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Advice for new drone buyer? $500 and photography interest

jwats

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Good morning,

I'm about to take the plunge. There seem to be many used bundles I can buy used (Phantom SE/Pro ) for about $500. What models and accessories should I look for? I prefer to buy lightly used, do you disagree with that?

What would I, could I, bet if i bumped my target price to $700?

Thanks in advance
 

beachcombing

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What type of "photography interest" do you have? Locations? Hobby or professional? Photo? Video?

"Lightly used" might be okay, but you will need to inquire about any crashes. Too easy for crashes to damage internal components. Might be best to buy local and request that the owner demo the drone for you so that you know if operates correctly.

Your budget might be a little on the low side, but probably can be done.
 

Nosebump

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Good morning,

I'm about to take the plunge. There seem to be many used bundles I can buy used (Phantom SE/Pro ) for about $500. What models and accessories should I look for? I prefer to buy lightly used, do you disagree with that?

What would I, could I, bet if i bumped my target price to $700?

Thanks in advance
The problem with "lightly used" is that you really don't know. Unlike cars, there is no odometer with laws prohibiting tampering. You're literally at the mercy of the seller, and with no recourse.

Consider a NEW Mavic Pro for $799.00. The camera is 4k, which will yield crazy sharp images. You'll then have a known entity, and can buy the extras as your budget permits. BTW, I saw the MP at Best Buys today for $799, and I think Amazon has it for that price too. I would encourage you to NOT buy a refurb. I've heard too many negative stories, and Mavic Pro as a company (-from my personal experience) is difficult to deal with. -GREAT drones, but lousy service.

Accessories... Neutral density filters would be high on the list, along with at least one extra battery. Forget the lens shades. From my experience they don't work, and will vignette your images. Landing pads are nice, but I used a USPS (Post Office) cardboard box laid flat to the ground. It was free, and kept the dirt and debris out of my drone's intake just as effectively. -A 64 memory card eventually. Forget the antenna range extenders. I got one this week and while it looks cool, I noticed absolutely no difference.

Spend the $5.00 and register your drone with the FAA. The fine for not doing so is draconian (-Up to $250,000 and three years in jail)
 
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jwats

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I'm thinking about a Phantom 3 Pro, with case, extra battery , ND filters, props, etc for $500. The only caution is that it the owner says that while it is perfect, it has been " used a lot". I am going to meet him today for a demo. Seems to me that this is a reasonable price, and about
1/2 of what I would pay for this bundle if I bought a new PRO or AIR.

Would you be considered about the number of hours? Do they often break simply from time used?

See craigslist Ad here

DJI Phantom 3 Pro

Any advice?

Thanks in advance
 

gnirtS

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"lightly used" could mean "flown twice, crashed once" and thats the problem with 2nd hand drones.

That's a low budget. How "interested" are you in photography?

Remember the cameras on these drones (P4 Pro and Inspire excepted) are fairly poor - equivalent to a several year old cell phone so you might get disappointed if you're used to quality images.
 

jwats

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"lightly used" could mean "flown twice, crashed once" and thats the problem with 2nd hand drones.

That's a low budget. How "interested" are you in photography?

Remember the cameras on these drones (P4 Pro and Inspire excepted) are fairly poor - equivalent to a several year old cell phone so you might get disappointed if you're used to quality images.
 

jwats

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I am a semi serious still photographer, but would like to explore drone video. I have no expectation that the quality will be superb, and frankly don't know how far I want to go until I try it. So, I'd like to take a small financial step, and see how it goes. I'd rather crash a $500 drone than a new one, and if I really enjoy this, I can upgrade later to a newer and better drone. This bundle seemed like a reasonable starting point. 4k Camera, extra battery, etc.

Any advice for what I should look for when I do the demo today? Of course you can ask questions, but never sure if answers are honest

Thanks!
 
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thebigbaddan

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Mavic Pro or Mavic Air... you can find a great deal for a new on eon Ebay.

I would skip the Phantom as the Mavic line has really matured, and is quite a bit easier to carry around.
 

Mossiback

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Ask to be shown the battery status in Go 4 (controller software). It will show how many times the battery has been charged. It will give you an idea of how much use it has had if you figure appropriately 20 minutes flight per charge. If you assume all the batteries are the same age then it would be 20 x number of charges x number of batteries for appx. total flight time. DJI lists the "hover time" as 25 minutes but actual flight time is usually lower so 20 minutes should be close. Perhaps a phantom owner can correct this time.

Keep in mind that a craft with low hours may have been in water and there is no water indicator like in a cell phone. It may fly okay now but corrosion may shorten it's life.
 
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jwats

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Mavic Pro or Mavic Air... you can find a great deal for a new on eon Ebay.

I would skip the Phantom as the Mavic line has really matured, and is quite a bit easier to carry around.
This was great advice and moved me to think hard about buying a Mavic Air combo kit on Ebay..for less than $1,000, you can get a 3 battery kit. I'm sure some of the accessories aren't needed, but the size advantage looms large in use.

For example

DJI Mavic Air (Flame Red) 3 Battery EXTREME All You Need Accessory Bundle NEW | eBay

This advice has been so valuable!
 

Nosebump

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There's an excellent article in the AOPA drone magazine discussing drone MTBF (-Mean Time Before Failure) statistics; something that I've not seen mentioned in many places. -A shame. Fifty hours on motors, according to the article, is not uncommon. They also discussed the lack of redundant systems in a drone, and the building concern within the FAA.

With that as a perspective (-and I'm probably too late) I would not buy a used drone that is "high time". The likelihood of failure is too great, which would leave you $500 poorer, and with a bad taste in your mouth. The batteries also have a numerical charge cycle MTBF. Others in this message string have also talked about the great advances in camera technology. Dinosaurs became extinct for a reason.

I (still) highly recommend waiting, then purchasing a Mavic Pro. Once you have it, spend LOTS of time learning to fly the thing (Hint: get above the trees so that you don't hit anything, and find some lonely park to try the low level stuff...and DON'T try to fly indoors!). Even with one battery, you can accomplish much.
 

jwats

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I agree and am now not planning to buy a used drone. I strongly leaning to buying an AIR. I love the size , we do a lot of traveling. Do you feel the PRO is worth an additional $200? I can narrow the gap by buying a refurbished PRO, but it scares me.

thank you!
 

Lapeer20m

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The biggest advantage of the pro is occusync. It’s amazing radio technology for both controlling the drone and streaming all of your telemetry data + video and allows for wireless connectivity to the goggles.

Air uses WiFi which doesn’t have the range or reliability of occusync.

Plus mavic controller has all of the telemetry built in which is invaluable when your iPad gets disconnected.
 
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JoBri

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Go directly to drones that have 4k Camera your budget is almost there just wait and continue to save money so that you can purchase high-end drone with great flight and camera quality.
 

Nosebump

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Again, I would avoid purchasing a "refurbished" anything. Go to Amazon and read the reviews on refurb units (-even those refurbished by DJI). -Plenty of horror stories. I would wonder exactly what did they do, and what was wrong with the unit originally. Did they really find the problem?

Lapeer20m mentioned the biggest advantage (-again, in my opinion) that the MP has over the Air. While the Air has a slightly better camera (60 fps in 4k) and a few extra bells and whistles, those differences don't outweigh the occusync advantage. A WiFi connection is just not as solid, especially if you live in a city or suburb. Think of your wifi computer coverage in your own home and the "boosters" that you had to buy to get reception just a couple rooms away. The smaller size of the air is a nice feature though.

You can flop back and forth between the two units. They're both excellent in quality.

$799 seems to be the sweet spot for a new Mavic Pro though (-I just checked Amazon and it's now $787). You can find that online at Amazon, or at your local Best Buys. I purchased from Amazon because I like the security of their return policy.
 

Nosebump

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-Odd. The "negative comments/ratings have all but disappeared on the referb units. Six months ago there were many more. The price difference between new and referb is about $50.
 

mad monkey

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I went Mavic air fly more combo.
Purchased retail from Apple store.. Have since spent unknown amounts of money on it to get accessories etc that I enjoy. I love the thing. Yes with ocusync you get more range but range can be a good and bad thing. The size of the MA is awesome. It comes with a nice contoured case and can easily be put into a backpack and off you go.
DJI go 4 can be tricky but there's plenty of information on settings and set up's that work flawlessly. Buy a high quality u3 SD card. And have fun. People are always surprised when I show them what I shoot and with what! And I'm totally rookie to flying drones and photography
 

Nosebump

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I went Mavic air fly more combo.
Purchased retail from Apple store.. Have since spent unknown amounts of money on it to get accessories etc that I enjoy. I love the thing. Yes with ocusync you get more range but range can be a good and bad thing. The size of the MA is awesome. It comes with a nice contoured case and can easily be put into a backpack and off you go.
DJI go 4 can be tricky but there's plenty of information on settings and set up's that work flawlessly. Buy a high quality u3 SD card. And have fun. People are always surprised when I show them what I shoot and with what! And I'm totally rookie to flying drones and photography
You'll have a blast with your new drone! Remember though, practice, practice, then MORE practice! Don't depend on the obstacle avoidance sensors. It's surprising how much they don't see. Power lines and branches are all but invisible. Do the beginner mode for your first battery charge and become comfortable with the controls. REGISTER YOUR DRONE WITH THE FAA!!! The fines are draconian, and the FAA WILL prosecute...especially in today's environment. They're looking for examples to make. Spend the $5.00.

The Go4 app isn't that hard. If you want a jump-start on settings, let me/us know. I can give you all the beginning settings. Also, your initial calibrations are important. Do the compass and gimbal gymnastics. Set your Return To Home parameters correctly. You want it to return to the take-off point, and NOT hover in-place when it looses signal.

Use some kind of landing pad. The Pro and Air sit way too close to the ground, and will cut grass at the expense of the propellers. The cooling fan will also suck in bugs and debris. You can get a FREE landing pad at your local Post Office. -Pick up two or three (-Did I say they're free?). They come in different sizes, and are mislabeled as Flat Rate Medium Shipping Boxes. The P.O. should know that they're really drone pads! Leave them flat, and only turn them into boxes if you crash your drone severely. Then they make handy-dandy containers to send drone debris back to DJI for repair.

Don't try to fly indoors! If you accidentally hit the RTH button, the drone will ascend to the predetermined altitude (-30' by default) and clean your ceiling plaster (-I know of at least one drone pilot who did this).

You'll discover that Neutral Density filters will be necessary to set the appropriate exposure settings. Remember, the drone doesn't have f-stops, and must rely on ISO and shutter speed. Forget the lens hoods. They'll only vignette your image. The range extender reflectors are also a waste. I noticed absolutely no difference!

One flaw on the controller...pay VERY careful in which way you plug it into the charger! Look at the plug, then look at the insert on the side of the controller. The plug has an offset "tongue". Unfortunately, you can insert it either way; one correct, and the other not. Unless they've fixed that flaw, you can unknowingly wiggle the tongue back and forth (-by not inserting it correctly) and break it off! Mark it with paint or your girlfriend's fingernail polish.

The rest can be learned from Youtube.
 
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