Five Drones For Amateur Film Makers

Captain America: Civil War - Falcon's Redwing Drone

by Kirk Schwarz |
Published on

Please remember: check the laws on drone use in your area and fly safe folks!

Hollywood is a funny old game. Sure, it used to be an exclusive boys’ club, meeting in expensive hotels to discuss the latest blockbuster over vintage port and expensive Cuban stogies… we think. However, recently, all you need to create stunning footage is a budget-friendly camera, an interesting location and a few sleek transitions up your sleeve. OK, so that may not get you a gig on the latest Nolan production, but you can still create breathtaking footage.

Of course, feet on the ground will only get you so far, and traditionally taking to the skies required expensive permits and a willing chopper pilot. Luckily, these days you can accomplish sweeping aerial cinematography with your feet planted firmly on the ground. We are, of course, talking about drones. They may have been around for a while now, but that only means the more recent ones are packed with amazing features. They aren't quite up to Falcon's Redwing capabilities, but they do offer rapid sports modes, 4K video and even, in come cases, interchangeable lenses.

Obviously, this list is going to get expensive, but you may be surprised to see some very affordable options. In fact, you may prefer the more streamlined bodies and consumer-friendly price. So, without further ado, here are five drones for film making.

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Empire: Drones For Film Makers

DJI Inspire 2 with Zenmuse X5S camera and gimbal, £5,0001 of 5

DJI Inspire 2 with Zenmuse X5S camera and gimbal, £5,000

You will notice a lot of DJI drones in this list, and there's a reason for that. The Inspire represents the flagship consumer drone, and is designed for professional aerial film makers. It offers up to 27 minutes of light time, boasts a tonne of safety features, including Flight Autonomy modes, Spotlight Pro follow mode and obstacle sensing and can do 0-50mph in just four seconds, with a maximum eye-watering 67mph limit. Thanks to the removable 20.8MP Zenmuse Z5S Micro Four Thirds camera, you're able to record up to 5.2k in CinemaDNG RAW and Apple ProRes (after purchasing an expensive activation license) to the detachable CineSSD (also purchased separately). Of course, there's also the more pedestrian 4K 30fps, which records straight to Micro SD, with a dynamic range of 12.8-stops and improved signal to noise ratio. It's definitely the pinnacle of consumer film making, as evidenced by its price. The gimbal, a staple of all DJI drones, also allows for incredibly steady footage.

DJI Mavic 2 Pro, £1,3502 of 5

DJI Mavic 2 Pro, £1,350

DJI's update to the wildly popular Mavic pro series brings with it a Hasselblad L1D-20C camera, which houses a 20MP 1in sensor, allowing for greater clarity, better low-light performance and greater dynamic range. It's also capable of shooting in 10-bit Dlog-M, as well as 10-bit HDR, making it better than ever for colour grading enthusiasts. Speed-nuts will love the rapid 44mph top speed in sports mode, and thanks to the omnidirectional obstacle avoidance system, accidents should be a thing of the past. Thankfully, you're also able to utilise the Tripod mode, which slows down the speed factor, and allows you to create some seriously smooth footage. As with all DJI drones, there's a multitude of brilliant autonomous modes here, including ActiveTrack, cinematic QuickShots and the all-important return to home mode. That last one is a real-life saver.

DJI Mavic 2 Zoom, £1,0993 of 5

DJI Mavic 2 Zoom, £1,099

Yet another DJI - a recurring theme - the Mavic 2 Zoom is identical to the Mavic 2 Pro in nearly every way. In fact, the only noticeable difference is the camera… but what a difference it is! Boasting a smaller 12MP 1/2.3in sensor, the charm here is in the eponymous zoom feature. You're able to take advantage of a 24-85mm optical zoom, which opens up the Dolly Zoom mode, a favourite of some of the best film makers to ever grace the screen. Beyond that, you've got the same great 31-minute flight time, QuickShot cinematic manoeuvres and even the Hyperlapse automated mode, which is shared among both versions and creates stunning moving time-lapses. Video comes in the way of 4K at 30fps, or 1080p Full HD at 120fps, though you have the option of a 4x lossless zoom in Full HD. The autofocus system has also been beefed up, with the phase detection being up to 40x faster than previous versions - brilliant!

DJI Mavic Air, £7094 of 5

DJI Mavic Air, £709

Surprise! Yep, it's another DJI, which should go to show how much of a grip they have on the commercial drone market. So, you ask, what makes the Mavic Air so special? Simple, it's tiny! Weighing in at 430g and folding down to 168x83x49mm, it's literally small enough to fit into your pocket - if you have biggish pockets, obviously. With these svelte dimensions, this is the ideal drone for anybody who loves to travel. Just because it's small doesn't mean it's underpowered however. It packs a 1/2.3in 12MP sensor that can rattle out 4K video at 30fps, or 120fps in Full HD. It boasts a series of QuickShots and autonomous flight modes - perfect for stunning aerial manoeuvres with zero experience - and you can put the pedal to the metal for a blistering 42.5mph. Of course, if you fly sensibly, you can get 21 minutes of flight time from the rechargeable battery. Needless to say, if you don't fly sensibly, you'll love the full range of GPS and sensing systems here - watch those obstacles!

Parrot Anafi, £6285 of 5

Parrot Anafi, £628

Take a seat, this may be a shock. Yes, the first drone on our list that isn't DJI, but rest assured, Parrot has earned this place. The first company to break through into the drone market all those years ago, they've been mostly overtaken by DJI. However, the Anafi, looks aside, is a great film-making tool, with image and video quality on a par with, if not slightly better than, the more expensive DJI Mavic Air. It features a 1/2.3in 21MP sensor, which can capture 4K HDR video at 30fps, or 24fps at 17:9. You can also film 1080p Full HD at up to 60fps, not quite the 120fps of DJI's offerings. There is, however, a 2.8x lossless zoom in 1080p, or 1.4x in 4K, which allows you to take advantage of the Dolly Zoom effect. It also features a 3-axis hybrid gimbal, which can actually angle upwards to take video above you. While it's a mix of physical and electronic, unlike the purely mechanical DJI version, it does a great job of capturing steady footage, and while it features autonomous flight modes and can perform cinematic manoeuvres, it lacks an obstacle sensing system… watch out for that tree!

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