The best camera drones are far more than the simple toys they used to be. They’re now used widely by both amateur and professional photographers because they can reach areas and shoot from angles that regular cameras can’t. They allow aerial photography and videography of landscapes, buildings, and events that previously required the use of a helicopter, a small plane, or a crane. So let us talk about the best camera drones that are available in the market.
The Best Camera Drones have evolved greatly since the first ready-to-fly model went on sale ten years ago – and a decade on drones is now everywhere. Every drone on this list has a camera supported by a powered gimbal, which counteracts the vibration from the propellers. Sensor size is still an issue for photographers, but there are options depending on your needs. In general, the bigger the sensor, the better the low-light performance.
Piloting has also become partly optional; Tesla-like A.I. is making collision avoidance, object tracking, and automatic quick shots a common feature. As a newer technology, though, implementation varies – the Skydio 2, with 45-megapixels of cameras devoted to its artificial brain, promises much but is still impossible to find in the shops. Some of the Best Camera Drones still lack any smart flying features (except for landing sensors). Essentially you need to remember not all drones can see obstacles in every direction, but they can all fly in any direction!
List Of Best Camera Drones
1. DJI Mavic 2 Zoom
DJI’s Mavic Pro, one among the Best Camera Drones, changed what was possible with the best camera drones back in 2016, making it possible to fold and carry a decent-quality lens without being overly heavy or bulky. It could capture 4K (at a maximum of 24fps) and introduced a handy fold-out controller that seemed to have more in common with a PlayStation than bulky radio controllers from their hobby era.
By 2020 the folding Mavic series is split into four. From cheapest to most expensive that’s the Mavic Mini, Mavic Air 2, Mavic 2 Zoom & Mavic 2 Pro. The final two have identical airframes but radically different camera units. The Zoom is our favorite because it features a 2x optical zoom lens (with an effective focal length range of 24-48mm). This gives real creative options in terms of lens compression. This is highlighted by the drone’s unique feature, the Dolly Zoom quick shot, in which the aircraft simulates the Hitchcock classic camera move.
There is a price to pay though; the zoom sits in front of a 1/2.3” 12-megapixel camera which tops out at 3,200 ISO. Even at launch, this was a little disappointing, though 4K video at up to 30fps and 100mbps is great quality, and DJI’s app provides a great balance of functionality and power. The only real complaint about the Mavic 2 is the lack of 60fps at 4K, and the fact the side sensors don’t really do much except give a false sense of security.
2. Autel Evo II Best Camera Drones
Like the Mavic 2, Autel’s second EVO, Best Camera Drones, 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 a 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.
3. DJI Mavic 2 Pro
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 color 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.
4. PowerVision PowerEgg X Wizard Best Camera Drones
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. Its adaptability means its 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 model 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.
5. Parrot Anafi FPV
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.
Camera drones are recently used for many purposes too. Even in functions too. We have listed best 5 camera drones that may be useful for you.