The Definitive Guide to Drones With Camera Features
In the vast world of drone flight, there are countless reasons to reach for the heavens. No matter why you're spending time in the sky, however, it’s always nice to be able to capture the journey.
Are you unsure which drones you'll need to create a visual diary of your airborne adventures? Fear not, because we’ve made it simple to choose the right option. Here’s everything you should know about finding an amazing drone with camera capabilities.
Don't have time to read the entire guide? Check out our picks for the best camera drone in each price category!
A Few Good Drones With Camera Options
When it comes to picking a drone with a camera, there are thousands of amazing options. Here are just some of the models that you should consider if you’re serious about having a great time and creating awesome footage along the way.
UDI U818A HD 2.4GHz
Featuring a classic quadcopter design with ring-shaped guards for its four blades, the UDI U818A is a slick-looking flying platform. This drone includes a 6-axis gyroscopic system that combines three gyroscopes with three accelerometers to get constant, precise readings about where it is and where it’s going at any moment.
What do these features mean for the UDI U818A’s camera capabilities? For one thing, the design’s maneuverability lets you create pretty neat footage by performing maneuvers like barrel rolls and loops. Also, the controller includes a push-button image capture function, so it's not hard to start recording or taking photos.
Although this drone makes it easy to get skyborne, it’s not exactly the ideal option for those who dream of creating cinematic masterpieces. Its video hardware only produces HD output, and at just 1 megapixel, it’s considerably less than movie quality. Still, this drone has a reputation for being somewhat crash-proof, which might suit those who want to experiment by adding more expensive camera hardware.
Rabing RC Drone Foldable Flight Path FPV VR
The Rabing RC Drone may not be the first choice for professional movie directors, but it has benefits that make shooting a bit more convenient. For instance, it folds up to fit in your pocket, and it’s compatible with VR headsets, although you’ll need to buy them separately.
If anything stands in the way of the Rabing’s ability to generate great footage, it’s the fact that it only works for about eight minutes at a time. In other words, you’re going to have to plan your shots and capture them in the first few tries.
With a maximum working distance of just 100 m, this miniature drone certainly isn’t for everyone, but it’s still pretty great for casual use. If you’re looking for an easy first drone with camera experience, then the Rabing RC Foldable Flight Path isn’t bad.
Holy Stone HS300 RC Quadcopter
Don’t let the fact that this one comes from an RC manufacturer fool you. The Holy Stone HS300 is well-known among the drone-flying community for its high quality and focus on improved content creation. For instance, it includes a pro-grade 1080p HD camera equipped with a 120º wide-angle lens, which gives you the power to create unique, epic shots.
This drone incorporates a shock-resistant camera and an automatic hover function that kicks in when you ease off of the throttle. In other words, you can shift focus from flying to capturing footage at any moment. Perks like included SD memory cards, extra USB cables and replacement propeller blades make this an awesome model for those who haven’t quite established their aerial video studios yet.
Goolsky MJX B2W Bugs 2W
If you’re tired of aircraft that make you walk to your subjects, then the Goolsky MJX B2W Bugs 2W is a great flying platform. Its uniquely styled appearance isn't the best option for jobs like work site surveying, but with a 1,000 m range and fast speed limits, this drone is fun to record with and exciting to pilot.
Of course, using an aerodynamic racing-style drone to capture video is nothing new. This model, however, features a sharp 1080p camera and the ability to connect to GPS or GLONASS satellites for lower-latency positioning that lets it maintain high speeds. Potential disadvantages include the fact that you’ll require a 5 Gigahertz-capable WiFi mobile device, like a phone or tablet, to control the drone. The lightweight construction may also be a bit less crash-resistant than you like.
DJI is famous for content creator-ready drones, and according to CNET reviewers, this model follows in the longstanding tradition. Although it caters to value-focused buyers, it also incorporates popular features from other DJI devices, such as its stabilization capabilities.
The Spark also has a nice camera, so it's a good starter drone for those who like great image quality. This device can learn to follow your hands and respond when you make the right gestures. With such a minimal learning curve, you can begin expressing yourself in seconds.
While the Spark's gesture-controlled mode isn't capable of capturing video, it can handle still photos just fine. What's more, DJI has a good reputation for releasing upgrades and enhancements. As a solid flying camera platform from an established manufacturer, this is a great option for those who are more excited about videography and taking selfies than drone flight for its own sake.
Geniusidea Follow Drone-Portable Quadcopter Drone with 4K HD
This drone looks less impressive than other more aerodynamic models, but if you're in the market for a sturdy flying camera platform, then it's not a bad choice. With the ability to shoot in 4K HD and about 20 minutes of flight time, there are few limits to the kinds of fun you can have while you're creating new things.
Cool features that might make it easier to shoot to your heart's content include Target Following that keeps up with you while you're in action and Fixed-point Surrounding that tracks your subjects from different angles for more dramatic shots. The camera, a Sony IMX214, is adjustable to a range of angles between 0º and 90º, so it shouldn't be hard to innovate new ways to create compelling imagery.
This drone has many awesome perks, but its makers designed it for beginners. Thanks to a simple control scheme and a high-capacity battery, you get to experiment with many different production styles.
Phantom 3 Standard
Another classic drone from DJI, the Phantom 3 Standard is legendary among YouTube creators and other amateur videographers. Part of its widespread success may have to do with the fact that you can view images live as you record them from half a mile away. While you can't output 4K video, the 2.7K format that this drone produces is still pretty good, and the camera's 12-megapixel still-frames aren't too shabby either.
As we covered in one of our previous reviews, members of the Phantom 3 family are among some of the longest-flying consumer models on the market. For example, this version's 25-minute flight times are great for making videos. The drone's programmable functionality also comes in handy because you can tell it to follow a given path and make your shots look smoother without editing. If you're a professional with work to do, then this is a nice tool to lighten the load.
Parrot BeBop 2 Drone with FPV
With a wide-angle camera that shoots 1080p videos and an FPV headset, this drone suits those who'd like to try different production styles. Since the BeBop2 also comes paired with an FPV headset and intuitive controller, you can dive right into an immersive piloting experience, which might make it easier to create the kind of content that really gets your viewers interested.
Unlike certain drones, this device takes a few cues from digital cameras. For instance, it captures images in multiple formats, such as RAW, DNG and JPEG, so you gain the freedom to choose how you work. Although some reviewers said that they had trouble with extremely tight spaces, others felt that this design was equally maneuverable indoors or outside.
Whether you're just hovering around nearby or taking videos of something a mile away, you get to explore with ease, and so do your viewers. Thanks to the BeBop's Flight Plan app, you can even capture complex journeys complete with programmed waypoints.
Phantom 3 Pro
When it comes to professional video creation, the Phantom 3 Pro is more than just a well-known name. This quadcopter works with iOS and Android for convenient live viewing and numerous camera control options. Since you get to connect your phone or tablet to the controller, it's easy to customize your production workflow and keep your equipment budget manageable without sacrificing HD previews.
If you're eager to lift off as quickly as possible, this drone has a Beginner Mode for training purposes. Features like Vision Positioning let you fly safely at low altitudes, avoid objects and stay aloft even without GPS, so it's easy to shoot at a distance of up to 5 km. These perks turn out to be quite useful since the 4K UHD camera captures your performance in such high detail.
Autel Robotics X-Star
Don't be scared off by the fact that this drone targets professional users who appreciate the technical aspects of flying. The Autel Robotics X-Star quadcopter tries to make your life as easy as possible by including a display with a straightforward LCD screen, a solid hard case, and everything you need to take off successfully.
Regarding its video capabilities, this aircraft is nothing if not versatile. For instance, you can record in 4K UHD, 4K HD, 2.7K, 1080p and even 720p format. The camera also attaches to the drone via a quick-release, triple-axis gimbal, so you can swap out your optical hardware and still take steady shots.
The X-Star is convenient for walking around and exploring new scenery as you capture your surroundings. Because it lets you stream a 720p preview from a mile away, you don't have to worry about missing little details that might be worth further investigation. Autel also offers customer support every day of the week, so problems should theoretically be easy to solve.
Yuneec Typhoon H
This drone is good for prosumers, but its unique design may not fit the bill for everyone. For instance, it comes with a 4K camera that rotates through a 360º path, and you can operate the camera independently. The only problem with this is that some reviewers said the camera mount isn't quite as robust as you'd expect from a pro-grade drone.
Of course, there are definite positive perks. For instance, you can fly in either of two control modes that let you pick your preferred style, and the retractable landing gear is a true rarity. On the other hand, if you're not an enthusiast, then you may find yourself more attracted to something a bit less finicky.
DJI Mavic Pro
This drone includes foldability, obstacle avoidance and a long operating range in a small package. PC Magazine reviewers, however, said that it couldn't lift off from terrain like short grass, so it may be best in controlled areas. Its medium-frame field of view might be better suited to urban zones anyway, although you'll want to watch out for updrafts and keep away from buildings and people.
The Mavic Pro is a decent option for those who don't mind going for full features yet would rather not lug around larger platforms. In addition to shooting in 4K, the drone is one of the few to offer portrait and landscape image configurations without making you try to fly at impossible angles.
Phantom 4 Pro
The Phantom 4 Pro from DJI includes perks like a 24 mm lens for great wide-angle shots, and it records 4K video at 60 fps. Inside the camera, there's a 1-inch Exmor R CMOS image sensor that means you have more hardware to capture details compared to many drones with smaller optics.
While 20-megapixel RAW and JPEG images are pretty sweet, this drone's price may not be worth the upgrade unless you're a professional. For instance, the cameras are a step up from the regular Phantom 4, but the drone doesn't work unless you supply a compatible smart device, and some claim that its side sensors could be more capable.
DJI Inspire 2
As the cream of the cinematic crop, the carbon fiber and aluminum DJI Inspire 2 comes ready for 5.2K camera gimbals and a dual battery. The downside of this is that you'll have to buy separate optics to take photos and videos.
Of course, if becoming a serious drone videographer is your goal, then you should welcome the ability to customize such a professional platform. For instance, the CinemaDNG-compatible output is what movie studios use for digital content, and the Apple ProRes activation key that comes with the Premium model is a necessity for encoding your creations. While having a range of around 4.6 miles and 15-inch propellers is perfect for lifting heavier professional cameras, this drone may be out of reach unless you're running a company. This is definitely one of the pricier drones on the market today.
Picking the Best Drone With Camera Hardware
Which drones with camera features should you choose if you’re all about creating exciting footage that puts your viewers right in the middle of the action? Camera hardware isn't the only important element. A drone with a great camera but poor maneuverability will dramatically limit your ability to capture those breathtaking scenes that you want to share with audiences. The heftier your optical gear and lenses are, however, the more likely it is that you’ll have to upgrade to a model with enhanced payload-lifting power.
In the end, we recommend considering the whole package. Evaluate each model carefully so that you understand what makes it different from the alternatives. Or just subscribe to our review blogs or like us on facebook, to stay current with the latest in drone news and developments.