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Cameras and camera settings for aerial photography

It seems as though a lot of people spend plenty of time optimizing platforms and not the camera settings. I guess this might not be the place for this discussion, and if moderators decided to delete it so be it. I just wanted to start a discussion about what cameras folks are using and what settings have they used to get optimal photo quality when using UAV’s for aerial mapping. We have used a slew of cameras from A6000, QX1, A7R iii, micasense rededge.

I have struggled getting settings right on the QX1 A7R iii, and the A6000 as there are so many settings to set and I lack quite a bit of knowledge about camera’s, hence asking the community to help each other out.

Normally we focus to infinity on all of our cameras as to get the best depth, but have noticed that sometimes these are not correct. What I would like to hash out would be some sort of optimal settings for cloudy (overcast) conditions, and also settings for sunny conditions.

The micasense is pretty much point and shoot and provides good imagery, but this is also because you have no settings to set and these have been optimized for aerial photos.


I remember seeing some tutorials on the pix4d site.

can you post a link to this info.?

Following this thread, as my main job is doing aerial mapping too.

Currently, i’m using Sony A5100 and RX0 for normal flight applications.
and using sony a6000 for RTK/PPK Flight.

Set the focus to infinity and set the shutter speed to 1/1600 works well for me, at least in Indonesia.

It all depends on the altitude and speed you are flying. We are using a Sony A5100 at 200 meter altitude with 75km/h and 28 mm lens. For this we use 1/2500 shutter speed, auto fucus and auto iso. Works like a charm.

Before we used the same camera, at 300 meter, 75 km/h and 16mm lens. That required 1/1600 shutter speed, auto focus and auto iso as well.

Very interesting to see that some shoot auto focus and others focus to infinity. I was always under the impression that you wanted to focus to infinity for aerial mapping photos as to get the best depth of field. What sorts of environments are you all mapping? I have mainly been mapping heavy forested environments which is difficult given that it all looks the same from photo to photo. I have found that mapping urban environments is quite a bit easier because there is structures with good geometry for use as tie points.

Hey Matt_C. Can you tell me what you ever found out on the settings? I have a M200 and I want to order a 3rd party gimbal for it to mount the A6000 along with Emlid M+ for PPK mapping. I have done some PPK mapping on the P4P but I have to believe it would be a sweet setup having the A6000 on my M200 with the Emlid connected to the hotshoe. Any input you (or any of the folks on this thread) can give me will be greatly appreciated.

Which lens do you use on the A6000? I have the A6000, I just need to order this gimbal - and make sure I have the right lens.

Thanks for any help!!

we always used a 16mm lens for our work. It really depends on a lot of factors but we settled on 16mm. Focus to infinity then back the focus off 1/4 turn and tape the lens. Might be different with a gimbaled setup and the ability to control cam from remote but 99% of what we do was “NADIR” mapping. If you want cinematography get a DJI or something setup with a gimbal that is capable and designed for such. You do not need gimbaled camera to map just need to make sure sidelap is adequate to account for trapezoidal photo footprint, and some anecdotal evidence from the 100’s of flights I have done with gimbaled vs non I think when building SfM point clouds having an oblique photo adds to the reconstruction of below canopy structure, again have not done much statistical analysis to prove that but from the naked eye they appear to have been better. We recently moved onto a RX1RII due to the 42 MP capability but with a fixed 35mm lens. Really the lens has to do with how large of a foot print the image takes and you want to optimize this for what data you are acquiring. It comes down to efficency and limiting the amount of time in the air which limits exposure and risk. Its a trade off between how much detail you need for the mission you are flying and how much risk you are willing to take flying a long mission. I prefer to fly short mission as still at 400ft with 24mp camera you are still looking at around 2-4cm pixels, how many people actually need that sort of detail really? We have given some state agencies data with that much resolution and they came back and asked us to resample it to 15-20cm pixels because their computers could not handle the amount of data in the 2-4cm range. So really the main question is what does your client require? No sense strapping a 7K dollar camera when the 300 dollar one will due! Sorry I bet I didn’t answer your question.

That is very good info. I use the P4P and Inspire 2 for mapping. I have done some PPK mapping with the P4P using the Emlid M+ unit but it does not connect to the camera and only uses the “blink” on the P4P to time stamp the event file in the M+. Since I had the M200, a Sony A6000, and an Emlid M2, I figured it would be nice to use that for PPK mapping. I have to believe I could get some good accuracy with it since the M2 would be connected to the hotshoe of the camera. The gimbal to fit the M200 for the A6000 would be about $375 . I would only fly this in nadir flights. The gimbal is a 2 axis gimbal and would work well for keeping it stable/ 90°.

Thank you for the info!! Very helpful indeed. I will start with a 16mm lens and just see how it goes. Have a great upcoming weekend!

They will indeed be more accurate using a hotshoe, there are plenty of threads on emild about timestamp offsets and how the shutter is triggered for very accurate timestamps. We have used a lot of emlid products and really enjoy them. For best accuracy ppk
is the best. A lot of the research we have done uses dji just because it can be crashed and replaced in cpl hrs. That being said ardu gives you complete control that dji doesn’t. I have seen that site for gimbals please share your experience as I have been
hesitant to order from them (to me website looks suspect, probably just me) like I said, all keeping nadir photos does in my opinion, is allow you to cut down on endlap and sidelap to a bare minimum and still get coverage. Is adding 300 grams to the overall
weight plus the a6000 (500gr) equal or better than having more flight time depends on how much you want to chop down the side/endlap which also saves time but in the heavily forested areas we work we end up always have quite excessive endlap and sidelap. You
can get the imu data from the m2 and m+ and also set a offset to get quite accurate camera positions even without the gimbal pretty much the aircraft acts as the gimbal data and the cameras are positioned accordingly.

mattc_C : I am using the A6000 and M+. Need certain help to extract accuracy related data. Could you please help me to understand it more?

Matt, I have actually ordered a Gremsy T3 gimbal and an Air Commander Entire 2 to trigger the A6000. You mentioned the M2 can capture the IMU data. Are you referring to the gimbal IMU? If so can you elaborate on capturing that data with the Emlid M2 or M+? Right now, the Air Commander will handle everything nicely except capture the gimbal data (roll, pitch, and yaw) from the Gremsy gimbal.

I see that user @mohitgupta92 is also seeking the same thing. So may they have some insight on this as well.

Thanks again for your previous reply. This is mounting on an M600 Pro.

Matt, I finally got my rig on done and ready to start doing the final testing. I think I am going to be very happy. With the exception of one thing… the SD card in the A6000! It was a pain when I used it for normal photography, and now that it is on the gimbal even more so. Do you use an extension ribbon of any kind or do you guys just remove it the camera? I have the Gremsy T3 so I could slice the camera back. If I removed the door, put a tape extension on the SD card, then it would be much easier to remove it from the camera. First wanted to see if anyone is using a ribbon extension. Thanks, Tim

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