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8 essential things you need to know before buying a drone for photography

19 February 2021 by Adrienn Kerekes 0 Comments

Photography drones allow individuals to take photos that were previously only possible from a helicopter or airplane. More and more photographers are buying drones and trying their luck in aerial photography. If you're new to both drones and photography, read our "Best Camera Drone Buying Guide" to get started. The article covers all the key factors when choosing a camera drone, including flight safety, imaging systems, signal transmission systems, smart features, portability and features. With five years of photography experience and three years of Phantom piloting, I recommend the following eight things to consider before purchasing a photography drone:

1. The most important thing is image quality.
If you know anything about cameras, you know that sensors have a direct impact on image quality. The same applies to drones suitable for aerial photography. In the drone market, the 1-inch sensor is becoming the benchmark, used by consumer drones like the new Mavic 2 Pro and professional photography drones like the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 . The most powerful professional photography drone, the Inspire 2 (with a Zenmuse X5 camera), uses a 4/3-inch CMOS sensor.

The larger CMOS makes it easier to take high-quality shots in low light conditions ( see the low light test ), but unless you're shooting primarily at night, you don't have to worry about it. Based on our tests, both the Mavic Pro and the Phantom provide high-quality images during daytime shooting.

2. Do you need 4K video?
Drone video resolutions can vary from lower quality HD to 4K. If editing your video means adding a filter and uploading it to Facebook or Instagram, 1080p recording is sufficient. But if you're a vlogger or want to make a movie-like video, it's better to work in 4K. Editing the video reduces the resolution of the recording due to scaling, rotation, and cutting. If you start from 1080p source material, the resulting video is noticeably less sharp. 4K video gives you a lot of extra pixels.

You can also see frames per second (fps) values ​​listed among the drone specifications. FPS tells you how many unique, consecutive images a camera can handle each second. A smooth recording can be made from 24 fps to 30 fps. However, for special effects like slow motion, you need 60 fps.

3. Do you need Raw/DNG format support?
If you don't post-process with Lightroom or Photoshop, you can skip this paragraph. But almost all photographers edit their images in some way. If a camera drone is capable of capturing RAW/DNG images, this allows for a number of editing options in post-production. In RAW/DNG format, a photo records all the data captured by the camera's sensor. This is especially important for night shots. The RAW/DNG format creates more options for aerial photographers.

(On the left is the Raw photo, which I recorded with P4P. On the right is the final work.)

4. Does the drone hover perfectly still?

Stable hovering is extremely important for image quality. If a drone can't hover, it will constantly rise, fall, or side to side, causing the image to blur. Stable hovering requires an advanced flight control system and on-board sensors. In this regard, many pilots agree that DJI drones are far and away the market leaders. You do not believe me? Check out some DJI drone videos on YouTube and check out their hover feature. Needless to say, Spark's hover features are particularly good.

5. Buy a camera drone with a gimbal.
A gimbal is an essential piece of equipment for still video. Some cheap camera drones only offer gimbals as accessories or not at all. Without a gimbal, shaky videos are inevitable. To avoid this, always choose a camera drone equipped with a gimbal. As far as I know, the DJI Phantom series was the first user drone series equipped with a 3-axis gimbal. The new Mavic 2 is also equipped with a tiny 3-axis gimbal designed for smaller drones, a milestone in gimbal technology.

6. Don't worry about flight time.
Here's the truth: most camera drones can't fly for more than 30 minutes. The drone industry does not yet have a solution for this. Drones with a flight time of more than 20 minutes are considered the top of the industry. It is definitely better to choose a drone with a longer flight time, such as the Mavic 2, which has a maximum flight time of 31 minutes. However, it is more important to learn how to use every second and buy at least two extra batteries.

7. Intelligent functions.
Good camera drones are expensive. Not only because they have good image quality and a good flight control system, but also because they are equipped with intelligent recording support systems. Drones can auto-follow, fly between waypoints, take selfies with a swipe, and much more. Different camera drones have unique functions. The Mavic 2 Zoom, for example, has a 2x optical zoom that allows the user to zoom in for a close-up shot without disturbing their subject. The Phantom 4 Pro is equipped with a mechanical shutter to prevent distortion when shooting high-speed subjects, while the professional-level Inspire 2 supports dual-operator control.

8. Buy a popular drone.
There are many benefits to owning a popular drone. It makes it easy for beginners to get answers to their questions. Let's say you notice a problem with your drone. For popular drone models, you can easily find a solution with the help of other pilots in online forums or social media groups. Plus, there are thousands of tips and tutorials available on YouTube to help you become a better pilot and photographer. You can also buy a whole bunch of accessories made by other manufacturers.


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