Have you been drooling over pictures and videos shot by those beautiful DJI Phantoms? These drones continue to make a name for themselves in the aerial photography world.
If you've been interested in getting started in drone photography, but you have limited drone experience, I would highly suggest you start with a Syma X5SW. Here's why.
The Syma X5SW is a mid-size drone, about half the size of a true aerial photography drone (such as the DJI Phantom or the Blade Chroma). But it is also costs about 90% less! You can grab a Syma X5SW for about $50, whereas the Phantoms start at about $500.
So my suggestion is to pick up a Syma and practice flying and taking pictures and videos. The quality won't be anywhere near with what you can get from a Phantom. But then again, if you crash your Syma (or get it stuck in a tree like I did!) – you won't have lost a $500-$1000 drone. Learn on the Syma and then graduate up to a professional aerial drone.
I have to admit that at first I was a little disappointed with the “cheap plasticky” feel of this drone. It is feather-light and seems like it might shatter if it experienced any sizable impact. However, I was soon proved wrong!
On the very first time I took my Syma X5SW out to a field to test it, I managed to get it stuck 50 feet up in a tree! It was flying well until a gust of wind came out of nowhere and I lost control. After about an hour of attempting various methods to dislodge it, I finally got it loose and it tumbled through the branches and crashed to the ground.
I picked it up, brushed it off, and proceeded to fly it until the battery was drained! Needless to say, despite feeling a little fragile, this drone can stand up to some pretty serious abuse! Since then, I've had a few more hard landings and I have yet to even break a propeller.
I have two batteries and I average about 5-7 minutes with each. If you have the camera/FPV running the whole time, you will definitely have a shorter flight. However, if you disconnect the camera and remove it from the drone, you can expect to gain a couple extra minutes of flight time.
I find the Syma x5SW very easy to control. You can get it into a nice hover without a lot of effort, and it can swoop around with ease and responds fairly quickly to your input.
Definitely keep in mind that because this drone is so light, even a slight breeze will cause it to struggle. I did most of my flying inside a large gym for this reason. But a calm day would be perfect for outdoor flying!
I found the Syma to have pretty decent range. I did not test it up to the claimed 50 meter range, but I probably ran it close to 30 meters without any issue.
However, the FPV system does struggle the further away you go. There is some delay to begin with, and it gets worse with increased distance. It is still a good way to learn how to frame shots and get used to flying a drone with photography as the goal.
At the going price of about $50, you are getting a great value! This is a reliable flyer, it can take abuse, has decent battery life, and is a good way to get a feel for aerial photography.