2015 Holiday Gift Guide for Drone Enthusiasts

WhirlingTripod’s Drone Enthusiasts Gift Ideas for 2015


DSC_6011Book: Aerial Photography and Videography using Drones by Eric Cheng on Peachpit Press $27.31

Available on Amazon HERE for $27.31

The ultimate book for anyone who wants to get into drone photography or videography. Written by Eric Cheng, who is one of the pioneers of this artform, the book gives you a fully rounded knowledge of aerial imagery.  There are not many people who could convey this much information, so concisely, with personal examples. It is a treat to read about the adventures that Eric has had, while mastering this new type of flying photo equipment.  Having been on a couple of those amazing adventures with him, I can personally attest to his ability to master almost any aerial situation.  If you are interested in aerial image capture as an extension to your photographic hobby or profession, I highly recommend this book.

As a teacher of aerial imagery at TheArcanum.com I also recommend this book to my students.  It is a full reference guide to drones and most current technologies being used in the air.  It not only covers image capture, but delves into Mapping and 3D Modeling using drones and the unique software that is being developed for them.  There is even a section called “Learning to Fly”. In this section, Eric details the best aerial skill building challenges, to make you a better pilot. Learning these simple routines, like the Box and the Figure 8, will grow your piloting skills quickly.  This reference guide also details the specific cameras and features of the current consumer drones that top sales in the market. There are also sections on things you need to know like, traveling with drones, LIPO batteries, and legal concerns. Aerial Photography and Videography using Drones by Eric Cheng, is the most complete guide to drone based aerial imaging available.

This book is a definite top pick for any drone enthusiasts holiday happiness.  Head over to Amazon for this item, and remember to say you heard about it on WhirlingTripod when you rate the purchase.

Drone:DJI Phantom 3 Series Standard & Advanced Models $699 or $999

DJI has released a couple of entry level drones this year and both are on our list.

DJI Phantom 3 Standard

DJI Phantom 3 Series Standard Model

DJI Phantom 3 Standard : $699

The DJI standard model of the Phantom 3 series is the cheapest and most capable entry level drone on the market (IMHO).  It is the perfect entry level drone for a true beginner. Carrying a DJI camera mounted on a 3 axis stabilization gimbal, it has over 20 minutes of airtime per battery.  This camera is capable of capturing 12 megapixel, DNG Raw images and 2.7K video, at 30fps or 24fps. Available modes allow you to capture still imagery like HDR, Time Lapse, Burst Shots, Auto Exposure Bracketing of 3,5,or 7 shots, and allow full manual camera control of ISO, shutter speed, and White Balance.  Because the DJI Standard uses the same “DJI Go” application for control and operation, it also has most of the same safety and flight capabilities.  The total distance that one can fly is determined by the area in which you fly.  In optimal conditions, with little to no wireless interference this drone can operate over 1000 meters away (or over 1/2 mile).  It uses your phone’s 2.4ghz signal for control of the camera functions and the Go Application.  The remote controller uses 5.8ghz to manage flight control commands using an internal variation of DJI’s lightbridge system.


DJI Standard Camera Image f/2.8, ISO 100, 1/5000th second with exposure bias set to -1.3 step


If you are new to GPS equipped stabilized drone operations, this is the lowest priced, entry level option.  The biggest fear people have, is buying a $1000+ drone and crashing it on the first flight.  The DJI Standard is the lowest cost drone with Auto Takeoff and Auto Landing capabilities, to help you be a better pilot and bring home your drone safely.  Even professional drone pilots use the “Go Home and Land” feature, which is built into all of DJI’s drones. This new low cost platform is exactly what you need to learn aerial image capture and produce your first aerial images, video and other aerial image derivatives, like panoramics and mapping.

This aircraft runs the same industry leading flight controller and control application as the other Phantom 3, Inspire 1 and Inspire Pro models use.  The main differences between the Phantom Standard and the other P3 models is the camera and gimbal.  The DJI Phantom 3 Standard takes its design elements from their first flying camera, the Vision+.  The camera has the same 20mm equivalent lens featured on the other Phantom 3 series models. The sensor is quite capable and renders amazing video much like the other Phantom models. The still image capabilities are similar to the other models, but comes up a bit short in low light situations. All in all the camera and aircraft combine to make a very desirable entry level purchase for this holiday season.

Media links 2.7K Raw Video set to music and speed altered  https://www.youtube.com/VvqZ6oI6-R8 &  https://youtu.be/DAMtDBxAi8U




Gif animation made with DJI Phantom 3 Standard 7 shot Burst Mode




Coit Tower taken with DJI Phantom 3 Standard

DJI Phantom 3 Advanced an Entry Level to Intermediate Level Drone $999


DJI makes two entry level drones. The one we already talked about was the most inexpensive entry level drone. this one, The DJI Phantom 3 Advanced, is a definite upgrade from that lower priced model.  At $999 USD, this drone compares much more closely to the Phantom 3 Professional model ($1259 USD) than its cheaper cousin the DJI Phantom 3 Standard ($699 USD)  The biggest advantages are the usable distance, and the camera’s sensor.  This P3 Advanced camera is the same Sony Exmor series of sensors as the P3 Professional with lower capabilities for the video parameters. The still images and other still modes are all the same quality as the P3 Professional. In almost every respect this sensor beats the P3 Standard sensor hands down. It has better low light, white balance. color, and clarity, than its cheaper cousin.



A two second exposure taken with the DJI Phantom 3 Advanced wearing a PolarPro ND8 (3 stop) filter





The P3 Advanced model has the same powertrain and controller as the P3 Professional, beating the P3 Standard with increased usable distance (up to 1.2 miles from 2000 feet) and better power but he same speed. (35MPH or 16KPH with no wind in ATTI mode). The P3 Advanced has all the same shooting modes as the Standard, plus it is capable of 27K video at 60fps on a better Sony Exmor sensor. It has the same camera design and can use the same filters as the P3 Professional. I have been using PolarPro filters to extend the capabilities of the Advanced model.


PolarPro Phantom 3 Series filters 3 pack for Phantom 3 Advanced and Professional



Using the different still image modes (Single shot,HDR,Burst,Timelpse,& AEB) combines with filters and the stabilized aerial platform from DJI, you can make some amazing imagery. Here is a 30 image 360 degree spherical panorama that I made with this combination of equipment.

Bixby Advanced PL1 spherical pano[Group 0]-DJI_0053_DJI_0084-30 images_0001-Edit

30 image panoramic image of the Bixby Creek Bridge, in Big Sur California.











Buy the DJI Phantom 3 Series Advanced model if you don’t need 4K video and a few faster fps rates. You are getting the same aircraft, gimbal and a slightly less capable Sony Exmor Sensor. The still capabilities are exactly the same with 12 megapixel images.  For the true Cinematographer, the Advanced may not stack up. But for any entry level aerialist, of any discipline, this is a very capable and cost effective drone.  I thought that I would find many more differences between the Standard and Advanced models, but they are both quite similar to fly and use.  After the next firmware upgrade, all Phantom  models should work with 3rd party apps the same.

Here is a link to the P3 Advanced Specs over on DJI.com http://www.dji.com/product/phantom-3-adv/info#specs


2 Phantom 3 Advanced 2.7K videos, 30 fps. Only speed changes were made no color correction or effects were used.  Audio was added.





All stills below were taken with a DJI P3 Advanced & PolarPro PL1 Polarizing filter by George Krieger









DJI_0121 DJI_0128 DJI_0154 DJI_0170_1_2_3_4!!!




































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