Looking for an affordable and reliable aerial photography drone to take breathtaking landscape and street photos from unusual angles? I collected the most popular aerial photography drones in this article and give some tips on how to choose such photography equipment.
It’s not only aerial photographers who use drones for their work. They are also popular among those who specialize in landscape and real estate photography because shooting from unusual angles gives an opportunity to achieve remarkable results. I believe that a professional drone camera can be useful in any photography genre, so it is necessary to buy it. But in order to get amazing pictures, you need to have the best drone for photography, so this is my review.
Price: about $1,500
I want to present you one of the most advanced models from this French company. Many photographers consider it to be the best drone for real estate photography. It comes in two versions: Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic 2 Pro. The first one stands out for an optical zoom camera, but the matrix size is 1/2.3 ", while the second has a 1" CMOS. Mavic 2 has a foldable design and is 214×91×84 mm in shipping condition.
The flight range is up to 8 km, while flight time is up to 31 minutes, which is unique for consumer models. You don’t need to get to the shooting location to get the desired frame. If you didn’t control the battery charge or the device lost the control signal in conditions of strong radio interference from a megalopolis, then it will return to the take-off point and land. Moreover, there are sensors on all sides, which “see” the obstacles in front of them and automatically avoid them or stop.
Equipped with a 20 MP Hasselblad L1D-20C camera with a sensor and variable aperture of f/2.8-f/11, the Pro version is suitable for shooting 10-bit HDR video. The camera's viewing angle is about 77 degrees. The L1D-20C camera is also equipped with Hasselblad's Natural Color Solution (HNCS), an up-to-date technology that allows the photographer to take professional images with incredible colors.
Price: about $170
Although drone aerial photography pricing can be quite high, you can always buy an aerial photography drone at a reasonable price. This device has a very good flight time for its price category, about 22 minutes. The pilot can reliably control the drone at a distance of 0.5 miles, which is suitable for most beginners.
This model has an altimeter, compass, and GPS, which guarantees a good security level. When a signal is lost or when the battery is low, the model returns home.
The drone doesn’t have any cameras. At the same time, you can use a GoPro or devices of similar design. There is a camera mount provided for this purpose. But the suspension doesn’t have mechanical stabilization, only rubber anti-vibration supports.
Price: about $6,200
Speaking of the prices of the professional aerial photography equipment, I want to mention that the most recent and functional models often have a high price. But the cost is justified by a stunning results. For instance, this quadcopter is the most powerful consumer aerial photography drone. It can be considered the benchmark of filmmaking. It has an adjustable lifting chassis that allows the user to rotate the camera 360 degrees without the risk of the elements getting into the frame. It shows impressive functionality and a great number of extraordinary camera features. But the most interesting thing is the camera, or rather three cameras, different in capabilities and cost.
The first is a Zenmuse X4S. It has a 20 MP resolution, CMOS 1 "sensor, F/2.8-11 lens, 8.8mm (35 mm equivalent: 24 mm), 12.8 exposure steps, 4K video (60 FPS), mechanical shutter (8-1 / 2000s), and electronic shutter (1/2000 - 1 / 8000s), ISO 100 - 12800 (photo).
The middle one is a Zenmuse X5S. CMOS 4/3 matrix, 20.8 MP photo, video up to 5.2K - 5280×2972. In the standard configuration, the camera has no lens, the user can select the appropriate one from the available options: Olympus M.Zuiko, DJI MFT, Panasonic Lumix. Moreover, it has support for two professional codecs. They allow you to process images with high accuracy.
The last one is a Zenmuse X7, which is a completely new camera. It has Super 35 sensor, 6016×4008 photo resolution, 6016×3200 (6K) video resolution, and ISO 100 - 25600 (photo). But there are only four lenses.
Long flight time for such a large and heavy device becomes possible thanks to two power batteries on board. The same factor provides enhanced power safety: if the first battery fails, then the second one will protect the drone. All of the important electronic components for flight support are duplicated on board. The video link is kept for up to 4.3 miles and the maximum flight time is 27 minutes.
Price: about $1,000
If you want to find the best aerial photography drone, pay attention to this model, which is the basis of the company's line of consumer drones. It is the first aerial photo drone with a professional high-quality camera with a 1” matrix. It has a high contrast ratio, maximum ISO 12800, 20MP resolution and f2.8 aperture. The lens has a wide 84° viewing angle. Thus, you can take pictures in both JPEG and DNG format. All these features of the best drones with a camera help to take spotless images with extensive post-processing capabilities. Thanks to the special camera, this drone can be compared to semi-professional cameras and camcorders. It allows you to get a 360-degree nature and landscape panorama without additional efforts. You can even shoot high in the mountains. The maximum is four miles above sea level. Also, there is a smart autopilot system with obstacle detection sensors, flight time of up to 30 minutes with one battery, flight range of up to 4.3 miles, and an excellent tool for aerial nature photography. This model is recommended for drone wedding photography.
Price: about $800
Look at the unusual folding design of this aerial photography drone from Yuneec. It is equipped with a new Sony 1” CMOS C23 camera, which allows users to shoot 20-megapixel photos and record 4K video (60 fps). The special obstacle avoidance system “RealSense” will provide additional flight safety, preventing collisions with different objects. The drone can shoot 360-degree panoramas in automatic mode and stich them “on board”. Moreover, it gives the user an opportunity to control two operators at once, which is very important for any piece of aerial photography equipment. The control panel shows the image on a 7-inch screen and it can display the image on an external monitor.
Flight time is up to 26 minutes on one battery. There are two of them. Flight range is up to 2 km.
Price: about $400
This is another example of the best drones for aerial photography, which is non-foldable but has a good 14-megapixel camera with a 1/2” sensor. The shooting is done in 14 MP resolution in RAW mode. Cideo is recorded in Full HD. It contains a whole range of different sensors, including GPS + GLONASS, an optical position tracking sensor (useful when flown indoors), allowing you to safely and easily control the device. By the way, this is a quite an important feature for historical aerial photography.
The stated flight time is up to 30 minutes. There are two batteries in the kit. In total, you can achieve a flight time of up to one hour. Flight range is up to 1.2 miles.
Price: about $5,000
The DJI Matrice 600 Pro is a true titan of the movie industry that allows for using RED cameras for shooting. Drone photographers can combine a Matrice 600 Pro with their DSLR camera. This aerial photography drone is the most expensive model in our review, and since it’s mostly recommended for Hollywood-scale projects, we’ll make this section short.
It’s worth mentioning that the standard set doesn’t include a camera or a gimbal stabilizer. The best way to stabilize the camera is to purchase a DJI Ronin-MX steadicam either separately or as a part of a more expensive set. The full line of supported stabilizers are the following: Ronin-MX; Zenmuse Z30, Zenmuse X5/X5R, Zenmuse X3, Zenmuse XT; Zenmuse Z15 Series HD Gimbal: Z15-A7, Z15-BMPCC, Z15-5D III, Z15-GH4.
Being the best drone for aerial photography, the Matrice 600 Pro offers unlimited potential for photographers and videographers, but you’ll have to pay a lot for each additional function. The drone is powered by six rechargeable batteries. Regular batteries support 32-minute flight time (unloaded) and 16 minutes with a 5.5-kg load. Batteries with an increased capacity will prolong the flight for an addition six and two minutes.
Price: about $500
The Yuneec Mantis Q is a new aerial photography drone from American brand Yuneec. Its primary advantages are the foldable design and long flight duration. Judged solely by these characteristics, this quadcopter can compete with DJI Mavic Air or Parrot Anafi, but, sadly, the drone’s photo shooting capability bring it to a lower class, similar to the DJI Spark and Parrot Bebop 2. The reason is that the Yuneec Mantis Q doesn’t offer mechanical gimbal stabilization except for controlling the camera vertical angle.
Regarding the aerial photo drone functionality, it supports DNG, both in 4:3 (4160x3120) and 16:9 (4800x2700) aspect ratios. CMOS-matrix size is 1/3.306”, which is a bit smaller than the industry standard. The manufacturer also mentions 4K-support (30 fps), but due to the lack of electronic stabilization, it’s useless. Realistically, we can talk about supporting only a 1080p (60 fps with digital triple-axis stabilization) video output.
The biggest advantage of this professional drone camera is the flight duration which is equal to 33 minutes on a single battery charge (3S 2800 mAh rechargeable battery). Also, you can use voice commands to control the drone and the camera and the included physical controller, which allows for controlling the device at a distance of up to 0.6 miles (American FCC standard). This model is a valid option to start a drone photography business.
Price: about $800
The DJI Mavic Air is the cheapest and smallest quadcopter from the Mavic line. In terms of quality, it’s somewhere between the DJI Spark and DJI Mavic 2 Zoom. This model is the best aerial photography drone if you find Spark’s flight duration and functionality insufficient but aren’t ready to spend a lot of money on a Mavic 2. When folded, the drone takes up minimal space and weights 430 grams, which is perfect for hiking.
This aerial photography drone has a camera with a 1/2.3” size CMOS sensor, 12 MP resolution, a fixed focal distance of 24mm and f/2.8 aperture. It supports ISO 100-1600 (auto) and ISO 100-3200 (manual setting), a focal length of 4 mm (24 mm in equivalent to the 36x24 mm “full shot”), and an 85o viewing angle. The drone allows for capturing panoramic images of up to 33 MP, employs automatic exposure bracketing, has an HDR mode, and supports time-lapse photography. Images can be saved in either JPEG or DNG (RAW).
The drone has sensors at the bottom, front, and back, which help it avoid different obstacles. A single flight can last up to 21 minutes, while the maximum working distance is 4 km, meeting all the best drone for real estate requirements.
Price: about $600
Parrot Anafi is probably DJI Mavic’s closest competitor. The foldable construction, a camera with a 2.8x optical zoom and180o vertical rotating angle, the ability to charge batteries via a USB-C port – all these factors make the Anafi a worthy contender for the best aerial drone title.
To achieve the best image quality, Parrot employs a 21MP 1/2.4” CMOS-sensor manufactured by Sony. The 4K video footage is recorded onboard at 30 fps, while the Full-HD resolution is recorded at up to 60 fps. Thanks to the HDR support, the content is clear, bright, and vibrant. You can also use zoom without quality loss – 1.4x for 4K, and up to 2.8x for Full-HD.
The flight duration in regular mode is up to 25 minutes. The maximum distance is 2.4 miles, which is more than you can expect from affordable drones.
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When you can’t find a suitable surface for the drone’s takeoff, you can use a special platform that makes this process safe and comfortable.
Purchase all filters that are compatible with your drone camera lens. They are useful to remove unwanted effects during photo shoots and video recording.
You can buy a special curtain for smartphones and tablets to protect the camera screen from direct sunlight when viewing your aerial imagery outdoors.
You can purchase a secure case with special compartments to store and transport your drone and its accessories, which is essential if you take your aerial photography business seriously.
The car charger device is the most important piece of aerial photography equipment for any photographer. It allows for recharging the batteries while being miles away from civilization.
Buying a drone, you can’t test all its functions immediately. First, you have to wait for the battery to fully charge. You’ll also probably need to register a pilot account, download an app for your smartphone\tablet and any necessary software upgrades before the first flight. To ensure a thorough check, we recommend testing the drone functionality in the store before finalizing the sale. If you buy it online, you can only rely on the manufacturer’s reputation and the included warranty.
Once you’ve bought the drone, start off by reading the manual, twice. Prepare the drone for the first flight according to the instructions. If you don’t know how to do aerial photography, have an experienced photographer or the expert from the drone store nearby. Never start using the device without the necessary theoretical knowledge on how to fly and pilot a drone.
Hi there, I'm Ann Young - a photographer, photo retoucher and of course, journalist. Here on FixThePhoto blog you can find all of my reviews, photography and photo editing tips, pricing guides, and photography experiments.