One of the most exciting things about having a drone is shooting amazing images and videos. Drone photography is fast becoming a whole new art form in itself.
For those looking to buy a drone for photography purposes, there are two main choices. Do you get a drone with a built-in camera? Or do you get one that allows you to attach your own camera?
As with most things, there are pros and cons to each approach. In this article, we’re going to discuss drones with built-in cameras. We’ll address add-on drone cameras in another article.
Pros for getting a drone with a built-in camera
Let’s look at some solid reasons for buying a drone with an integrated camera. Are these important to you?
Easier to use
Drones with integrated cameras require minimal setup as the camera was already designed for the drone. Since most drone manufacturers’ objective is to shorten the learning curve for users, there is little left to do to start shooting images. You only need to charge its batteries and plug in a storage device for storing your work.
Flight-specific filming features
Drones that are going to create images already have many of the needed features. Its camera will come ready to film in flight. Among its features are video streaming to smart devices and recording directly to a remote storage location like the cloud or a laptop. Since many drone photographers view the live footage as they record it, features like these protect their work. Otherwise, a malfunction or crash could result in losing the footage altogether.
As a new drone owner, you get support for the drone package you purchased. Therefore, if your drone has a built-in camera, it has support as well. This means one less warranty to deal with and one less phone call you’ll have to make.
Cons of getting drones with integrated cameras
Now let’s look at the cons of using drones with built-in cameras. These are common reasons why some drone operators opt for adding a camera separately to their unit.
Lower camera quality
Drone manufacturers specialize in making drones, not cameras. So we already know that adding a camera was little more than an afterthought. Therefore, we may or may not have a reputable camera brand installed on our drone.
Lack of custom features
Built-in cameras usually offer little to no custom features and camera controls. Thus, the typical camera settings that seasoned photographers use will probably not be available.
Reduces battery life
It is quite common for integrated cameras to draw from the drone’s battery for its power. This is a logical move since additional batteries would mean more weight and more complexity.
Built-in camera features to consider
Let us examine some features that integrated drone cameras have. These should be considered when buying drones with a camera.
All digital cameras have internal sensors for recording light info and subsequently converting that data into picture files. So when those sensors are bigger, images will have higher quality since it gathers more light information. Thus, small cameras always have smaller sensors which result in less image quality.
The lens of a camera is almost as critical as its sensor size. Since the lens’s task is to focus and precisely guide the light into the sensor, it plays a massive role in determining image quality.
In video jargon, the resolution determines the number of pixels that can be crammed into a video image. Just think about your TV having resolution settings. A typical HD TV will have at least a 1280×720 resolution – which means 1280 pixels wide and 720 pixels high.
For your drone camera, high-definition resolutions are defined as 720i, 720p, 1080i, and 1080p. Anything higher than 1080p is considered ultra-definition.
Frame rate is another video metric that specifies the number of times a camera takes a picture per second. A standard frame rate for film is 24 frames per second. Higher frame rates will look much better in the high and ultra-definition resolution settings. A higher frame rate is also needed to create slow-motion footage.
Video and digital images are stored in files, and those files are available in different formats. Each of these file formats needs specific software to process them. Additionally, these formats also have different degrees of compression.
During compression, certain information is removed to make the file size smaller. When videos and images are compressed, some of their quality will be lost.
Integrated drone cameras often come with options to add external storage devices like an SD card or a USB drive. As your common sense would tell you, the more storage you have, the less often you will have to dump your footage – which equates to longer flying time.