Ask Drone Girl: What’s a good first drone for video?

This is the first question in a new series called Ask Drone Girl. Got a question for Drone Girl? Email it to me!

*This question has been edited for brevity and clarity.

Question:

Hi Sally,

I feel overwhelmed.  I am just beginning to learn about Aerial Photography/Videography with drones. I want to make sure I buy the right one that will suit my needs. (Quick back story- I am going to buy my first mini-quad (hudsan x4) on Friday, so that I can start learning to fly.  And in a couple of weeks, I want to buy my first Quadcopter.  I participate in an organization that will have a retreat in August.  They always do a group photo and promotional videos and what better way to do it this year than with shots from the air.  For now I want a drone that will grow with me.  Any advice?
Sincerely,
Lois
Answer:

 

Thanks for the email! It’s easy to feel overwhelmed, because there are so many drones out there! A lot of what I can recommend depends on what your goals are with your drone.
First, I would start by looking at the Drone Configurator. This will help narrow down products within your price range, ability and intended use. Secondly, I think it’s great that you want to practice on a mini-quad. It’s much better when that flies into a big tree and gets stuck rather than a quad in the $1000 range!

This is a big purchase, but I think the best copter for your money is the Phantom II Vision +. (Full disclosure: I’ve done paid promotional work in the past for both DJI and 3D Robotics.) The P2V+ is a great option because it comes with all the bells and whistles installed — I’m talking FPV (first-person view), gimbal, syncs with iPad, etc. DJI is the most established of all the drone manufacturers out there, allowing you better access to online support. If you go for a cheaper option, you’ll inevitably want to add a gimbal and FPV, which will require a lot of effort on your end — you’ll probably wish you had just bought it ready to fly!
However, if you are into the DIY scene and are up for tinkering with the drone, I would recommend buying the original Phantom, which you can find very cheap. Then you can add your own FPV kit (I recommend FatShark!) and gimbal (Tarot is a great one).
For some inspiration, here are some outstanding websites that you drones for video. My favorite is Drone Dudes. There are also some really great people at Kessel Run Films. Also don’t forget to join a local group to find people to fly with and learn from; there are usually lists of local groups on Meetup.com.
Happy flying!!

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  • Sally, I just finished up a new ebook on the Phantom models – which is designed to lead potential buyers through what they have – and don’t have – so they can make an informed decision (or not!)…..
    http://amzn.to/1rW4HZ9
    Would appreciate if you could spread the word….I will send you a PDF copy if I can find your email.
    I also have a book – print and ebook – for the very basics of starting and flying…that is, before one would consider something like the DJI, etc.
    http://amzn.to/1n0eQUn

  • As a beginner without any knowledge of quads/drones rushed in like a fool and bought a V303 Seeker, Wltoys V686G and a Syma X5C. Now learning the basics.

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