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The best drone 2021: the 12 finest camera drones you can buy

Welcome to our guide to the world's best drones with cameras for 2021. In this regularly updated guide you'll find our pick of the finest drones for aerial photography and filmmaking, based on our rigorous testing. (Looking for the best beginner drone? Check out our separate guide on those).

What's the best drone in 2021? Right now, our pick is the DJI Air 2S. It hits the sweet spot of portability and performance better than any drone out there, thanks to its folding design, capable 1-inch sensor and range of beginner-friendly flying modes. The Air 2S is the ideal choice for novices and hobbyists alike.

That said, it might not be the perfect pick for everyone. If your budget's a bit tighter, the DJI Mini 2 is an even more compact and affordable choice for beginners. The DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0, meanwhile, remains a stable, wind-resistant option for experienced aerial filmmakers, while Powervision’s PowerEgg X is a unique waterproof option.

Not sure what to look for when buying the best drone for you? Check out our guide below for the main things to look out for when choosing a drone with a camera – or skip that and move straight onto our ranked list.

How to pick the right drone for you

So how exactly do you choose the right drone to buy? The obvious place to start is budget. This guide is focused on drones that have cameras for shooting aerial photography and video, which tend to be pricier than hobbyist stunt drones. 

If you need 4K video quality, then we'd budget to spend at least $400 / £400. But if you're looking for a budget drone to improve your flying skills, rather than take high-quality footage and photos, then you can spend much less – the Ryze Tello, for example, costs just $99 / £99.

What specific features should you look out for? If you're looking for a drone that can automatically track you without needing to be directly controlled, look for one for a 'follow me' function. Models that have this function include the DJI Air 2S, DJI Mavic Air 2 and Skydio 2 (US-only).

Beginner fliers should also look out for drones with automated flight modes – like DJI's Intelligent Flight modes – which can pull off 'set piece' moves without the need for any real flying skills. Most drones use your smartphone as the controller, which plugs into an included pad – iOS and Android phones are usually both supported, but it's worth double-checking that your chosen drone works with your phone.

Something else that's worth checking are the local drone laws in your area. In many regions, drones that weigh below 250g don't need to be registered with local civil aviation authorities, which can give you a small saving. Most laws require you to keep your drone in line of sight, though, so you might not able to exploit its maximum range.

Photographers, meanwhile, should look out for raw photo support. This is less common in drones than cameras, but is becoming standard on newer models – the DJI Mini 2, for example, has raw support, but its DJI Mavic Mini predecessor doesn't. 

The best drone in 2021:

1. DJI Air 2S

The best drone for most people

Specifications

Weight: 595g

Controller: Yes

Camera resolution: 20MP

Flight time: 31 minutes

Range: 8km-12km

Reasons to buy

+Large 1-Inch sensor+Small and lightweight

Reasons to avoid

-No adjustable aperture-Controller isn’t foldable

The superb Air 2S combines the best features of our two previous favorite DJI drones, the Mavic Air 2 and Mavic 2 Pro. You get the compact, folding design of the former, plus the 20MP 1-Inch sensor found in the latter. The combination is a brilliant one, making the Air 2S our top choice for hobbyists and also pros who need a small drone that they can take anywhere.

While the Mavic Air 2 remains a good choice for those on a tighter budget, the Air 2S does deliver some handy advantages over its predecessor. The ability to shoot 5.4K video at 30fps gives you some extra creative flexibility, and supports a useful digital zoom option (even if we’d only recommend using that at 2x zoom). Throw in the ability to shoot 1080p at 120fps and some impressive high ISO performance, and you have a superb all-round flying machine that soars above its mid-range rivals.

2. DJI Mini 2

The best drone for beginners, now with 4K powers

Specifications

Weight: 249g

Controller: Yes

Camera resolution: 12MP

Battery size: 2,250 mAh

Range: 5.8 GHz: 10km (FCC); 6km (SRRC)

Reasons to buy

+Incredibly compact size+Impressive battery life+Simple controls and app

Reasons to avoid

-No 'follow me' mode-Pricier than Mavic Mini

One of our few complaints about the DJI Mavic Mini was that it couldn't shoot 4K video – this excellent successor fixes that, while giving us a few extra treats in the process. The Mini 2 has the same ultra-compact design as before, making it the joint-smallest drone in DJI's line-up, but comes with a new controller that boosts it range (thanks to Ocusync 2.0 connectivity) and delivers a more polished flying experience. 

Like the Mavic Mini, it's packed with a generous selection of beginner-friendly QuickShot modes, which see the drone perform pre-programmed moves. But the Mini 2 offers more for pro snappers, too, thanks to the inclusion of raw photo shooting, while 4K video means the arrival of a boosted 100mbps bit-rate. Sure, the Mini 2 isn't otherwise a huge step up from the Mavic Mini, but it's undoubtedly the best compact drone you can buy. 

Sours: https://www.techradar.com/news/best-drones

The 10 best camera drones in 2021: drones with built in gimbal cameras

The best camera drones used to be little more than novelty toys for gadget-heads, but it’s all different now. These days you’re more likely to find the best camera drones in the hands of photographers and videographers both amateur and professional. This is because they allow the user to shoot from creative angles and get unique perspectives that simply wouldn’t be possible with any other camera. But then again, that’s always been the case with drones. So what’s changed?

The big difference these days is that the camera technology in drones has come a long way, with larger sensors, better video resolutions and improved stabilisation systems powered by on-board gimbals. Then there’s also the fact that intelligent flight controls are getting better and better, making drones so easy to fly that even a total novice can pick up the basics pretty quickly. 

Of course, there are rules and responsibilities that come with drone flying. Before you take a drone into the air, it’s well worth checking out our guide to drone rules in the US, the UK and beyond. Rules apply to drones of different sizes depending on the country, so even if you’re using a tiny drone, it’s worth reading up. 

Every drone featured in this guide will give you fantastic results for photos and video. Each one has a camera supported by a powered gimbal for stabilised shooting, designed to counteract the bumps and buffets that come with flight. We’ve included drones suited to a range of different budgets, each of which has different levels of intelligent flight control and camera technology. While there are cheap drones that will do a good job, the rule of thumb is that you get what you pay for. If your budget is tight, check out our guide to the best cheap drones you can buy right now. 

In 2021, the major excitement has been with the arrival of the DJI FPV Combo  - which brings sports drone photography using goggles to a much wider audience. And then there was the arrival of the DJI Air 2S, which is far more than just an update and creates its own new niche. 

To come, we are expecting Sony to put its Airpeak S1 drone on sale in September, whilst Ring is promising an indoor security camera that flies around to keep an eye on your possessions.

The best drones in 2021

01. DJI Mavic 2 Zoom

The all-round best drone for photography

Specifications

Weight: 905g

Dimensions (folded): 214×91×84mm

Dimensions (unfolded): 322×242×84mm

Controller: Yes

Video resolution: 4K HDR 30fps

Camera resolution: 12MP

Battery life: 31 minutes (3850mAh)

Max Range: 8km / 5mi

Max Speed: 72kph / 44.7mph

Reasons to buy

+Very portable+Optical Zoom (on the Zoom model)+Great software features

Reasons to avoid

-Expensive-No 60fps for 4K

There are plenty of fantastic DJI camera drones we could have chosen for our number-one spot, but we’ve plumped for the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom. You’ll see more DJI drones throughout this list with different advantages and disadvantages, so why does this one grab the honour of being our top pick? 

The key advantage of the Zoom, as you might have guessed, is the fat that it sports a zoom lens. And not just any zoom lens – a x optical zoom with an effective focal range of 24-48mm. Just as the original Mavic Pro redefined what was thought possible with camera drones, so does the Zoom shake up the landscape again by providing real compositional versatility and the ability to shift perspectives. It also has a cool ace up its sleeve – the Dolly Zoom Quickshot, which simulates a Hitchcockian camera movement to awesome effect.

It’s not a perfect camera drone – the 12MP camera with a 1/2.3-inch sensor and top ISO setting of 3200 is a little disappointing. But the Mavic 2 Zoom is a really strong all-rounder that’s probably going to be the best option for the majority of users, and that’s why it’s our pick. If you need something smaller there’s the Mavic Mini. A larger sensor? The Air 2S. A better – well, we’ll stop there. That’s what the rest of the list is for! The bottom line is – if you need an all-around camera drone that’s great at pretty much everything, this is it. 

• Read full DJI Mavic 2 Zoom review

02. DJI Air 2S

DJI's new drone combines a pro-quality camera with a compact frame

Specifications

Weight: 595g

Dimensions (folded): 180×97×77mm

Dimensions (unfolded): 183×253×77mm

Controller: Yes

Video resolution: 5.4K: 5472×3078 @ 24/25/30 HDR

Camera resolution: 20MP

Battery life: 31 minutes

Max Range: 18.5km

Max Speed: 68kph/42mph

Reasons to buy

+5.4K Video, HDR+1-inch sensor+Ever-better AI+Portable

Reasons to avoid

-No side sensors-App can be distracting-Price bump from Air 2

Non-camera devices with cameras on them, such as drones, tend to be held back by having annoyingly small sensors. So props are due to DJI for sticking a 1-inch sensor in the DJI Air 2S, providing a significant upgrade in image quality and dynamic range compared to a lot of other drones on the market. 

It’s not the only drone so equipped – the DJI Mavic Pro 2 has a 1-inch sensor – but it is much more compact than that drone, or any other drone with a 1-inch sensor. The DJI Intelligence systems are also coming on apace, with Active Track and avoidance sensors giving the drone more nuanced control than ever over its own trajectory. It’s a huge achievement how much fits into this drone’s slim, redesigned chassis. 

Read more:DJI Air 2S review

03. Autel EVO II

With 8K video, this might be more than you need!

Specifications

Weight: 1174g

Wing span (unfolded): 397×397mm

Controller: Yes

Video resolution: 8K @ 25fps

Camera resolution: 48MP

Battery life: 40 minutes

Max Range: 9km / 5.5mi

Max Speed: 72kph / 44mph

Reasons to buy

+8K video quality+48 megapixel camera+Omnidirectional sensors

Reasons to avoid

-8K shooting is limited to 25fps

Like the Mavic 2, Autel’s second EVO is offered with different camera choices, in theory at least (supply has been erratic in its early months, but then 2020 hasn’t been an easy year). Both are built around a heavy, rugged-looking (but average feeling) orange airframe which eschews sleek consumer-friendly design for simple practicality. It’s a bit chunkier than the Mavics, but it can fly for longer and is bigger unfolded).

While Autel Explorer, it’s partner app, lacks some of the polish of DJI’s equivalents, it does bring all the tracking options you might want. Moreover it has the huge advantage of being optional: there is a 3.3-inch OLED screen in the remote meaning you can fly without connecting the phone at all. Another big plus is that the drone has omnidirectional collision sensors which it uses in normal fight (the Mavic 2 has side-sensors, but only uses them in some automatic modes). Intended for professional work, the drone also lacks DJI’s big-brother geofencing.

So far the ‘lesser’ 8K model is the one widely available – with the 6K ‘Pro’ model following and the dual infrared-enabled version to come. Why is 8K ‘lesser’? In fact it uses the same Sony IMX586 half-inch imaging chip as featured in the Mavic Air 2, while the 6K pro sports IMX383 1-inch sensor (that’s four times the area) and can output 10-bit footage and a variable aperture. It’s also worth noting that 8K is limited to 25fps; 6K to 50fps and 4K to 60fps. 

Read full Autel EVO II review

04. DJI Mavic 2 Pro

A brilliant camera in a quality package

Specifications

Weight: 907g

Dimensions (folded): 214×91×84mm

Dimensions (unfolded): 322×242×84mm

Controller: Yes

Video resolution: 4K HDR 30fps

Camera resolution: 20MP

Battery life: 31 minutes (3850mAh)

Max Range: 8km / 5mi

Max Speed: 72kph / 44.7mph

Reasons to buy

+1-inch sensor+Reliable airframe+Great software features

Reasons to avoid

-Expensive-No 60fps for 4K

2020 saw the arrival of the Mavic Air 2 with a host of improvements to the Mavic line which make the Mavic 2 Pro more of a speciality aircraft than before, but whichever way you look at it the stills and, in lower light, the video remain unbeaten (without spending a good amount more and throwing portability out of the window).

Given DJI’s ownership of Hasselblad the camera branding might be seen as a gimmick, the 20 megapixel stills from the 1-inch sensor are unquestionably far better quality than those from smaller sensors (including the Mavic 2 Zoom). Manual controls allow up to 128,000 ISO to be selected and video can be output in real 10-bit (great for pro colour grading) and in HDR, and there is a ƒ/2.8-ƒ/11 aperture 

Each pixel on the sensor is still bigger than on all but the EVO II Pro from this list, so low-light stills and video look gorgeous, and the higher detail is also useful for surveyors and 3D mapping, both of which the Mavic handles easily thanks to integration with Drone Deploy (in fairness similar integration is available with other drones). The range of automated flight modes in the DJI drones, like ‘Hyperlapse’ (timelapse) are all well-implemented and easy to learn, making the Mavics very effective creative tools when operated alone.

DJI Mavic 2 Pro vs Zoom

05. PowerVision PowerEgg X Wizard

Best waterproof drone and best A.I. camera drone

Specifications

Weight: 860g / 1.9lb

Dimensions (egg): 178 x 102 x 102mm

Dimensions (drone mode): 427mm diagonal

Controller: Yes

Video resolution: 4K @ 60fps

Camera resolution: 12MP

Battery life: 30 minutes (dry mode)

Max Range: 6 km / 3.7mi

Max Speed: 65kph / 40mph

Reasons to buy

+Waterproof & water landing mode+Audio-sync recording option+Camcorder mode a nice option to have

Reasons to avoid

-No record button in camcorder mode-Small image sensor

PowerVision is certainly an inventive company – as its awards shelf will testament – and it has been making underwater drones as long as flying ones, so the PowerEgg X shouldn’t have come as a surprise, but it did. Their original PowerEgg was a stunning product, yet rather than revising it, PowerVision opted to go back to the drawing board. They created an altogether new egg which could be used as a drone, a hand-held or tripod-mounted camcorder making use of the gimbal for stability and A.I. for subject tracking, and – in the optional ‘Wizard’ kit – a beach-ready drone which can land on water or fly in the rain.

Photographers will rightly worry that the 4K camera doesn’t have as bigger sensor as, for example, the Mavic, but in good light it’s capable of 60fps – double the frame-rate of the DJI, making it great for. It’s adaptability means it’s arms are completely removable but, thanks to the folding props, setup takes no longer than a DJI Phantom. The A.I. camera mode is good, but it would really benefit from a ‘record’ button like a traditional camcorder – you need to use the app. 

The waterproof mode means attaching a housing and landing gear which does take a minute or two, and covers the forward-facing collision & object tracking sensors, but there is nothing on the market that can touch it so it’s hardly something to complain about. This is the drone that GoPro should have made.

Read full Powervision PowerEgg XWizard review

06. PowerVision PowerEgg X Explorer

Great A.I. camera drone (but without the waterproofing)

Specifications

Weight: 860g / 1.9lb

Dimensions (egg): 178 x 102 x 102mm

Dimensions (drone mode): 427mm diagonal

Controller: Yes

Video resolution: 4K @ 60fps

Camera resolution: 12MP

Battery life: 30 minutes (dry mode)

Max Range: 6 km / 3.7mi

Max Speed: 65kph / 40mph

Reasons to buy

+Audio-sync recording option+Camcorder mode a nice option to have

Reasons to avoid

-No record button in camcorder mode-Lacks the waterproofing of its Wizard sibling-Small image sensor than Wizard

The Explorer is a stripped down version of the PowerVision PowerEgg X Wizard – losing its magical waterproofing powers, but in the process saving you a chunk of money that may well be a sensible move if you are into fair weather flying. The specification is the same however when it comes to its flying skills. You still get the drone, controller, case, a single battery, camcorder grip & tripod mount – but you don't get the extra battery, weatherproofing components or canvas bag that you get with the Wizard.

07. DJI Mini 2

The best drone for the beginner

Specifications

Weight: 249g

Dimensions (folded): 38×81×58mm

Controller: Yes

Video resolution: 4K 30fps ([email protected])

Camera resolution: 12MP

Battery life: 31 minutes (2250mAh)

Max Range: 10km / 6.2 miles

Max Speed: 57kph / 35.7mph

Reasons to buy

+Very portable+Registration-free in USA, China and more+Easy-to-fly+Raw photos

Reasons to avoid

-Limited tracking features

DJI defined compact quality camera drones as something which could appeal to and be understood by everyday consumers with the Mavic in 2016, but price and, more recently, weight limits kept some consumers away. Drones over 250g (or operating them) now require registration and a small fee in most countries. The Mavic Mini solved the weight issue in 2019, but the latest Mini 2 has taken that already miraculous design and souped it up so it can now attract more serious users too.

The airframe is stunningly light, yet is also the charger (via the USB-C socket at the back) so that’s one less thing when traveling light. It feels strong, and the camera is mounted on a 3-axis gimbal that absorbs nearly all twists and turns in flight, and can be tilted smoothly. Control is simple, via the excellent new remote – the range is no longer a worry (unlike with the predecessor) and the controller’s battery can even top your phone up too.

Video is better in 4K and 100Mbps, or vloggers happy with 1080P might be more interested by the useful (but lossy) digital zoom. The automated ‘QuickShots’ (the drone keeps the camera on you and performs a cool pre-planned swoop) are also very handy; beginners can look like pro pilots and get dramatic video. Still photos are excellent for the price, though can be a little noisy in anything less than good light. Having the option to process in Raw, and shoot Auto Exposure Bracketed shots, plus automated panoramas, all makes this drone a solid step closer to a heavier drone. The DJI Fly App has good safety features and is clear and easy to read, without being overbearing. It is also excellent for sharing with useful image processing features – in fact with a 12-megapixel camera and 4K video your creations will easily mix with those from a high end smartphone (but add a more interesting perspective).

• See full DJI Mini 2 reviewDJI Mavic Mini vs Mini 2

08. Parrot Anafi FPV

The foldable Anafi is the best drone for travel

Specifications

Weight: 310g

Dimensions (folded): 244×67×65mm

Dimensions (unfolded): 240×175×65mm

Controller: Yes

Video resolution: 4K HDR 30fps

Camera resolution: 21MP

Battery life: 25 minutes (2700mAh)

Max Range: 4km / 2.5mi

Max Speed: 55kph / 35mph

Reasons to buy

+Very portable+4K @ 100Mbps with HDR+180° vertical-turn gimbal and zoom

Reasons to avoid

-Only 2-axis control-Some features are in-app purchases

Parrot wasn't really a contender in the high-end aerial video market until the Anafi arrived in mid-2018, but it was definitely worth the wait. Rather than push up prices and weight with sensors of questionable use (and the processing power to handle their data), Parrot leave the business of avoiding obstacles very much to the customer. In exchange, though, it's managed to keep the portability and price manageable, helped by the fact a great hard-fabric zip case is included so you’ll be able to shoot just about anywhere.

The carbon-fiber elements of the body can feel a little cheap, but in reality this is one of the best built frames on the market, and very easy to operate thanks to automatic take-off, landing, GPS-based return-to-home, and an exceptionally well-built folding controller with a hinged phone-grip, one that seems so much easier to operate, and so much more logical, than recent contenders from DJI. 

The only niggles are that the gimbal is only powered on two axes, relying on software to handle sharp turns, which it only does quite well, and that for some reason Parrot charge extra for in-app features like follow-me modes that DJI include as standard. On the plus side, that gimbal can be turned all the way up for an unobstructed angle most drones can’t manage and the system even features zoom, unheard of at its price point.

A new Parrot Anafi FPV kit has been recently introduced, which combines this drone with head-up display ('first-person view') goggles for a fully immersive flying experience. While the addition of FPV might seem a novelty at first, the economical implementation means that anyone considering an Anafi can afford to sample it –  and we genuinely believe it would be a shame to miss! 


• Read full Parrot Anafi FPV review

09. DJI Mavic Air 2

If it's a foldable drone you want in 2020, this is the best

Specifications

Weight: 570g

Dimensions (folded): 180×97×84mm

Dimensions (unfolded): 183×253×77mm

Controller: Yes

Video resolution: 4K 60fps

Camera resolution: 48MP

Battery life: 34 minutes (3500mAh)

Max Range: 18.5km / 11.4mi

Max Speed: 68kph / 42mph

Reasons to buy

+Portable+4K shooting a 60fps+Object avoidance with course correction

Reasons to avoid

-No side or top sensors-App could be better

The new DJI Mavic Air 2 is a stunning technical achievement, an incredibly capable drone that – for most people – might look like the only flying camera they’d ever need. With front, downward and rear-facing distance sensors, the drone is capable of identifying obstacles and not just warning the pilot, but also plotting a course to avoid, say, a wall or a tree if needed.

This drone offers much longer flying time (an impressive 34 minutes) and better range than the original Mavic Air. But the real appeal to photographers and videographers is the new 4K 60fps camera, which packs a 48 megapixel half-inch sensor.

This drone gets a completely redesigned controller, which we rather like – with your smartphone slotting in above the controllers, just like you would find on top-end drones.

As with other DJI drones an extra “fly more” pack is available which bundles stuff you really need (case, spare batteries) – this costs more, of course, but is often a wise investment.

NOTE Just released is a substantial update to this drone, in thee shape of the DJI Air 2S. Also be aware that the older Mavic Air can still be found on sale, and is now found at reduced prices. 

See DJI Mavic Air 2 review •  DJI Air 2S review

10. DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0

This is the best drone for serious photographers and filmmakers

Specifications

Weight: 1375g

Dimensions: 350x350xmm

Controller: Yes

Video resolution: 4K @ 60fps

Camera resolution: 20MP

Battery life: 25 minutes (5870mAh)

Max Range: 7km / 4.1mi

Max Speed: 72kph / 44.7mph

Reasons to buy

+Large image sensor+Design classic+Subject tracking

Reasons to avoid

-Size feels a little clunky

The Phantom was a revolutionary product, its earlier versions including the first drone to feature a gimbal-stabilized camera rather than requiring the user to supply their own. Its rugged body design means that while it’s no longer the obvious choice for beginners or consumers (for whom folding products offer at least the same practicality), there is a strong use-case for an occasional professional.

If you’re going to be putting the drone in the back of your car, and don’t mind it taking up most of a specialist rucksack (rather than just a side pocket like the Mavic Air), then the Phantom Pro 4’s latest update is very tempting. Redesigned props for quieter flight are definitely pleasing, and the new OcuSync radio system that makes 1080p video possible on the monitors is a plus (though it won’t work with the older controllers).

There were concerns that this drone was going to be discontinued, but DJI have now confirmed that the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 is now back in production. That's great news for any drone pilot that has truly professional photographic ambitions.


What to look out for in a drone

GPS:
Toy drones generally don’t feature GPS, but if you’re composing photos it’s nigh-on essential. The positioning technology was developed with guided missiles in mind, so ideal for drones. Unlike a missile, though, the aim is to stay very much in the same place, rather than be pushed away by the breeze. Not only is piloting easier, but it enables automatic return to the take-off point should the drone lose contact with the pilot, a useful backup.

Controller:
Not all controllers are created equal. Most feature the twin sticks but at the lower end they’ll use standard Wi-Fi with a range of around 100m control and video feedback with a clear line of sight. Higher-end drones make use of proprietary radio systems, like DJI’s Lightbridge, with a range of 4000m (2.2 miles), support for master & slave controllers (enabling separate pilot & camera operator) and first-person-view goggles.

Camera & gimbal:
Like any camera, sensor size and megapixels matter, but so too does the means of vibration reduction. At the lower end, cushioning or some kind of digital image stabilization works, but the best systems used motorised gimbals to steady and level the camera on 2- or 3-axis. 

Battery:
Battery capacity is the key limit in flying drones. Higher capacities don’t always make for longer flight times since overall weight (not least the battery’s) and efficiency are a factor. The much more useful measure is simply minutes of flight time. Lithium batteries store a lot of power, but “Intelligent Batteries” are safer and include built in monitors so you can easily check their charge.

The App:
The quality of the manufacturer’s free app is a big part of the experience, since many features, especially on higher-end drones, will require you to dig down through menus. Taking the camera beyond auto is certainly done this way. Cunning developers have also found ways using the drones sensors and the app’s processing abilities to create easier flying modes and awesome visual effects like DJI’s Tiny Planet selfie clip, just one of the “Quickshot” options.

Sours: https://www.digitalcameraworld.com/buying-guides/the-10-best-camera-drones
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Top RC Drones With a Camera

If you're in a hurry, check out our top pick:

DJI Mavic 2 Pro

The latest and greatest camera drone from DJI, with a professional-grade camera from Swiss camera manufacturer, Hasselblad

View Pricing

Drone aerial photography is, wait for it, taking off.

Whether you’re using them for recreation, to build an aerial service business, or to integrate UAS into your existing business or organization, the goal of this article is to explore the best RC drones with a camera on the market today.

Top RC Drones With a Camera

Hobbyists, FPV Racing

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U49WF FPV Camera Drone

Camera | 720p HD

Flight Time | 12-15 Minutes

Camera | 720p HD

Flight Time | 12-15 Minutes

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For Hobbyists

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Holy Stone HS270 2.7K Drone

Camera | 2.7K

Flight Time | 18 Minutes

Camera | 2.7K

Flight Time | 18 Minutes

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Construction-Hobbyists-Marketing

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DJI Mavic Air 2

Camera | 48MP, 4K Video

Flight Time | 34 Minutes

Camera | 48MP, 4K Video

Flight Time | 34 Minutes

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Construction-Filmmaking-Marketing

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Skydio 2

Camera | 12 MP, 4k HDR Video

Flight Time | 23 Minutes

Camera | 12 MP, 4k HDR Video

Flight Time | 23 Minutes

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Hobbyists-FPV Racing-Filmmaking

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DJI FPV Drone

Camera | 4K, 60 fps

Flight Time | 20 Minutes

Camera | 4K, 60 fps

Flight Time | 20 Minutes

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Construction-Filmmaking-Marketing

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Autel EVO II Series

Camera | 48 MP, 6K, 8K, Thermal

Flight Time | 40 Minutes

Camera | 48 MP, 6K, 8K, Thermal

Flight Time | 40 Minutes

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Construction-Filmmaking-Marketing

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DJI Mavic 2 Zoom

Camera | 12 MP, 4K Ultra HD

Flight Time | 31 Minutes

Camera | 12 MP, 4K Ultra HD

Flight Time | 31 Minutes

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Construction-Filmmaking-Marketing

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DJI Mavic 2 Pro

Camera | 20 MP, 4K 10-bit Dlog-M

Flight Time | 31 Minutes

Camera | 20 MP, 4K 10-bit Dlog-M

Flight Time | 31 Minutes

View Pricing

Construction-Filmmaking-Marketing-Inspections

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DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0

Camera | 20 MP, 4K Video

Flight Time | 30 Minutes

Camera | 20 MP, 4K Video

Flight Time | 30 Minutes

View Pricing

There are a lot of good remote control drones to buy out there, so it’s important to think about what kind of sUAS best fits your intended operation, and then to perform proper research on the best options. This article is an attempt to help you learn the bullet points of each of the most popular camera drones on the market today.

From pricing and different camera specs and handling/responsiveness to flight software and battery life, it’s important to do your research and to make sure you’re buying a drone that’s suited to your needs.

All of the models in this list are ready-to-fly. After charging your LiPo battery and reading through your user manual a few times, you’re ready to power up, calibrate, configure, and then to start racking up those flight hours.

For a quick look at all the models we’ll be discussing in more detail below, here’s the full list:

Click here for a much bigger list of drone companies to check out in the industry.

Enjoy!

Note #1: All specs/features are obtained from the manufacturer or retailer.

Note #2: On this list, we’ve included models available for sale on Amazon and DJI — as Amazon and DJI Associate partners, we earn a small commission for qualifying purchases. Please know that we’ve tested many of the models on this list, and we wouldn’t recommend anything we wouldn’t fly ourselves!

Sours: https://uavcoach.com/drone-with-camera/
Top 8 BEST Drone You Can Buy in 2021
  • We’ve made the Autel Robotics EVO II our pick for anyone who wants a bump in a few specs or to avoid the DJI brand. We still like the DJI’s colors better and find DJI drones quieter and smaller.

July 23, 2021

If you’re an aspiring aerial photographer or videographer, a drone is your ticket to the sky. After 55 hours of research and test-flying 17 models, we think the DJI Mavic Air 2 is the best drone because it combines a high-end camera with the latest autonomous technology for less than $1,000. We also recommend the DJI Mavic 2 Pro and DJI Mini 2; pilots of all skill levels will find that DJI’s drones are exceptionally reliable and easy to fly. However, it’s worth considering that, although a recent Pentagon report indicates some DJI drones are safe for use, there are ongoing concerns about the security of the drones and allegations that the company provided drone technology to Chinese detention camps.

The DJI Mavic Air 2 combines ease of flight with long battery life and a camera that can shoot 4K video in a package that costs less than $1,000 (we recommend buying the Fly More Combo option, which among other things includes three rechargeable drone batteries). The Mavic Air 2’s ability to sense and avoid obstacles approaching from the front, the back, and below, as well as to steadily hold its position even in moderate winds (DJI says it’s safe to fly in winds up to 23.6 mph), lets you focus on your cinematography instead of worrying about keeping the drone steady. It also features DJI smart-flight modes such as ActiveTrack, which directs the drone to autonomously follow and film a subject while still avoiding obstacles. Its 34-minute battery life means you don’t have to land for a battery swap as often as you would with the competition, and at 7 by 3.8 by 3.3 inches folded and 1.3 pounds, the Mavic Air 2 can go with you almost anywhere—it fits exceptionally well in our top pick for drone backpacks.

The DJI Mavic 2 Pro takes many of the Mavic Air 2’s best features and, for twice the price and a slightly shorter battery life, tacks on a superior 1-inch image sensor and Hasselblad-branded camera (DJI bought a majority stake in the camera brand in 2017), which captures 20-megapixel photographs and 4K videos that look more colorful than those of the competition. It can also sense obstacles from all directions, which means it’s safer to fly than the Mavic Air 2.

The DJI Mavic 2 Zoom is a great choice for aerial photographers and videographers who need to work from a distance, whether they’re shooting a child’s soccer match or wildlife. It looks and flies the same as the Mavic 2 Pro, but it trades out the Hasselblad camera in favor of a different camera that can zoom two times optically and two times digitally (with software that avoids losing detail) for up to 4x usable “lossless” zoom. However, filming with more than 2x zoom requires you to shoot at 1080p instead of 4K. You could crop the Mavic 2 Pro’s higher-quality videos to get a similar zoom effect, but that requires you to spend more time processing videos and doesn’t allow for as wide a variety of cinematic filming options. Like the Mavic 2 Pro, the Mavic 2 Zoom features DJI’s obstacle avoidance and smart-flight mode tech, plus a 31-minute battery life and a foldable body.

If you are avoiding the DJI brand due to security or human rights concerns, or you simply like the idea of longer battery life combined with the option to zoom, we recommend the Autel Robotics EVO II. The bright-orange drone can fly for up to 40 minutes with autonomous options similar to DJI drones. We also prefer its controller. However, we still prefer DJI drones for their value and image quality. It’s also worth noting that, like DJI, Autel is headquartered in China.

If you’re just getting into drone photography for personal use and sharing on social media, the DJI Mini 2 is a less expensive model that still includes collision avoidance and a 4K camera. At 31 minutes, its battery life comes close to matching that of more expensive models, though its lower quality camera and sensor mean it can’t quite match the quality of their images and video. However, it folds up to about the size of a person’s hand and weighs just 249 grams; that’s a bit over half a pound and light enough to not require registration for personal use. It still comes with the important features you need from a video drone, such as image and flight stabilization and an included controller, as well as smart-flight modes where the drone flies itself to easily capture cinematic shots.

Why you should trust us

A lifelong photography enthusiast, I have chronicled the rise of modern hobby drones by working closely with the industry’s professionals and hobbyists. I’ve studied photography-focused quadcopters—and their smaller, more-agile cousins built for racing—extensively. I have also spent hundreds of hours flying drones in all sorts of environments, and I’m the writer of Wirecutter’s guide to drones under $100. I also have a remote pilot certificate.

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Who this is for

Drones (or, more specifically, quadcopters) are small aircraft that you can equip with a camera for the ability to shoot bird’s-eye-view photos and videos. They could be of interest to any photographer or videographer who wants to reach normally inaccessible spaces that would otherwise require a crane or helicopter, such as those high up in the air or across a body of water.

The drones we cover in this guide might be of interest to certain professionals, including, for example, someone who wants to film a wedding, inspect gutters, or capture footage of a house going up for sale. But professionals shooting a film might want to look at higher-end options that allow specific camera equipment to be mounted on the drone. There are also options for people who want to inspect farmland and industrial equipment, which can call for specialized sensors.

Thanks to improvements in technology and rapidly declining prices, a decent photography drone can cost as little as $400. But if you’re looking for your first drone and want to get used to flying before risking even that much, we have a guide to inexpensive drone models (without nice cameras) that are great for learning.

Regardless of which drone you choose, know that there’s an evolving body of regulations surrounding drone flight and appropriate usage that you should get familiar with before buying and flying.

All of the drones we recommend in this guide are made by companies headquartered in China. Shenzhen, China, a hotspot for technology innovation, is also a hub for consumer drones. At the government level, there are ongoing concerns about the safety of using Chinese technology for surveillance work on US soil. At the hobby and professional level, you’ll have to make a call for yourself based on the sensitivity of your footage. There’s also the matter of allegations of human rights abuses. If you’d like to avoid Chinese drones altogether (though not Chinese parts), you can consider drones from the French company Parrot or US-based Skydio.

How we picked and tested

After reading professional and owner reviews plus speaking to enthusiasts, experts, and manufacturers at the CES 2018 trade show, we decided to consider the following criteria while looking for drones to test:

  • A quadcopter design: Drones shaped like planes do exist, but they’re not as easy to fly as quadcopter models shaped like an X. A quadcopter shape (or alternatives like hexacopters that add more arms) make for the most stable photo and video because they can hold their position in the air steadily.
  • Crash-avoidance sensors: Sensors in drones have come a long way, and there are now some models that can sense obstacles approaching in any direction and adjust their flight path to avoid a crash. This technology removes so much stress from flying that we are willing to consider only those drones that at the very least can sense obstacles approaching from their front, back, and bottom.
  • A high-quality camera: Generally, the more you pay for a photography drone, the better-quality camera you get. We considered only those models that could shoot at least 12-megapixel photos and 4K video.
  • A three-axis gimbal: A good gimbal, which stabilizes a camera attached to a drone with accelerometers and gyroscopes even when you are flying in wind or a jerky pattern, is essential if you want usable footage. A three-axis gimbal is a general industry standard.
  • Long battery life: Longer-lasting batteries tend to be larger and weigh more, so manufacturers try to balance drone size with battery life. But a shorter flight time means fewer shots, shorter videos, and less flexibility. We prefer drone batteries that last at least 20 minutes, and we recommend that pilots pick up a few extras (the batteries are rechargeable) so that they can spend more time in the field flying.
  • Autonomous modes: Any video drone worth buying should have a fail-safe return-home mode that automatically brings the aircraft back to the launch point when you press a button or the drone loses contact with the controller. Additionally, we prefer drones that come preprogrammed with cinematic autonomous-flight modes; at the touch of a button, you can tell a drone to follow you while you snowboard down a mountain, say, or fly in a circle while filming for a dramatic selfie.
  • Portability: The best drones are portable enough to be an everyday tool, which means they are small and light enough to pack into a camera bag or backpack. Some drones accomplish this by having foldable arms that make them more compact.
  • Long flight range: Federal rules say you must always keep a drone within your line of sight. But in special cases, a drone’s ability to fly an especially long distance without losing contact with a controller can be a useful tool.
  • Intuitive controller: Most drone controllers look similar, with two joysticks for controlling flight and a smattering of buttons for specific tasks. Controllers with a built-in screen or an option for attaching a smartphone so you can gain additional abilities with an app can extend their functions even further, often more intuitively.

Using the above criteria, we were able to pare our original testing field in 2016 down to the DJI Mavic Pro, the DJI Phantom 3 Standard, the DJI Phantom 4 Pro, the Yuneec Typhoon H hexacopter, the GoPro Karma, and the Parrot Bebop 2. We tested the DJI Spark in 2017 and then the DJI Mavic Air and DJI Phantom 4 Pro v2 in early 2018. In late 2018, we tested the DJI Mavic 2 Pro, DJI Mavic 2 Zoom, and Autel Evo. We tested the Skydio R1 in early 2019 and Parrot Anafi in late 2019. In early 2020, we tried the DJI Mavic Air 2 and DJI Mavic Mini. We tested the DJI Mini 2 in late 2020.

We shot photos and videos with each drone to evaluate camera quality, which also helped us gauge stabilization quality and see whether propellers appeared in any of the shots. We also tried all of the advertised intelligent-flight modes and crash-avoidance systems by flying the drones through trees. We tested maneuverability and controller sensitivity by flying fast with lots of turns.

In 2018, we spent dozens more hours evaluating and testing drone accessories such as backpacks, first-person-view headsets, and landing pads to determine the extra gear that’s truly worth the investment for photography drones.

Our pick: DJI Mavic Air 2

The DJI Mavic Air 2 shown on a bright orange landing pad.

The DJI Mavic Air 2 is the best drone for budding aerial photographers and videographers because of its automated obstacle avoidance and 4K camera, as well as how easy it is to fly. It offers all of that for $800 (or $1,000 in the Fly More Combo we recommend because everyone should invest in extra rechargeable batteries), which we think is an impressive value considering the Mavic 2 Pro costs twice as much for a better camera but otherwise older technology. Its three-axis gimbal provides effective image stabilization, and its 34-minute battery life means you need to land less often. The Mavic Air 2’s preprogrammed flight modes and its ability to autonomously return to its launch point and land itself allow both beginners and advanced pilots to get cinematic-looking shots without much effort.

The Mavic Air 2 can sense obstacles from up to 155 feet away as they approach from its front, back, or bottom. Although that left it blind while it was flying up or to the side (the Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom tack on sensors for those directions), we still found the feature useful for normal flight; the drone emitted a loud beep and stopped itself when I tried to fly it straight at a tree or slam it into the ground. Obstacle sensing removes stress from the flying experience, both when you’re flying manually and when you’re using any of DJI’s preprogrammed flight options.

The Mavic Air 2’s camera has a ½-inch sensor and 12- and 48-megapixel modes, plus 4K video capture at up to 60 frames per second (for smoother-looking movies compared with the Mavic 2 Pro’s 30 fps, though the Mavic 2 Pro’s larger sensor makes for crisper images and video). In our tests, the Mavic Air 2 took videos that looked sharp without any color-balancing fuss from us; however, we still liked the colors that came out of the Mavic 2 Pro’s Hasselblad lens more. A new feature called SmartPhoto, which recognizes what the camera is seeing and adjusts the colors accordingly, may have been part of the reason, though it was hard to tell what exactly the feature adjusted.

While flying in winds clocking about 10 mph, the Mavic Air 2 was unfailingly stable. It didn’t drift, and it consistently shot steady video, even when it rose hundreds of feet into the air over the Mississippi River. The other Mavic drones we tested performed similarly, except for the Mavic Mini, which warned us about high winds and advised us to land. Like many drones, the Mavic Air 2 uses a combination of GPS and GLONASS satellites, as well as the vision cameras, to monitor movement and altitude changes.

It’s annoying to get into the rhythm of flying a drone and then just a few minutes later receive an alert indicating that it’s time to land and change the battery, which is our main problem with the drones we cover in our guide to inexpensive drones. Battery life should be one fewer thing to think about. With a life of up to 34 minutes, the Mavic Air 2’s batteries are among the longest lasting of any drone we’ve tried. The flight time was so long that we filled its 8 GB of internal memory space before our first battery drained.

Photographers and cinematographers can take their skills further with the preprogrammed flight modes. We most often used ActiveTrack, which directs the drone to follow a subject (or yourself). In QuickShots mode, the Mavic Air 2 can autonomously film in elaborate cinematic ways such as circling around a subject or zooming away from it. Tripod mode, which limits the drone’s speed to 3 mph and softens the controls to prevent jerky movement for cinematic shots, is also useful.

The Mavic Air 2 measures 7 by 3.8 by 3.3 inches when folded—about the size of a large coffee thermos—and weighs 1.3 pounds. Its controller is comparable in size to a sandwich. You can slip both into a camera bag easily or stow them in a purse or backpack.

It’s possible to fly the Mavic Air 2 up to 6.2 miles away, though federal regulations say a drone must remain within your line of sight. It transmits via DJI’s OccuSync 2.0 system, which we’ve found to be reliable.

A person using the controller for the DJI drone.

You can use DJI’s Fly app for drone calibration, camera settings, GPS maps, and intelligent-flight modes. Most important, the app displays a live feed from the drone’s camera so you can frame shots to your liking. It also tracks all of your flight information (which you can replay if you’re trying to repeat a shot), warns you about any flight restrictions in the area, and has built-in video-editing tools. You connect your smartphone to the controller via an included specialized USB Type-C, Micro-USB, or Lightning cable threaded through the side of the left brace—you can use a standard cable instead, but it sticks out oddly and limits motion.

Although you can use the DJI app to control almost every aspect of the drone, you still need to use the controller to pilot it. In our tests, the drone responded nimbly to our controls even while flying in the faster and more agile Sport mode. We also found it easy to adjust the tilt of the drone’s camera with the wheel built into the controller or to hit the specialized buttons that prompt the camera to take a picture or start filming.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

Like other China-based brands, DJI has come under scrutiny from the US government over security concerns in recent years. There are also allegations that the company provided drone technology for surveillance of Chinese detention camps. In 2020, the US government placed it on its entity list, meaning US companies could not provide DJI with technology but DJI could continue to sell its drones in the US. A 2021 report from the Pentagon cleared some types of DJI drones for use by the US government, but said nothing definitive about human rights abuses or the safety of the brand’s consumer drones.

While the Mavic Air 2’s front, back, and bottom sensors go a long way toward preventing collisions, we prefer the Mavic 2 Pro’s addition of top and side sensors. We didn’t feel as confident flying amid the branches of a tree with the Mavic Air 2, as it was hard to gauge from a distance just how close the branches were. Additional sensors make for a lower-stress flight.

The Mavic Air 2 also has a smaller camera sensor than the Mavic 2 Pro. We thought the videos it took looked sharp enough for posting to YouTube and social media, but the Mavic 2 Pro’s videos looked even clearer, with better colors.

The controller lacks a built-in screen. Although that isn’t a big deal if you have the drone linked with a phone and boot up the DJI Fly app, which tells you all of the information a controller screen would, it’s a minor thing we missed when we wanted to get in a quick flight without connecting a phone.

Upgrade pick: DJI Mavic 2 Pro

Our pick for best drone for photos and video, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro, flying outside.

The DJI Mavic 2 Pro is a worthwhile upgrade if you’re willing to pay more for a better camera and improved obstacle avoidance. Its 1-inch sensor makes for clearer videos and photos, while its Hasselblad-branded camera makes the footage it shoots more colorful. It can also sense obstacles coming from any direction, facilitating somewhat safer flying.

In flight, the Mavic 2 Pro uses sensors to detect obstacles up to 65 feet away approaching from its sides, front, back, bottom, and top; the Mavic 2 Zoom is the only other Mavic drone that senses obstacles coming from any direction. During our testing, the Mavic 2 Pro stopped short when we tried to fly it at a tree, and it flew around a tree blocking its path when we directed it to autonomously return to its launch point. It beeped loudly to warn us whenever we flew close to an obstacle and automatically slowed its descent while landing so that it gently set down on the ground every time. Note that the side sensors on the Mavic 2 Pro work only while you are flying in Tripod and ActiveTrack mode. If you ever do need to fly close to an obstacle for the perfect shot or a more sportslike performance, you can turn off obstacle sensing and avoidance.

The Mavic 2 Pro’s 20-megapixel, 4K camera is branded by Hasselblad, a Swedish company known for medium-format cameras, that DJI acquired in 2017. Considering that this camera is as small as a fun-size candy bar, it can’t capture the same quality as Hasselblad’s larger cameras can. But DJI and Hasselblad did work together on a few features that are notable for a drone, including a 1-inch CMOS sensor that can work in lower-light conditions because it tops out at an ISO of 12,800. The companies also say that they adapted Hasselblad’s method for making colors look more realistic without your having to fine-tune color settings, and that the Mavic 2 Pro captures more colors than other DJI drones. We found that the colors did indeed look truer and brighter than those of the Mavic 2 Zoom, which has a different camera and produced images with a pinker hue. The Mavic 2 Pro shoots 4K video at up to 30 frames per second (weaker than the Mavic Air 2’s 60 fps) with a 100 Mbps max bit rate (the processing speed at which the camera is recording digital media). You can set the aperture anywhere between f/2.8 and f/11.

The Mavic 2 Pro captured more accurate colors than the competition. Video: Signe Brewster

Like the Mavic Air 2, the Mavic 2 Pro is one of the most consistently stable drones we’ve ever flown. In our tests, it hovered accurately and resisted drifting, even when we flew this model in winds topping 20 miles per hour on a river bank. Like its sibling, it uses a combination of GPS and GLONASS satellites.

A close up of the camera on the front of the Mavic 2 Pro drone.

At up to 31 minutes, the Mavic 2 Pro’s battery life is impressive, though it falls a few minutes short of the Mavic Air 2’s battery life. Still, we think anything over the 30-minute mark is enough for you to capture a satisfying amount of footage before you have to land for a battery change. Like the Mavic Air 2, the Mavic 2 Pro has the autonomous follow-me mode ActiveTrack, plus the cinematic QuickShots.

The controller for our pick for best drone for photos and video. It attaches to an iPhone.

The Mavic 2 Pro folds up to 8.4 by 3.6 by 3.3 inches, which makes it slightly larger than the Mavic Air 2 but just as portable. It weighs 2 pounds and doesn’t require any assembly before you fly (aside from removing the camera cover). The controller is the size of an eclair. Though the Mavic 2 Pro is about 50% heavier than the Mavic Air 2, it’s still conveniently sized. You can stow it in a conventional camera bag or even a purse.

You can fly the Mavic 2 Pro up to 5 miles away, though US rules say you or a spotter must always have the drone within your line of sight.

A person holding the folded up Mavic 2 Pro in one hand.

Unlike the Mavic Air 2 controller, the Mavic 2 Pro controller includes a screen, which is useful for monitoring battery life, distance, and connectivity, especially if you’re not using a phone. It also holds your phone below the controller instead of above it, which we think is slightly more awkward for keeping an eye on the live feed from the drone’s camera and tapping around in the DJI Go 4 app. We still found the controller responsive and easy to use, though we preferred the Mavic Air 2 controller’s larger size for easier gripping.

Also great: DJI Mavic 2 Zoom

The DJI Mavic 2 Zoom drone flying.

The DJI Mavic 2 Zoom could be a better option for photographers and videographers who care more about having a zoom lens than having extra megapixels. By combining its 24–48mm telephoto lens with a digital zoom, the drone can shoot HD video with up to 4x lossless zoom. That’s useful if you’re photographing noise-sensitive wildlife or interested in achieving cinematic effects that use a zoom. Otherwise, you can just fly any drone toward a subject to achieve a zooming effect.

The drone has a 12-megapixel 4K camera and a 1/2.3-inch sensor, in line with older Mavic drones like the Mavic Air but not as good as the Mavic 2 Pro. It can film 4K video while zooming in up to 2x, but zooming further requires you to film at a max quality of 1080p. We thought the images and video it captured had more of a pinkish tinge and duller colors overall compared with the output of the Mavic 2 Pro. However, we used the telephoto lens to zoom in twice as far as we were able to with the Mavic 2 Pro. We photographed a flower conservatory and a bridge, two subjects that we felt uncomfortable filming from up close. We also used the Mavic 2 Zoom’s new Dolly Zoom effect, an autonomous-flight mode in which the drone flies away from a subject while zooming in on it, giving the impression the subject is standing in place while the background shifts. It’s a neat effect, as long as you don’t overuse it.

The Mavic 2 Zoom offers a few new cinematic options, including a 4x lossless zoom and Dolly Zoom. Video: Signe Brewster

Other than the camera, the Mavic 2 Zoom looks and flies the same as the Mavic 2 Pro. It detects and avoids approaching obstacles, uses batteries that last up to 31 minutes, and remains extremely stable while holding its position in the air. Along with Dolly Zoom, it comes with DJI’s other preprogrammed flight modes, and at 8.4 by 3.6 by 3.3 inches and 2 pounds, it’s small and light enough for you to carry it in the water-bottle pocket on some backpacks. You can fly it up to 5 miles away and view a 1080p preview on a phone screen thanks to DJI’s OccuSync 2.0 transmission system. It also uses the same controller as the Mavic 2 Pro.

Also great: Autel Robotics EVO II

Our pick for best drone that's not from DJI, the Autel Robotics EVO two.

If you’d like to avoid buying a drone from DJI or are interested in an 8K camera and longer battery life, the Autel Robotics EVO II is a worthy competitor to the Mavic 2 Zoom. We’ve tested a few Autel drones over the years and found them just as easy to fly as their DJI counterparts. The company’s well-designed app also includes plenty of autonomous flight modes. However, we don’t think they provide the same value as DJI drones, and we still think DJI drones shoot crisper and more colorful images and video.

Like the Mavic 2 Zoom, the EVO II is capable of 4x lossless zoom (with the option to zoom in as much as 8x). The higher detail of its 48-megapixel, 8K camera and ½-inch sensor would be the main reason to choose it over the Mavic 2 Zoom. However, we preferred the clarity of colors captured by DJI drones across the board.

The EVO II’s other main draw is its 40-minute battery life, which is 9 minutes longer than our favorite DJI drones. It’s rare that we find ourselves wishing for more than 30 minutes of battery life, but pilots who want to take advantage of its 5.6-mile transmission range might find it useful.

Like the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom, the EVO II can sense obstacles approaching from any direction and autonomously maneuver to avoid them. We found that its sensors were sensitive enough to detect a chain link fence and white snowman, and in both instances it stopped itself to avoid a collision.

We prefer the EVO II’s included controller over those included with DJI drones. Both controllers include clamps to hold your phone, which displays a livestream from the drones’ cameras, but the EVO II controller holds your phone above while DJI controllers hold it below. When you’re trying to keep your eye on a drone, it’s much better to not have to tilt your head down as far to glance at your phone. We also like the EVO II’s bright orange color more than DJI drones’ matte gray because they’re easier to spot in the air. However, we find Autel drones to be much louder than DJI drones.

We also tested, and enjoyed flying, the EVO II Pro. It has a higher quality camera that makes it more of a direct competitor to the Mavic Pro 2, though we don’t think it provides the same value. EVO II drone cameras are modular; if you later decide to upgrade to the EVO II Pro, you can buy an EVO II Pro camera and swap it with the one included with the EVO II.

Budget pick: DJI Mini 2

DJI Mini 2 again an orange backdrop

The DJI Mini 2 is one of the most basic and inexpensive models DJI offers and is an ideal beginner photography drone. Though it lacks the sensor and camera quality and the range of the Mavic Air 2 or Mavic 2 Pro, the Mini 2 weighs and costs a third as much yet still packs a 4K camera and retains important beginner-friendly features. The drone can take off, land, and return home with the push of a button. It also has a positioning system that’s intelligent enough to hold its location in the air and sense obstacles approaching from the front and back, and its 31-minute battery life is almost as long as that of more expensive models. For a beginner who just wants to start taking photos and videos, the Mini 2 is a bargain.

The Mini 2 can sense obstacles from its front, back, and bottom, which means it can stop itself from flying directly into a tree and automatically slows itself for a gentle landing. It can’t avoid trees or other obstacles approaching from its front, back, or sides like higher-end DJI drones can, so it’s still a good idea to stick to flying the Mini 2 in open spaces until you gain more experience.

It has a ½-inch sensor and can shoot 12 megapixel photos or up to 4K video at 30 fps. The results aren’t as clear as what you can capture on a Mavic Air 2 or Mavic 2 Pro, but they’re nice enough for posting to YouTube and social media. It’s also a huge improvement in image quality for what you can get at this price compared with even just a few years ago.

DJI Mini 2 with controller sitting on an orange backdrop

The Mini 2 is a stable drone that can capture steady video even in windy conditions. We didn’t notice drifting as we tooled around in a field in 5 mph winds. It relies on the same GPS and GLONASS positioning systemas other DJI drones, but we have noticed in other small drones, such as the original Mavic Mini, that they do not have enough power to fight wind as effectively as larger drones.

That tiny size is the Mini 2’s best feature. Because the drone weighs 249 grams, or about half a pound, you don’t have to register the drone with the FAA before flying it for personal use. It’s only 5.5 inches long and 3.2 inches wide, about the same size as its controller. I had no trouble tucking it into my jacket pocket when I moved locations between flights.

You can fly the Mini 2 up to 6.2 miles away, but you need to keep it within sight to comply with the law. Its smaller size and lighter gray color meant it was harder for us to spot from a distance, so we tended to keep it closer than we did larger drones. This drone relies on the DJI Fly app for a live stream from the drone’s camera, access to many of the intelligent-flight modes, and a second location for activating things like auto takeoff and landing.

Some choice accessories for DJI drones

You can have a lot of fun flying a drone by itself, but a few key accessories can make your flights smoother and even more enjoyable. We spent 40 hours researching and testing dozens of drone accessories, as well as interviewing four expert drone pilots, to find the best backpacks, first-person-view headsets, landing pads, and microSD cards for foldable DJI drones. We also recommend picking up some extra batteries to extend your flying time between charges.

A backpack built for drones: LowePro DroneGuard

A person walking outside with our pick for best drone backpack on their back.

Drone backpacks provide a spot for each piece of kit to stay snugly in place; as a result, they make it easier for you to locate items without having to dig through a bunch of gear, and they protect your equipment from damage. That last part is especially important for batteries, which have the potential to burst into flame if you leave them banging around. After considering 22 options and testing four finalists by fitting in three DJI drones of varying sizes and a full kit of accessories—including a controller, batteries, a charger, props, cameras, and a laptop—we think Lowepro’s line of drone bags is your best bet because they each offer the best fit and organization for your gear while still being quite comfortable when fully loaded. (We tested the Lowepro DroneGuard BP 250, which is made specifically for DJI Mavic drones, but any backpack in the DroneGuard or QuadGuard series will perform similarly.)

The entire front of the BP 250 zips open to reveal the main compartment. Movable dividers create smaller spots for core gear such as the drone and its controller, and they allow you to make sure the batteries are safely snuggled in. For good measure, a strap holds the drone securely in place, and a special foam block sits between the drone controller’s two joysticks for a more custom fit. The front cover has elastic bands that are perfect for holding extra propellers or securing cords to keep them from tangling. In our tests, the main compartment was large enough that we could also fit an FPV headset or a disassembled camera body and lens.

An overhead photo of our pick for best drone backpack on the ground with its main pocket open. Inside, you can see numerous compartments and pockets designed for drone accessories.

Three other compartments fit a camera and a tablet, flat items such as prop guards, and larger items such as a camera or an FPV headset. A compartment on one of the front shoulder straps fits a phone. The front of the backpack is also covered in looped straps that you can use to attach a drone, a tripod, or other gear with bungee cords, and two side pockets fit water or sunscreen bottles.

Although the BP 250 has an obvious spot for everything, its dividers are only so flexible—fitting an assembled DSLR, for example, into the main compartment of the BP 250 is impossible. That makes this bag, along with the other DroneGuard and QuadGuard backpacks, a great choice if you plan to use the backpack with only a specific drone, but if you prefer a backpack you can customize to fit multiple drone models, we recommend the Peak Design Everyday Backpack 30L.

A safe place to land: Hoodman Drone Launch Pad

A round, orange drone launch pad with black markings. A drone is sitting in the center of it.

When you’re flying an expensive drone carrying an expensive camera on its belly, it’s a good idea to protect your investment from water, dirt, and other elements by using a dedicated landing pad. These pads also tend to be a bright color such as orange, making them a useful visual indicator for spotting home when you’re wearing an FPV headset. They also look more professional in videos if you’re producing content for a client.

After testing three landing pads (and a piece of cardboard), we recommend the Hoodman Drone Launch Pad because it’s truly waterproof, it’s easy to set up, and its unique weighted edges keep it in place. Waterproofing is the single most important reason to use a landing pad, and the other two pads we tested (from RCstyle and Fstop Labs) turned out not to be waterproof at all, despite their makers’ claims. Twenty minutes after we sprinkled water across the Hoodman pad, the water was still beaded up and no moisture had seeped through to the other side.

We also like this landing pad’s metal-weighted edges, which prevent it from flying away in windy weather. This feature adds a little more overall weight to the gear you’re carrying compared with the stakes that other pads use, but it makes the Hoodman pad easier to set up and more useful if you’re flying on hard ground such as a rocky field or a parking lot. The center fabric is a pleasing orange color and feels tougher than the material of the other pads we tested.

The Hoodman pad’s 3-foot size made it trickier to fold up than smaller models, but it packs down to 13 inches across and fits nicely into its carrying case. The size of the pad you should buy depends on how large your drone is; Hoodman’s larger, 5-foot size is more than you need for most drones but could be useful for professional cinematography drones. The larger size is also easier to see from the air.

Best microSD card for video and photo storage: SanDisk MicroSDXC card for Nintendo Switch (128 GB)

Sours: https://www.nytimes.com/wirecutter/reviews/best-drones/

Drone camera buy

Flying a drone around is not only lots of fun, it's even more enjoyable when you can use a drone camera to take photos or video of a point of view that was once limited to pilots and birds. Because technology moves even faster than a drone, the cameras, wireless networking gear and lithium-ion batteries needed to take drone photos and videos has evolved greatly in recent years. Now, you can get a great drone that will pilot itself, fly for 30 minutes (or more) and shoot 4K video with an HD camera for less than $500.

And even a cheap drone for beginners can offer plenty of fun. For about $50 (about £40 or AU$80), you can get a basic quadcopter drone with an integrated camera that can fly for nearly 10 minutes on a charge. But there are plenty of affordable options for drone owners that fall somewhere in the middle, offering various combinations of features, video quality and price for every drone enthusiast. So, whether you're looking to get into drone photography or just want an indoor drone to fly around your living room, we've got some recommendations. Here are the best drones for the beginner and intermediate drone pilot looking to spend less than $1,000.

Best drones, compared


Best drone for most peopleBest beginner droneBest camera droneBest racing drone for beginners
Model DJI Mini 2 Ryze Tello DJI Air 2S Emax Tinyhawk 2
Buying info See it at Best BuySee it at AmazonSee it at B&H PhotoSee it at Amazon
Price $449 $100 $999 $209
Photo 12 megapixels 5 megapixels 20 megapixels 600 TVL
Video 4K at 30fps 720p at 30fps 5.4K at 60fps 600 TVL
GPS support Yes No Yes No
Flight time 31 minutes 13 minutes 30 minutes 8 minutes
Weight 249 grams 80 grams 595 grams 9 grams
Requires registration (in the US) No No Yes No
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DJI is the undisputed leader in drone technology and dominates the market, thanks to a vast lineup of cheaper drone models (such as the Mavic, Mini, Tello and Phantom) for consumers, hobbyists and professionals that start at around $100 and go up to expensive drone models that exceed $20,000. (In December 2020, the US Commerce Department added the company

Sours: https://www.cnet.com/tech/computing/best-drone/
Top 10 Best Dji Drone Alternatives - Best Budget Camera Drone

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