The 2017 Dronestagram International Drone Photography Contest has come and gone with thousands of entries of spectacular shots from around the world. Props to Dronestagram and its sponsors (National Geographic, Lowepro and others) for the ability to judge winners. There are too many amazing shots for me to ever settle on a winner.

What’s great about these contests is it offers insights into the gear these photographers use. And if NPD numbers weren’t enough of a clue, DJI thoroughly dominates the consumer drone market. Four categories were judged – Nature, People, Urban and Creativity – and each of the three winners per category was snapped with a DJI drone.

Does that mean you have to buy the latest DJI offers? No. In fact, the winning photographers show it’s the person framing the shot and not drone that gives the best results. Below are the drones used by category.

Nature

nature first prize dronestagram

Provence, summer trim by jcourtial took first prize in Nature. Amazing shot and while the initial pic doesn’t offer us insight into the drone used, a glance through his profile shows a similar shot taken with the FC330. That’s the camera on the Phantom 4. While DJI may not manufacture the Phantom 4 in favor of its latest offerings, the Phantom 4 is available all day long on Amazon for just over $800.

Second prize went to Calin Stan for his incredible shot dubbed the Infinite Road to Transylvania. It’s a hell of a shot and another using the Phantom 4.

It’s the third prize winner that caught my eye. Florian Ledoux’s Ice Formation was captured with an FC300S. That’s a DJI Phantom 3 Advanced. Who says you need to drop thousands of dollars on equipment for incredible shots? You just have to freeze your ass off to capture them.

Like the original Phantom 4, you have to look to Amazon to grab one. Perfect starter drone and evidently built like a tank. I know, because ours has smacked into trees, battled a thunderstorm and done a front flip while landing. The last one was our dad. Priced at just over $700, it’s still the workhorse of the DJI family.

People

End of the Line by Martin Sanchez is my favorite of the bunch. I love the perspective shift in the framing. You lose yourself in figuring out what’s up and what’s down in the shot. No Google-fu needed for this shot. It’s the DJI Mavic Pro. If you polled drone owners on what they want in a drone, it’s the Mavic Pro with the Phantom 4 Pro’s camera sensor. Mavic 2 anyone?

Waterlily by helios1412 took second prize with the use of a Phantom 4. Another sub-$1000 drone photo impressing the judges from National Geographic and Dronestagram.

Rounding out the People category is feelingmovie’s La Vijanera. Shot in along the northern coast of Spain, it’s another Phantom 4 shot. And a damn gorgeous one at that.

Urban

Concrete Jungle by bachirm is the first we see of DJI’s flagship, the Phantom 4 Pro. It makes sense because the one-inch 20MP sensor will capture the greatest detail. You need it when capturing the sprawling urbanscape of Dubai. At $1500, if you want a professional drone, there’s not a better deal out there.

Dawn on Mercury Tower is simply gorgeous. Shot on a Phantom 4, I’m at a loss how the judges didn’t give away two first prizes in the Urban category.

Peace by lucydron took a little more hunting than the camera profile. Check out his Instagram, and you can see the same shot tagged with the Phantom 4. Hell of a shot and the location in Madrid is actually a massive cemetery. Haunting yet beautiful.

Creativity

The creativity category was added for the first time in 2017 to showcase and reward the talented Dronestagram community.

First prize went to LukeMaximoBell for Two Moo. Shot with a Phantom 4 Pro, it’s exactly what the title implies. Two cows but it’s the composition of the shot that is amazing.

Ugo le marin by rga took second prize using the Mavic Pro.

Now here’s a way to announce you’re having a baby. Next Level by macareuxprod combines a Phantom 4 Pro, the parents, their love of video games and a baby stroller. Congrats kid, you have awesome parents.

Talent over Gear

It’s easy to get caught up on when the next drone is releasing. Will it have this camera sensor? What bitrate? The questions are endless. Yet, Dronestagram’s 2017 International Drone Photography contest shows you don’t need a custom drone with a souped up DSLR or mirrorless camera to get amazing shots. No, older generations in the right hands can turn in award winning photographs. The latest Phantom 4 Pro’s 20MP level of detail shines.

What the contest does tell us is DJI thoroughly dominates the drone market. It’s not even close. Whether that’s good for the industry is debatable. Rumors have been floating that Sony or another major camera manufacturer may jump in, but damn, they better do it right. We need the competition to keep pushing niche forward, but for now, it’s DJI’s world.

All images are from the photographers mentioned above. Give them a follow on Instagram. Liven up your feed a bit.


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