QUICK GUIDE TO BUYING A DRONE WITH A CAMERA
If you are getting interested in buying a drone, it is important to know why you are buying. If you are buying purely for recreational purposes, the best reason to buy a drone is so that you can take photographs and video with it. With so many drones to on the market, it can be difficult to decide because each has their strengths and weaknesses. Drones start at around 50 dollars and can get expensive really fast. Nevertheless, there are important features and functions you will need. I’m explaining those here.
Consumer drones are not easily separated into different categories. That doesn’t mean there are some major differences between the budget model and the more expensive. The Hubsan H107C+ is a great example of a budget camera drone that even comes with its own carry case for around $100. Let’s not forget there are even small foldable drones available for under $10 on ebay.
CHOOSING YOUR DRONE
It makes sense to go for a low-cost drone if you are buying one for the first time. There is no point getting an expensive drone and destroying it because you don’t have much experience in flying. The last thing you want to do is smash up a $2500 investment.
That being said, it is important you consider the camera type. The quality of the camera also has a lot to do with price. If you get a drone that doesn’t have a decent camera, you are likely to get disappointed very fast. You can’t take decent photography if you have a cheap and dodgy camera. Not all drones come with cameras either. I simply recommend going for a drone that isn’t too budget but is not one that is going to hurt too much if you destroy it. Use a budget drone to get some practice at flying and use a drone with the specifications you need for photography as you build your confidence.
A LOOK AT IMPORTANT DRONE SPECIFICATIONS
It’s simple enough to decide on whether a drone offers what you want or will be satisfied with by looking at some key specifications.
DRONE CAMERA ESSENTIALS
I suggest getting a drone with a camera unless you are a real photography buff. In that case, you are probably looking for a particular camera type and you will want to make 2 purchases – your drone and a camera. Standards range from the most basic VGA to 4K. There is nothing quite like 4K and that is where your costs will start to rise. Another thing to look for is a gimbal that will keep your camera from bopping about while the drone flies around. As you can imagine, better specifications soon start to add cost. The DJI Phantom with a 4K camera might look very similar to the Hubsan H107C+ at first glance but costs around $1700.
Being able to record directly to an onboard memory card is a big issue too. That’s compared with sending your footage to your phone via wifi, which results in footage that isn’t as high-quality by any stretch of the imagination.
Even though many drones have cameras, not all can also send back a video feed to your smartphone or your remote control. It’s no good if you can see what you are recording when you are recording it.
Brushless motors are great for giving you more power and power that is delivered smoother. Brushless motors give you better flight control, which is really important for taking smooth video footage. Brushless motors generally last longer and give slightly longer flying times. It is important to note that most drones can only fly for around 30 minutes. You will always want an extra battery or 2, or even 3. There’s not really that can be done in 30 minutes of flying time when you have the whole afternoon. I suggest thinking about this extra cost so that you have calculated the cost of a stack of extra batteries and even a second charger.
GPS STABILIZATION AND EXTRA FEATURES
Don’t be fooled into thinking that all drones are the same. A Quadcopter is essentially a remote control copter with 4 sets of blades. A drone is a drone because it has some autonomous capabilities. GPS stabilisation is an important feature for taking photos and especially video because it allows you to hover in one spot without holding your controls.
Automatic obstacle avoidance is really important to avoid crashes into trees and the like, while a return-to-home feature is a fast way to get your drone back to you when you cannot see it. A follow-me feature will follow you when you are on a bicycle too. All of these extra features come with a price premium.
As you can imagine already, extra features and better cameras tend to come together in the one package. This is why a budget drone isn’t much use for anyone who wants to take great photography. Anything but great photography isn’t much good to any of us.
With all that in mind, I suggest you do what I did and go for something really budget while learning how to fly. That way when you use something that is at the other end of the spectrum, it’s not the first time you flew a drone. A really budget drone isn’t much good for anything but flying around for a bit of fun, and even then they are best for younger children. You can’t take decent photography and video that is of any worth with a camera that isn’t much better than a webcam either.
Finally, another important issue to think about is replacement parts and repairs. You want to make sure you know you can get them readily. A drone has moving parts and that means some of them will need replacement in the long run. If you do crash, you want to know you can fix it. Again, cheaper drones and drones with obscure brand names are harder to get extra batteries and spare parts for.
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