For some time now I have been considering other avenues to explore with my photography. After thinking back and forth on it, I finally decided to pull the trigger on a drone. Aerial photography has been something that has intrigued me for a while now: there are some amazing images out there. But with the regulations for flying becoming stickier every day, I was reluctant to take the leap. I decided to go for it after I kept seeing more and more incredible top down landscapes come across my social media feed.
I chose to go with DJI's Phantom 4. Not the pro or the advanced or whatever sub model that is out now, but the original Phantom 4; the reason for this boils down to dollars and cents. At this point, I am not willing to drop a bunch of cash on something I might find a headache and be done with before I even start. So far the Phantom 4 has done nothing but impress me - the thing basically flies itself and I have a new found respect for the R&D department at DJI. These guys have put some serious engineering into the mechanics and software that controls these little drones.
First of all, the drone will do you wonders if you are just looking to start out in the world of aerial photography. It shoots 12 megapixel RAW files, can hover until the battery goes dead and then it flies itself "home" (where it took off). This ease of flight that is virtually hands free allows for careful consideration of composition when trying to capture an interesting aerial shot. Now, aside from the fact that the Phantom 4 does the job from an entry level perspective, there are a few things that bug me as a photographer. Keep in mind that if you are looking to use this drone for primarily shooting video it will do close to as much as many pro level UAV's. Shooting at 4k and allowing for steady pans and customization in regards to gimbal and y&x axis customization.
Here are my issues with the Phantom 4 from a photographers standpoint:
1. You can not manually adjust aperture.
This is a problem because I want to have full control over my cameras settings. I want a deeper dept of field to ensure sharp images.
2. I can not choose a focal point with the Phantom 4.
Now, I have not found this to be a huge disadvantage as of yet but as I said before the ability to have full control over your camera and it's functions it pretty important as a landscape photographer. Also, this bugs me because DJI's newer Mavic Pro can achieve this. The two drones have similar camera specs so I am really hoping that this is just a firmware issue and that there is no physical limitations within the Phantom.
3. The ISO range in junk.
I really shouldn't complain about this, I knew the sensor size and it's capabilities before I made the purchase but I still went with the regular 4. But, from a guy who shoots landscapes with a full frame camera it hurts when I see grain in an image when the ISO is higher than the lowest option of ISO 100. Not a deal breaker but a person really has to be ok with grainy images when going out to shoot in the early mornings or late evenings when the light is nice and soft.
As I have already stated I am really hoping these issues are solvable with a firmware update and I will be keeping a close eye out. I have a feeling the aperture issue will not change because with most lenses adjusting aperture is an analog operation so my guess is that this will not change. Other than these issues, which granted are rather large from a photographers perspective, the Phantom 4 is an incredible drone. What I have yet to determine is if this new drone is going to be a valued tool in the arsenal or just a toy that is used in novelty situations. I will close with a few images and let you be the judge.