Thoughts on Drone selection

How I got to buying the DJI Mini 3 Pro and my initial impressions.

As promised earlier this week, I’ll share my process for choosing a photography drone with you. As you read this post, please be aware that

  • I am not an expert in the field of drones, as I have not tested various drones’ performance against each other
  • I am not being compensated by any drone manufacturer or vendor

My interest in drones was piqued by my photography trip to Iceland, during which I hiked into the active volcano Fagradalsfjall (topic of a future post). After overcoming the sense of being awestruck by mother Nature and taking a number of photos, I saw some of the photos that were taken by various photographers, including the leader of our photo tour, Loren Fisher. The ones that stood out to me were those taken with a drone (see Loren’s blog post), as the perspective allowed for something that we humans don’t get to see.

Clearly, I needed a drone! So the next question was: which one to get. On my list were the following factors:

  • Ease of flying the drone
  • Quality of the photography and video captured by the drone
  • Price point

Speaking with Loren Fisher, I was assuaged of my fear of flying the drone; as he explained to me that today’s good photography drones are much easier to fly than those little toy drones that many of us have struggled with. The key to the current crop of drones is that they have a lot of built-in sensors and smarts that enable them to hover without human intervention and stay in place rather accurately.

Turner’s Falls View

My search next went to a number of drone reviews for the current crop and watching several YouTube videos that provided more in-depth reviews of the models that might be of interest. After reading a number of reviews, it became apparent that the DJI Air 2S and DJI Mini 3 Pro were the most likely candidates for a great started drone with excellent camera and flight characteristics. The DJI Air 2S has a slightly higher price point, and the DJI Mini 3 Pro is slightly smaller.

Meeting of the Connecticut and Fall rivers

After watching several in-depth video reviews of the DJI Mini 3 Pro, there were a couple of advantages that helped me make my decision. The technology in the DJI Mini 3 Pro (released in May 2022) is about a year newer than the DJI Air 2S (released in April 2021); this may not sound like much, but in high-tech changes and learning evolves rapidly. The deciding factor for me was that the DJI Air 2S weighs in at 595 g, whereas the DJI Mini 3 Pro is a mere 249 g; of course, that means that the Mini 3 Pro might be a bit more wind sensitive, but there’s another aspect to this: drones weighing less than 250 g don’t need to be registered with the FAA unless used for commercial purposes. As I wasn’t sure about my long-term drone intentions, this is a step I may want to skip for now.

Coming in for a landing

In purchasing the DJI Mini 3 Pro, I did splurge and upgraded the controller to the DJI RC, which has a built-in touch screen, so that I don’t need to use my phone for flying. That $150 extravagance has made for a wonderful flying experience.

Thus far, I’ve been extremely happy with the DJI Mini 3 Pro performance, and even happier with DJI as a company. Reason is that on my third flying session I overestimated my abilities and crashed the drone into a tree branch that overhung a river… It was a gut-wrenching moment, and I couldn’t recover my drone. Luckily, I had bought the 1-year DJI Care Refresh Service Agreement, and after contacting DJI’s support team, I was quickly sent a replacement drone for a heavily discounted price; their support people were empathetic and extremely helpful and I had a replacement drone in hand within 10 days.

And how’s the video quality, you ask? I’ve been capturing video in H.265 codec and have found them to be fantastic. You be the judge and check out my YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/@dutchgoesthephoto

Looking forward to your questions and experiences!

Not to drone on, but…

Greeting All! Yes, it’s been a long time since my previous post; 140 days to be exact. I can make lots of excuses why this bout of bloggers block has lingered, but I won’t bore you with that.

Instead, let me share a couple of fun items that might be of interest:

  • I’ve been on two vacations this year:
    – In early August there was a photography trip to Iceland
    – In mid-September, my wife and I cruised the Rhine from Amsterdam to Basel
  • I have added a photo/video drone to my arsenal of devices!

So, there will be future posts (spoiler alert: I’ve already scheduled one for later this week to feature something Icelandic), as I have a boatload of RAW images to edit and lots of fun ones among them.

Here, I just want to drone on a bit about my drone, which is a DJI Mini 3 Pro (I’ll write a post about my experience with this photography drone, which I really love thus far). When I visited Iceland, one of the marvels that I got to witness was the volcano Fagradalsfjall, which was active from August 3 to August 22, 2022. Besides being stunned by the power and beauty of Nature, I realized that there was tool that I lacked in my bag: a drone. After getting back from Iceland, I researched features and capabilities, which led me to the DJI Mini 3 Pro.

Let me share a couple of images first!

The Quinapoxet River in West Boylston, Massachusetts
The Old Stone Church in West Boylston, Massachusetts

It’s been an adventure of exploration to use the drone to get a completely different perspective on subjects that are already familiar to me. The Old Stone Church is very much in that category and it was fun to find an angle that would work well with the strong, early-morning light that rakes across the scene.

The other door that has been opened by the drone is the opportunity to shoot videos in Nature from angles that would otherwise be inaccessible; the drone really gives a sense of being able to fly across the landscape in the manner that we normally do in our dreams.

I’ll share one of the videos that I posted on YouTube here; it’s an exploration of a section of the Connecticut River by the old mill town of Turner’s Falls. As the bulk of the water of the Connecticut is redirected for power generation and flows through the old canal that used to power the mills, one can stand at riverbed level and see the mighty Connecticut in a whole new fashion.

Thus far, I’ve only posted a couple of videos, as I’m experimenting with video techniques and learning how to best process them. There will be more to come!

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