Up until now, it seems the only way to get a drone with a half-decent camera is to empty your wallet. There is no question that drones such as the 3DR Solo or DJI Inspire, when equipped with the right camera can provide awe-inspiring results, but these results come at a price of somewhere between $1000 and $2500. So when you turn on a limited yet reasonable budget of $300?
At this price point something has to give as you cannot expect to be able to buy an all-singing and all-dancing drone or quadcopter with a 4K 10mp camera providing HD images. The principal problem seems to be that there is always a dual compromise the lower in price a quadcopter or drone becomes. Until now, nobody seems to have been including a high quality camera on a simple drone, yet there has to be a demand as not everybody looks upon a camera drone as a toy.
When we came across the Elanview Cicada K flying camera we were immediately intrigued as the name alone seem to imply it was trying to fill a gap in the market and we were not disappointed. To say this is a drone is the truth but it is not especially powerful, with a maximum speed of 12 m/s. Of course there is a major plus point with a less powerful drone and that is that you get approximately 20 minutes of flight time. This really is a camera that flies as opposed to a drone with a camera if you can understand the subtle distinction between the two.
There is an upside to the simplicity of this drone, and that is that it is extremely easy to fly. You can buy a separate hand controller but, as is becoming more and more popular, download the app and your smart phone becomes the controller. You shouldn’t forget that the camera also transmits a live view 1080p HD to your smart phone screen. The Cicada has three flight speeds and while you may be wondering why a drone specifically designed for photography doesn’t have a gimbal, this is because it uses brushless motors which are steadied with stabilizing grommets to reduce camera vibration.
Controls include an altitude hold mode and the all-important return to home feature. Simple is as simple does and with no frills to worry about and no constant streaming data to your image screen, this drone is great for enabling you to concentrate on capturing great images from a distance of anywhere up to 600m when using the separate remote controller or 200m using your smart phone app.
As you are likely to be buying this drone for aerial photography, clearly you are going to want to know a lot more about the camera. Equipped with a 165° fish-eye lens, the 16 megapixel really does take crystal-clear images, can record 1080p@60fps aerial videos and is remarkably good for taking low-light photographs.
Unlike many of its counterparts, the Elanview Cicada K flying camera is also great for flying indoors, stable indoor flights being the result of “vision positioning”, a system that you will also find in the more expensive DJI Phantom 3 Advanced, and which works through the use of an optical sensor and an ultrasonic sensor as well.
What do we think of it? As a flying camera, it is superb and we really are struggling to find fault. We were seriously impressed with the quality of still pictures, streamed and recorded videos and unless you are a professional photographer we would struggle to wonder why you would need anything better. As a drone with a camera, looking at it from this perspective, it is not going to turn you into a ‘dronehead’ overnight. Certainly the Elanview Cicada K flying camera is fun to fly, but notice there is no preceding adjectives such as ‘great’ or ‘brilliant’ to indicate just how much fun it is. In the simplest of terms, it is just fun. The real enjoyment comes when you look at the exceptional quality of the images and that is why here at Quadcopters.com we are more than happy to recommend this little gem.
- On-board 16 MP camera;
- Up to 1080p@60fps video recording;
- Dual control (APP/remote controller);
- GPS positioning system;
- Vision positioning system;
- 12 m/s max flight speed;
- Up to 600 meter control range with RC and 200 meters with smartphone APP;
- Approx 20 minutes of flight time.