Drone photography had intrigued me for a long time, but when it first began to get popular, my barrier to entry was simply the large size of the drones themselves; I knew I absolutely did not want the hassle of lugging a giant Pelican Case around with me wherever I went.
The DJI Mavic Pro was released in 2016, and when I saw there was an option for the drone that folded down to the size of a Nalgene water bottle, I quickly jumped on board. Unfortunately that was premature – the video footage was good, but the quality of the still images was just really lacking. It was basically a flying cell phone camera. Then, on top of that, I had so many connectivity issues between the drone and my remote/phone that I just got too scared to even fly it around any more. I was never able to get used to the feeling of having a $1000 machine somewhere in the air and having the app completely freeze up or seeing a “drone disconnected” error pop up on screen…
So that drone turned out to be a toy that ended up sitting in a closet.
Two years later, the DJI Mavic Pro 2 came around with a much larger 1″ sensor that would produce 20 megapixel still images, which was hugely acceptable step up from the original Mavic Pro. Right around the same time, DJI also released a smart remote controller that was dedicated to their drones and used in lieu of a smartphone. So with the image quality increased and the connectivity issues addressed, I leapt back in.
Since getting this new setup with the two upgrades I needed, it has been AWESOME. So much that I no longer consider a drone a “toy,” but an essential photography tool in my toolbox.
I have now returned from three international trips where if I did not have a drone with me, I would have been incredibly disappointed in the images that I came home with. There are locations and subjects that simply cannot be thoroughly photographed from the ground. My best case for that point is the Maldives – it’s officially impossible to find a high lookout to shoot from when the average elevation of the entire country is literally 4 feet…
I admittedly still don’t use it as much as I should, but often times it’s because I spend so much time in national parks or wilderness areas where it’s illegal to fly a drone. With the image quality still far from comparable to my mirrorless cameras, drone photography isn’t exactly going to immediately become my bread and butter, but having this drone has been an incredible tool and supplement to my normal travel photography.