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Quadrocopter Civilian Photography, Now Rising to New Level

Still images are captured at 14-megapixel resolution, which matches some high-end D.S.L.R. cameras, and the unit seems to do a good job of coping with a variety of lighting conditions. If the lighting is difficult, perhaps from bright sunlight, you can control some features, like white balance or shutter speed, from the app.

The imaging unit is not without flaws, and it’s not as powerful as a professional hand-held S.L.R. camera. For example, there’s a noticeable fish-eye distortion in the image that comes from the unit’s really wide vision angle, and you can’t zoom the field of view.

Even though the Vision is a large, complicated device, flying it is far easier than flying a traditional remote control helicopter or a large R.C. aircraft, thanks in part to its intelligence. If you let go of the controls, for instance, the Vision will use its GPS system to stop where it is in midair, keeping itself more or less stationary both horizontally and vertically, even in blustery wind conditions.

Still, all is not smooth sailing. First, it comes with a 50-plus page manual, which you must read, because what you’re flying is in effect a very light aircraft. The last thing you want to do is to crash it, damaging your machine or potentially even hurting someone with its 14-inch-wide, three-pound mass and whirling blades.

And despite its automatic systems, you are going to have quite a learning curve to safely and confidently fly the Vision — particularly if you’re going to take it beyond where you can see it directly.

Another thing to consider is that regulations governing drones — whether for commercial use or by hobbyists — differ among countries and localities and are changing quickly. So it is best to check the local rules before you fly.

As with real aircraft, dangerous moments happen near the ground. Manually landing the drone is hard, and takes practice. You’re going to bump it into the ground a few times. Luckily the body is sturdy, and it probably won’t get damaged. The one time I did this, all that happened was that it got muddy as the blades dug into the soft forest floor.

Using the remote control’s traditional twin joysticks while tapping on the dedicated smartphone app to control the camera is tricky. You almost have to have three hands. You can, however, rely on the Vision’s autopilot to handle the flying for a moment or two so you can set up a photograph properly.

It’s also tough to keep on top of charging all the batteries needed. The remote takes standard AAs, but the drone has a huge lithium battery that charges with a special wall unit. There’s also a “Wi-Fi range extender” bolted to the top of the remote control to connect your smartphone to the Vision’s camera; this is charged over a micro-USB cable and another wall charger.

And you have to remember to keep your smartphone charged to actually fly the drone.

Once you’ve gotten past all this, you are in for pure excitement, plus great video and stills.

For professional photographers or videographers looking for an unusual shot in decent digital resolution, it may well be worth the price tag. For the rest of us, it’s a way to have a bit of tomorrow’s tech in your hands today.

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