How to Choose a Drone

How to Choose a Drone

Would like to know how to choose a drone that is cheap but high-quality? 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.

how to choose a drone

This piece of high-end technology does need some consideration before purchase, however. The following 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.

Features to Look for in a Photography Drone

Here are a few questions to ask before choosing a drone with camera for your application:

  1. How wide is the view from the lens?
  2. How much data can be stored on the drone?
  3. Can settings like ISO, shutter speed, and exposure be controlled?
  4. What’s the maximum video setting in FPS (frames per second) and resolution (4K, 100p)?
  5. Does the software support automatic following and subject tracking?
  6. Does the camera have gimbal stabilization?
  7. Is optical or digital zoom included?
  8. What’s the effective range and speed?
use lens filters different frame rate smooth flight control View Drone Photography Kit Prices

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 with 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.

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 a 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 auto camera. It’s an excellent idea to be able to fly without GPS, however, in case there is a loss 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 a costly 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 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.

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:

READ FFA REGULATIONS

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.

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 moments 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…

Drone Photo or Video Editing Software

Image editing

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.

Why Should You Get a Drone with Camera?

Nowadays 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?

Man watching and navigating a flying drone in blue clear sky

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 getting 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 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 created with drones with camera are almost endless.

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 for gopro will be able to produce images at 4K quality, and has compatibility with HERO7, HERO6, Fusion, you name it.

camera drone

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 types 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.

Drone flight time is also one of the most frequently asked questions, so it’s essential to know and validate the battery life of the drone that you’re looking. It 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 the desired location, adjusting, returning home, and landing.

All of these operations can eat into the time you have to operate your flying drone to get the shot you need. These factors can take a drone with a 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.

What About First Person View (FPV) Drones?

Man flying his racer drone wearing virtual reality glasses

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.

key drone

It is worth noting 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 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 cleanest 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.

What Drone with Camera Do You Recommend?

Well, if your budget is…


Low: UDI818A Drone

drone UDI818A View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Durable
  • Incredibly fun
  • Easy to fly
  • Camera included
  • Charger included
Cons-
  • Instructions are weirdly translated
 

Intermediate: 3DR Solo Drone

3DR Solo Drone View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Very Fast
  • Responsive
  • Intelligent modes work pretty well
Cons-
  • Old technology
  • Does not come with a Gimbal
  • Poor customer support from 3DR
  • Software can be laggy
 

Prosumer: DJI Mavic 2 Pro

DJI Mavic 2 Pro View Prices on Amazon
Pros+
  • Flight time is awesome
  • 4K HQ mode
  • Fantastic camera image quality
  • 2x zoom
Cons-
  • Expensive
  • Not for beginners
 

Get out there, get a drone with camera, and take some pictures! What are you waiting?


By Oliver McClintock

Oliver McClintock is a passionate drone guy who loves hanging out with his uber cool drones. He is a tech geek by blood and always like to fiddle around with remote control products. His love for quadcopters will never stop and to help spread the love he created a drone blog. It has everything you need to know about drones including reviews, buyer guides, news, resources all under one roof.


Ann Young

Hi there, I'm Ann Young - a photographer, photo retoucher and of course, journalist. Here on FixThePhoto blog you can find all of my reviews, photography and photo editing tips, pricing guides, and photography experiments. read more