Choosing Your Drone With Camera
It seems like everyone is picking up a drone with camera these days. Aerial videos and photos are becoming a more common sight on everything from social media to news stories, to industry publications. Drones are a great combination of both flight and visual technology that can make any multimedia project stand out. This piece of high-end technology does need some consideration before purchase, however. This buyer’s guide will help you make the right determination on which drone with camera to choose before taking to the skies and getting amazing aerial shots!
Why Should You Get a Drone with Camera?
These days everyone is a photographer, with powerful smartphones and ever-cheaper DSLR cameras anyone can share what they see. What if you wanted your photos to stand out, to be different, to show everyone what they couldn’t see before?
Photography drones can be better than ground-based photography for many reasons. They’re becoming very popular across many industries at an incredible pace. Some of the most legitimate business applications where drones are being used are event photography, industrial applications (construction, agriculture and insurance, for example), and photography hobbyists. Construction companies are even using drones to provide project updates to clients and investors. It can also be as simple as someone with an interest in drone photography having the ability to take photos and video from an angle that they’ve never seen before. With new advances in live streaming to sites like Facebook and Youtube and the ability to share your across many platforms, the creative and business possibilities that can be created with a drone with camera are almost endless!
Features to Look for in a Photography Drone
The first logical feature you will look for in your quadcopter is the type and capability of the drone camera it uses. Most drones come with a built-in camera that has complete control of shutter speed and zoom among other features. A high-end drone with camera will be able to produce images at 4K quality (see our Phantom 4 review!), and has compatibility with devices of all kinds – smartphones, tablets, you name it.
Depending on your use (photo, video, or both), you might look for different features. Aerial photography enthusiasts will look for control over manual settings like shutter speed, exposure, drone stability, and ISO control. Drones like the DJI Phantom 4, the Yuneec Q500, and DJI Mavic Pro are all different typs of “prosumer” aerial platforms in this category due to their reasonable price points and technological capability.
Aerial videography experts might look for the ability to use lens filters, different frame rates, smooth flight control, and the ability to store lots of data for high-resolution shots. Drones like the DJI Inspire series or the DJI Matrice 600 are typically thought of as the premier class of photography and videography platform.
Here are a few things to consider before choosing a drone with camera for your application:
- How wide is the view from the lens?
- How much data can be stored on the drone?
- Can settings like ISO, shutter speed, and exposure be controlled?
- What’s the maximum video setting in FPS (frames per second) and resolution (4K, 100p)
- Does the software support automatic following and subject tracking?
- Does the camera have gimbal stabilization?
- Is optical or digital zoom included?
- What’s the effective range and speed?
Drone flight time is also one of the most frequently asked questions, so it’s very important to know and validate the battery life of the drone that you’re looking for. This can be tricky, as a manufacturer can sometimes claim more flight time in its specs, the reality is much different. Operators have to consider time for taking off, flying to a desired location, adjusting, returning home, and landing. All of these operations can eat into the time you actually have to operate your flying drone to get the shot you need. These factors can take a drone with flight time of 20 minutes-plus or more, down as far as 14 minutes during actual flight time. When you’re researching flight time, it’s also smart to check if the drone with camera has a safety feature that makes the drone return when it is at low battery, something that has become available in many drone models. Right now your best bet is either the DJI Mavic Pro at 27 minutes of flight time or the DJI Phantom 4 at 28 minutes of flight time
What About First Person View (FPV) Drones?
If you want to see the footage your drone with camera is shooting live, then you can add a first-person view attachment to the controller. This view places you in the driver’s seat of the drone and lets you get a true bird’s eye view! Many racing drones including the Drone Racing League have pilots that are operating in FPV mode at speeds of up to 100 mph! There are many drone fans unsatisfied with what is in the box and fiddle with rotors, cameras, and other parts. Many do-it-yourself kits are available for purchase, with optional kits you can buy that allow you to add more rotors, Wi-Fi functionality, and more. It is worth noting that if you go DIY with an existing pre-built quadcopter with camera, your warranty might not cover any damages later on. DIY drones are increasing in popularity and can be seen in make-it-yourself meetups and racing events across the country.
Your flight range and ability to see in FPV really comes down to two main technology options – Wi-Fi, or 2.4 GHz. A Wi-Fi transmitter range is about 150 meters and produces quality video and is more accessible – it can connect to smartphones and tablets – but it can get interference from other Wi-Fi networks. The 2.4 GHz has the clearest image of all frequencies, and produces a much higher range than WiFi or digital. We’ve seen drones on 2.4GHz frequencies fly up to 5 miles, but the manufacturer limits typically are around 1 mile.
Key Drone Features to Look for
Whether you’re just getting into a career as a photographer or you’re a seasoned pro, you might already know that many in the photography industry have let go of the tripod and replaced it with propellers instead. The difference in what drone they pick is dependent on their level of experience – you can be stellar at taking aerial pictures, but it amounts to nothing if you can’t operate the quadcopter or even worse, crash your drone!
Many factors are at play when selecting a drone that is going to do what you need to to do and last you a long time. Take a look at these drone with camera qualities when looking around:
- Durability – It is inevitable that there will be a few bumps along the first flight or two. The drone you need must have the ability to withstand wind, dust, and long range flights to be one that you’re going to be able to fly for years to come.
- Ease of Use – The more time a person spends operating the drone instead of fiddling through an instruction manual, the better. You want easy-to-use, smooth operation for the best footage. Check out our post on the best ready to fly drones if you’re interested in finding drones that are easy to operate and get off the ground at all budget levels.
- Camera Gimbal – Some drones come with a professional-level camera gimbal that provides firm camera positioning and image stability that increases quality despite flight vibration. A gimbal helps the drone stabilize images so that you get better photo and video quality that isn’t shaky.
- GPS features – Look for precise positioning from GPS to help you create the perfect flight path, all tailored to work with an automated camera. It’s a good idea to be able to fly without GPS, however, in case there is a los of link or signal. GPS capability enables all kinds of cool crash-preventing features like automated flight paths and return-to-home functionality.
- Lift Systems – If you are using very expensive drone with camera equipment, it would be a good idea in buying a camera drone that has redundancy power in case one of the motors shut down. Lift systems are more important to consider if you’re going to be transporting any kind of cargo with your quadcopter.
What Else Do I Need to Consider?
The next things you’re going to want to consider are staying safe, making your pictures and videos shine, and making sure you don’t crash. We’ve got some links below to help keep your drone with camera in the skies and off of the pavement:
FAA Rules & Regulations
If you’re going to be flying as a hobbyist, it’s good to know some of the most basic ground rules. If you only remember 3 rules, make sure you follow these:
- Don’t fly your drone over people, airports, or major events. Not only can you injure people in the event of a crash, but you could incite panic or get in serious trouble with the FAA or local law enforcement. Make sure you check all temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) before flying. Don’t fly in rainy or foggy weather, either! You can find the entire text of the FAA hobbyist regulations here.
- Make sure your flight path is clear of any obstacles and know your backup plan. Crashing into power lines or buildings isn’t only dangerous, but it’s expensive when you have to replace your drone and someone else’s property! Take an extra few minutes to plan out your flight so you stay safe and maximize your battery for getting the shots that you want!
- Have fun and keep participants safe! Nobody likes a propeller to the eye….
You’re going to want to learn how to edit your photos and videos to make your media stand out! There are fantastic tutorials on Youtube and online depending on what you want to learn….I recommend starting with Lightroom for photo editing and using either Adobe Premiere Pro or Davinci Resolve for video editing. Once you learn to create amazing images, make sure to share them with friends and family! Check out our Instagram for inspiration on what to do with your photos & drone!
What Drone with Camera Do You Recommend?
Well, if your budget is…
Get out there, get a drone with camera, and take some pictures! What are you waiting for?