It took until 2021 for me to both try and purchase a drone. Most of my photographer friends have had them for years, but I struggled to see the appeal. A critical part of landscape photography is being immersed in nature, connected with your surroundings, so how would flying a drone and looking at a digital screen help to accomplish that? Besides, drones are expensive - why even bother buying something that sounds like a giant, angry mosquito?
Spoiler alert: that's why!
I decided I wanted something small but able to shoot good photos and videos, but without breaking the bank like many drones out there. The DJI Mini 2 seemed to meet my potential requirements: ultra light, affordable, small and very capable. I had zero interest in lugging around some big beast of a drone that takes up way too much space. My friends do it and it looks like a pain in the ass!
So, I bought the drone. Even though I knew it was small and light, it blew me away to see it in person. I took it for a couple basic test flights in the yard and then packed it away for my first trip with it.
I immediately fell in love with drone photography. I felt far more connected with the experience than I thought I would. It felt very similar to playing a video game... in fact, the controls are quite similar to the Hornet, a flying aircraft in Halo 3. I love flying in general, but since I'll probably never get my pilot's license and a helicopter, this is pretty much the next best thing.
Of course the Mini 2 only has a small 12 megapixel sensor, which doesn't leave much room for cropping, but you can get around it by creating panoramas or using the power of neural networks in Gigapixel AI and Denoise AI. And despite all of this, the image quality it puts out is still far better than any smart phone camera, from my experience! In fact it's good enough that I will be printing some of these for myself. The full resolution version of the panorama below is approximately 30 megapixels, without any upscaling:
Despite thinking I would hate drone photography, I ended up loving it with zero regrets. It's another tool in the bag, which is hard to say no to when it costs and weighs the same as, or even less than, a new lens. It opens up possibilities that would otherwise require spending thousands of dollars on helicopter flights, and you can rapidly move between wildly different compositions.
I'd be curious to hear your thoughts on drone photography, and why you like or dislike it!