The Vantage Robotics Snap 4K Drone Is a Compact Beast
Ditch the Pelican; this tiny bad boy will fold up to fit anywhere.
Welcome to Shooting Cars. Each week, The Drive tests and reviews new products that help you snap, film, and otherwise capture your vehicle of choice to best effect. This week, our in-house video team tries out Vantage Robotics' Snap, a compact 4K drone built to fold up into any backpack.
When it comes to aerial videography, advancements are typically staid. Even the most established camera giants struggle when trying to develop quadcopter drones with unique features. Typically, a drone setup includes a sizable quadcopter, with motors and gimbals large enough to combat winds, and a big case to house the unit, controller, and batteries. They're costly, both in price and physical footprint. Travel with a drone, and you'll likely need a separate suitcase for your hovering camera.
All of which makes Snap from Vantage Robotics a breath of fresh air. The innovative quadcopter has three lightweight components: a fuselage (about the size of a small flashlight) contains the 4K camera and CPU brains; unique propellors that fold in half for storage; and a smart battery pack that knows how much charge it needs to always make the return, plus provides 20 minutes of flight time. All three "snap" together with powerful magnets in about 5 seconds.
Anyone can stick a GoPro on a car and capture some great footage, but an overhead shot of the full car separates the amateurs from the pros. In the past, pulling that off involved a helicopter, a talented pilot, and a proprietary, gryo-stabilized camera—plus a camera operator. Costly, to say the least. Now, drones have given everyone the opportunity to get a similar shot that makes their footage pop. So when Vantage Robotics brought a pre-production Snap unit by for us to play with, we leapt at the chance.
Below, our findings.
- The foldable motor and propellers are a breakthrough. Because it breaks down, you'll bring it to more places, increasing your chances of getting that one-in-a-million shot
- Since the parts are separated and then connect together, they can each be upgradeable separately. That means in order to upgrade the motors, gimbal, or any other tech advances that may come down the line, you won't necessarily have to buy a whole new drone.
- The phone app controls are shockingly responsive. The app works with the internal gyroscope in your phone; lean the phone back, and the drone banks backwards—instantly. (For those who enjoy a typical setup, you can connect a Bluetooth controller.)
- Using Smart Tracking, Snap can track you or an object, allowing you to get a beautiful car shot with relative ease.
- It uses a Sony Exmor IMX 377 1 / 2.3-inch image sensor, an industry benchmark for all leading manufacturers.
- The 4K footage is clean, clear, and steady thanks to the sharp camera and smooth gimbal.
- It's expensive. At $1,000, you can basically get a DJI Phantom 4.
- The lack of optional controller. Sure, you can add one on, but for the price, this should come standard.
- The short flight time. The battery will last about 20 minutes, which isn't great (though it's about what you should expect from such a compact product).
- The lack of a 360-degree gimbal. Since the gimbal is partly encased by the fuselage to offset wind interference, it also can't pan right and left without moving the drone. Many may find this cumbersome.
- A limited top speed. While the 40-mph limit is fast for most activities, it would have trouble keeping up with cars at that speed.
THE TAKEAWAY: As the old adage goes, the best camera is the one you have with you. When we're out shooting video of cars, we can find ourselves anywhere from city streets and deserts to the top of a mountain. Sometimes you can't bring all the gear you want and have to (reluctantly) leave behind glorious 3-axle gimbals, lights, tripods, and so on. The Snap is small enough that it'd always find a home in our pack. While it's not yet perfect, the fact that you can get 90 percent of the same shots you can get with their competitors makes it infinitely more useful most other drones on the market.
Pre order the Snap for $895, with betas shipping in September and consumer models around October 2016.