With the Holiday season fast approaching, presents are on everyone’s mind, and one of the hottest new toys to receive under the Christmas tree this year? A drone.
Drone flying is incredibly fun and an aerial camera can take your photography to a whole new level (literally!). However, a drone is also a hefty investment so this toy shouldn’t just be bought on impulse.
I got my Phantom 3 4k drone last year for Christmas and have loved it for getting a new perspective on my travel destinations and helping me produce awesome content for my YouTube channel. However, I know that I struggled a bit with my drone at first and still sometimes and not making the most out of it, which is something that writing this post has inspired me to work on.
Before buying a drone, there are a few things to know and consider to make sure this actually is the right purchase for you.
Why do you want a drone?
Are you a photographer or videographer looking to capture shots from a new perspective? A hobbyist just wanting to try out something new? A contractor looking to be more efficient at land use planning?
A drone can be great for all of these things, but knowing your motivations beforehand will save you a lot of time and money when buying a drone. Because this is a travel blog, I’m going to assume most people are looking to buy a drone to fill a similar purpose to mine; to make awesome travel videos.
If you’re planning to buy a drone for photography purposes, you’re going to want to invest in one that has a camera (duh), but probably a high-quality camera, especially if you’ll be shooting video as well – you’ll want a drone that can shoot in 4k. The Phantom 3 4k (my drone), is DJI’s cheapest drone that shoots in 4k video. However, because DJI has been releasing new products rather quickly over the years, I’d recommend jumping right into a Phantom 4 or even a Mavic if it fits your budget.
For hobbyists looking to have fun flying a drone with photos as an added bonus, I’d say go for the Spark. The Spark can be kind of finicky for photographers to use in terms of flying in order to capture the perfect shot and the camera isn’t as high quality, but if you’re just looking to have some fun this is the best drone to get the most bang for your buck.
How much are you prepared to spend?
Cost is one of the biggest factors to consider when buying a drone. Consumer photography drones cost anywhere from $500-$1500.
A drone is a big investment, so it’s important to really think about what you need it for and determine your budget accordingly. If your plan is to use the drone to launch a videography business, maybe you shouldn’t buy the cheapest one right away; instead save for a little bit longer so that you can buy a drone that you can grow into as your skills develop, instead of one that you’ll need to replace in a year.
Keep in mind there are also accessories associated with drones that you’ll probably want to buy. The two things that every drone pilot needs on hand are extra batteries and extra propellers. Propellers get damaged very easily while drone flying, especially as a beginner, and the battery life on a drone is typically only 20-30 minutes, so you’ll want to have extras to swap out so you can fly for longer. Extra propellers will only set you back about $10 a pair, but each additional battery costs between $150-$200 depending on the drone. You may also want to consider buying a drone backpack or carrying case to transport your aircraft in; these usually cost a couple hundred dollars as well.
Will you have time to learn how to use it?
Despite what you may believe, there is a learning curve associated with learning how to fly a drone. Getting used to the controls and understanding the settings is just the beginning; if you’re using your drone for photography purposes you’re going to really want to understand the ins and outs of flying this thing to make sure you’re getting the most out of it and are able to capture all the shots you want. Things like big pan shots in and out, sliding shots, shots tracking objects – these all make a huge difference in your footage but take a while to get down when you’re just learning how to fly.
Taking the time to learn and understand your aircraft is also beneficial so you know, you don’t crash the thing. It’s important that you understand the battery and distance settings on the aircraft, the return home function, and most importantly: manual landing. The only way to learn how to use your drone is to practice, so make sure that when you’re buying a drone you have time to learn how to use it. Don’t just expect to take your brand-spankin’ new drone on vacation and capture amazing footage – chances are you’ll crash it into the ocean before you can so much as snap a picture. I recommend taking it out to a large open area like a football field, for a few hours every single week to practice flying and landing your drone.
All in all, if you’re looking at getting a drone my recommendation would be to go with a DJI product. They’ve expanded their drone range to include a variety of price ranges and skill levels, so there’s literally a drone for everyone.
I’ve only had pleasant experiences with DJI drones and find them to be the most widely used across the photography/videography community. DJI’s customer service is excellent and there is a ton of information available online about them, whereas with other drones, you may have to do a bit more digging and manual troubleshooting.
I think that the Phantom Professional line is a great starting point for those looking to use drones for photography and videography. As long as you don’t might a bit more bulk when you travel, this drone is perfect for the average photographer/videographer. I recommend the Professional line over the Phantom 3 because the Professional line features a few intelligent functions that the Phantom 3 doesn’t that make the user experience a lot friendlier and easy for beginners. However, if you have the cash, I’d say go for the Mavic. I’ve only heard great things and the Intelligent Functions on the Mavic far outweigh those on the Phantom drones, making flying them that much more fun.
P.S. DJI usually has really amazing sales on their drones over Black Friday, so keep an eye out!