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Camera Drones: The Ultimate Buying Guide

Published: 13/12/2018
By: Brandon

Real estate photography is one of the biggest sectors being impacted by the drone industry, allowing real estate photographers to capture a wide variety of shots much cheaper than in recent years.

But how do you know which drone is best for your business? The variety of choices is a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, there are models for every type of pilot and budget, but the abundance of choice can also lead to decision paralysis.

This guide (from Mark Sheehan at reviews dozens of high quality camera drone models, separated by price range. This allows budding drone pilots to find the best drones in their price range quickly and efficiently. It also breaks down the most important features to pay attention to, how to find the right drone for your needs, and even how to fly one.

If you’re interested in getting into real estate drone photography but don’t know where to start, this is an excellent place to kick-start your knowledge.

7 comments on “Camera Drones: The Ultimate Buying Guide”

  1. Larry, thanks for presenting this and the link. MyDroneAuthority has a lot of useful information from laws and regulations to recommendations and a wealth of information for all drone pilots.

    After flying my P4Pro V.1 for a couple years now without incident (not like my P2 Vision+'s where I went through 4 of then in a year and half), I am realizing I really do need a back up that might now become my main quadcopter what with the advance of technology. What MDA (above) does not list that I could find is the Mavic Pro 2 with the Hasselblad camera and the 1" sensor. If anyone here is using one professionally, I would love to know their experiences. My experience with a P4Pro V.2 was so bad I had to send it back. Once burned . . .

  2. Like Peter - we have flown the DJI P4 V1.0 and it honestly fell out of the sky over a historical cemetery in Northern Virginia. Need to purchase another that day from Best Buy - the DJI P4ADV which has been a better drone to fly especially over water since we do a lot of estate on the Potomac River and at Lake Anna in Virginia. Now when the DJI Mavic Pro 2 came out, I ordered it that day. My drone pilot who has the DJI Inspire only flies the Mavic Pro 2 since the agility of this drone is amazing and takes tight turns, flies in-between trees and docks and sailboat masts without a flinch. The video quality is superb and I would say on the creamy side along with the photos we edit from the drone video clips. We just Love our new Mavic Pro 2 and would not use any other drone currently until the next new version comes out form the DJI labs.

  3. I know this is not a FaceBook style exchange but a blog, but I do want to thank Cindy for her verification of the Mavic Pro 2 presumably the one with the Hasselblad lens since the Zoom version which is cheaper (and the camera zooms) is not rated as high due to a lesser image quality and a smaller image sensor. The only water I fly over is that in large swimming pools where my P4Pro V.1 invariably sags down a bit. But I do fly through trees a lot since I tend to fly low 80% of the time. I flew through a long stable block yesterday and out the other side over Llama pens. The P4Pro did it but it did wander of track just a bit. I get the sense that the Mavic Pro 2 would do a steadier job of it and actually avoid small branches which have been my constant fear having lost 4 P2 Vision+'s in the past. The Llamas were fascinated by the drone and with the new DJI propellers it sounds less like a swarm of angry bees which can spook horses. But I also hear that the Mavic Pro 2 is a lot quieter than the P4P. That too would help me a lot since my market is filled with horse facilities, ranches and home stables.

  4. Kris, I hate to go into detail since I have no idea whether my experience is in any way typical of the V.2. DJI certainly did not seem to understand what took place or how to fix it when I finally was able to take an hour to sit on hold with their support department. My experience, right out of the box, on the first flight was that it flew fine when I was flying low. But as soon as I got up to 60 feet altitude approx, it took off on its own and ascended to 465 approx ' (according to the logs) and stayed there, above the internal altitude limit and above the FAA UAS altitude limits. And the bloody thing would not come back down except an inch at a time and then stop, even with the joy stick pulled all the way back in descend mode. It did fly front and back and side to side so communication was not completely cut. I was also able to shoot video and stills. But I could not descend. It only came back down as the Low Battery warning came on and it descended automatically. Once down below the 60' I was able to again get it to descend more rapidly and caught it just before its battery was about to expire.

    To me this is a dangerous situation. DJI recommended that I put the drone back on factory settings and redo all the upgrades and IMU, Compass recalibrations. My reaction was "then what? Fly it again to see if it works? And what if it does not and decides it will not descend automatically and ends up falling from the sky on top of someone?" Definitely the FAA would not be pleased. No answer to that. The seller did not help. This was its first flight. Amazon finally helped me out; not the seller nor DJI.

    So I am sure my experience is unique, at least I hope so. But I have read of many users finding that the V.2 has suddenly just turned off in flight even just after take off with a fresh battery. Again, probably few and far between. But I have been flying my V.1 for 1.5 years without ever having even the slightest glitch. I love it! So I cannot splash my experience to demean the V.2's enmasse or to put anyone else off buying and using it. I don't know what might have been done to the craft before it was shipped to me. I noticed the boxing had previously been opened post factory. So I assume my experience was and is not typical. But once burned . . . Based on what Kris has posted, I have a feeling that that may well become my back up, or not a back up but primary drone letting my P4Pro enjoy a relaxing semi-retirement as my back up instead.

  5. I had the DJI Phantom 4 Professional and I must admit it was INDEED a great tool. A bit too wide on the lens though.

    I ended up selling it simply because I don't get many calls for shoots that require it.
    The cost and hassle of licensing was the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. But that's me. Semi-retired with a limited clientele.

    I would recommend this bird though!

  6. I have a Mavic 2 Pro but my experience with it is limited. I can say that I was not impressed with the image quality right out of the box. After so many people raved about the quality, I posted to DJIs forums about my issues (weird fringing around the sun in lower light and digital noise even at ISO 100). I thought maybe I had a bad unit.

    After showing some of my images to the people there, I learned a few things. First, my expectations were too high. This was my first drone and those in the forums said my images looked good, and that the quality was better than the old Mavic Pro. Second, I had several people say that I had to test out different aperture/shutter speed combinations as the max aperture (f11 I think) doesn't give the best image. Aggravating to say the least. Third, noise at ISO 100 is an issue in low light and I'll have to rely on Lightroom's excellent noise reduction. Fourth, it's just NOT a DSLR and I can't expect it to be as sharp as I'd like.

    I can say that it is fun to fly. Some of the intelligent flight modes are pretty cool and will be useful once I start offering video. Supposedly it is just a hair away from being as good as the Phantom 4 in terms of picture quality, handles better in wind due to it's lower profile, is quieter, and of course is more compact, making it easier to lug around.

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