Simply put, camera drones have revolutionized the filming and photography industry, resulting in an explosion of aerial-based footage in everything from nature documentaries to car ads. What could only be achieved by small helicopters and planes, can now be far more economically achieved by drones.
The professional applications are endless. The freeing of price constraints has allowed amateurs to jump on board too.
There’s a wide range of models on the market these days from the uber-expensive, to the cheap and cheerful and everything in-between. We’re going to take a look at 9 of the best camera drones currently available across the price range, picking our favorite along the way.
But before we begin the reviews, our buying guide should help you familiarize yourself with everything we’re about to discuss. So let’s go through it…
- 1 Best Camera Drones Buyer’s Guide
- 2 Best Camera Drones In 2021 – Top 9 Rated Reviews
- 2.1 1 DJI Mavic 2 Zoom
- 2.2 2 Parrot PF728000 Anafi
- 2.3 3 DJI Mavic Mini – Best Camera Drone for Beginners
- 2.4 4 DJI Mavic Air – Best Camera Drones under $1000
- 2.5 5 DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 – Best Camera Drones under $2000
- 2.6 6 Ryze Tello Quadcopter Drone
- 2.7 7 Force1 U49WF Quadcopter Drone
- 2.8 8 Force1 F111WF Phoenix – Best Camera Drones under $100
- 2.9 9 DJI Inspire 2 – Best Drone for Filming
- 2.10 More Down to Earth Options
- 2.11 So, what are the Best Camera Drones?
Best Camera Drones Buyer’s Guide
There are a number of factors to consider when buying the best camera drone. First and foremost, what will you be using it for? Are you looking for a fun selfie snapper to capture your beach shots or a more professional setup for serious aerial filming and photography?
- Learn to Pilot
Piloting can take time to master, especially on more sophisticated drones. Be honest with yourself about your experience and invest in something you can afford to break before splashing out the big bucks on a pro setup.
- Camera mount and gimbal
The gimbal is what controls camera positioning and the stability of the image. The best quality camera drones will have a 3-axis gimbal that uses high speed motors and a gyro to ensure vibrations or sudden movements don’t affect the image stability and quality.
- Flight controllers
These come in a variety of different formats from simple 6-axis radio controlled options, to more sophisticated options incorporating telemetry data, video streaming, and other technological developments. Pick something that fits your requirements and keep it simple if that’s all you need.
- Flight planning
If you’re looking to make professional-quality videos, then a drone with flight planning software is an essential ingredient. This allows you to pre-plan the flight path using waypoints you add to a map of the flight area.
- Advanced camera control
New features include a Follow Me option where the camera will maintain a focus on the operator either during autopilot or manual control. Great for capturing outdoor activities. Region of Interest (ROI) positioning will keep the camera focus on a GPS defined area rather than a moving object. Both very useful features for obvious reasons.
- Flight time
This is critical, especially when using the drone for professional applications. Quadcopter style drones featured here have a flying time of between 10-30 minutes.
50 mph in calm conditions is about the limit of most camera drones. This is usually enough for most video shooting requirements.
An important factor to weigh up if you’re trying to shoot imagery a long way off. This is all down to the quality of the wireless connections. If long range ability is required, then you’ll need a drone with the latest wireless tech and a long-lasting battery.
- Safety features
Quality camera drones should have the latest safety features. These include Return Home mode, which returns the drone to the launch area at the touch of a button. Hover mode will stop any movement instantly, very handy in multiple situations. Prop guards are a necessity to protect from injury and to protect your drone from impacts.
- Water resistance
This varies dramatically. If you think your drone will be used in the rain, then you’ll need to make sure the camera is water-resistant to IP5 or IP6 standards.
Many countries, including the USA, require drone pilots to register drones over 250 grams. That’s pretty much all of them. Drone rules for the USA, UK, and Canada can be found here.
Now you know what features to look out for, here’s our selection of the very best of the camera drones on the market right now starting with a quick comparison chart.
Best Camera Drones In 2021 – Top 9 Rated Reviews
|Product||Tiers||Height Adjustability||Max Weight||Price||Rating|
27" to 47.5"
|(4.3 / 5)|
Mount-It! Mobile Standing Desk
37.25" to 53.75"
|(4.2 / 5)|
30.11" to 45.28"
|(4.1 / 5)|
33.5" to 47.5"
|(4.6 / 5)|
5.5" to 19"
|(5 / 5)|
Eureka Ergonomic Z1-S Gaming Desk
Stationary at 30.5"
|(4.7 / 5)|
6.1" to 19.5"
|(4.1 / 5)|
|(4.5 / 5)|
1.57" to 10.23"
|(4.8 / 5)|
FlexiSpot Stand up Desk
5.9" to 19.7"
|(4.6 / 5)|
1 DJI Mavic 2 Zoom
DJI are undoubtedly one of the brand leaders in camera drone technology and innovation. The Mavic 2 Zoom is a reasonably expensive, very portable, and lightweight 4K camera drone that’s a piece of cake to fly and shoot with. And portable she is. The arms fold away nicely, allowing the drone to fit in any backpack, and the controller is pocket sized.
Plenty of high tech features have been incorporated, including obstacle avoidance. This is achieved through omnidirectional sensors that create a 3D map of the area, recognizing obstacles in the way and taking evasive action. Advanced navigational options include active tracking and flight planning features. All the mod-cons are present here.
Zoom in on the action…
The camera has a 35mm lens with 2x optical zoom capability (24-48mm), which is handy for taking shots of animals without scaring them off. Capable of shooting 4k video, this is certainly a model to go for if you’re planning more video projects than stills.
Performance wise, the Mavic 2 Zoom is a joy to fly. You never have to worry about it disappearing over the horizon to never return. Its powerful motors are capable of an impressive 44 mph and, with a larger battery, can stay in the air for a grand 31 minutes.
Quiet as a churchmouse…
It’s also remarkably quiet, only coming into earshot within a 25m range. Its innovative wireless technology enables clear 1080p streaming within a 5-mile range. Very impressive.
The accompanying DJI Go4 app features a load of different flight modes and camera tweaks which, when put together with everything else, make the Mavic 2 Zoom one of the highest quality camera drones an amateur or a pro could buy.
- Easy to fly and hard to crash.
- Long range and flight time.
- Optical zoom.
- Lots of useful software features.
- Very portable.
- Quite expensive.
- Only a 12-megapixel camera.
2 Parrot PF728000 Anafi
One of the first manufacturers to come up with a competitive alternative to DJI’s dominance, Parrot, has done just that with the Anafi. The collapsible design makes this a highly portable drone especially at just 320g and when packed in the snazzy transport case. A truly ‘go anywhere’ drone.
The 21 megapixel, 4k camera is mounted on a three axis gimbal right at the front of the drone. This means props will never enter the frame, and the camera can be swiveled 90 degrees upwards, something most other drones can’t do. The HD streaming and photography is as impressive as its nearest competitor, the DJI Mavic Air, with good detail and rich contrast.
In safe hands…
Without the inclusion of any obstacle avoidance technology, the responsibility for not crashing the Anafi lies solely with the pilot. This can be a little daunting if you’re new to drones. Fortunately, the Anafi isn’t hard to control and is remarkably stable, even with a good breeze kicking around.
Range maxes out at 2.4 miles with 25-minutes flight time, which, although not matching the DJI range, is still excellent. A top speed of 33mph in sport mode should cover any filming requirements adequately.
One of the features that really stands out is just how quiet the Anafi is. It’s barely audible hovering at 20m up. On the downside, it takes a while to recharge, so you may be wise to purchase a separate battery if extra flight time is needed.
Superb for the price…
The accompanying Parrot FreeFlight 6 app doesn’t quite pack the level of technological tweaks that DJI manage. However, most beginners will be happy enough with the package which is very user friendly and well designed. Whilst not quite up to the standard of the DJI Mavic Air, it’s cheap enough to offer some solid competition and should do commercially well as a result.
- 4k/21 megapixel capabilities.
- Sharp imagery and streaming.
- A solid 25mins flight time.
- Can take anywhere.
- No obstacle avoidance technology.
- Slow battery charging.
3 DJI Mavic Mini – Best Camera Drone for Beginners
Moving on, The DJI Mavic Mini is probably the best beginners camera drone for those who want to start getting serious about drone filming but don’t want to spend a fortune. Weighing in at 249 grams, the Mini cleverly avoids the registration needed in most major markets for drones of 250 grams or more. One less roadblock to getting airborne.
Sacrifices have been made to get the weight down. No obstacle sensing system and a lower resolution 2.7K/12-megapixel camera mean lighter onboard components and an amazingly small size which folds down to an absurd 14cm in length — roughly the size of an iPhone 11.
Although the camera resolution is lower than others reviewed, 2.7k and 12 megapixels is more than detailed enough for your average user. The 3-axis gimbal provides excellent stabilization for super-smooth footage. However, professionals will probably want to look for higher levels of resolution found on more expensive models.
The user friendly app makes this an ideal drone for budding vloggers. The QuickShots feature enables the creation of pre-programmed video clips without needing to learn much. Perfect for your budding YouTuber.
Fast and agile…
Considering its diminutive stature, the Mavic Mini is amazingly stable in flight, combining good speed and agility into the mix. A full charge will provide 30 minutes of flight time with a range of up to 4km away.
For those that want a palm of the hand drone that’s still capable of decent image capture, yet won’t break the bank, this is probably the best mini drone with camera money can buy.
- Portability – pocket size.
- Good stability.
- Excellent range and flight time.
- Easy to pilot.
- Professional photographers will want higher resolution.
- Few flight or navigational aids.
4 DJI Mavic Air – Best Camera Drones under $1000
As you can probably tell by now, DJI are the dominant power in the camera drone market. They set the benchmarks all other manufacturers aspire to, and with the Mavic Air, they’ve undoubtedly created the best camera drone under $1000 currently available.
The 4K video recording ability at 60 frames/second provides simply stunning results. A panorama feature enables the Mavic Air to take and seamlessly stitch together, a series of images taken as it hovers in one spot. All this without any operator input. Impressive indeed.
Excellent for confined areas…
Obstacle sensing technology has been added, which is pretty impressive for a drone that folds down to a tiny 16cm when packed away. This is what really elevates the Mavic Air from its nearest rival, the Parrot Anafi, giving you the confidence needed to fly in more confined areas.
Battery life is a respectable 21 minutes with a transmitter range of up to 4km. As with all DJI drones, the Mavic Air is exceptionally stable, even in challenging conditions. With a top speed of 42mph, it’s no slouch, either.
A bit noisy…
The one slightly annoying issue is the high pitched noise it makes. Quiet this one is not. You can buy 3rd party replacement props that quieten things down significantly, but one has to ask why this wasn’t thought of during the design phase?
That small grumble aside, the Mavic Air really is the gold standard for a best sub $1000 camera drone. Its reliability, ease of use, and remarkable technology at such a cheap price, make this an amazingly attractive all-round package.
- High tech drone at reasonably low price.
- Most portable 4k camera.
- Collision avoidance technology.
- Excellent range and top speed.
- A little noisy.
- Flight time could be longer.
5 DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 – Best Camera Drones under $2000
It’s DJI again. This time the Phantom 4 Pro. As the name suggests, this is a drone that should only be considered by serious photographers or professional filmmakers. When first released, the Phantom was a game-changer. Since then, foldable designs have come along that casual users and beginners definitely seem to prefer.
But, the technical ability of the photographic equipment at your disposal is what set’s the phantom apart from its foldable DJI stablemates. The 1-inch CMOS image sensor (digital lens) allows for 4K recording at 100Mbps. Super slow-motion shots can be achieved with a staggering 120 frames/sec at 1080p quality or 60 frames/sec at 4K quality. That’s pretty high spec.
The Phantom also comes packed with all the intelligent flight modes and obstacle avoidance technology that you’d expect to see on a drone this pricey. Tap to follow and tap to fly features are present as is a failsafe mode, which brings the drone home when the battery is low.
Range is excellent at up to 7km with a battery life of 25 minutes. She’s also a swift mover with a maximum speed of 45 mph in calm conditions.
Portability could be better…
Coming in at 35 x 35cm, there are smaller drones available, but none with the video and photographic capabilities of the Phantom Pro. It’s not cheap, but if professional results are what’s needed, this is one of the best drones for filming available under $2000.
- Best photographic capability for under $2000
- Hi-spec camera and digital lens.
- Smart flight modes and collision avoidance.
- Top safety features
- Good range and flight time.
- A little clunky
- Quite expensive.
6 Ryze Tello Quadcopter Drone
At the opposite end of the price scale is the Tello Quadcopter drone. As a general rule, camera drones under $100 aren’t worth wasting your time on. However, the Tello is certainly an exception to that rule.
The Tello is about as small as a drone can currently get. It weighs just 80g and measures 10cm at its widest. Considering those stats, you’d expect flying to be a haphazard affair, but it’s actually quite stable for something so tiny. They apparently use DJI flight stabilization technology, and you can tell.
However, there is no controller (one can be bought separately), so you have to use a smartphone to fly, which is never ideal for precise control.
Range is limited to 100m and 13 minutes of flight time. Consequently, you won’t be doing a lot of exploring with the Tello, but what other drone can you launch from the palm of your hand or throw into flight? The accompanying software also allows your drone to perform some clever flips by swiping your phone.
Fantastic results for the very low cost…
The camera can shoot 720p video and has a 5-megapixel resolution. Images and video are recorded direct to your smartphone. As the camera isn’t gimbal mounted, stabilization of the image is done via software. Considering this handicap, the results aren’t bad at all. For someone looking to jazz up their Instagram channel with some new camera angles, this could make a good investment.
Although the Tello punches well above its price tag, it’s very much a drone for a bit of fun rather than any professional photographic or filming endeavors. It’s far too limited in technical scope. It would certainly make a good first drone for a kid with an interest in photography.
- Exceedingly affordable.
- Pocket size.
- Stable flyer.
- Can’t angle camera.
- Range limited to 100m.
7 Force1 U49WF Quadcopter Drone
Here’s another little gem from Force1 for under $100. Essentially, like the Tello it is more of a selfie-drone than a pro camera setup. But if you’re not planning on being the next Stanley Kubrick, then you can still have a lot of fun and take some satisfying footage. Equipped with an 720p HD camera with a wide angled lens, a good level of detail can be captured for a very cheap price.
Flying the Force1 is incredibly easy…
It comes with a standard controller to which you can attach your smartphone and view what the drone’s camera is seeing. There are three speed settings to choose from, making this a good drone to learn on as you advance your skill levels.
Everything is pretty stable thanks to a 6-axis gyroscope, and the blades are well protected, affording you more chance of getting away with pilot screw-ups. You can also make the Force1 perform the obligatory 360 flip at the touch of a button.
Battery life is only 13 minutes of flight time, but a spare battery comes in the package, so, with a quick pit stop, you’re good to go again. You won’t be going far, though, as the range is limited to 150m. Other nifty features include a Hover mode, one button take-off and landing, and a return to base mode.
Basically, you’re getting essential good value with the Force1. All the basics are covered with a few extra features that you wouldn’t necessarily expect at this price — a bargain.
- Excellent value.
- Comes with two batteries.
- A solid flier.
- Good for beginners.
- Can’t tilt camera.
- Not that portable.
- Not for professional use.
8 Force1 F111WF Phoenix – Best Camera Drones under $100
The Phoenix, much like it’s stablemate, which we’ve just reviewed, packs a lot of action into such a small price tag. In terms of technical spec and price, the two are almost identical. The main difference is that the Phoenix is a foldable design and, therefore, the more portable of the two. Battery life is also a little shorter at 9-minutes but have no fear; an extra battery is provided.
Force1 certainly prioritize build quality in their drones. The Phoenix is built tough to survive the learning process, and that’s really who these drones are for. Basically beginners and kids with an interest in learning the basics of drone flying and/or an interest in aerial photography.
As stated, the rest of the package is so similar to the Force1 U49WF Quadcopter Drone in the previous review that it’s pointless going over it again. Suffice to say, one of the best affordable camera drones you can buy.
- An absolute bargain.
- Extra battery.
- Great introductory drone.
- Very portable.
- Can’t angle camera.
- No obstacle avoidance.
- Camera applications limited.
9 DJI Inspire 2 – Best Drone for Filming
The DJI Inspire 2 is in a class of its own when it comes to producing top-quality aerial footage. And is without a doubt the best drone for filming. There’s nothing that can rival it. However, all that technical mastery doesn’t come cheap, making this by far the most expensive drone on our list. Let’s be clear. This is not a drone for beginners. This is the drone you buy to further your career as an aerial photographer or filmmaker.
Quality in every way…
It’s not a lightweight model at over 4kg of carbon fiber and magnesium. 13-inch props on the end of four large motors can push the inspire to a top speed of 68 mph. With a 4.3-mile controllable range and a 27-minute flight time, with planning, you’ll have a lot of time to get the shot you’re after.
The DJI has the ability for 2-person control, one piloting, and the other operating the camera. And what a camera! The Inspire uses a Zenmuse X5S camera made specifically for capturing aerial footage. It’s 5.2K video, and 20.4 megapixel still capabilities, coupled with a huge ISO range of 100 – 25,600, make this camera capable of shooting in exquisite detail.
All the latest collision avoidance, stabilization, and autopilot tools have, of course, been included, leaving you free to concentrate on shooting. The camera is fully controllable via the app, with the advanced settings easily accessible. Quick changes can be easily made on the fly.
All in all, this is an awe-inspiring piece of technology that is breaking new ground in the art of aerial photography and filming, but definitely one for the professionals or extreme hobbyists only.
- Cinema quality imagery.
- Bursting at the seams with technology.
- Excellent flight time and range.
- Best professional-grade camera drone.
- Definitely not for beginners.
That’s a wrap for the reviews. Read on to find out which is going to be crowned overall best camera drone. But before that…
More Down to Earth Options
So, what are the Best Camera Drones?
For the professionals out there with money to spend, looking for the ultimate in aerial photographic and filming ability, then the…
…is the clear choice. But realistically, most of us don’t need a drone of this ability.
However, for overall performance at a more affordable price, the winner of best camera drone currently available has to be the…
It’s easy to fly, packed with all the latest sensor and navigational technology and sporting 4K video recording, all in a highly portable package. What more does your average drone photographer need?