Best drones for filming and photography
Best drones for filming and photography
Most of you must have seen a bird or a plane like something flying not very high in the sky. Till a couple years back, these bird like and planes like figurines in the sky could not be named and recognized by many. But now most of the people who are aware of the latest technology know about the new sphere of taking one’s own photographs – the drones (Flying Camera anyone?). The drone is a remote controlled camera-equipment which can fly high in the sky and when the remote is pressed, it takes an amazing photograph. The drone with camera is considered to be a higher step version of the selfie-sticks. The drone does what selfie stick could not. The drone takes the complete photograph along with capturing the vast background – the two things impossible to capture by a selfie stick (no matter how long arms one might have). The drones help in making one feel what it’s like to watch the world from above, all the while never even leaving the ground. They help in shooting the bird’s eye view photographs and videos that humans could not, unless hanging down from a parachute.
The market for drones is quickly gaining pace. Along with the growing market, come the various companies and their drone products. The current range for drones is approximately $53 to 20,000. But since drone is a camera based equipment along with being remote controlled, the cheaper versions do not satisfy the requirements of the people buying drones. The cheaper versions have a poor quality camera, structure and remote wiring. Drones are like a one-time good investment, to get the best results. Below are some of the best RTF (Ready To Fly) and FPV (First Person View) drones for filming and photography purposes:
DJI – PHANTOM 3 Professional & Advanced
Professional – USD $1,259
Advanced – USD $999
- Fly 1.2 miles away
- 4K video or 1080 p
- Video editing software
- Legs with high-powered antenna
DJI’s Phantom 3 is a drone with camera which is an easy to use intelligent system that helps in capturing the best shots. It is one of the best drones out there. Phantom 3 can fly up to 1.2 miles away, but even from that far, you will have complete control over its telemetry. It has a built-in Lightbridge technology that helps in monitoring the control over the Phantom 3 drone. You will also get a live HD view of everything below the drone. You can capture the beautiful world in either 1080p HD or 4K. Phantom 3 also provides you with the video editing software and livestreaming option.
The professional version of Phantom 3 comes with a 4K camera and the advanced version shoots 1080p HD. These amazing cameras help in beautifully clicking your way through the amazingly beautiful world at your fingertips. Connecting your phone or camera to the Phantom 3, gives you the live 720p HD view of everything the drone camera sees as it fly. The live view helps in getting the exact shot you need. The live HD view is possible all thanks to the DJI Lightbridge image transmission technology.
The Phantom 3’s all 4 legs contain a high powered antenna, which broadcasts the live video feed and receives control commands from any direction. Phantom 3 offers a beginner mode for the new users of drones and helps in flying within a limited area. It can be set to fly within a particular altitude and distance from the remote controller. This feature helps in keeping the drone within a restricted area for the beginners. One of the best features of Phantom 3 is its GPS enabled “geofence”. The GPS enabled geofence helps in protecting the drone to fly into unwanted areas or objects.
Phantom 3 is a new step towards technology advancement in the sense that the object flying 1.2 miles away can be fully controlled by a mobile device. Phantom 3’s mobile app can control the camera and change the flight settings. The video editor in the app helps in editing the video and livestream it to YouTube in seconds. It also contains the live map that helps in tracking the Phantom 3 at all times.
Phantom 3 contains automatic elements that helps in taking off, landing back home a very safe and easy procedure at the touch of a button. One click will turn on the motors of Phantom 3 and will make it rise to a pre-set height and will hover at that height until directed to move on. Another click will make the Phantom 3 return back from where it started using the GPS. Another great feature of Phantom 3 is its Intelligent Flight Battery. If the battery runs down and the drone loses contact with the remote control due to low battery, in this case the drone will automatically return back to the starting point of its flight and land safely. The battery has built-in sensors and LED’s that help in knowing the status and remaining battery power in real time. It continuously calculates the distance between the drone and controller and the amount of power needed to return back to base. This way one can always know when the battery needs to be charged.
DJI – INSPIRE 1
With single remote – USD $2,899
With dual remotes – USD $3,399
- 4K video and 12 megapixel photos
- 13-inch rotors
- Safety landing option
- No GPS Vision Positioning System
DJI’s another great drone with camera is INSPIRE 1 and is a ready to fly aerial system that is both powerful and light-weight to capture the best shots of the world beneath it. INSPIRE 1 is considered to be DJI’s most advanced serial system. INSPIRE 1’s camera is something to love as one can shoot a 4K video and capture 12 megapixel photographs all with the click of a button. The camera lens consists of 9 separate elements. One of the elements is an aspherical element which helps in achieving extreme clarity.
INSPIRE 1 is made up of excellent vision positioning system that consists of sensors that help in landing safely back at the base even when the GPS is unavailable. INSPIRE 1 has 13-inch quick release rotors that are made up of DJI “Z-blade”. They are enforced with carbon fiber compound to make sure of excellent performance and stability. INSPIRE 1 also comes with a DJI mobile app just like Phantom 3 does. The mobile app helps in controlling the aerial system all through the mobile app. One can also set up flight telemetry and even control the take-off and landing back to the base through the mobile app. It also provides live streaming upload to YouTube along with video editing option.
INSPIRE 1 is a multi-user friendly aerial equipment which provides dual remote controllers for you to share the control with your friends. One remote helps in flying the equipment and the other helps in capturing the photographs and videos. Each remote controller will have their own respective screens to see the live streaming of the view from the drone camera.
DJI has provided the most advanced camera with the invention of INSPIRE 1. DJI has developed technology so advance that it stabilizes the camera even in bad weather conditions. The camera provides 720p HD views of what the aircraft sees from above and thus helps in capturing the best shots and videos. This has been made possible by DJI’s Lionbridge technology which transmits the live video stream even from 1.2 miles away.
DJI has installed a unique and intelligent power management system in its aerial INSPIRE 1 gadget. The smart power management continuously calculates the distance between the drone and the remote controller and the amount of battery it will require to land back safely. This is an important aspect to know while continuing to fly the drone and know when it’s time to land back. INSPIRE 1 comes with a “No GPS Vision Positioning System” that helps in flying and landing back of the drone equipment even when no GPS is available. The drone responds to the remote commands even without GPS.
INSPIRE 1 also comes with a lot of camera settings that one can change manually. White balance, exposure, ISO etc. are just some of the camera settings that can be altered to capture the best shots. It comes with a Live Map which can be enlarged to see the flight’s path. INSPIRE 1 contains automatic elements that helps in taking off, landing back home a very safe and easy procedure at the touch of a button. One click will turn on the motors of INSPIRE 1 and will make it rise to a pre-set height and will hover at that height until directed to move on. Another click will make the INSPIRE 1 return back from where it started using the GPS. The remote control also contains a mini HDMI and an USB port to connect compatible screens or mobile devices.
3DR – Solo
Starting at USD $999
- Its own 1GHz computer
- Built-in HDMI port
- average 20 minutes flight time
3DR’s solo drone is a step ahead in the drone technology with its own 1 GHz computer. This technology provides the control of the drone equipment and camera at the fingertips. The 3DR controller seems natural from the beginning of its flight. The control stick features dedicated buttons for one-touch automatic takeoff, landing and pause. The 3DR comes with a complete camera control that enables you to shoot and capture images like a professional from day one. You can monitor and control the camera by tilting it to any respective angle and controlling its speed. You can also start and stop a GoPro during the flight. All the controlling and monitoring of the camera is possible while you receive live stream of what the drone sees, right in front of you on your connected mobile device.
3DR’s solo remote control has a Wi-Fi hub and a built-in HDMI port to live broadcast the GoPro HD video. 3DR’s technology enables the live streaming to be sent to any screen without compromising on the live HD stream on the mobile device. 3DR has developed the first of its kind drone to be connected to GoPro during flight. The 3-axis gimbal of the 3DR solo ensures the video footage to be stabilized to within 0.1 degrees of accuracy. You can start and stop recording while flying which makes it possible to choose the shots one wants. This greatly reduces the unwanted footage. The solo gimbal also powers the GoPro to power its battery and keep it running even during midflight.
3DR also comes with a pause button which halts the aerial equipment midair and hovers till the controller is ready to fly it again. The remote controller also doubles up as Solo’s black box, which saves valuable flight data in internal memory. 3DR helps in shooting smart shots like selfie, orbit shots or a hands free shot. You can capture a selfie in a portrait or a landscape mode along with capturing the vast world around you. The orbit mode puts the 3DR Solo on a circular path with the pre-set speed to capture dynamic shots. The hands-free mode keeps the 3DR Solo automatically following the controller. This is a great mode to switch to while traveling in a car or any moving vehicle for that matter. This hands-free mode keeps the camera centered on the controller at all times.
3DR or 3D Robotics is an American company, specializing in smart drones, advanced aerial cinema and UAV technology. 3DR solo is the world’s first GoPro optimized drone system. 3DR Solo offers regular software updates which are easy to install. 3DR Solo comes without the gimbal but can be easily purchased as an extra item to capture vibration-free videos. Most of the reviews state that the flight time per flight is an average of 20 minutes. 20 minutes is a pretty good number for the drones as of now. 3DR Solo is very sensitive to magnetic interference and will stop working if there is a magnetic object nearby. So it is advised to stay clear from any magnetic objects. An open field or an open area is one’s best bets for beginner learning of the drone use. 3DR Solo is very user-friendly and the regular updates from the company keep it up-to-date with the latest technological releases.
TYPHOON Q500 4K
Starting at $1,299.00 – $1,449.00
- UHD resolution
- 4k video and 12 megapixel photos
- All-in-one controller
- Non-distortion lens
Typhoon Q500 is drone with camera that comes with a built-in touchscreen and an integrated three axis gimbal camera. Typhoon Q500 comes with an ultra-high definition (UHD) resolution, which is four times higher than HD. It also allows for slow-motion video recording and can capture 12 megapixel photos. Typhoon Q500 provides 4K video recording feature. Typhoon Q500 4K is modular and can be mounted on both the Steadygrip and the aircraft. The Steadygrip combines the 4K UHD video camera with the 3-axis gimbal and allows for a stable video recording.
Typhoon Q500 comes with a variety of options to choose from for capturing images and videos. “Follow me” mode enables the control of the pilot who can fly and control the aircraft and the capturing easily and flexibly. “Watch me” mode allows for the 4K camera to be pointed at the pilot no matter at which angle the drone is handled. “Dynamic return home” mode allows for the Typhoon Q500 to fly back to the location of the pilot and automatically lands within 13-25 feet of the pilot.
Typhoon Q500 comes with an all-in-one controller called the ST10+. It is a transmitter of commands and receiver of the footage and other commands from the aircraft. ST10+ allows capturing videos and photos and features a 5.5 inch touch screen that displays the flight telemetry and other related information. The 5.5 inch touch screen obviates the need of any external portable screens or devices.
The intelligent 3-axis gimbal along with the camera and video downlink is an innovative combination that allows for tilt angle direction from the ST10+ and captures the world from above as a bird or a plane. It is referred to as a tripod in the sky. It also features a distortion free lens that allows the capturing of the beautiful world just as it is and without any distortions.
The screen on the ST10+ provides real time telemetry data like altitude, speed, distance from the pilot, battery status, GPS position coordinates etc. It also provides for manual alterations of camera settings like exposure, white balance, ISO, shutter speed etc. The Typhoon Q500 comes with a 5400mAh 3S 11V Lipo battery that allows for extended flight time.
The CGO3 mobile app when downloaded on any device helps in customizing one’s photographs and videos. It allows for real time uploading and broadcasting on YouTube. The app also allows the SteadyGrip to shoot videos, capture images and control the gimbal. There are several updates that one can upgrade to, to get latest technological advancements.
Typhoon Q500 is one of the best drones available in the market for filming and photography purposes. The excellent 4K camera and non-distortion lens are a boon to any photographer.
Parrot Bebop Drone with Skycontroller
Starting at $899.95
- 3-axis sensors
- 14 megapixel camera
- Access to Pilot Academy via app
- 2 joystick Controller
Parrot Bebop drone is a complete package of latest drone technology. The Bebop drone comes with 3-axis sensors – accelerometer, magnetometer and gyroscope. These 3 sensors help in stabilizing the drone aircraft without compromising on maneuverability. Thus, it helps in maintaining a fixed angle regardless of the tilting and the inclination of the drone. The Parrot Bebop also contains an ultrasound sensor with 26-foot reach and comes with a vertical camera to calculate the speed. The Parrot Bebop comes with a 14 megapixel camera and record videos and photographs in a 180 degree field.
The Parrot Bebop comes with a free piloting app for iPhone, iPod touch and iPad, called the Freeflight 3. It is a user-friendly app that helps in piloting the craft, capturing photos and videos, seeing the telemetry and gives access to Cloud Pilot Academy for instructions. Freeflight 3 gives the pilots one touch change in altitude, speed and directions of the craft. The remote – Skycontroller, comes with two joysticks to control and maneuver the craft and comes with a Wi-Fi and 4 antennas. It can easily be synced with other iOS devices over Wi-Fi.
The Freeflight 3 app is extremely user-friendly and helps in controlling the interface from any iOS device. It is drone beginner-friendly. Also the Parrot Bebop video and photo streaming is synchronized in real-time on your smartphone. One can instantly share one’s captures on Picassa, YouTube or Facebook. The Cloud Pilot Academy keeps track of all the telemetries and flight’s data. It also provides the option of sharing it with other pilots since there are more than 150,000 registered pilots on the app. You can also backup your sessions and other data over the academy.
DJI Spreading Wings S800 EVO
Starting at USD $2100
- Battery reserve for emergencies
- Foldable propellers
- Silicone rubber structure
- In-built centrifugal fan
The S800 EVO is a drone with camera designed for professional aerial photography. S800 EVO is the perfect choice for professionals as it is highly stable and strong and comes with a powerful battery system. Since it is comes in the area of professional photography, a long battery life is the key. S800 EVO provides a power reserve in cases for emergency. The propellers of the aircraft can be folded, thus enabling safe portability. It also comes with a vibration absorber, thus helping in capturing smooth and vibration free footage.
S800 EVO’s structure is made up of silicone rubber wires and is very compact, thus providing more space to install any extra equipment for the aerial projects. One of the best features of S800 EVO is its in-built centrifugal fan that helps in heat dissipation, thus cooling down the heated aircraft and expanding its battery life.
Starting at USD $8500
- Comes with MoVI gimbal
- Suitable for DSLRs
- Can support camera at top and bottom both
- 12V Power leads
Freefly’s Alta is an aerial filming equipment that when combined with MoVI gimbal, bolsters the camera either at the top or the bottom of the aircraft’s structure. This flexibility makes it possible to shoot a footage at any angle safely. Alta is even suitable for DSLR’s since the maximum weight load it can mount on itself is 15 lb. Mirrorless cameras and even compact cinema cameras can be propped up on the Alta, given that their weight is less than 15 lb. Alta works with a range of transmitters, ranging from radios, Futaba and even Spektrum. There are certain requirements that need to be taken care of though before setting up the transmitters. Alta comes with a variety of flight modes. Manual, position hold, height hold, ground speed control, auto-land and return-to-home are some of the flight modes that Alta is equipped with. For monitoring purposes, the controller works well with FPV systems from BOSCAM, Skyzone, Fatshark etc. The telemetry data and other information can be displayed on the OSD displays of these FPV systems.
Alta comes with batteries, charger, transmitter, MoVI gimbal and camera. Alta has folding propellers which makes it extremely portable. The propellers are made up of carbon and the carbon propellers allow the Alta to fly in a matter of seconds. The propellers automatically unfold themselves as they spin up to the sky. No tools are required to do any set-up pre-flight. Alta also comes with a vibration isolation system and thus obviates any high frequency disturbances and allows Alta to capture smooth and vibration free footage. Alta’s internal distribution board is conformal coated and is weather sealed. It comes with four 12V power leads that drive the LEDs and connections for FPV monitoring systems. Alta features low noise motors and propellers. Alta app can be used to change the color combination of the LEDs and for logging of telemetries and other related data for analysis.
Freefly’s Alta is a new age drone equipment that not only mounts the camera at the bottom but also at the top to take images of elevated subjects. This is what sets it apart from other drones in this price range.
Starting at USD $600
- 15-20 minutes flight time
- Easy assembly
- Integrated LEDs on arms
- Payload capacity of 0.8 lbs
3DR’s IRIS+ is a drone camera mount that would make the most of GoPro shots. IRIS+ can be linked to any android device, PC or Mac. IRIS+ can be pre-programmed to fly a particular pattern or follow a particular set of instructions in the sky. IRIS+ comes with the feature of ROI (Region of Interest) Waypoint which shoots the same spot continuously as it moves around the spot, thus providing shots of the same area from different angles.
IRIS+ can travel at an amazing speed of 40 miles per hour and can reach distances of up to 3,200 feet. IRIS+ comes ready to fly and does not need any installation or setting up except setting up the propellers. All one needs to do is to mount a camera over the IRIS+ and it is ready to take some spectacular aerial images and videos. The drone has a flight time of about 15-20 minutes, which is comparatively low as compared to other filming drones, but in the RC category, it lies within the average range. IRIS+ does not come with a built-in camera and the stabilization gimbal is an extra equipment that you will want to purchase for aerial filming.
One can also plan the flight path in advance using GPS for the smartphone or one’s desktop. Like many other filming drones, IRIS+ also offers a “Follow me” mode which pairs the drone with the controller’s smartphone or tablet and remains centered and focused on the controller and captures images and videos of the controller from the sky. Follow me feature gives the controller a hands-free experience. IRIS+ also comes with automatic return-to-home feature which lands the drone automatically if the battery of the controller dies or if prompted to do so. The remote controller comes with a screen that provides all the current telemetry and data related to the current flight. IRIS+ offers a 3-month warranty which is a lot more than what other drone providers provide the customers with.
Starting at USD $3200
- Can carry DSLRs
- Up to 15 minutes of flying time
- Retractable landing equipment
- 24 lbs. take-off weight
DJI’s S1000 is the drone for the best aerial footage recording. S1000 is an Octocopter and thus able to carry more weight than a general quadcopter. One can mount professional cameras on the S1000 as it can carry a lot of weight due to it being an Octocopter. Mounting professional cameras will help in capturing best quality footage with just a drone. S1000 though can carry heavy weighted cameras, is itself very light weighed. S1000 is made out of carbon fiber with only a few parts of aluminium and is thus very light. S1000 weighs a mere 8 lbs. but can carry a take-off weight of about 22 lbs.
Because of S1000’s eight rotors, the drone is very stable and can even handle certain levels of aerobatics. This would allow for even more graphically involved filming. S1000 is one that guarantees great shots. If any one of its eight rotors fails during mid-flight, the other seven will continue working and will continue capturing amazing footage and then land soon after. S1000 provides security that even if something goes wrong, the technology will continue working and won’t just stop mid-flight.
S1000 is a professional filming drone but is light weighed and portable enough to be carried along. It comes with foldable arms which neatly lock themselves up in place, making it easy to transport. One of the brilliant features of S1000 is the location of battery. The battery of S1000 is incorporated into the gimbal which reduces the vibration by a great extent. Reducing the vibration is a great way to minimize the retakes of shots due to blurred filming caused by vibration. S1000 comes with a flying time of about 15 minutes.
Walkera GPS QR X800
Starting at USD $1700
- FCS800 Multi Axis Control Platform
- 2 GPS flight platform
- Carbon Fiber Structure Design
- High Performance Brushless Motors
Walkera QR X800 is a GPS quadcopter that supports professional level photography as it carries action cameras like GoPro Hero 3, SJ4000 and others. It is extremely portable due to its retractable landing gear and a foldable frame design. One of the best parts about a Walkera QR X800 is its battery power which enables its flying time to be about 40 minutes. X800 is made up of carbon fiber and glass fiber.
One can also connect the X800 to MAVlink compatible software like Mission Planner and thus gaining access to a huge range of options from selecting flight modes to advanced tuning. Also, no set-up is required for X800, as it comes completely installed. The GPS installation in X800 makes it easy for the users to reach where ever they want to and take innumerable shots all the while staying at the ground. With this professional camera mounted drone, there will be no need to rent any more choppers for days to get an aerial shot.
There are a lot of filming drones available in the market today. Drones with camera come in various price range from less than $50 to exceeding more than few thousands of dollars. It might get difficult to choose a drone, especially when one does not have prior experience with the drones. It is recommended to read a lot of reviews before choosing the one. Also, do not be tempted by the cheap drones, as they might not perform as well as they publicize. Their poor and cheap built structure shall break easily and they might be incapable of holding a good weighted camera on their mounts. Whereas, drones which are priced above $400-500 are qualified enough to last longer than the cheap ones. They are sturdy and stable and come with good built-in cameras.
Using a drone to capture images and photographs is just the fad these days. Instead of spending thousands of dollars in renting a helicopter to take some aerial footage, one can just buy a long lasting drone which would serve the same purpose, just better. It is better economically as well as for filming and getting the perfect required shots. Film makers, journalists and photographers are actively getting involved in flying the camera mounted drones. Movies like Skyfall, Wolf of Wall Street, Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets are just some of the movies that used drones for some part of their filming.
In fact, National Geographic has asked its photographers to start using the drones for better and more involved photography and filming the natural processes amongst others.
Where, till a few years ago, it was impossible to capture an image of an erupting volcano from its top or of a cyclone and hurricanes from their tops, it is now possible all with the help of drones. Now one can look and gasp into what the volcano looks like when it erupts. One can get the live coverage of the eruption from volcano’s within. There has never been anything cooler than this. People only saw a volcano from far away without shelling thousands of dollars. Now it is possible to have your own view of the volcano’s inside or of a hurricane or anything else for that matter using your own drone. Thus, choose your drone carefully and get started on filming those aerial shots of this beautiful world.