Any photography fanatic knows that the key to impressive travel photos is keeping up on technology, and today the next big thing is all about rising above the competition—literally. Drone photography has been revolutionizing travel media, flooding the web with jaw-dropping shots and never before seen angles of our favorite destinations. (Just check out this video of Istanbul from Matador Network to see what I’m talking about.)
The professional footage is inspiring and while I, like many others, would love to capture similar photos on my own travels, drone photography has its obstacles. Firstly, drones are crazy expensive and can cost up to $2,000. Secondly, drones that weigh more than 0.55 lbs. need to be registered with the FAA, which has strict regulations about where you can and cannot fly. Given all these caveats, I assumed it would be a long time before I could afford a drone for travel, let alone learn how to fly it, which was why I was so excited to test out the Air Defender X Camera Drone from Vivitar.
For just $100, this FAA-approved drone comes equipped with a 16.1MP camera that connects to an app on your phone using Wi-Fi. You can use the included controller, or control the drone from the app which also shows a live camera feed and allows you to capture pictures and video. When it comes to flying it, there’s definitely a learning curve involved (stay away from trees!) and outside factors like wind can make it difficult to control. But after a few practice sessions, I was ready to bring the drone with me on a trip to the beach.
Since the drone’s battery only lasts for about 25 minutes and there’s no way to know when the battery will die, I wanted to stay away from the water and chose to test out the drone in a small field next to the beach. I was very excited by how high I could fly the drone and the great angles I was getting, but the picture quality is very pixelated. Here are some of the best unedited shots I took:
Though I was able to fly the drone high enough to take pictures of the beach, the videos are shaky. Because the drone has no stabilization mechanism and is so light, it was a challenge to keep the wind from carrying it out of sight. But, I think with more practice I could learn how to control it better. Here’s some video footage captured on the Air Defender:
Price and Where to Buy It: $100 on Amazon.com.
How it Rates:
- Usefulness: 7/10 For getting a view of the surrounding area, this drone gets the job done, but the image and video quality isn’t very high. Additionally, all videos are filmed in the .avi format, which need to be converted in order to edit them on your computer.
- Value: 7/10 For a commercial drone, $100 is a very good price. However, for a mostly Styrofoam drone that can be easily lost or broken, you are taking a chance with this purchase.
- Portability: 8/10 Small, thin, and incredibly light, this drone is easy to carry around, but it’s also fragile and should be packed with care.
- Cool Factor: 10/10 It’s a drone. You can flip it at the touch of a button, make it go upside down, and it even has lights so you can use it in the dark—all while taking pictures and video.
Final Verdict: This is the perfect first drone. It’s not too expensive and it gives you a feel for the challenges of controlling a drone and trying to capture images and video with it. It’s a lot of fun to play with and perfect to bring along on a family vacation.
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