As drones have become more and more popular for regular folks like you and me, the market has been flooded with drones of all sizes, capabilities, and prices.
The first step into drone photography is to select the drone that best fits your needs.
There are various ways to do that:
Do you need something small and budget-friendly that can take off from the palm of your hand?
Do you want a top-of-the-line drone system that you can fly fast and far while taking breathtaking 4K video and still images? Maybe something in between?
For our purposes, we'll focus on drones manufactured by DJI. Not only does DJI have a reputation for putting out some of the best drones on the market, but they also cover a wide spectrum of drones in terms of pricing and features. DJI has also invested the most in developing technologies that make their drones durable, easy-to-use, and safe, too.
The DJI Spark might be a mini drone, but it's packed with all the features you'd expect from a top end drone.
For starters, it’s equipped with a 12-megapixel camera that's paired with a f/2.6 25mm lens and a mechanical 2-axis gimbal. The resulting photos you take with Spark are clear, crisp, and rich in detail. Plus the Spark comes with UltraSmooth technology that reduces camera shake to help any beginner take great photos from the air.
Even better, UltraSmooth technology minimizes rolling shutter effects, so your videos look better too!
The DJI Spark has other intelligent features that assist you in having a productive, safe flying experience.
Next level FaceAware technology allows the Spark to identify you and respond to gesture controls, following your movements as you travel forwards, backwards, left, and right. Simply wave your hand up or down and the Spark will follow.
Flying the Spark without gesture controls is equally as easy. Using TapFly, simply tap on your phone screen to tell the Spark where to go. And while on its way, it will automatically avoid obstacles and maintain a constant altitude. Learn more about TapFly and other awesome features in the video below:
Quick video functions are also available through the Spark's QuickShot technology. Choose from four common cinematic shots to shoot professional-level footage. Add in ActiveTrack, which recognizes objects of differing sizes and shapes, and you can track subjects as they move around.
Editor's Tip: For even more flexibility with Spark, you can upgrade to the Spark Fly More Combo which includes a remote controller, two intelligent batteries, eight sets of props and prop guards, and more. Get all the details about the Fly More Combo by visiting Drone World.
You don't even need a controller to fly the Spark...
DJI's PalmControl system means you can direct its movements with hand gestures.
Just raise your arms and wave your hand to direct the aircraft where to go and to take photos. You can also make a frame with your fingers to trigger the shutter, as shown above.
And as if that's not cool enough, the DJI Spark can take off from your hand!
With a flight time of 16 minutes and a top speed of 31 mph, Spark is an ideal drone for pilots of any expertise level. And with pricing starting at under $500, it's affordable, too!
DJI Mavic Pro
If your drone photography requires something a bit more powerful, I suggest checking out DJI's Mavic Pro.
But even though the Mavic Pro is a more powerful drone, it's still incredibly small. In fact, it folds down to as small as a bottle of water, making it a highly portable choice for your drone photography.
The Mavic Pro has a flight time up to 27 minutes, so you can take all sorts of photos and videos before the drone needs to be recharged. It flies up to 40 mph, so you can get from point A to point B in no time!
And don't worry about losing contact with your Mavic Pro - the OcuSync transmission system gives you a whopping 4.3-miles of range.
Like Spark, the Mavic Pro has all the bells and whistles, including TapFly and ActiveTrack for getting in position and tracking your subjects with ease.
Add to that an Obstacle Avoidance System with sensor redundancies, and you have a drone that's not only safe to fly, but reliable as well.
You can even fly the drone by phone or over Wi-Fi, making it that much simpler to operate.
As for the camera, well, it's pretty awesome, too!
You get a 4K camera stabilized by a 3-axis mechanical gimbal for sharp still photos and smooth video.
With DJI's FlightAutonomy system, you can fly with confidence because the Mavic Pro will avoid obstacles in its path. It also allows you to takeoff and land from the exact same spot, as well as hover and fly at the same elevation, even in varied terrain.
In other words, this thing is packed with awesome features that make flying fun, safe, and productive with high-quality photos and videos.
Editor's Note: DJI's Mavic Pro MaXX Mod Long Range Kit takes this drone to a whole other level. You get MaXX mod long range remote control antennas, a custom hot-swap antenna bracket, carbon fiber propellers, two extra batteries, L-Series lens filters, a 64GB MicroSD card, an award-winning backpack with Rapid Deploy Technology, and so much more. Learn more about this kit in the video above. For the ultimate experience with the Mavic Pro, check out all the specs of the MaXX Mod Long Range Kit.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro
Yet another step up in DJI's line of drones is the Phantom 4 Pro.
Let's start with this bad boy's camera.
It has a one-inch 20-megapixel Exmor R CMOS sensor paired with a 24mm f/2.8-f/11 lens.
The camera has an ISO range of 100-3200 for still photos, expandable to 12800 in manual mode.
Add to that mechanical and electronic shutters that range up to 1/2000 seconds and 1/8000 seconds respectively, and you've got the makings for a camera that performs well in low light situations and can capture fast-moving subjects without motion blur.
It even takes 4K video at 60fps and can shoot still photos in burst mode at up to 14fps. That's not bad at all!
When it comes to the drone, well, DJI has tricked this thing out.
It's got a 30 minute maximum flying time, a 4.3-mile range and a remote controller with a built-in screen for easier piloting.
Like DJI's other drones, the Phantom 4 Pro can avoid obstacles automatically for a safer flying experience.
Naturally, it has TapFly, ActiveTrack, and Smart Return Home as well, which means the drone can avoid obstacles when it's time to come back to you.
Editor's Tip: The DJI Phantom is perhaps the most customizable drone out there. Drone World offers numerous bundle kits for both the DJI Phantom 4 Pro and the Phantom 4 Pro+. See all the different kits that are currently available by visiting their website.
Perhaps even more exciting is the new Draw feature.
Draw lets you draw a route on the controller screen, and the drone will move in that direction while keeping a constant altitude.
That means that you can turn your attention to things like controlling the camera to get the ultimate shot rather than trying to do so while also watching where the drone is going.
I also like the DJI GO app.
By using your smart device for monitoring real-time video feeds, flight statistics, and advanced settings, the remote can be used for physical controls like piloting the drone.
That makes for a much simpler setup for optimizing your aerial shoots. The DJI GO app also gives you full manual camera controls, so you can control shutter speed, aperture, and ISO, just like a traditional camera. You can even edit photos in the app, post them to social media, or live stream your footage!
See the DJI Phantom 4 in action in the video above.
DJI Inspire 2
If it's the Ferrari of drones you're after, then look no further...
This commercial drone is packed to the gills with incredible features that make it one of the best drones money can buy.
You can order the drone as part of a bundle that includes the Inspire 2 Drone, an X4S Camera Lens, two intelligent flight batteries, a remote controller, a carrying case, and tons of other goodies as well.
Add to that a range of 4.3 miles, two batteries, and a self-heating system for those occasions when you want to fly in colder weather, and you have the makings for one heck of a drone!
This thing performs like no other, too.
It goes from 0-50 mph in four seconds and can fly up to 67 mph.
With the dual battery system, the Inspire 2 can stay airborne up to 27 minutes, and with an upgraded version of FlightAutonomy, you get two directions of obstacle avoidance to help prevent any collisions or mishaps when flying.
The magnesium aluminum composite shell with carbon fiber arms help lighten the drone (and they look really cool too!).
Perhaps my favorite feature of the Inspire 2 drone is the Spotlight Pro feature.
Using advanced visual tracking algorithms, the drone can lock onto a subject in flight. When enabled, no matter which direction you fly the drone the camera will remain locked onto the subject for sweeping, dramatic views.
On other drones, this wouldn't be possible with just one operator, requiring a second person to control the camera while the pilot flies.
Better still, if the onboard gimbal reaches its limits, the Inspire 2 will rotate in the same direction, allowing you to create smooth tracking shots without disturbing flight control.
There are simply too many features to list on the Inspire 2 - it's just that good!
Check out the video above to learn more about the Inspire 2's features.
Editor's Tip: Want even more features with a DJI Inspire 2? Check out the Inspire 2 X5S Premium Pack. It comes with a wheeled SKB hard case, four batteries and hub, lens filters, a 64GB memory card, a sunshade, and more. Get all the details by clicking here.
Wrapping It Up
As you can see, there's a wide variability in the drone market in terms of features, size, and price point.
Before you dive into drone photography, it's important to do your due diligence and select a drone that will work for your specific situation.
Use the information I've outlined above, check out the videos, and read up on the Learn More links throughout the article to determine which DJI drone is right for you.
Stay tuned for more drone-based articles that will help get you in the air to capture your very own dramatic drone photos and videos.