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What entry drone for paid projects?


Kisaha

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Recently I am getting a lot of pressure from clients to do my own drone shots (because they expect me to offer the service, just because..).

I am avoiding it for some time now because I do not believe in jack of all trades attitudes (master of none, of course), I wouldn't like to make an investment (mostly on time) and I do not know anything about drones (except some Syma toy ones, that I am not very good at!).

Which drone would you suggest just to achieve some basic stuff with no much risk (health and safety first!),

Is Mavic the only way?

What about Phantom 3 or 4?

Is Karma really that bad? (the added GoPro and the gimbal makes it a very attractive option, as I do not have either)

Is anything else interesting on the market? Are we expecting anything soon-ish (the buy will happen around spring time, if..)?

Thank you very much, any opinion will be much appreciated as I do not know much about flying drones.

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What are the laws in your country?

Do you need a licence for any or none?    Or are their weight limits?

Here in Australia, the rules changed not so long ago.     You previously needed a licence to fly commercially which just about meant to a pilots licence level.

Now, you can fly commercially up to 2kg without a licence (you still need to do other things and follow rules and you get extra if you get a licence and can fly over 2kg).

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Maybe a Phantom 3 is a very good choice, but I have to buy a GoPro too, right?

As I like to have everything light and handy, the Mavic is very tempting too.

There are no rules right now, I am sure everything is more strict in Australia!

Does anyone know difficult is to achieve basic flight knowledge?

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36 minutes ago, Kisaha said:

Does anyone know difficult is to achieve basic flight knowledge?

Not very.  The controls are very straightforward --but you will most likely crash before you come to terms with it.  I felt pretty confident after a day of practice with an old and used camera-less drone.  

Then, I flew my actual camera drone into a tree a few days later during a shoot.  Boom.  Basically, it takes some wisdom to learn how to interpret spatial dynamics from a distance.  More important than that is just learning how not to over-react to stuff when flying.

All that said, I basically gave up on aerials.  I don't find them particularly compelling anymore.  Understood that your clients just want it "because," but I really have a hard time rationalizing 'em these days in my own work considering that it's so prevalent elsewhere.

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1 hour ago, Kisaha said:

Maybe a Phantom 3 is a very good choice, but I have to buy a GoPro too, right?

 

Phantom and Mavic have inbuilt cameras in them and they are actually quite nice from the footages on Ytube. MavicPro seems way too good to be true. So small and light yet reasonably cheap for what it actually is. Watching cinemas these days and seeing dramatic areal shots, they do not look so dramatic anymore since amateurs with their drones are making these scenes left right and centre!

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I've been shooting drone for a long time. On a pure technical standpoint (I'm not going to enter in the legal aspect)

- Karma: the drone is big, takes forever to warm up, the gimbal has a lot of drift, the radio link is weak and it's not very cheap ($1200 with the GoPro). In other words this is not the best bang for your bucks, nothing dramatic but there is much better on the market. Just GoPro first shot at it. Perhaps after the recent recall, GoPro fixed some issue, we'll see...

- Phantom 3 : the Phantom 3 Pro films in 4K, the P3 Standard only in 1080. DJI recently stopped selling this drone but there is a lot of inventory and you can still buy a brand new unit for cheap. The IQ is enough for most internet stuff however the max bitrate at 60mbps is a little bit weak especially if you shoot in 4k.

- Phantom 4 and Phantom 4 PRO: the Phantom 4 is just an updated Phantom 3 with front sensor (collision avoidance). Nothing very different on the IQ compared to the P3Pro However the Phantom 4 PRO has a much larger sensor (one inch) so better DR, ISO and quality overall. The bitrate also max out at 100mbps which is good especially with the h265 codec (but a pain to edit right now), you can still record in h264 at 100mbps. It also does 4k60. It's the most expensive one ($1500)

- Mavic: nice and small portable drone, ok price at $1000 but hard to find at the moment (sold out). Offers collision avoidance (front) like the Phantom 4 and 4 Pro. On the con side the drone is a bit too light for windy days (jello and vibration issue) and the bitrate is back to 60mbps.

- A note about the focal (FF equivalent): the Phantom 3 Pro and P4 are 20mm, the Phantom 4 Pro is 24mm and the Mavic is 28mm. Keep that in mind depending of what you want to do.

- Other drones ? The Yuneec and Walkera make ok drones but DJI products are just better

- Is is hard to fly?  not really, these drones are full of automation, the flight is assisted by GPS, they will come back to the landing point if you press a button (RTH), they will also calculate your distance Vs battery and start flying back if the battery is too low based on the distance. Some have collision avoidance system. If you are a bit tech friendly and played video game in your life you won't have any issues. To give you and idea, once you start the drone and take off, the thing will stay in the air and hoover by itself until you move the command. It won't drift thanks to the GPS. Can't be easier than that !

Conclusion:

You could start with a Phantom 3 standard (1080 max) or P3Pro for $500-800 new or even find cheaper used unit (check the hundreds available on Craigslist and ebay). The IQ is good enough for most internet stuff (similar to gopro), you won't break the bank and/or cry too hard if you crash.

The Phantom 4, 4 Pro and Mavic have the front sensor for collision avoidance if you are a noob. Basically the drone will stop automatically on front of an obstacle.

The Phantom 4 Pro is definitely a step up in term of image quality but also the more expensive.

Last thing, if you buy a drone here is what YOU MUST do and understand before flying: 1. compass calibration, 2. IMU calibration, 3. return to home (set the correct altitude), 4. difference between the flight mode (ATTI and GPS). Check the thousand of tutorial available on internet. Nothing complicated but ignoring these simple things will lead to crash. Be smart, not like Casey Neistat.

 

Here is what I did with a Phantom 3 Pro a few years ago. Fair enough

 

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@fuzzynormal I agree completely, I haven't even started because of this attitude, but I just lost a big documentary series because of that, spring time there is another big project that I may loose, or do some secondary work for it (and because the family grows, and needs feeding!), I am reconsidering my options, as for Greek TV just OK aerial shots are good enough for 75% of the productions. I have even seen some terrible stuff on air!

@OliKMIA excellent summary (as @ade towell said!) and great work. Congrats!

I would like to go for a NEW product, a fly a bit some SYMA drones (if you know them) with not so good results(!), that is why I am reluctant with a bigger, more expensive, pro tool.

As I see it 3 options are available,

P3Pro is a very good starting option but it is around 900-1000euros here with one battery, so not that cheap,

Mavic extremely small (I like all my equipment manageable, small/light), the simple edition is 1200euros and the fly more combo is 1500-1600 euros, but with 2 extra batteries plus some extras and the brilliant bag.

P4Pro is the best for low budgeted ones (1 inch/4K60p for that price is amazing!) but is 1600 euros the simple, and 2000euros the one with the 5.5" screen.

I (if) will make my buy near spring time, I have read some complaints about Mavic stability, video quality (some say that P3pro has better quality) and even though the size is just amazing and brilliant, the price isn't, with that said, I love having a small bag with a perfectly fine drone in it!

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@kisaha I agree, the P3P is a good option in terms of price/quality ratio. You should consider the used market.There are so many people who buy a drone, fly 5 times and put it in the closet. You can get great deals as these things loose so much value so fast. Also consider the accessories prices, the batteries and spare parts are much cheaper on "old" drones. For instance you can find two P3P battery at $250 while a single P4P battery is $170...

I would wait on the Mavic, that's the first production batch of the first generation of mini Drone. DJI is known to release products a little bit too early. The Phantom line is now very mature (solved the arm crack, some fly away issue with dual sensors and GPS, etc). But if you need portability, the Mavic is great. The batteries are also "cheap' at $100 per unit.

For the P4Pro I wouldn't get the version with the screen as it makes your setup less "upgradable". Some Apps don't work with the screen and you can bet that the next Phantom will require the V2 screen to work. DJI is known to be good at making previous version obsolete with the new one (eg. X5 Raw, controller not compatible between version or drones). I would just buy an Ipad mini or Iphone. I'm an android and PC guy but Apple products are more optimized with DJI.

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If the budget is not an issue and you really want to use it for commercial work the P4p is the best choice. Camera has much more DR than gopro, mavic, p4, p3p et… has variable aperture so you can use it to control the shutter speed in changing light without need to change ND filter (for sunny day you still need an ND filter). Also the 4k 60p (althrough is using line skipping so is not same quality as the 4k 30p) is handy for smooth moves especially if you slow them down in post.

 

I have p4p and I flew before only toys drones and I’m not good at flying them. The p4p is super easy to fly and incredible stable. In tripod mode is also very slow and stable that you can pull some shots in very close proximity of branches etc…

 

Now I have more than 20h of fly time, but this video I did after only 50min fly time and as I said never flew a big drone (video is far from perfect but it was literally my 4th fly): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NgLfAMh4Miw

 

For any commercial work you need at least 3 battery. I brought two additional p4 batteries that you can find at least here around 100-110 usd (they last 2 minutes less that the new p4p battery).

 

I always wanted to have a drone to add some scenes to my work but I was always put down by the camera quality. The p4p is the first “compact” and “affordable” that you can start working with.

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@gt3rs thanks for the encouraging comments! I do realize that the P4p specs are the only "useful" ones for less than 2000 euros, I am not consider using it as a highly pro drone pilot, so I am not sure the amount of money I have to spend are justified, maybe what the wise @OliKMIA said is the best option, find a cheap used one, try it for a couple of months, and then if I see I can do "great" things with it, to go for the P4p one. 

Your video was only a test? I was expecting a few static (tripod) shots of the place and the villa, it could have been brilliant!

That place, I can die there. Is it Austrian Alps? 

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I've had the Mavic for about a month. Before that, I had a phantom 1 with a gopro 4 black for 2 and a half years.

To own and fly the Mavic is a pure joy. It's so small, yet flies so good and you can take it anywhere anytime, really. With the phantom it always was a question if I want to take it with me.

I bought it for professional use for filming. The camera is nice. For 1080p delivery, not high-end projects it's enough in my opinion. I have to say, that it's winter here, so it hasn't seen many colors yet, but I've got the feeling, I won't be disappointed.

 

 

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@benymypony for 550$ I am doing it for free on my 3m boom pole (which I do for years and years now anyway with gopros) and buy a used Phantom!

Seriously, it is a great accessory, but rather on the expensive side, still a great buy for some. Small cranes are very cheap these days too (from 80-200$) and can achieve great motion.

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I'm in the same boat, I probably would have already bought a mavic by now, but they're still not really available anywhere, which is pretty frustrating. I almost pulled the trigger on a phantom 4 pro the other day, but despite the increased sensor size and big boost in IQ, I'm just not sure I want to lug around another heavy backpack with me on shoots, because I know from past experience that if it's inconvenient to carry along, I won't use it! :(

Which is, of course, exactly where DJI wants us to be, stuck between the portability of the mavic and the sexy image quality of the p4p. Having both would be ideal, but who wants to spend that much... It's pretty damn good product segmentation, that's for sure. 

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3 hours ago, Kisaha said:

@benymypony for 550$ I am doing it for free on my 3m boom pole (which I do for years and years now anyway with gopros) and buy a used Phantom!

Seriously, it is a great accessory, but rather on the expensive side, still a great buy for some. Small cranes are very cheap these days too (from 80-200$) and can achieve great motion.

Of course it's too expensive. A painter pole is the same thing for $30 :D

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The Mavic can be found at several US dealers or last minute deal on walk-in (Best Buy, Apple, Drone Nerds) but the current Chinese New Year celebration is not making things easy.

As for IQ, the P3P and Mavic can do the job for most situation, TV included. Of course it won't be high end Hollywood stuff but until the Inspire 2 and P4P came out two months ago the entire drone operators world did fine for the last 2 years with the P3, P4, Inspire X3 and X5, all maxing out at 60mbps.
All the sudden the P3P and Mavic IQ is not acceptable anymore ? Did the media agencies and customers drastically changed their requirements over the last 2 months ?

Of course 100mpbs is welcome and the P4P is great but I wouldn't discard the previous generation of drone especially if you are new into this. Remember there was only 8 months between the P4 and P4P announcement !

11 hours ago, gt3rs said:

I brought two additional p4 batteries that you can find at least here around 100-110 usd (they last 2 minutes less that the new p4p battery).

Be careful as there is a lot of fake batteries online and the DJI drones really don't like non-standard battery especially since they are "smart" units with the controller and regulator chip inside the battery. It's not just about the quality of the LiPo cell but how well or how bad the Drone and fake/non official battery will communicate. Things can get ugly very fast with wrong firmware and software issue. You can totally crash because a good 70% full battery will suddenly be seen as empty by the drone for instance, triggering the auto-land procedure...

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2 hours ago, OliKMIA said:

The Mavic can be found at several US dealers or last minute deal on walk-in (Best Buy, Apple, Drone Nerds) but the current Chinese New Year celebration is not making things easy.

As for IQ, the P3P and Mavic can do the job for most situation, TV included. Of course it won't be high end Hollywood stuff but until the Inspire 2 and P4P came out two months ago the entire drone operators world did fine for the last 2 years with the P3, P4, Inspire X3 and X5, all maxing out at 60mbps.
All the sudden the P3P and Mavic IQ is not acceptable anymore ? Did the media agencies and customers drastically changed their requirements over the last 2 months ?

Of course 100mpbs is welcome and the P4P is great but I wouldn't discard the previous generation of drone especially if you are new into this. Remember there was only 8 months between the P4 and P4P announcement !

Be careful as there is a lot of fake batteries online and the DJI drones really don't like non-standard battery especially since they are "smart" units with the controller and regulator chip inside the battery. It's not just about the quality of the LiPo cell but how well or how bad the Drone and fake/non official battery will communicate. Things can get ugly very fast with wrong firmware and software issue. You can totally crash because a good 70% full battery will suddenly be seen as empty by the drone for instance, triggering the auto-land procedure...

This is why I said "if budget is not an issue". To me it seems that he is mostly afraid of crashing it or not being able to fly it because is to difficult. Having flew only toy drone before I can reassure the OP that the Phantom/Mavic are super easy to fly and most people crash them due to over confidence. It gives you almost too much confidence on how stable and easy is to fly.

IMO is not the 60 vs. 100 mbits but the adjustable aperture, dynamic range and better low light that makes the difference. For people that wants to fly for fun and do some video the Mavic is amazing, if the goal is commercial work then for the price difference P4p it is a no brain. Of course you can create great content with p3p, p4, mavic as you can do it with a 5d II but most people don't buy a 5d II anymore.... is not only the camera but the P4p is faster than the p4/mavic with obstacle avoidance enabled and also have backwards obstacle avoidance, it has a super handy mode for slow cinematic takes called tripod mode (mavic has it too) etc... Also the video signal although not yet perfect is much more stable than the p3p.

Here in Switzerland the major DJI reseller is selling the original battery at 110$ like most store here, no ebay or strange non reputable stores... It seems that they are all discounting the battery due to the new ones (ca. 2-3 minutes more fly time). But for the price you can buy 3 battery for less than two new ones.

If budget is not an issue buy the p4p with DJI care if available in your country (assurance for crash even by pilot mistake), if you don't use it you can sell used for a really good price.... if budget is an issue buy a used p3p... Mavic and P4 are not really worth at current price if the main goal is video for commercial.

 

 

13 hours ago, Kisaha said:

@gt3rs thanks for the encouraging comments! I do realize that the P4p specs are the only "useful" ones for less than 2000 euros, I am not consider using it as a highly pro drone pilot, so I am not sure the amount of money I have to spend are justified, maybe what the wise @OliKMIA said is the best option, find a cheap used one, try it for a couple of months, and then if I see I can do "great" things with it, to go for the P4p one. 

Your video was only a test? I was expecting a few static (tripod) shots of the place and the villa, it could have been brilliant!

That place, I can die there. Is it Austrian Alps? 

Yes only a test. I was playing around with the various mode like orbit, active track etc... I was there for a weekend vacation with my girlfriend. I had the drone since 3 days and only 1 battery. The video is just ok it has tons of issues and as you can see I stayed quite far away from the hotel/villa because the drone was soo new to me that I didn't one to take risks.

Location is over Lucerne in the Swiss Alps.

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Yes, my first concern is that I am going to crash it the second battery.

Second concern, is how much flight time I need for some worthy shots (just the basics),

Third, I really do not like the image quality of the previous ones (and action cameras), actually I detest them, so for a crash cam, I am using a small ASP-C mirrorless with a fish eye on it, much much better image quality, so the new P4p camera seems like a must for everyone (old footage wasn't cut greatly with our advanced mirrorless and intercheangable video cameras).

With all these said, I ideally would like a Mavic size one! With the Phantoms, you always need space on a car, no other option, and I favor light and easy carry equipment (that's why mirrorless, that's why APS-C native lenses, etc etc).

Thank you very much for your information. It needs some thinking, a used P3p can be a good idea for the begining, but the safety features and sensors of the newer ones worth the extra 1000€?!

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