If you’re looking for an inexpensive beginner drone to master flight controls before upgrading to a more advanced and expensive model, the Holy Stone HS720G could be worth considering.
Inexpensive drone for beginners
Easy to fly
Offers GPS positioning
Wi-Fi connection can drop
Extremely basic camera controls
Image quality is inconsistent
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Weight: 13.3 oz / 377 g
Dimensions: 164 x 90 x 63mm (Folded) 305 x 230 x 63 mm (Unfolded)
Battery: 2950 mAh LiPo / up to 26 minutes
Charger type: USB-A to USB-C cable
Modes: Tripod & Sport
Video transmission range: 1640 ft / 500 m
Video resolution: 4K & 1080p (FHD)
Frame rates: 4K at 30 fps / FHD at 60 fps
Drones are typically expensive, and for absolute beginners this can be daunting; fear of, and indeed a greater chance of crashing in the early days can put many off taking their first steps in this exciting hobby. Current high-end consumer models typically cost as much as $900 / £700 to $2,200 / £1,900 for a basic kit which includes everything you need (including a single battery, so getting started can be both expensive and risky.
The best drones available are the most expensive, but there’s a growing range of best beginner drones aimed at novices that provide basic camera and flight functionality for much lower prices. The Holy Stone HS720G is one such drone that was released in early 2022. It provides the ability to capture 4K video and 4K (3840 x 2160 px) photos for just $300 / £260. Our guide to drone photography will help you capture the pictures that you want.
Features are extremely basic and limited, but the Holy Stone HS720G does offer GPS positioning alongside other modes including Point of Interest/orbit, Follow Me, and Tap Fly (pre-plotted flight routes). What’s interesting here is that the latter three features are typically found on more advanced and expensive drones featuring collision avoidance sensors. And although the HS720G doesn’t offer collision avoidance, these features do work, albeit not to the same level of performance as more advanced drones.
Holy Stone HS720G review: Design
- Lightweight folding design
- Folding controller with a basic LCD screen
- 2-axis gimbal with EIS
Following the most popular drone design, the HS720G has folding arms that significantly reduce the overall footprint of the drone for transportation. Folded, the HS720G is 164 x 90 x 63 mm which increases to 305 x 230 x 63 mm when unfolded. And at just 13.3 oz / 377 g it’s reasonably light, but U.S. and U.K. users will still need to register with their respective aviation authorities to fly the drone legally, so be sure you're on top of drone regulations.
The build quality isn’t great. Everything looks and feels plasticky, but despite this the drone is well made overall and a less robust build is to be expected at the price point. The gimbal and camera are also of a basic design, with the gimbal offering 2-axis mechanical stabilization while the third axis is taken care of by electronic image stabilization (EIS). This is as good as 3-axis mechanical stabilization, but videos are generally smooth so it appears to be effective.
The controller resembles the folding DJI Mavic 2 Pro controller but has a phone holder at the top rather than a two-arm holder that extends from the bottom. Instead, the Holy Stone controller has two palm handles that make holding it more comfortable for those with larger hands. Controls are minimal, but there’s everything you need for flight and basic camera control. Plus, there’s a simple LCD screen that shows essential information. The controller runs on AA batteries rather than an internal rechargeable battery, but battery life appears to be long.
Holy Stone HS720G review: Functionality
- GPS positioning
- Intelligent flight modes
- Around 21 minutes flight time
The Holy Stone HS720G flies well and the controls are the same as more advanced drones, so it provides a standard flying experience in this respect. As the connection between the controller, your smartphone, and the drone is through Wi-Fi, there is a tendency for the signal to be lost if you fly further than roughly 120 m at an altitude above 60m. You can fly higher with no signal loss when the drone is above the controller, but a combination of altitude and distance is the issue.
When the phone disconnects from the drone you lose the camera view. Sometimes the controller remains fully connected and you can fly back to the take-off point to reconnect. However, when control is also lost you have to activate Return to Home to bring the drone back. So, although the Holy Stone HS720G is advertised as being able to fly at much greater distances and altitudes, it’s best to keep it reasonably close.
In terms of flight modes, the HS720G has two speed settings: Tripod and Sport. The speeds these provide aren’t available, but Tripod appears comparable to Cine mode and Sport to Standard mode with DJI Drones. The Holy Stone HS720G also features GPS positioning to hold the drone in place. There was some drift despite connection to around 12 satellites during testing, but this was minimal compared to a drone without GPS. Other modes include Point of Interest/orbit, Follow Me, and Tap Fly (pre-plotted flight routes). These are extremely basic because the HS720G doesn’t feature collision avoidance sensors that are typically required for these functions.
The 2950 mAh battery takes around five hours to fully charge, which is a long time considering its capacity. Advertised flight times are 26 minutes, but during testing batteries lasted for 16 minutes before flight was restricted to a distance of 100 m and an altitude of 30 m. This lasted for five minutes, so a single battery charge provided 21 minutes of flight before Return to Home was automatically activated.
Holy Stone HS720G review: Performance
- Basic camera functionality
- 4K (3840 x 2160 px) photos
- Video up to 4K at 30 fps
The whole point of drones is to get into the air to capture the world from more unique viewpoints with ease, so cameras are important. HS720G Camera functionality is extremely basic with few specs available, but it’s safe to assume that the camera employs a fixed focus design with a small sensor since the maximum resolution for both photos and video is 4K and that no autofocus is employed during shooting.
The ability to capture 4K photos (3840 x 2160 px) equates to a sensor resolution of 8.2 MP, which is large enough for sharing online and creating up to 10 x 8 in prints. Image quality isn’t great and you’ll see that photos aren’t perfectly sharp when you zoom in. The camera provides a 130° field of view which is extremely wide, but this does create strong barrel distortion as soon as the camera is tilted. There’s also chromatic aberration visible along some subject edges.
Camera controls are limited to making adjustments to brightness, saturation, ISO, and white balance. For white balance, the Auto setting generally produces the best result by far, but they are inconsistent; one shot has close to perfect white balance while another shot taken from a slightly different angle can be too warm. But this, and the distortion present in photos, can be fixed in Photoshop.
Video can be captured in 4K at 30 fps and FHD (1080 p) at 60 fps. Both resolutions can be selected when footage is being saved to a MicroSD card, but when saving footage through the Holy Stone Ophelia Fly app it’s limited to FHD. Settings are constrained to those previously listed for stills, and capturing video is simply a case of selecting the video option in Ophelia Fly and pressing the shoot button.
Holy Stone HS720G review: Price
In the United States and the United Kingdom, Holy Stone drones are sold exclusively through the Holy Stone store on Amazon, so they’re easy to purchase and you can do so with confidence. The Holy Stone HS720G drone is available as a basic kit that comes in a handy carry case and includes the drone, a controller, a USB charging cable, a set of spare propellers, and a screwdriver for changing propellers. This basic kit costs just $300 / £299 making the Holy Stone HS720G one of the less expensive drones available offering 4K video.
There’s no option for a Fly More Bundle that includes additional batteries and other accessories, but you can purchase replacement propeller arms, spare propellers, and additional batteries from the Holy Stone store on Amazon. Stock can be sporadic, so if you require any of these accessories you’ll need to keep checking back. A spare battery is an essential accessory to extend flight times.
Should you buy the Holy Stone HS720G?
If you’re an absolute drone beginner and would like to start flying with an inexpensive model that’s capable of shooting basic 4K video, the Holy Stone HS720G could be a tempting option for the price.
Camera functionality is extremely limited and image quality isn’t great, so it’s unlikely to be a drone that will fulfil your photo and video needs for long. But what it does provide is a cost-effective way to get to grips with drone controls and flight without the risk of damaging a much more expensive model.
With the HS720G costing just $300 / £260, it’s not going to be as financially painful to crash as a more advanced model from the likes of DJIor Autel. The controls are similar to drones produced by these leading manufacturers, so you’ll be able to grow in confidence before taking the plunge with a more expensive and advanced drone offering excellent photo and video quality.
If this product isn't for you
Some people will prefer to get started with a more advanced and capable drone model, and there are two fantastic options that have similar specs, features, and functionality to one another. Plus, they’re both 249 g models, so although you’ll need to register as a drone operator in the U.S. and U.K., they’re great drones for beginners and more experienced drone pilots alike.
The DJI Mavic Mini 3 Pro costs $759 / £709 and the Autel EVO Nano+ costs $899 / £719 for the basic kit that includes everything you need to start flying, including one battery. Both drones are also available with accessory bundles that include two additional batteries as well as essential accessories – these are better value than the basic kit. What’s more, both feature collision avoidance and other advanced features, not to mention that the cameras offer fantastic image quality.
James is an award-winning freelance landscape and portrait photographer, as well as a highly experienced photography journalist working with some of the best photography magazines and websites with a worldwide audience. He’s also the author of The Digital Darkroom: The Definitive Guide to Photo Editing. www.jamesaphoto.co.uk