Drones have many uses these days, and one of the most popular uses by far is aerial photography. Trying to choose the best drone for photography can be difficult.
When choosing a drone for aerial photography, the three main things you need to consider are cost, image quality, and portability.
There are cheap, portable drones available, but the image quality won’t be as good as a more expensive drone. You need to decide what’s more important for your drone photography.
[ExpertPhotography is supported by readers. Product links on ExpertPhotography are referral links. If you use one of these and buy something we make a little bit of money. Need more info? See how it all works here.]
Budget Camera Drones
- 3 WAYS TO FLY From line of sight, to screen controller, to FPV
- HD camera that will sync with the screen and broadcast a live HD video
- Seamless transition from traditional viewing on the controller to FPV viewing using goggles
- Durable and lightweight Carbon Fiber Frame
- Ready to Fly Racing Drone Set includes: Goggles, Screen, Carbon Fiber Drone, Battery and accessories
- First Person View (FPV) piloting and racing to everyone
Yes, this is a racing drone and one on our list that offers FPV (First Person View). As far as choices go, this is an excellent place to start for a beginner.
What you’ll like is the Bolt’s different approach to design. As it’s a racing drone, so it focuses on aerodynamics as much as possible. But don’t think that it doesn’t take great images or video. You’ll find 720p HD that streams seamlessly.
14 minutes of flight time is all it warrants, which is pretty good for a drone that can travel 30 mph. Thankfully it is made from durable materials that ensures protection and durability.
- Shoot video and perform impressive tricks
- A 5-megapixel camera records JPEG photos and 720p MP4 video
- Tello flies up to 10m vertically and up to 100m away
- Operates up to 13 minutes per charge
- DJI flight tech – High-quality components ensure stable flights
- VR headset compatibility – Fly with a breathtaking first-person view.FOV 82.6º
Not all drones are supposed to be educational, but they are meant to be fun. If they weren’t, I doubt we would place so much interest in them.
One of the biggest benefits of this system, apart from its price is that it does not need FAA registration. This is down to its size of just 6 x 6 x 1.3 inches and its weight of just under three ounces.
The Tello can be controlled three ways: through an app, remote control or through the Scratch programming interface. The Scratch programming is open source from MIT but is a little more complicated than it should be for first time users.
The Tello is a fast and maneuverable drone with surprising speed for its size. 20 mph in the fast flight mode, and it could stop and turn in about 6 feet. The 8 mph is more manageable and easier to get used to.
10. DJI Spark
- Includes a remote controller and standard spark accessory Kit
- 2-Axis Stabilized Gimbal Camera 12MP Still Photos/ 1080P HD video/30 Video gesture and Tap Fly control
- Flight autonomy with obstacle detection subject tracking
- Top speed of 31 mph in sport mode up to 16 minutes flying time
- Up to 1. 2-mile control range control
The cheapest of the DJI drones on this list, the Spark is also one of the oldest. It’s been available since mid-2017, which is old in drone years.
The Spark made a splash when it was announced due to its size. For a drone that’s about the size of a soda can, it has some pretty impressive features. This includes obstacle detection, GPS, stabilization, and hand-gesture controls.
For such a small size and price, there are limitations. It will only give you 12mp still photos and 1080p HD video.
The battery will also only last for around 15 minutes. This doesn’t give you a lot of time to fly, take your aerial photos, and land safely.
- 1-Key Lift/Land operation – easy to take off and land with the push of a button
- 120° Wide-Angle 720p HD Camera
- 360-degree flip and altitude hold
- Two rechargeable 7.4V 1000mAh LI-PO Batteries
The Red Heron is a basic drone that would be perfect for a beginner drone pilot on a budget. It’s an RC quadcopter drone that is small and discreet. Well, as much as you can with the sound.
It has a 13mp camera and 720p HD camera. You’ll be able to try your hand at aerial photography without breaking the bank.
Again, the battery is pretty limited, only giving you about 15 minutes of flying time.
- 1/2.3″ 12 megapixel CMOS sensor
- 3-axis stabilized gimbal
- 85-degree FOV (24mm equiv)
- 21-minute flight time with a top speed of 68 km/h (42 mph) in sport mode
- 100 Mbps 4K camera and video up to 30 fps
- Forward and rear-facing APAS obstacle avoidance
If you want an affordable, portable drone with a better camera on board, the Mavic Air is for you. It includes many of the advanced features of DJI’s more expensive drones. The ability to shoot panoramic photos, for example.
It has a 12mp camera that records 4K video. Mavic Air gives you the ability to create high-quality images and video.
The trade-off f0r having such a small, intelligent drone is that you’ll only get about 20 minutes out of the battery.
- Personal Ground Station with built-in touchscreen, Integrated 3-axis precision gimbal camera
- 4K camera /30fps ultra high definition video, 1080p HD/120fps slow-motion video
- User-controlled video resolution, white balance, and light exposure
- 12-megapixel photos with No-Distortion Lens
- Does not include Aluminum case, includes one battery
Also a 2017 model, the Q500 is a budget camera drone that gives a lot of bang for your buck. You get an affordable drone capable of capturing 12mp aerial photos and 4K video. It also comes with a remote controller with a built-in touch screen.
This is a welcome change from most budget drones. Most need you to connect another device with a drone app to act as your monitor.
Mid-Range Camera Drones
- Equipped with a Hasselblad L1D-20c camera with a 20MP 1” CMOS Sensor
- Up to 31 minutes flight time at a 44 mph max speed
- 3-axis gimbal for steady shots, 8GB internal storage, SD card support up to 128 GB
- Enjoy live view in real-time during flight and record 4K videos at higher bitrates with advanced H.265 compression
- Functions include ActiveTrack 2.0, Omnidirectional Obstacle Sensing, Hyperlapse, Low-Noise Design, Adjustable Aperture, HDR Photos
2018 has been a huge year in the world of drones, and the sequel to DJI’s most popular drone was part of the reason.
Along with the Mavic 2 Pro, DJI also released the Mavic 2 Zoom. They’re essentially the same drone, but with different cameras on board.
As far as value for money goes, the Mavic 2 is pretty hard to beat. You get a highly portable drone with some of the most advanced technology on the market. And the ability to take professional-level aerial photos and video.
The Mavic Pro 2 comes with a Hasselblad 20mp camera, while the Mavic 2 Zoom includes a 12mp camera with a 24-48mm zoom. Both models are capable of recording video in 4K.
- Camera with a 1-inch 20MP sensor the onboard camera has been redesigned to use a 1-inch Megapixel CMOS sensor
- Five-directions of obstacle sensing
- Video processing supports H.264 4K videos at 60fps or H.265 4K at 30fps, both with a 100Mbps bitrate
- Max Flight Time Approx. 30 minutes
Up until the Mavic 2 was released, the Phantom 4 was DJI’s premium consumer drone. Phantom 4 is still a fantastic option. It’s right for those drone pilots who want to create high-quality aerial photos and video.
It can record video in 4K at 60 fps, which gives it an edge for filmmakers.
Like the Mavic 2, the DJI Phantom 4 is available in 2 models – basic and Pro. As you would expect, the Phantom 4 Pro has more premium features, with a 20mp camera and ISO range of 100 to 12800.
Professional Camera Drones
- Micro Four Thirds (MFT) system compatibility allows a variety of lenses
- Object detection technology uses an array of integrated sensors
- Detects flight path obstacles and sound an alert within 30 feet
- Highly portable 600mm class aircraft
- Control range and real-time high definition video stream up to 3.1 miles (5 kilometers)
The Power Eye professional cinematography drone is available in two camera models. First, The “Power Eye professional” is equipped with a 4K 16MP Micro Four Thirds sensor with a Panasonic Lumix f 14mm F2.5 ASPH lens.
The “Power Eye thermal” includes a state-of-the-art thermal/natural light camera with two integrated light sensors and two lenses. This model captures a spectrum of light not visible to the unaided eye.
While this system is not exactly compact, it is professional. It carries dimensions of 513mm x 513mm x 310mm dimensions and weighs 3950g. This class-A bug allows for interchangeable lenses, giving you all the versatility you could need.
It comes with a dual view set-up and allows first-person view (FPV), viewable in a picture-in-picture mode or split-screen with the PowerEye App. If this doesn’t give you everything you need, nothing will.
- Created for professional filmmakers
- Compatible with different types of gimbals including DJI Ronin-MX
- Build-in Lightbridge 2 and A3 controller
- Extended flight time and wider transmission range
- Precise control via the DJI GO and DJI Assistant 2
- Upgrade through A3 PRO and D-RTK GNSS
- DJI Software Development Kit compatibility
Don’t be fooled, this is not the drone with a camera that you need. This is unless you are needing a very professional system for DSLR cameras. It is capable of carrying a payload of up to 13.2lbs.
The best thing is, it is compatible with all DJI Zenmuse line of cameras and gimbals. On top of that, it comes with the A3 flight control system, upgradable to the pro version.
It comes with six rotors for extra redundancy and stability, and six extra batteries because, well, you’ll need them. Expect a flight time of 35 minutes, but if you combine the Ronin-MX, then it reduces to 16 minutes.
What you’ll like is the retractable landing gear. This means those pesky legs won’t show up on any video footage.
- Efficient workflow
- Sense and avoid
- Spotlight Pro; Compatible with 5.2K Gimbal Cameras
- Intelligent flight modes
If you’re planning to create a high-end video, the Inspire 2 is the drone you want. You can use it with one of two detachable cameras that also use interchangeable lenses.
The cameras allow you to capture RAW 5.2K video at 30 fps and 4K at 60 fps. You can capture still images at 20mp. It also has an integrated SSD onboard. This means you can record high-quality video directly without any lag.
Inspire 2 uses a dual-camera system. This allows for two connected controllers. One to pilot the drone and one to control the movement of the video camera.
It also features super-advanced vision systems to prevent collisions. This allows the drone to be flown indoors.
This drone is for professionals who need to create professional-level aerial photos and video. And have the budget for it.
It’s not a cheap drone by any means, but if you can afford it, you get a lot of drone for your money.
- 4K camera for video and 20MP Photos
- 360-Degree Image and Video Capture. 3-Axis Sensor-Driven Image Stabilization
- Up to 1 Mile 2.4/5.8 GHz Wi-Fi Range. Flight Controller with 7″ Touch Screen
- Up to 30 Minutes of Flight Time
- Intel RealSense Collision Avoidance. Intelligent Autonomous Flight Modes
- Can Withstand Winds up to 35 mph. 5-Rotor Fail Safe Mode
Yuneec upgraded the Typhoon H Plus in 2018 to cater to aerial photographers. The 2018 drone comes with a brand new E90 camera. The camera features a 3-axis gimbal, 20mp camera for still photography. And the ability to record 4K aerial video at 60 fps.
If that sounds familiar, it’s because those are the same specs as the DJI Phantom Pro 4.
You may not be familiar with the brand. But Yuneec’s drones are packed with features and hardware that suit aerial photographers.
The Typhoon H Plus comes with an Android-powered screen built into the controller. And advanced obstacle avoidance designed by Intel.
Which Is the Best Drone For You?
Choosing the best drone for photography can be as difficult as choosing a camera. Once you’ve figured out what you need and what you can afford, you’ll be able to narrow the list down.
If you can find a drone or two to borrow or rent, it’s worth taking them for a test flight. You won’t know what you like and what you don’t like until you have them in the air.
Keep in mind that drone manufacturers are pushing the technology. And drones are still in their infancy. Sometimes it’s worth waiting a while to see what comes next.
Also, consider looking at the second-hand market. You can pick up a great used drone for a great price from someone who’s upgraded to newer technology.
2018 has seen some amazing new drone technology, and I can’t wait to see what comes next. What would you like to see in the next generation of drones?