How to choose the best drone for photography? What characteristics are really important when you look for your first drone? What model is considered the best drone for aerial photography by experts? In this article, I will provide a list of 17 best drones for photography and video shooting and give tips on choosing the most suitable one.
Nowadays, drones are in trend, and every beginning photographer thinks about purchasing this flying “friend” and “second shooter” at least once. However, few people know what is really important when choosing the best drone for photography and video. To help you avoid long searches and comparisons, I have prepared a list of the best drones for various types of shooting.
Price: about $1500
The second generation of Mavic has become a line of the most advanced technological drones ever created by DJI Co. The model is the result of the DJI Mavic Pro’s evolution which once surprised the world of quadrocopters with its original design and capabilities in a small body.
DJI Mavic 2 Pro is equipped with a 20 MP Hasselblad L1D-20C camera with a 1-inch sensor and a variable aperture of f/2.8-f/11, capable of shooting 10-bit HDR video. A larger matrix also provides better quality in low light thanks to a wider ISO range. The maximum ISO has been raised from 3200 to 12,800. DJI and Hasselblad have been working on the L1D-20c camera for two years, experimenting with lens clarity, an image processing module and optimizing visual effects. They managed to design a quality camera that is small enough for one of the best drones for aerial photography – Mavic 2 Pro. The camera is also equipped with Hasselblad's Natural Color Solution (HNCS) unique technology, which allows taking great aerial pictures with a resolution of 20 megapixels and stunning colors.
Flight time is up to 31 minutes and a distance is up to 5 miles. It is a record for consumer drones. You do not need to get to the place of shooting to have the desired frame. If you didn’t keep track of the battery charge or the drone lost control signal in conditions of strong radio interference of the megalopolis, then it will return to the starting point or the place for landing. Moreover, this best drone for professional photography has sensors on all sides of the body. They “see” the obstacles in front of themselves and automatically fly around or stop.
Price: about $350
Spark is the newest version of the multi-rotor lineup from DJI. Nevertheless, all the basic functions of the older models are present in it. The differences are only in the variety of possibilities. The DJI Spark camera has a high-quality five-lens 12-megapixel 1/2.3 inch CMOS, viewing angle of 81.9° with an aperture of f/2.6. Maximum image resolution: 3968 × 2976 (JPEG only). Maximum video resolution: FullHD 1920 x 1080p, 30fps.The effective focal length is 25 mm (35 mm format equivalent). The focal length range is from 2 m to infinity. The best camera drone is equipped with perfect optics that allows obtaining bright and clear frames with a minimal geometric distortion and chromatic aberrations. The camera performs ISO in the range of 100-1600 (100-3200 - in video mode). High-precision electronic shutter provides the speed from 2 to 1/8000s.
The flight time on one battery reaches 16 minutes with a maximum range of radio control of 1,2 miles (if the control panel is used. It is purchased separately, or it is present in the extended configuration of Fly More Combo). Security systems of this best drone for video and photography are represented by Flight Autonomy, Return to Home, Flight Protection, and Intelligent Battery.
Price: about $1000
It is definitely the best product for drone wedding photography. DJI Phantom 4 Pro has all the latest technological developments of the company, including a 1-inch sensor camera with a mechanical diaphragm, safety sensors on all sides and a capacious battery. This is the first DJI camera with a mechanical diaphragm. It eliminates the distortion that occurs while recording video at fast speed or shooting fast moving objects. A maximum shutter speed of 1/2000 seconds prevents blurring and “jelly” effect. The electronic shutter has also been improved, and now has a maximum shutter speed of up to 1/8000 seconds, so the continuous shooting mode takes up to 14 frames per second. The camera has a high contrast ratio, maximum ISO of 12800 and a photosensitive f2.8 aperture. The lens has a wide viewing angle of 84°. The CMOS sensor is four times larger than in the cameras of most other drones. So you can receive shots of excellent quality. This best drone for aerial photography has a new camera that can compete with professional ground and video cameras. It has an increased number of effective pixels up to 20 megapixels. You can also take photos and video in high-resolution 4K (RAW). The camera can record video in the H.264 and H.265 compression standards. Thanks to the accumulator and improved power supply system, the device can stay in the air for up to 30 minutes. The flight distance of this best drone for travel photography is up to 4 miles, but in good conditions, this distance is much longer. If you don’t notice critically low battery level in time, the smart battery will independently give the command to fly to the starting or landing point.
Price: about $6200
To date, new DJI Inspire 2 quadcopter is the most high-performance consumer drone for aerial photography and video recording. It demonstrates impressive functionality and great camera features. This drone can be considered the benchmark for filmmaking. This best drone for aerial photography has an adjustable lifting chassis. That’s the camera can rotate 360° without the risk of getting the drone’s elements into the frame. But the most interesting thing is the camera, or rather three cameras, different in capabilities and cost.
The first camera is Zenmuse X4S. It has a resolution of 20 MP, CMOS 1" sensor, F/2.8-11lens, 8.8mm (35mm equivalent: 24mm), 12.8 exposure steps, 4K video (60 FPS), mechanical shutter (8-1 / 2000s), electronic shutter (1/2000 - 1 / 8000s), ISO 100 - 12800 (photo).
The second one is Zenmuse X5S camera. CMOS 4/3 matrix, photo 20.8 MP (4:3 - 5280×3956, 16: 9 - 5280 × 2970), video up to 5.2K - 5280×2972. The camera has no lens in the standard configuration, but the user can select the appropriate one from available options: DJI MFT, Panasonic Lumix, Olympus M.Zuiko in different variations.
The third one is Zenmuse X7. It’s a completely new camera. The Super 35 sensor, the resolution of the photo is 6016 × 4008 (3: 2), the video resolution is 6016 × 3200 (6K), ISO 100 - 25600 (photo). This camera provides a choice of only 4 lenses (16, 24, 35.50 mm).
One of the best drones for aerial photography has the maximum flight time up to 27 minutes. The distance with the active video link is up to 4 miles. Sufficient flight time for such a large and heavy vehicle is ensured by two power batteries on board. The same parameter provides improved power safety: if one battery is discharged, the second battery will spot it. Moreover, all important electronic components for flight support are duplicated.
Price: about $5000
DJI Matrice 600 Pro is a true giant of the film industry, allowing you to use RED cameras for shooting. Photographers can use Matrice 600 Pro together with their DSLR camera. This hexacopter is the most expensive in our review. It is suitable only for aerial drone photography of a Hollywood scale, therefore we will not talk about it for a long time.
It is worth remembering that this best drone for still photography in its standard configuration has neither a camera nor a stabilization suspension. The best option to stabilize the camera is to purchase them separately or as part of a more expensive DJI Ronin-MX Steadicam set. The full line of supported stabilizers looks like this: 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.
Matrice 600 Pro opens up endless possibilities for the photographer/operator who, works in the field of drone photography, but keep in mind that you have to pay for each additional function, and it’s rather expensive. Power is provided by six batteries at once. The maximum flight time with standard-capacity batteries without load is 32 minutes. With 5.5 kg load, the time is reduced to 16 minutes. Batteries of enlarged capacity (optional) will increase the flight time by 6 and 2 minutes, respectively.
Price: about $800
DJI Mavic Air is the best cheap drone for photography from the Mavic family. It is between DJI Spark and DJI Mavic 2 Zoom. This is a compromise option for those, who want more flight time and capabilities than Spark can offer, but they are not ready to spend big money on Mavic 2. When it is folded, the drone occupies no more than a 1-liter bottle and weighs 430 grams, so it is ideal for backpackers. The drone has a camera with 1/2.3 ″ CMOS sensor with 12 MP resolution, a fixed focal length of 24 mm (equivalent) and a fixed f/2.8 aperture opening. ISO 100-1600 (automatic) and ISO 100-3200 (manual setting), focal length 4 mm (24 mm equivalent to “full frame” 36 × 24 mm), viewing angle 85°. You can create panoramas of up to 33 MP, shooting in HDR and continuous mode, automatic exposure bracketing, interval shooting (time lapse). Images can be saved in JPEG and DNG (RAW). Sensors at the bottom, front and rear will prevent damaging of this best photography drone for beginners. Flight time reaches 21 minutes, the distance and pictures rendering are up to 2.5 miles.
Price: about $800
Yuneec Typhoon H Professional is an unusual hexacopter. It is in the middle price segment of Yuneec multicopter line. This best drone for real estate photography is equipped with UHD camera, a unique obstacle avoidance system. It can create 360-degree panoramas in automatic mode. In addition, it allows two operators to control it, which is very important for aerial shooting. Thanks to the lifting chassis, the pilot can control the hexacopter, regardless of the camera direction, the elements of the drone do not appear in the frame.
This best camera for drone photography can take photos in a resolution of 12.4 MP, a viewing angle of 115°, a lens of 14 mm/F2.8. Photo formats JPG, DNG, DNG + JPG. 4K video (30 FPS). Flight time is up to 22 minutes, the distance is up to 0.6 miles.
Price: about $170
For its price MJX Bugs3 Pro has a significant flight time – about 22 minutes. In open areas, the pilot can reliably control his aircraft at a distance of 600-800 m, that’s quite enough for most users. The drone has no camera. GoPro or analogs of this format are used as a camera. For this purpose, a suspension with a camera mount is provided in the drone configuration. However, the suspension does not have mechanical stabilization, only rubber anti-vibration spacers.
This best drone for aerial photography has an altimeter, compass, and GPS and they guarantee an adequate level of security. There are modes of returning home when the signal is lost or the battery is low.
Price: about $700
GoPro Karma is a drone from the largest manufacturer of action cameras of the same name. It is quite affordable for those who, provide aerial drone photography services. Karma case has a folding design and an unusual placement of a camera in the front part. GoPro camera is placed on a removable three-axis suspension. It can be removed and mounted on Karma Grip monopod that comes in the kit. The accessory adds stabilization to the footage taken on the ground.
Unfortunately, Karma does not have an obstacle recognition system like its main competitors. There are autonomous take-off and landing features, as well as a return option to the take-off point if the battery charge is low. Karma can be removed from the console up to 0.6 miles with a maximum speed of 35 m/h. Flight time is up to 20 minutes.
Price: about $400
The device is equipped with a 14-megapixel camera. The size of the sensor 1/2,3". There is a RAW mode to take photos. The maximum video recording mode is Full HD.
Bebop 2 Power contains a whole set of different sensors, including GPS + GLONASS, an optical position tracking sensor (useful while working indoors), allowing you to control the device safely and easily.
The flight time is up to 30 minutes. With 2 available batteries, it is possible to achieve a flight time of up to one hour. The flight distance is up to 1,2 miles. So, find the best places for drone photography and take amazing photos and videos. Apart from the quadcopter with the Skycontroller 2 remote control and other details, there are also two batteries and a Cockpitglasses 2 FPV mask in the kit.
Price: about $1200
Quadcopters manufactured by Shenzhen Hubsan Technology Chinese company gained the trust of amateur pilots a long time ago. The model H109S X4 Pro of this manufacturer is the best drone for aerial photography, and it is distinguished by a low price in comparison with other analogs.
This product has three configurations:
Together with the device, there is a camera Hubsan Full HD of the same type in all configuration versions. The camera resolution is 1920 × 1080. To mount the gimbal, you need to install a GoPro camera, and you can always replace the camera with a model of a higher class. You can control the gimbal from the ground, choosing the direction of video shooting. Its construction will allow you to minimize shaking while flying in order to get a better image.
The quadcopter can fly with a video camera installed for 25 minutes, with a maximum speed of 37 miles per hour. You can control it at a maximum flight range of up to 0.6 miles.
Price: about $220
If you are looking for the best photography drone for beginners, take a look at this one. Hubsan H501S belongs to the quadcopters line of the average price segment of this manufacturer. Nevertheless, it has many characteristics typical for more expensive models, including brushless motors, a GPS sensor, smart flight modes, and an FHD camera with image transmission to the console screen. However, a built-in camera without a stabilization gimbal is a significant drawback.
The video is transmitted at a 5.8 GHz frequency, while the control panel works at 2.4 GHz frequency, which eliminates possible interference. During the flight, you can see the image from the drone's camera in real time, as well as take photos and record videos that are stored on the microSD memory card. Flight range is limited to 0.2 miles and can last up to 20 minutes.
Price: about $500
Yuneec Mantis Q is a new quadcopter from Yuneec American Company. Its main features are foldable construction and long flight time. According to the above-mentioned characteristics, it can be called DJI Mavic Air or Parrot Anafi competitor, but unfortunately, the shooting capabilities bring the device into a lower class like DJI Spark or Parrot Bebop 2. Yuneec Mantis Q completely lacks gimbal mechanical stabilization, except for the camera tilt vertical control.
Speaking quadcopter capabilities in terms of photography, there is support for DNG, both in the 4:3 ratio (4160 × 3120) and in the widescreen 16:9 mode (4800 × 2700). Unfortunately, CMOS-matrix size is slightly smaller than the standard one and is 1/3.06”. The manufacturer declares support for 4K video (30 frames/s), but there is not even electronic stabilization in this mode, which doesn’t make it the best drone for professional photography. In fact, it is almost useless for this purpose. Therefore, you can talk only about video support in 1080p (60 frames/s, digital three-axis stabilization).
The unusually long flight time on one charge – 33 minutes (replaceable battery 3S 2800 mA/h) makes this device really attractive. There is also voice control for drone (for example, "Takeoff") and for the camera ("Take a picture/video”, etc.). Of course, there is a physical controller with a mount for a smartphone, which allows you to control the device at a distance of up to 1 mile (US FCC standard).
Price: about $250
SYMA X8G quadcopter has replaced X8W and X8C. It has all the most interesting improvements for drone photography. However, this device still belongs to the beginner class of quadcopters and has a number of significant drawbacks, such as the absence of a stabilizing camera gimbal. The kit camera has a resolution of 8 megapixels and belongs to GoPro cameras due to its format, so if the shooting quality of the kit camera is not enough for you, you can always replace it. However, take into account that you can control the shooting process with a console only together with the original camera. Flight time can reach 10 minutes, and the distance – 0.6 miles.
Price: about $600
Parrot Anafi is perhaps the main DJI's Mavic competitor and a great model for real estate aerial photography. A foldable design, a camera with 2.8-fold optical zoom and possibility to rotate 180 degrees vertically, possibility to charge batteries from mobile power sources via the USB-C connector – all these characteristics make it the best drone for video and photography that takes the first place in the “league” of compact folding quadcopters.
To get the best possible picture quality, Parrot uses a 21-megapixel 1/2.4 ’’ CMOS sensor from Sony. 4K-videos are recorded on board at speed of up to 30 frames per second, and in Full-HD resolution – up to 60 fps. Thanks to the HDR support, we can receive not only clear but also bright and colorful content. The drone has zoom without image quality loss, in 4K with a 1.4-fold zoom, and in Full-HD even with 2.8-zoom. Flight time in quiet mode reaches 25 minutes. The distance can reach 2.5 miles.
Price: about $100
Ryze Tello is a mini quadcopter created by DJI together with Ryze Robotics and Intel. This drone is only 98x92 mm and has a barometer to keep height and an obstacle monitoring system. Photo and video capabilities are modest and do not allow to characterize a gadget as the best drone for photography. Rather, it is a toy for those, who want to practice aerial shooting before purchasing a more expensive model. The camera has a photo 5MP resolution (2592x1936), HD video (720p) with a frequency of 30 frames/sec. Viewing angle is 82.6°. JPG (photo), and MP4 (video) formats.
The maximum flight altitude is limited to 10 meters, and the flight range is not very large – 100 meters.
Price: about $200
Zerotech Dobby by Madrobots Company is a small folding drone without a remote control. The manufacturer calls its product a “self-drone.” The device is controlled by a smartphone. When folded, the drone looks like a large pill and is approximately equal to a 5-inch smartphone. As this is a drone for selfies, you will not be able to lift it to a great height for a photo of some location. For this, you should use other copters with different characteristics and capabilities.
The 13MP camera allows you to take good shots, the same quality as most smartphones with a similar camera produces. The camera can record 4K videos. However, if you want to add the image stabilization function during the shooting, you need to select 1080p mode, as in 4K there is no stabilization due to the hardware limitations of the device. Flight time reaches a maximum of 9 minutes at a distance of 0.6 miles. In general, this device can be called the best cheap drone for photography.
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The minimum size that you should pay attention to when choosing a drone to take pictures is 1/2.3“, this is standard. Anything less is not serious and not good for high-quality photos. Ideally, you need a drone with a 1″ matrix.
In addition to electronic shutter, serious models also have a mechanical one. It will be useful when shooting fast moving objects. For static photos, electronic shutter will be enough.
The bigger it is, the sharper photos you’ll get, because you need to show all the details in the photo. The minimum that you should pay attention to is 12MP and ideally, it is 20MP.
The same – the bigger it is, the better result you’ll get. It mainly depends on the photos you plan to take.
DNG (RAW) is recommended.
Starting with middle price range models, they are typically three-axis. Without it, the camera cannot be tilted, and there will be a frequent problem of a distorted horizon. It is really necessary for shooting video.
The minimum is 15 minutes. Optimally is 25-30 minutes. Take into account that the time depends on the air temperature, wind strength and the manner of drone control. Usually, the real time is 2-4 minutes less than indicated by the manufacturer.
If the drone is used for shooting weddings and other celebrations, 100 m is enough, but if you are looking for the best drone for travel photography to shoot nature, landscapes - a distance of at least 2 km is necessary. Besides, the flight distance indicated by the manufacturer will be true only under ideal conditions (outside the city in open areas where there is no radio interference, power lines, etc.). In a big city, the distance is 2-3 times less than the stated one. The maximum height is usually limited at the program level (usually 500 m).
Optical and ultrasonic sensors on the drone body will not ensure its 100% safety from collisions as a result of pilot errors, but in many cases, they will help to stop the drone in front of the tree. Take into account that sensors may not “see” hardly noticeable obstacles, such as wires.
Only some drones have it, but it is very useful. It is not always possible to fly up close to the subject.
The “smarter” the device is, the more likely it has some program limitations on flights in forbidden zones (airports, stadiums, administrative buildings, etc.).
This prohibition completely depends on legislation and the loyalty of law enforcement agencies.
If you are going on a trip to perform aerial drone photography, you should carefully examine the legislation of the host country. Probably, you’ll need a license for flights, or they may be completely prohibited.
We strongly recommend stocking up at least 3 batteries and a car charger. Otherwise, the time you have to wait to charge batteries will ruin the shooting day.
All the drones have flight distance limitations. Some of them have about 100 m, and others can reach 5 miles. Pick up the drone that will suit your needs. The longer the distance is, the more photos you may get, as it will not be necessary to go to the subject to take a shot.
Cheap drones usually badly resist the wind. As a rule, the more expensive the drone is, the more powerful its engines and more precisely the positioning system works. As a rule, medium and high price segment drones can fly and take pictures with camera stabilization at winds up to 10 m/s inclusive.
It happens. No one is protected.
Disorientate the compass of the device.
It relates to expensive models with GPS. It’s a common mistake of inexperienced pilots. The result may be a wrong direction when activating the “return home,” as it’ll simply fly in the other direction. There may be crashes.
It may result in the reduced flight distance or a device drop if the signal is lost (low-cost models) or a collision with wires (all models and even the best drones for aerial photography).
Today, almost in all countries of the world, there are laws that restrict flights, and most often these laws are too harsh: the interesting places for shooting are forbidden, and the location, where you can do it, is not interesting.
To use a drone in the United States, you must register your aerial drone photography services on official FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) website, enter your data, the drone serial number, and pay the registration fee. The license itself can be obtained by e-mail, but it should be with you during the flights. The registration number received by FAA must be drawn on the drone body. You can do it in any way, as long as the number is visible.
By law, the amateur drones can be flown no closer than 5 miles from airports, no higher than 120 meters, only during daylight hours, and only if you have visual contact with it. It is also prohibited to fly in national, state and cities parks. Of course, you cannot fly the drone being drunk. In other cases, wherever it is not prohibited – you can freely use your device. But you need to check the places every time. If you are not really sure that you are legally allowed to fly the drone, it is better to consult the police right at the place. Otherwise, your drone will be confiscated and you get a fine.
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.