DJI Mavic Air (2018) vs DJI Mavic Mini (2019)
Key things to consider when buying a Drone
Our super simple Buying Guide
Consumer drones are small unmanned aircraft that are used for filming and taking photos. Most consumers who buy drones are amateur or professional photographers and filmmakers who want to use them to get shots from perspectives that would otherwise be impossible. Therefore, a good drone should be fast, able to achieve great heights, have good maneuverability, be easy to fly and have a high-quality camera.
Drones come at various price points. The more affordable drones cost under $100 and can be a good choice for beginners and for some basic aerial photography. On the other end of the spectrum, we have drones which can cost a few thousand dollars and are aimed at professionals. They have high-quality cameras that enable taking great video and photographs and feature advanced flying modes, such as automatic target following and obstacle detection systems.
Even though most drones come with a one-year warranty, a good drone should last for about 10 years. However, because new models get released every year, it will probably be outdated much sooner than that.
DJI dominates the consumer drone market. It produces a wide selection of reliable drones for different use cases, with each of them excelling at what it was designed for. Virtually everyone that’s looking for a drone can find a DJI option that will suit their needs.
Parrot’s line of drones isn’t as diverse as DJI’s, but they are nonetheless a very good choice. While Parrot’s drones arguably aren’t quite on the same level as DJI’s most notable products, people who buy a Parrot drone probably won’t regret their decision.
These are the most important specs to consider when buying a drone:
- Max Photo ISO - A high maximum ISO is important for shooting in low-light conditions. It represents the camera’s sensitivity to light - a higher ISO value helps produce more vivid images in poorly lit conditions, without the need to sacrifice other shooting settings. However, when using a high ISO setting, pictures can end up with considerable noise. It’s worth noting that the camera’s ISO value is just one part of what makes a camera perform well in low-light conditions and doesn’t necessarily directly correlate to the quality of the final image.
- FOV (°) - The wider the field of view, the wider the scene that the camera is capable of taking in at once. It represents the angle, measured from the camera’s point of view, between the two vertical edges of the captured image and determines how much of the world can be recorded at any given moment. A wide FOV can be achieved by using a short lens with a short focal length, which causes objects to appear smaller and less detailed than when using a lens with a narrower FOV. On the other hand, photographers get images with narrow FOVs when using longer lenses; those make objects appear larger and more detailed.
- Aperture - Using large apertures when shooting is important because they can help balance fast shutter speeds. Fast shutter speeds are ideal for capturing fast-moving objects; to still get the amount of light that's required to take a good photo, one can use a larger aperture that allows more light to fall on the sensor or film during the exposure. A camera’s aperture is defined as the size of the lens opening. The advertised value typically represents the maximum possible aperture for that lens. Aperture values are written as fractions of the form "f/x", where a higher x value means a smaller aperture.
- Max Video ISO - A high maximum ISO is important for shooting in low-light conditions. It represents the camera’s sensitivity to light - a higher ISO value helps produce more vivid images in poorly lit conditions, without the need to sacrifice other shooting settings. However, when using a high ISO there’s a higher risk of ending up with considerable noise. It’s worth noting that the camera’s ISO value is just one part of what makes a camera perform well under such conditions and doesn’t necessarily directly correlate with the final quality of the video.
- Video - The list of video formats represents the video resolutions that the camera is capable of shooting in, along with how many frames per second can be captured when recording at that resolution. The longer the list of formats, the more versatile the camera. Different formats are suited to different use cases - time-lapses, slow-motion shots, and fast-paced scenes all require different camera settings.
The resolution represents the size of the image in pixels. For example, a “4000×2250” value means that the camera can produce an image that’s 4000 pixels tall and 2250 pixels wide.
The number of frames per second (fps) represents how many frames the camera captures each second of filming. Shooting at high fps is required to properly capture fast action scenes, like sports. The main disadvantages of shooting at high resolutions and fps rates are that the resulting files take up more space and require more processing power since the video contains more information.
- Sensor - This value represents the physical size of the sensor that's used to capture the image. A larger sensor is capable of capturing more light, which in turn leads to pictures with less noise. Cameras with larger sensors tend to be more expensive and better suited to professionals.
- Stills - The list of still image sizes represents the image resolutions that the camera is capable of shooting in. The longer the list of resolutions, the more flexible one can be when choosing the size of an image. For example, a “4000×2250” value means that the camera can produce an image that’s 4000 pixels tall and 2250 pixels wide. Shooting at higher resolutions results in larger files that improve the quality of the photos since they contain more information. That's especially important for images that will be viewed in a large format.