Established real estate agents around the world now realize they need good quality drone videos for their more expensive properties. With the price of quality drones going down as quickly as Bitcoins these days, many agents have started to look at filming their own footage to cut down on costs, but where to start?
We’ve tried several drones over the years. Not one is perfect, but one is standing out as the best drone to shoot real estate in 2018: the DJI Mavic Pro (or Mavic Pro Platinum).
But why this one?
First and foremost, the brand. DJI has been a leader in consumer and professional drones for a few years now, taking such a lead on the competition that even GoPro wasn’t able to compete (they abandoned their drone business shortly after the failed launch of their Karma drone). Having a device from a leader in the field guarantees you get cutting edge software support and easy access to parts and even third party support.
The DJI ecosystem is broad. From the tiny Spark to the professional Inspire 2, there’s something for everyone (and any budget!) We settled for the Mavic Pro as the best drone to shoot real estate for a reason; it’s relatively inexpensive at $999 (retail) and has a great camera (4k at 30fps or 1080p at 96fps, 12 mpx photos, 3-axis gimbal, 1/2.3 inch CMOS image sensor (equivalent focal length of 28mm)).
Let’s dig deeper (and see what this all means).
4k at 30fps
4k is the resolution of the video being recorded (3840 × 2160 px, or about twice the horizontal and vertical resolution of 1080p (or Full HD resolution)).
fps refers to frames per second, or how many shot per second is being recorded. 30fps is the standard.
1080p at 96fps
Same principle. 1080p is 1920 × 1080 px, also known as “Full HD”. The higher frame rate of this resolution enables smoother slow motion videos. This is more important for shooting fast moving objects such as race cars or sports in general. Not as important for shooting real estate videos.
12 mpx photos
This photo resolution is more than enough for most projects, allowing for up to 14.30″ x 9.34″ prints at 300dpi (print quality resolution)
A gimbal is a motorized device that keeps the camera steady. It’s like a suspension system for a camera. Drones being shaky and prone to vibrations, motion control is essential to a good quality video. A gimbal adds external, mechanical motion control, as opposed to a software based approach. A software uses the available footage, analyse it and crops the image and reposition it in the frame to remove the shaky effect. The major drawback of this approach is a drop in the footage resolution to account for the correction. All in all, a gimbal will let you keep the entire resolution of your shot, which is a very important aspect of a quality footage.
1/2.3 inch CMOS image sensor
A CMOS image sensor (complementary metal oxide semiconductor) is the part of the camera that turns light into information. The bigger the image sensor, the better (all other parameters being equal), as it uses more of the available light to create a picture. More natural light equals less post shot processing and image noise (image noise looks like film grain from back in the days. With modern cameras, image noise is often visible in low light shots. You don’t want that). 1/2.3 inches is a decent size.
Equivalent focal length of 28mm
In short, the focal length refers to the viewing angle of the camera, or how wide (or narrow) the shot is. For shooting real estate with a drone, a short focal length is better. A 28mm focal length is considered very good.
Another important feature to look for when buying a drone is the run time (or battery life). The Mavic Pro can fly for 27 minutes, which should be more than enough for most tasks. However, real life usage can bring this number down to the 20 minutes range. To make sure you get all of the sequences you need, you should get a second battery.
The Mavic Pro has a range of 4.3 miles (7 kilometres). If the property you’re looking to sell requires more than that, consider yourself lucky and find a workaround.
Should I get the newer Mavic Pro Platinum instead?
Compared to the Mavic Pro, the Mavic Pro Platinum adds 3 minutes of flight time (10%) and a significant 4dB noise reduction for a quieter flight. However, it retails for $100 more. For that money, you can get an extra battery to double your flight time. The noise reduction isn’t necessary for filming real estate as you’ll add your own soundtrack after. Therefore, we recommend sticking to the original Mavic Pro.
How does the Mavic Pro compares to the Phantom 4, the Phantom 4 Advanced or the Phantom 4 Pro?
First, DJI’s naming convention can be a little confusing. For the Phantom 4, the “Pro” version is better than the “Advanced”, which is better than the “original”. Physically, all three looks similar.
Compared to the Advanced, the Phantom 4 Pro gets additional sensors in the rear to prevent mishaps. For filming real estate, this usually involves backing up in a tree. The Pro also lets you use a higher live view frequency (5.8 GHz vs 2.4 GHz) for better signal stability in areas with a lot of radio interference. We haven’t been able to test how much of an improvement this translates to, but it’s a nice feature.
Compared to the “original” Phantom 4, the 4 Advanced has a significantly better camera, allowing shooting at 4k at up to 60 fps. The range of the Advanced is 4.3 miles (7 kilometres) as opposed to 3.1 miles (5 kilometres) for the original. The other parameters are very close. DJI discontinued the Phantom 4 when they released the Advanced, but you may be able to buy it used online or on Craigslist.
The Phantom 4 (Advanced and Pro) are better drones, at least on paper. Then why not get that one instead of the Mavic Pro?
First and foremost, the price. The Mavic Pro retails for $999, the Phantom 4 Advanced is $1199 and the Pro is $1499. For the price difference, you can (and should) get at least one extra battery.
Then there’s the weight. The much lighter weight of the Mavic Pro means an easier to pilot device.
The image quality of the 4 may be a little better, at least on paper, but the end results are virtually indistinguishable. We have both a Mavic Pro and an original Phantom 4 and we shoot using the Mavic Pro simply because we like it better.
How about the Inspire 2?
The DJI inspire 2 is a marvellous device. However, for shooting real estate, it may be overkill. This is the drone to get if you’re filming a movie. With a base price of $4100, you could buy four Mavic Pros and keep a few as a backup!
The Mavic Pro has been getting amazing reviews since its launch. It’s relatively inexpensive, has a very good camera, great flight software and is easy to pilot. This is the drone to buy if you want to get into shooting drone video for real estate. The Phantom 4 variants are also great options, but we’d rather save a few dollars for more batteries.
If you decide to go with the Mavic Pro, make sure to read our accessories to get post!