Every so often, some technological advance comes along that transforms what can be done with a camera. Think color, built-in flash, and of course digital photography. Most innovations become standard in a very short time. But a few years down the line, one technology still has the power to create the wow factor—it is the possibility for amateur photographers on a realistic budget to take aerial pictures from a drone.
Things to Consider
Like any other hi-tech purchase, there are lots of things to think about before you purchase a drone as a photographic accessory.
Flying a drone is a skill. You will have a lot of fun, but it pays to know you can confidently handle it before you risk expensive equipment.
The rules about flying drones are quite strict. You cannot fly them anywhere. Each country has its own regulating authority (in the USA it is the Federal Aviation Administration) and you can be fined heavily for getting things wrong.
You get what you pay for. A good piece of kit is going to set you back a fair bit. If you want seriously good results, expect to pay $1,000 or more.
There is a lot of choice. Try looking for drones with cameras on a specialist site to help you choose.
If you are a photographer, the quality of the camera will be your main concern. As well as a good lens and high resolution, you should expect the maximum amount of control over the camera in flight. If you plan to use video you will probably want a range of resolutions. Most cameras record onto MicroSD cards, but some have integral memory.
Most cameras come with Gimbal stabilizers, to keep your shots steady as the drone moves. Some can lock onto an image (a train, for instance) and make the drone follow it.
Drone cameras are lighter than their hand-held equivalents, and some small kits give very acceptable results, but, generally speaking, the higher the camera quality the larger the drone that is needed to carry it.
If you are concentrating on the photography, you will want a drone which does a lot of the flying by itself and manages its own stability. Safety features, such as an inbuilt ability to avoid obstacles and an automatic return to you when the battery runs low, enable you to keep your mind on other things.
Drones come with a bewildering array of options. Consider such things as the range you can expect and the ability to program a path to follow.
A Whole New World
Photographers are always looking for new angles from which to capture scenes. For the first time, it is now a possibility for amateurs to get good pictures from the skies. It is likely that, once you have the drone bug, you will not only get excited about the pictures you can take but also find that you have developed a passion for remote flying.