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The Tamron 50-400mm F4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD boasts an impressive zoom range in a relatively compact package. How does it perform? We took a look.
Ever since I started shooting landscapes, I've been fascinated with aerials. There's little doubt that aerial photography offers a very different perspective on a landscape, not to mention the excitement one experiences when witnessing nature from a bird's eye viewpoint.
I have written extensively about the good and the bad, as well as the reasons for shooting aerials in the first article of my series about aerial photography. But drone photography is VERY different to being up there in an aircraft and shooting with a hand-held camera.
Drones have utterly changed the world of landscape photography, and are the best thing to happen to it in the last two decades
There are substantial advantages and disadvantages when comparing the two, and one could even claim they are two different disciplines altogether. After all, apart from the fact that in both the photographer is shooting from the air, there is much more difference than similarity. This provides justification for an additional series that deals with drone photography.
In this series, I will try to elaborate about shooting (natural) landscapes using a drone. I will claim that drones have utterly changed the world of landscape photography, and are the best thing to happen to it in the last two decades. I will show examples from my shoots around the world and discuss how the drone enabled me to get images otherwise impossible.
I'll try my best to survey the different options available today, and try to cover the legal and moral aspects, as well as etiquette. Finally, I will tell about some interesting personal experiences I've had while droning.
It's important to say that I'm a nature still-photographer, so I will concentrate on that most of the time. That said, there is no reason why the series shouldn't be relevant for other styles and fields of photography such as urban landscapes or even wildlife photography.
"Drone" is the common name for a remotely-operated or autonomous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). There are many different drone sizes and designs - some are fixed-wing and some rotor-based. Fixed-wing drones are often used for scientific or military purposes. Since they require short runways to take off, and since they lack the maneuverability of rotor-based craft (specifically the ability to hover in one place and to move very slowly), they aren't commonly used for photography purposes, and so I will not be discussing them here.
|The Mavic Air - a quad-copter drone manufactured by the Chinese company DJI|
The drones we are interested in – camera drones – are rotor-based. The vast majority of those are quad-copters (i.e. mini-helicopters with 4 propellers), but not all. There are hexa-copters (6-prop) and octo-copters (8-prop) out there as well. They are sometimes known as VTOL drones, for "Vertical Take-Off and Landing". As we will see, the VTOL property offers a critical advantage for nature photography, or any field-based photography for that matter.
Drones are typically made from composite materials to reduce weight and to absorb vibrations, which in turn reduces noise and motion blur in images. They have several motors and propellers, most commonly one propeller on top of each motor (but some drones have dual propellers for each motor). On a quad-copter, two of the propellers rotate clockwise and the other two counter-clockwise.
The motors are controlled by the drone's flight controller, which uses, among other things, gyro stabilization technology and accelerometers to maintain control of the drone in real time, and to keep it flying smoothly and steadily. All this is powered by a battery, which is usually inserted to a cavity in the body of the drone.
|Controlling a drone with the remote's 2 joysticks|
The drone carries a camera, usually on the front or bottom of the drone's body. The vast majority of modern drones have an integrated (native) cameras, whereas in the past more drones were designed to carry a separate camera system, be it a small camera like a GoPro or a large DSLR (or even larger systems). A native camera, naturally, allows for much more user control in real time.
The camera, native or otherwise, is mostly mounted on a 3-axis stabilizing gimbal, which disconnects it from any vibration or sudden movements coming from the drone's main body and allows the camera to move independently from it.
|The small camera mounted on a 3-axis gimbal in the first generation of the DJI Mavic|
Virtually all camera drones have a ground controller unit (commonly known as a remote controller), which allows the user to control the movement of the aircraft and of the gimbal, and enables live first-person-view (FPV), i.e. video streaming from the drone's camera and shown on a screen, either integrated into the controller or of a mobile device (such as a smart phone or a tablet), typically connected to the controller via wire.
The video stream doesn't only show the drone camera's view, but it also includes important flight information such as a map, flight altitude, speed, distance from the control unit, battery status and more. Using the information sent from the drone, the controller can also warn the user in case of strong winds or nearby obstacles.
|The video feed received on a smart phone through cable connection to the remote. Note how height (relative to point of origin), distance from origin and velocity are displayed at he bottom, and photographic parameters at the top.|
Everything here serves the purpose of being able to control the drone as delicately and as accurately as possible, and to not rely on seeing the aircraft from the operator's ground position. As we will see in future articles, FPV is a large part of what gives a drone its overwhelming advantages compared to other kinds of photography.
Camera drones are plentiful, with the Chinese company DJI dominating the market without a doubt. It is, however, possible to divide the drone world into several tiers, which differ in the technology featured in the drone, specifically it's camera and sensor, gimbal, battery, controls, weight and size, among others. Let's shortly survey the different tiers, and see what differentiates them.
Fun and Toy Drones
These drones have a simple built-in camera with very low resolution. There is no stabilizer (gimbal). The devices are very sensitive in the wind and usually have no GPS function, making it very difficult to get good flight precision and decent pictures. They are, however, very affordable and fun to use.
|The tiny DJI Spark can fit in the palm of your hand.|
These drones feature better control and stability than toy drones, but don't expect any miracles in terms of image quality and stabilization. The mechanical two-axis gimbal requires shorter exposure times to prevent camera shake. Range and duration of flight are below average.
Drones in this category feature an electric three-axis gimbal, at least 12 megapixel photo resolution, long exposure abilities (and the stability to make them practical) and 4K videos. The Mavic Air may be limited in range, as WiFi in city centers may be more susceptible to interference than the "Pro" Series transmission technologies.
|The DJI Phantom series is much larger than the Mavic Air, and packs a better camera.|
The equally affordable Mavic Pro has a long flight time, but only a 1/2.3-inch sensor, while the top model Mavic 2 Pro with its 1-inch sensor not only delivers a higher resolution (20 megapixels instead of 12), it also exhibits significantly improved noise performance in the low light range.
Rather an exotic animal in the line-up is the Mavic 2 Zoom. Also equipped with only a 1/2.3-inch sensor, it has a 2x optical zoom, which enables it to get different perspectives for a given framing (perspective depends on subject distance), and even a very cool aerial mode called Dolly Zoom. With the exception of Spark, all these models are compact and easy to transport. The Mavic 2 Pro offers the maximum picture quality among these and is very portable, making it the current go-to drone for many photographers, your truly included.
Drones in this category have different camera options with interchangeable optics. From the integrated gimbal with Super 35-millimeter sensor (Zenmuse X7 to Inspire 2) to the digital film camera (Arri Alexa Mini to FreeFly Alta), almost everything is possible here for money. The take-off weights of these devices start at approx. 4 kilograms, which considerably increases the administrative effort. The design allows the camera to move independently under the drone at a 360 degree angle. These drones are often controlled by at least two-person teams and are suitable for professional film productions.
Now we know, more or less, how a camera drone is built and how its parts are connected. We know that today's camera drones are mostly quad-copters, with native stabilized cameras mounted on a gimbal. But what can these aircraft do? Why choose a drone over a helicopter or a plane? How has the drone changed the world of landscape photography? I will cover all this next.
If you'd like to experience and shoot some of the most fascinating landscapes on earth with Erez as your guide, take a look at his unique photography workshops in The Lofoten Islands, Greenland, Namibia, the Argentinean Puna, the Faroe Islands and Ethiopia.
Erez offers video tutorials discussing his images and explaining how he achieved them.
Sep 6, 2022
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Aug 25, 2022
The Tamron 50-400mm F4.5-6.3 Di III VC VXD boasts an impressive zoom range in a relatively compact package. How does it perform? We took a look.
What’s the best camera for around $2000? These capable cameras should be solid and well-built, have both speed and focus for capturing fast action and offer professional-level image quality. In this buying guide we’ve rounded up all the current interchangeable lens cameras costing around $2000 and recommended the best.
What's the best camera for shooting landscapes? High resolution, weather-sealed bodies and wide dynamic range are all important. In this buying guide we've rounded-up several great cameras for shooting landscapes, and recommended the best.
If you're looking for the perfect drone for yourself, or to gift someone special, we've gone through all of the options and selected our favorites.
Most modern cameras will shoot video to one degree or another, but these are the ones we’d look at if you plan to shoot some video alongside your photos. We’ve chosen cameras that can take great photos and make it easy to get great looking video, rather than being the ones you’d choose as a committed videographer.
Although a lot of people only upload images to Instagram from their smartphones, the app is much more than just a mobile photography platform. In this guide we've chosen a selection of cameras that make it easy to shoot compelling lifestyle images, ideal for sharing on social media.
|Tree swallow babies by kk2011|
from A Big Year - Birds 2022
|Lumière croisée by AM91210|
from My Best Photo of the Fortnight
|Reina by Great Bustard|
from in the style of a Large Format Portrait
The latest version of DxO PhotoLab 6 includes a new DeepPRIME XD technology that promises even better clarity, especially when editing high ISO images. The software includes numerous new tools and features, like a new working color space.
The Hasselblad X2D 100C has arrived in Canada! With Chris sick, it's up to Jordan and special guest Ryan HK to fill you in on this fascinating mirrorless medium format camera.
Western Digital's new Pro-G40 SSD is its most rugged to date and offers read and write speeds up to 2530MB/s and 2717MB/s, respectively, in our testing.
Photographer Douglas Kirkland, known for his portraits of icons including Marilyn Monroe and Andy Warhol, passed away on Sunday at age 88.
An FPV drone video gives viewers behind-the-scenes access through Chicago's iconic Wrigley Field.
Xiaomi has announced a pair of 12T-series smartphones, including the 200MP 12T Pro. It's Xiaomi's first 200MP smartphone.
Neither company has specified camera announcements during the events, but their dates align with rumored a7R V and OM-5 camera launch dates for Sony and OMDS, respectively.
Copy That for Mac features integrated checksum verification, detailed reporting, presets, thumbnail support, file renaming and automated error detection.
The winners and finalists have been announced for the Siena Drone Photo Awards. We've rounded them up into a photo gallery for your viewing pleasure.
The $150 lens is fully manual and is available for Canon EOS-M, Fujifilm X, Micro Four Thirds and Sony E-mount camera systems.
The Lumix S family of full-frame primes keeps growing. The 18mm F1.8 is the newest member of Panasonic's lens lineup. Check our our sample gallery to see what it's capable of.
Peep some pixels from the hefty 100 megapixel files created by the new Hasselblad X2D 100C, as we prepare our DPReview TV review of the camera.
About 95% of Earth's oceans haven't been observed. Researchers at MIT have built a battery-free, wireless underwater camera that may help scientists explore more of the oceans.
Drone manufacturer DJI has moved its staff into an innovative and masterfully-designed new building in Shenzhen, China. Here is a first look.
We (metaphorically) sat down with Brandon Faith of Baggen Photos to ask him a few questions about what it's like to photograph motorsports events with his Crown Graphic large format camera.
Sony's new 320GB and 640GB 'Tough' CFexpress Type A cards are due out next month and while the 640GB card will offer the most storage of any Type A card to date, it doesn't come cheap.
Adobe's Photoshop and Premiere Elements apps make editing photos and videos easy for users of all skill levels. The latest versions add more editing tools, more AI features and improved performance.
The Sony FX30 is an explicitly video-focused camera, but could its technology herald a refresh of the company's APS-C stills line-up? We have a look at what that might mean.
The lens offers a constant F2.8 aperture through a rather unique focal length range for full-frame camera systems. It’s expected to be available starting October 27, 2022 for $699.
Can AI overcome the physical limitations of smartphone sensors and lenses? A Qualcomm executive thinks so, thanks in large part to improvements in processing power, hardware and artificial intelligence.
We're starting to see cameras offering 'open gate' video recording, so what is this tool and when is it useful?
The Sony FX30 is a 4K/120p-capable Super35 / APS-C cinema camera that wants to take the battle to the likes of Panasonic's GH series.
Sony's FX30 Super35/APS-C Cinema Line camera is effectively a crop-sensor version of the company's full-frame FX3 camera with sensor-based image stabilization, oversampled 4K/60p capture and '16-bit' Raw output and more.
If you've ever wanted to become an action figure, Hasbro is providing you the opportunity with its new 3D-printed Selfie Series action figures.
When you store photos on the cloud, you expect them to remain safe for a long time. However, some Google Photos users were scared over the weekend when they realized that their photo libraries had become corrupted.
DALL-E's Outpainting feature uses AI to expand existing images and artwork. Ad agency Ogilvy Paris has used Outpainting to expand Johannes Vermeer's famous painting, 'The Milkmaid.'
iOS 16.0.2 addresses, amongst other bug fixes, a problem wherein the second-generation sensor-shift image stabilization tech was causing camera shake issues in some third-party apps.
For the past eight years, the Library of Congress has been working on figuring out the subjects in a large collection of film, TV and music photos. Many of the mysteries have been solved. However, 17 photos have eluded the LC's best efforts, and the public's help is needed to help put names to the final unknown faces.
After having to pull the initial firmware update last month due to an issue that caused some units to stop working, Sony has re-released firmware version 1.1 for its a7 IV full-frame mirrorless camera.
Sigma's latest wide Art-badged prime for full frame is capable of some stunning landscapes. Check out a new batch of sample photos in the gallery.