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Ultra low budget quadcopter for filming with a GoPro?


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What very low budget quadcopter would people recommend that can still carry a GoPro on it?

My purposes is for very low budget productions to add in a little bit of basic aerial shots to include into videos I do at the moment, such as weddings, real estate videos, and the odd corporate shoot (and for the various no budget things I do now and then such as films and music videos).

My short list would be (with the CX20 looking like my favourite):


All can carry a GoPro on them. (though the second one, the cheapest, requires some modding I think, and does stretch the lift capacity to the limits)

FPV + Gimbal for the GoPro would both be "nice to haves" as well.

Though both things that can be purchased later on to add to the quadcopter, and not right now.

Anything else I'm missing or should be considering, please point out! :-)

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FPV and gimbal are must-haves. Footage without a gimbal is unusable, and without FPV how do you know if your framing is correct?

You probably want to make sure safety features like return-home fallbacks are present.

Also for these cheap Chinese things you might want to be sure if they'll pass FCC regulations, especially so since you're using them commercially.

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I'm not in the USA so FCC is not a concern for me :-)
Given I just need a few seconds worth to spice up a low budget video, and not filming any live events, so can do multiple flyovers, I think I can live without FPV initially and add it in a month or three later on. (one thing at a time... rather than rushing to add it all in all at once!) 

But yeah, gimbal is the next item I'd need to research immediately. While FPV is something I'd add in the very near term afterwards.

CX-20 is the cheapest that has return to  feature, and can add gimbal and FPV to. So I'm leaning heavily towards that.

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I always say 'Don't go amature, Go Pro', because to be honest, there's nothing really like a 'GoPro'. I mean, not that GoPro is the most perfect thing out there, but it does work brilliantly, the mountsystem and options are great and there's a reason for it being the number one choice out there. Now... you could go and get the SJCAM SJ4000, M10 or SJ5000-series camera for example, which include an LCD from the go and come rather cheap, but the GoPro is just in a different class altogether (albeit I'm pretty sure they could sell them at half price, so that part is kind of paying for a name). That being said, wasn't much of a fan of the DJI Visions, but the new Inspire really kicks ass image wise as well. And they've joined the M43 format, so that's very exciting. Sony, Contour, Panasonic, etc might have some stuff going for them that's not at all bad and although some have image stabilization and stuff, I don't really like any of their looks and the pricing gets comparable with that of a GoPro and then 'surprise', I'd rather get the GoPro.

Anyways, to get back to quadcopters. I'm very familliar with WLToys and the likes. My first quadcopter was the V929 which I got back in 2012. Tried mounting an 808 spycam for some aerial footage, but you know... it's not a tool... it's a toy. It's not stable, it's wonky. Vibrations everywhere. Same for the spycams. Jittery footage, kind of sharp, but lacking detail, dynamic range, weird colors, etc. Nothing cinematic or useful about it... the only thing you can say is 'here's a video I took from up above'. Well. Congrats. I've tried built-in cameras, like on the UdiRC U818A, maybe that works better since they can design it with an optimum center of gravity? Not great either. I mean... these DJI-like somewhat cheapo quadcopters must be fairly decent in comparison to some of the brands really cheap toy models (although those are great for training your flying skills, like the ultra cheap but fun CX10) and for instance Walkera is a very reputable brand, so they're probably solid, but it's kinda like picking a SJCAM over a GoPro. If you want to rely on something to work awesome, get yourself something that just works awesome and nail the results time and time again. And the DJI Phantoms are really awesome. It's just hard to touch that. The Inspire 1 takes it a step further, but I get you might not want to go there.

So I would listen to Xavier. DJI. A used one perhaps. You'll need a gimbal. It's a must. FPV is not actually mandatory (people used to shoot aerial footage with blind recordings all the time!), but sure, it does help tons and it's 2015 now. Also... think about hiring someone that has aerial experience and all the gear. Might be the best idea yet. Maybe in a year there's stuff that gets it done for 300 bucks. But we're not quite there just yet.

Think about how far we have come in so little time though. Who would've thought years ago that you could just go and buy a setup yourself and get amazing results being an amature without an endless wallet and skill. I mean, if you want to up your game these days, you can get a complete quadcopter kit with multi axis stabilization, GPS, telemetry, FPV and easy interfaces at the price of what? A GH4? NX1? A7S? So how about instead of a new camera, you get a new angle? That's insane. Although you do have to think about your local regulations flying these things and general safety issues. That's the sole reason I haven't trusted me with getting one. I want to play by the book, but it would totally not be fun/useful to have one anymore, applying all the restrictions, so I'm kinda left with: what's the point?

Anyways. I wanted to end this little rant with a few videos I think are pretty awesome and makes you excited for aerial footage:

CineStar 3 Axis Gimbal | Vimeo (freefly)

PB's Backyard | Vimeo (copterkids)

Aerial video over Norge | YouTube (ddhuans)

DJI Inspire 1 - "The Southern Roads" (4K UHD) | YouTube (neumannfilms)

The GSS C520 Review | YouTube (neumannfilms)

Definitly check out more of Neumannfilms stuff: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHC7WKecm42ptBmWM-FWv6g

DJI Inspire 1 Hands-on with Trey Ratcliff | YouTube (digitalrevtv)

Koh Yao Noi | YouTube (philipbloom)

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Hey IronFilm! I read your post and agree with others regarding a used DJI. There are many safety features with their system that can save your tail. Gymbals have also come down in price over the last few months.... it's not really an optional item. GoPro is so wide angle that you will not need to worry about FPV. Bloom suggests slow and sweeping motion and I agree. His article is an excellent guide. It's such an enjoyable product and people flock to see it in action! It lands itself and shuts off, hard to go wrong.



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Xavier / 1tkman / Cinegain: I'm in NZ, which is a tiny market, kinda rare for a 2nd hand DJI Phantom 1 to pop up and when it would, the price would be far higher than a CX-20. Even though it seems to me the CX-20 is better featured. So especially don't see the point of paying extra for essential just a "brand" name.

And the fact the price of CX-20 is under the threshold for customs tax into NZ is making me seriously consider it over the others.

Cinegain: of course! Using a GoPro as I said in the first post, because I've already got a GoPro 3 Black Edition that I got last year.

My time frame is something like: order a quad asap, order gimbal in the next week or two once I've researched that next, and FPV sometime later in the coming months. Doing it gradually rather than jumping in the deep end all at once :-)


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Actually, DJI is just another Chinese Shenzhen company, so the thing is, you're not even really paying so much because of the 'brand'. They've just looked at the pro choices out there and made something that's just as much of a tool and brought it somewhat more of a consumer level. It's not popular because it's the cheapest choice out there, but because it works so well and has a very solid line-up of pro level multirotors. They know their stuff. Whilst all these cheap choices basicly just remain toys. The same way I would say 'don't go amature, gopro', I would say 'why? Just get the DJI!'.

I'm the last one to convince you not to buy cheap stuff from China, coming from years and years of buying audio gear, radio controlled stuff, flashlights, tablets, smartphones and all sorts of gadgetry from there. I even was in Hong Kong a few months ago to be close to the action, visiting the Hong Kong Electronics Fair and getting across the border at Lo Wu to visit Shenzhen. Just this very morning the postman dropped off a WLToys V931 helicopter. But as much fun as these things are to play around with, I wouldn't get something from these guys if I were to shoot aerial video... I would go with DJI, even if that meant saving up to it. I think they give you the best value for a fair price. If you want something to rely on, with a proven track record, is nice to work with, tilting capabilities, that gets you the results... I'd say they're the best bet.

But of course, if you have no other option than to go with something like the CX20... it's gonna be closer than nothing and New Zealand has to be one of the finer places you'd want to fly an aerial platform above for sure. I get that. Maybe over at RCGroups they've got some nice tips 'n tricks for you. Gd luck!


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New Zealand! I missed that part. I can't imagine a more finer place to shoot! 

I wish we agreed on DJI, you wouldn't need to practice flying.... let go of the controls and they return to center, leaving the drone hovering. EBay is a key place to shop for used and the early models are priced within the same budget.

Regardless, please post your work when you are further into your journey. BTW, your research efforts are impressive thus far.

The only thing that I don't understand is just how well the ProTune option works on my GoPro. I shoot mostly flat and pretend that I can color correct like a proffessional :) However, my occasional ProTune footage looks smashing, and I didn't do a thing! I hope that makes sense. 


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