Getting off the ground: Cheap drones for photography
It's hard to get good photos or videos
This problem is two-fold. For starters, the cameras on quads are basically a toss-in feature. They have iffy sensors and cheap lenses. The front-facing camera on the Parrot AR.Drone is the best of the bunch, and is comparable to the iPhone 4, released in 2010. It shoots 720p video, though the rolling-shutter 'Jell-o' effect is prevalent. Stills are about 1MP, and appear to be frames plucked from the video feed. As you'd expect from a small sensor, details are soft, colors are muted, and low-light situations prove to be very challenging. Given the wide-angle lens, barrel distortion is obvious in most scenes.
The HeliMax 1SQ V-Cam also captures at 720p, with 1MP stills, though the optics appear to be a bit lower quality. Details are even less defined, colors are desaturated even in good lighting, and chromatic aberration is an issue in many areas of transition.
|A typical still photo, taken with the HeliMax 1SQ V-Cam. The image quality is rough. Since it has no live view monitor framing a decent shot is tough.|
As for the Hubsan X4 - why do they even make such low-quality sensors? It can't capture stills, but expect heinous streaking, obvious color fringing, and brutal artifacts in all your footage.
Stabilization is a major issue. The two small quads, the X4 and 1SQ, cannot hover in place. This means the pilot needs to keep his or her fingers moving because the quad is constantly rising, falling, or drifting. Every little corrective steering input - they happen every few seconds - is like shaking the camera.
The Parrot fares better because it maintains its position mid-air. But the motors and propellers add shake, and when conditions are windy, it shakes even more - from the wind itself, and the corrective maneuvering the quad does on its own.
Most viral aerial clips are filmed by quads with cameras mounted to a gimbal. It's a crucial piece of equipment for truly steady video, but none of the quads in this roundup have a gimbal, and they can't support an add-on gimbal. So shaky video is inevitable. Your best bet with any of the entry-level quads considered here will be to focus on tracking and panning shots, but even then, it's hit or miss. So set your expectations accordingly.
Battery life is measured in minutes, not hours
It takes a ton of power to push back against the unyielding force of gravity - exponentially more than it does to keep an iPhone running for a day, it turns out. A larger battery doesn't necessarily yield more flight time, either, since the added weight offsets some of the gains. Denser batteries are a great solution, but they're expensive. And then there's the simple truth that the folks who design drones don't make actually make the batteries - they generally have to choose from what's available.
So while we wait for battery technology to slowly evolve and trickle down to the hobby-aircraft segment, flight times for quads will remain short. The small quads squeeze 6 or 7 minutes of flight time from their small lithium-polymer batteries, while the Parrot can manage about 17 minutes with its high-capacity 1500mAh LiPo battery. (By comparison, the Phantom 2 gets about 20 minutes of flight time from a fully-charged battery.) It won't hurt to buy some backups.
Some onlookers are curious, others skeptical
Among the friends and neighbors I talked with about drones, a handful brought up the concern that they'd find flying cameras hovering outside their bedroom windows. But anyone who actually saw me flying the quads thought they were pretty cool, and really got a kick out of the birds-eye-view footage of our neighborhood. It's still uncommon to see quads in public (maybe not for long), so be patient and considerate as attitudes develop.
Speaking of people, be safe
We've covered how quads are tough to steer, easy to crash, and might run out of power within a few minutes. Be smart! Don't fly recklessly near people! Don't fly near people, period, if you can avoid it! You'll run out of space faster than you think, so be conservative when there are others around. Use your common sense, and if you don't have any of that, don't fly a quad.
Jul 2, 2017
Jun 27, 2017
Jun 27, 2017
Jun 23, 2017
|2014_1211_140657AA by old shutter bugger|
from The Bride
|Overloaded by NZ Scott|
from Your City - Delivery Boy
|Barley by Will B Milner|
|APPLE & ROACH by TX Photo Doc|
from Delicious - Unpalatable
Try your hand at this blind portrait shootout between the Canon 1DX Mark II, Nikon D5 and Sony a9. With all bias removed, you might just rank your favorite camera brand worst.
Photo sharing site 500px has just added support for wide-gamut color profiles such as AdobeRGB and ProPhotoRGB, even allowing users to filter their searches by color profile.
DJI just released a mandatory firmware update for the DJI Spark. If you own a Spark and don't update your firmware by September 1st, DJI will remotely ground your drone.
Affordable flash manufacturer Godox has updated its smartphone app so that it can be used to control all of its wireless X flash units, not just the A1 smartphone flash.
Western Digital's new My Book Duo external desktop storage system offers up to 20TB of storage capacity, and comes with RAID-optimized WD Red hard drives.
Version 1.04 of the Sony a6500 firmware can be downloaded from the Sony Support website now.
Not sure how to choose your first drone? In this article, the second of a 3-part series, we discuss what factors you should consider when deciding what drone is right for you.
NASA photo editor Joel Kowsky didn't just capture the solar eclipse from his vantage point in Wyoming, he also managed to capture the ISS buzzing across what remained of the sun.
In these videos, talented photographer and filmmaker Daniel DeArco breaks down several tips that will help flash photography newbies start experimenting with artificial light.
Photographer and master potter Steve Irvine makes incredibly intricate, functional ceramic pinhole cameras that look like robots and monsters.
Chinese gimbal manufacturer Gudsen has released a firmware update for its Moza Air that lets you control the direction and angle of the head remotely just by moving a small handlebar-mounted control unit.
Curious how the Sony a9 performs underwater? Our friends at Backscatter took the camera diving off the Baja California coast, to find out how it handled shooting great white sharks.
While most of the DPReview crew put away our cameras and just watched the celestial event, Rishi decided last-minute to hack together a rig and capture a few shots.
Defunct Russian camera maker Zenit is making a comeback, and they're planning to release a full-frame mirrorless camera in 2018.
The days where you're more or less locked into premium or first-party flash units has gone. They're less than $50 now, so there's one less excuse not to get one. Here's our case for adding one to your kit, and a few pointers to get you going.
If you're shooting the solar eclipse here's a hint: don't fry your camera's sensor. Use a proper solar filter that offers at least 16 stops of light filtration, along with UV and IR filtering. More important? Don't look at it unless you've got solar filters. Sensors can be replaced, your retinas can't.
Photographer Rick Wenner recently captured an odd event called the Race of the Gentlemen with a rather odd camera: The Phase One XF IQ3 Achromatic, the world's only 101MP black-and-white digital back.
Buying used is a good way to save some dough, and with the right precautions you can protect yourself from falling victim to a scam.
This two-part video series takes a deep dive into the world of dynamic symmetry and geometric composition, using iconic photographer Henri Cartier-Bresson's brilliant photographs as a guide.
Award-winning photographer Jeremy Cowart tells the moving story behind this drone photograph, captured in the aftermath of the devastating wildfire in Gatlinburg, TN in 2016.
Happy 2017 World Photo Day! We asked everyone on staff at DPReview to share one photo that they took within the last year that makes them jazzed on photography. Here's what we chose.
French President Emmanuel Macron has lodged a legal complaint against a paparazzo who snuck onto the president's private vacation property to take pictures.
Ever wonder what the difference is between compressed, uncompressed and lossless compressed Raw files? Photography Life's Nasim Mansurov breaks it down for you in this informative article.
The oldest known portrait of a US president was just discovered after over a century in storage. It's going up for auction in October, where it's expected to fetch between $150,000 and $250,000.
If you're using the popular Sigma 24-70mm F2.8 Art lens with Sigma's MC-11 converter, listen up: you'll want to update your lens and converter firmware ASAP.
If you've heard it once, you've probably heard it a thousand times: never check in your camera gear when flying. This shattered $11,000 lens is what can happen when you do.
Lensrentals just did its first Cine lens comparison, pitting five top-notch 35mm primes against each other: the Zeiss CP.2 35mm T2.1, Canon CN-E 35mm T1.5, Sigma 35mm T1.5 FF, Rokinon Xeen 35mm T1.5 and Schneider Xenon 35mm T2.1.
A team of Google researchers have found that slightly warping watermarks when embedding them into images can help prevent automatic removal.
You don't have to empty your savings account to take your photography to the next level. These cheap buys cost about $50 or less, and come with outsized benefits for your photography.
Joey L, Dani Diamond, Brandon Woelfel and Jessica Kobeissi go head-to-head in an episode of "4 photographers shoot the same model."