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How to Choose the Right Quadcopter with Camera

How to Choose the Right Quadcopter

Quadcopters have become a very popular topic, these past few years. Some of that is due to technological advancements. Materials are getting lighter. Cameras are getting smaller, and more durable (think GoPro). The availability of smart devices, like iPads, is also helping pave the way, by providing new ways of interacting with and piloting drones. There’s also been a significant increase in media attention around quadcopters technology, in particular with the rise of unmanned, military purpose drones. Even companies like Amazon are looking closely at this emerging technology, as a potential future means of automating package delivery.

With all of the buzzing interest, you may be wondering what the best quadcopter is for you. This site will help guide you through that decision making process, regardless of whether you’re an:

  • Inexperienced Hobbyist
  • Amateur Film Maker
  • Professional (film, etc.)

How to Choose the Right Quadcopter

There are a number of quadcopters manufacturers, and more are joining the ranks everyday. This makes it even more important, as a consumer, to understand the technology, the “players”, and the important factors to consider when making an investment in a quadcopter. On this site, we’ve researched, organized and written a series of commercial drone reviews for you. We’ve produced in-depth comparison charts, and introduced helpful metrics, to assist you in the decision making process. We’ve also created a series of articles, to answer specific quadcopter questions that you may have, like:

  • What’s the best beginner drone?
  • What’s the best for capturing and recording film?
  • What’s the best quadcopter with camera?

In purchasing your first drone (or your second, or third), it’s critical that you first ask the right questions. “What kind of range does this have?” “How relatively easy will it be to fly?” This is why we’ve organized our reviews, in part, according to 5 unique metrics. Below, you can see a sample display from our DJI Phantom 2 review.

The metrics displayed in the review panel are the following:

  • Flight Time
  • Camera
  • Range
  • Ease of Piloting
  • Durability

Each metric is measured on a 1-10 scale by our staff, relative to other quadcopters available on the market. Many of these other quadcopters have their own reviews hosted on our website elsewhere (and with the same metrics available).

1. Flight Time

Flight time ties into battery life and performance, but it’s a far more useful metric from the user’s perspective. Quadcopters vary in size quite significantly, from those that will fit in the palm of your hand (literally), to those built to carry payloads through the air. A smaller quadcopter, requiring far less power input, may have a similar flight time to a much large quadcopter, while having a significantly smaller battery. This is why we’ve included the actual, measurable flight time rather than simply the battery capacity (though we include that too).

Flight time will be very useful to keep in mind. You don’t want your new purchase falling out of the sky unexpectedly!

2. Camera

Most of the quadcopters you’ll find reviewed on this website, include a built-in camera or a camera mount (including gimbal). That said, there a number of factors that go into the quality of the video that you’ll be able to capture, only one of which is the camera’s specified resolution. This of course says nothing about the actual quality of the camera, how the camera is mounted, if it can be pivoted (automatically in flight) and so forth. It also says nothing about image stabilization technology, or anything else that the manufacturer may have included to help improve the picture image and quality.

In the context of our reviews, we’ve provided yet another metric, that rates the camera performance relative to other drones on the market, based on these considerations and others.

3. Range

Range signifies the maximum distance, recommended by the manufacturer, between you and your drone while it’s in flight. Beyond this distance, you risk losing communication, and thus control, of your quadcopter. Depending on the quadcopter that you purchase, this can become an expensive mistake! Now, it’s worth noting that there are several higher-tier quadcopters, a few of which we’ll review, that include a built-in capability to automatically “return home”, if you happen to lose range. These are generally the exceptional case, though. Getting out of range with your drone is almost never recommended!

In the case of the lower range quadcopters, you’ll want to keep in mind whether they’re suggested for indoor or outdoor usage.   A few of the micro-drones (palm sized) have, naturally, a lower range, but their risk of significant damage, both to themselves and to others, is also much lower due to their size. These are all things that one should take into consideration in the selection of a drone.

4. Ease of Piloting

This is certainly a more difficult category to attempt to objectively measure. What determines the ease of piloting a quadcopter? Is it the inclusion of a First Person View (FPV) piloting experience? Is it the addition of automated flight stabilization features? It is these things, but so much more.

In our reviews, we’ve included a unique metric, specific to ease of piloting, in an attempt to provide the reader with some initial guidance. This metric value is unique to each review, and it provides a basis for comparison with other quadcopters available in the marketplace.

5. Durability

Durability is yet another metric that is difficult to objectively measure. Like ease of piloting, though, it’s a very important factor in the decision making process. This seems especially true if this is your first or second drone purchase, and if you wouldn’t consider yourself yet an expert quadcopter pilot.

In rating durability, we attempt to draw focus to the following types of questions. “How does this quadcopter handle accidents or collisions?” “What are the expectations, as far as lifetime?” “What are the skill expectations of me, as the pilot?”

Top 3 Quadcopters comparison

AIRCRAFT

PHANTOM 4 PRO

PHANTOM 4 ADVANCED

PHANTOM 3 SE

Product Position Entry-Level Professional Drone with Powerful Obstacle Avoidance Entry-Level Professional Drone Entry-Level Drone
Weight (Battery & Propellers Included) 1388 g 1368 g 1236 g
Max Flight Time Approx. 30 minutes Approx. 30 minutes Approx. 25 minutes
Vision System Forward Vision SystemBackward Vision SystemDownward Vision System Forward Vision SystemDownward Vision System Downward Vision System
Obstacle Sensing Front & Rear Obstacle Avoidance Left & Right Infrared Obstacle Avoidance Front Obstacle Avoidance N/A
Camera Sensor 1’’ CMOSEffective pixels: 20 M 1’’ CMOSEffective pixels: 20 M 1/2.3’’ CMOSEffective pixels: 12 M
Max. Video Recording Resolution 4K 60P 4K 60P 4K 30P
Max Transmission Distance FCC: 4.3 mi FCC: 4.3 mi FCC: 2.5 mi
Video Tramsmission System Lightbridge Lightbridge Wi-Fi
Operating Frequency 2.4 GHz/5.8 GHz

*5.8 GHz transmission is not available in some regions due to local regulations.

2.4 GHz 2.4 GHz/5.8 GHz

*5.8 GHz transmission is not available in some regions due to local regulations.

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