There are a number of products on the market that are sold as drones, but don't quite fit the bill. Remote-controlled aircraft have been around for ages. (Check out this clip from Magnum, P.I. if you don't believe me, or just want to see Tom Selleck in a bathrobe.) But with the recent surge in popularity, quadcopters that would simply be sold as RC products are now being tagged as drones. These don't include GPS stabilization, return-to-home functionality, and other automated flight modes that make a drone a drone.
For video quality, we shoot a variety of clips at various resolutions and frame rates, including the maximum available. We film high contrast and low light scenes, along with close-ups of people to evaluate detail and skin tones. Special automated modes like DJI’s Quickshots are also tested. These uncompressed files are then evaluated on a calibrated monitor, along with the drone’s still photos. Stills are shot at maximum resolution and, if available, in Raw. We check for colour, noise and dynamic range, and also look at other shooting modes like HDR and panoramas.
DJI’s latest Zenmuse cam, the X5S, is a mirrorless Micro Four Thirds camera made specifically for aerial photography and cinematography. It shoots in 5.2K at 30 frames per second (or 4K at 60), takes 20.4 megapixel stills, and boasts a ridiculously wide ISO range of 100 – 25,600. As an added bonus, this rig is cradled inside a vibration dampened 3-axis gimbal, so your footage comes out silky smooth no matter how crazily you fly.
The biggest downside to the Syma X11 is that it comes with no camera attachment. This is a good drone for beginners only interested in flying for fun and seeing what drones have to offer, but any hobbyist interested in taking pictures or video will want to keep looking. However those looking for an affordable drone, this one might be just what you are looking for.
A. FAA guidelines state that a pilot must maintain visual contact with the drone at all times. There is also a maximum height restriction of 400 feet. If a drone flies out of controller range, it should have the ability to return to a programmed home location. Some advanced drones can send back real-time video data to the controller, but most consumer-level models don’t have that capability.
Want to keep your budget below $300, we suggest you choose one of the Altair drones we recommend. Altair is a great company (learn about Altair) out of Nebraska and provides top notch customer service! Shop the Altair Outlaw which goes 1000+ meters and costs $279. Altair also offers the AA108 as a budget option at $129 and the 818 Hornet is a great mid range for ages 10-14 and $169.
The other primary consideration is how the photos and video are stored after you take them. Drones with WiFi capabilities will work with your mobile device, letting you see and store media real-time on your phone. For those that don’t, you’ll store the media on the drone, usually on a microSD card. If this is the case, know how much storage the drone comes with and whether (and by how much) it can be upgraded.
DJI’s control system is also fantastic. The revamped DJI Go app puts all of the camera’s advanced controls right at your fingertips. Shutter speed, aperture, and ISO can be adjusted with just a few taps, and focus can be set by simply tapping on the subject. With a setup like this, you don’t even need prior film experience or piloting skills to get professional-looking footage.
Lead camera analyst for the PCMag consumer electronics reviews team, Jim Fisher is a graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he concentrated on documentary video production. Jim's interest in photography really took off when he borrowed his father's Hasselblad 500C and light meter in 2007. He honed his writing skills at retailer B&H... See Full Bio
For those looking for a basic done that has FPV camera capabilities that are still pretty decent, but at a fair price, the Hubsan H502S is definitely the way to go. There are minimal features, mostly just the GPS function, which is a nice touch that makes all the difference, and you get up to 12 minutes of flying time on a single charge. You also get Return to Home, Follow Me, one-key control, the whole set.
Blade itself says the QX is for intermediate pilots, but this is the ultimate beginner quadcopter that can probably take any user to all the way of some pretty advanced flying. In addition to this factor, it’s almost double the price of other Nanos, which are great in their own right, but the drone of this capability has an immense brand appeal and reflects the quality Blade has put into its craft over the years. Blade also offers a BNF or “bind and fly” version of the QX in case a purchaser wants to use it with their existing radio transmitter, and there are some value packs around that will give them spare props and extra batteries for a reasonable price. Although the drone in its act- is very nimble, it comes with special safe technology that decreases control input speeds and automatically hovers the drone so that it becomes perfect for someone just starting out. In fact, it’s even better than that. You can play safely, in contrast to that, once someone is ready to control the drone, the safe mode can be kept on but double the control rate, so it will start hovering and the drone is still automatic, but pitching, yawing, and rolling are much more responsive when the safe mode is enabled. In another mode, the agility mode the user will get the full, crazy manual experience. Here, the user will have to hover the craft, he/she will have to figure out flips and rolls. People can sometime complain that the prop guard design tends to hook on stuff, so there’s that, but the actual crash durability of the quad is pretty good, going by the people who have actually crashed it. So, to sum up about this drone, it is a drone with many promises to undergo with and the user will have many usage of the drone when they will be upon an interesting experience of running a drone on their own.
A. Drones in this price range offer a variety of features and are great for beginners, but they really can’t compete with drones priced in the hundreds or even thousands of dollars. These drones offer longer flying times, faster speeds, more power, greater range (some measured in miles!), as well as more robust cameras and advanced features such as GPS and obstacle sensing.
Irrespective of the dimensions of your quadcopter, they must not go higher than 400ft above the ground. Likewise, you must always maintain a clear line-of-sight with the machine at all times. You are also expected to adequately inspect your device before each flight session, to ensure its readiness and airworthiness. This is necessary to prevent unnecessary flight accidents.
Many autopilot drones come with multiple flight-modes. Common flight-modes seen in autopilot drones include a follow-me mode, sport mode, and one-touch takeoff and landing modes. They all serve different purposes and create different flight experiences. Follow-me modes allow the drone to follow you as you move and keep you in the frame. This enables you to create complex shots. Sport modes all your autopilot drone to go faster and follow targets such as cars or bikes. One-touch takeoff and landing are important flight modes as they allow for smooth landings and takeoffs with the push of a button. This is a great feature for beginners and pros alike.
Unfortunately, this one doesn’t come with a controller, which means you’re forced to pilot Tello via virtual joysticks on a smartphone app: a control method that’s notoriously mushy and imprecise. The good news, though, is that Ryze built the drone with third-party peripherals in mind, so if you prefer to fly with physical sticks under your thumbs, you can pick up a GameSir T1d controller and link it to your bird. We think it’s well worth the extra $30 bucks!