i’ve left anything unclear or if you have any other questions that haven’t been answered in here or on the product page, do leave us a comment in the section below.

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