Aerial Photographers Discuss Flight Control

Drone handling is crucial to great shots, so how do pilots feel DJI is doing?

Flight control is a critical aspect of aerial photography, and the market is constantly changing with new ideas. Does DJI stand the test? We asked aerial photographers their thoughts.

DJI Flight Controllers

Oliver Lun, co-owner at Deploy Media, has used every DJI flight controller since the Naza. “We have put our flight controllers through many adverse conditions including high wind and altitude, high humidity, and even flying inside caves. They have performed without incident and they have shown to be dependable in most conditions,” says Lun.

Qualities such as reliability, accurate response to pilot inputs, comprehensive telemetry data and pairing with the DJI Go app are key to a great experience. “Flying UAVs is fun, but it’s also a big responsibility, and I don’t want to have to think about controls when I’m concentrating not only on getting the shot, but being aware of my surroundings and flying safely,” says Alex Cooke, Owner and Photographer at Cooke Studios. “The controller’s ergonomics, well-placed buttons and joysticks, and customizability mean I don’t have to look down and think about what I’m doing,” he adds.

DJI’s Intelligent Flight Modes

For Ed “IrixGuy”, who runs “IrixGuy’s Adventure Channel“, stability in taking shots is a major advantage of DJI flight controllers. “I’m able to capture 4K video from my DJI Phantom 3 Pro and DJI Phantom 4 that is smooth and shake-free. DJI’s Intelligent Flight Modes are also very useful in certain filming scenarios, and it’s apparent that DJI’s focus has remained making camera performance the priority,” he says.

Thomas Booth, aerial photographer and Senior Technical Director and Editor at CNN based in Hong Kong, feels the turning point came with DJI’s release of the Phantom 3.“It was clear that they wanted to drastically alter the image of the consumer drone. No longer did they want anyone to perceive them as creating toys or hobby items. Instead, they would produce high-end film and photography equipment that would look and feel as good as the images it was able to capture,” he says.

A Key Transformation

“The step that DJI made when creating the Phantom 3 and Inspire controllers was a noticeable upgrade. Firstly, the design was solid. It felt like you were holding a sturdy and reliable piece of gear. The curves in its design made it a pleasure to hold. The weight to size ratio was flawlessly aligned. It was a piece of equipment that felt properly designed, the joysticks were firm and responsive,” says Booth.

But as always improvements can be made. “If I had one suggestion, it might be tapering in the sides of the controller a bit. I have long fingers, and it can still be a bit of a reach for me to fully access the joysticks,” says Cooke of Cooke Studios. Lun of Deploy Media admits one function he would like to see is the ability to replay a previous flight, both in whole and partially, on the fly. “This would allow for us to design a shot in advance and repeat it again when a subject or actor arrives and for retakes,” says Lun.

DJI app, a user-friendly experience

Overall, most aerial photographers remain impressed with DJI’s performance. “I have owned both Parrot and Yuneec offerings but was not impressed. The refined flight dynamics like DJI offers are simply not there,” says Ed the “IrixGuy”. “Mating with the DJI app is a user-friendly experience and the in-app Intelligent Flight Modes work well. I found advanced flight mode features from the competitors to be gimmicky at best,” he adds.