There’s no doubting the appeal of drones. These quad choppers have become an almost ubiquitous site these days, and their range and maneuverability makes them accessible to nearly anyone. Cameras make them even more attractive, for their ability to fly by and record from a crow’s eye perspective. Unfortunately, there’s one simple problem with them: There’s just too many to pick from.
For most people, we think the DJI Phantom P3-STANDARD Quadcopter Drone with 2.7K HD Video Camera is the way to go, but if you want to spend more or less we made sure to dig up some options for you as well. Thankfully for you, we’ve dug up five of the best drone cameras around and we’re going to show them to you and then help you make sure that you end up with one that’ll be ideal for you.
If you’re serious about getting into drone video, then the DJI Phantom P3 is exactly what you’re looking for. Those with some experience may want to spend a little bit more cash however.
Top 5 Drone Cameras
|Yuneec Typhoon H UHD||4k||25 minutes||Check Price|
|DJI Phantom P3-STANDARD||2.7k||25 minutes||Check Price|
|DJI Mavic Pro||4k||27 minutes||Check Price|
|Autel Robotics X-Star Premium||4k||25 minutes||Check Price|
|Tenergy TDR Phoenix Mini RC||720p||7 minutes||Check Price|
1. Best Overall
DJI Phantom P3-STANDARD Quadcopter Drone
While there are certainly higher-end drones on the market, the DJI Phantom P3 really does hit the sweet spot between high-definition camera, battery life, and price that makes it ideal for most people who want to get into drone photography.
With a 2.7k video camera that can take 12MP photos the camera is more than up to par. On top of that, you’ll quickly find that the 25 minutes of flight time is enough to get some serious work done.
This drone is GPS-assisted, and easy to fly even for those who’ve never tried to pilot a quadcopter before. Add in a full half mile of range and you’re in business.
Pros and Cons
- 2.7k video and 12MP photos
- GPS assisted flight
- Easy to pilot
- 25 minutes of flight time
- No advanced GPS features
- Price is still high
2. Best Budget Drone
Tenergy TDR Phoenix Mini RC Quadcopter Drone
Coming in at a fraction of the cost of most of the drone cameras on our list, this handy little drone is perfect for kids. It’s not the drone of choice for those looking for extensive quality video, however. The flight time on this drone is 7 minutes which is pretty short, but considering the price and the fact that you can live stream with the 720p camera isn’t all that bad.
Whether or not this drone is suited for you is going to depend on how serious you are. It’s lacking in range and speed compared to everything else we’ve picked out but it’s easy to fly and makes an awesome gift for youngsters.
If you want a drone for your kids or just to try one out, try the TDR Phoenix. The minimal cost still comes with some utility which makes it a super low-cost way to get into these handy devices.
Pros and Cons
- Super cheap
- 720p camera
- Easy to fly
- Bump guards to protect rotors
- Least useful on our list
- Terrible flight time compared to high-end drones
3. Best Complete Kit
DJI Mavic Pro
If you opt for this kit, then you’ll be in good hands. Simply put: this is the best full kit we’ve been able to dig up and the 4k camera is a major bonus. On top of that, you’ll get multiple batteries, an easy-to-fly drone, a bag to carry it all in, the controller, and basically everything you need to get started at a high level in the hobby.
It’s a bit expensive, however, but the integrated camera is well protected and you’ll have access to all of the high-tech features which make drones popular.
If you’re just getting started in the hobby and have some serious cash to burn: invest in this kit. You’ll be able to get started safely at a high level.
Pros and Cons
- Super high-quality drone
- Integrated 4k camera
- Stream 1080p
- Includes everything you need
- Customer service is… questionable
4. Best 4k Drone Camera
Autel Robotics X-Star Premium Drone
This is one of the most awesome 4k drone cameras we’ve been able to find. The price is definitely right on this one, although it’s out of the range of many people. On top of the great camera, you have an easy to fly drone with all of the usual suspects when it comes to GPS features including return-to-home and follow-me. Add in 25 minutes of flight time and you’ve got a winner on your hands. On top of that, you’ve got an LCD screen on your controller which provides all of the data you need to ensure a smooth flight.
But, let’s face it, the main draw here is definitely the camera.
If you want crystal clear video and a crisp flight experience then you may be looking at just the drone for you.
Pros and Cons
- 4k camera
- Easy to fly
- Advanced GPS features
- Excellent controller
- Controller requires calibration on booting
5. Easiest to Fly Drone Camera
Yuneec Typhoon H UHD 4K Collision Avoidance Hexacopter Drone
If it wasn’t for the high cost, this would have won out our top spot by quite a bit. This hexacopter is amazingly easy to fly, and when you add in a 4k camera you’ve got a clear winner. In addition to the usual GPS features, the Typhoon also has collision avoidance which will help you keep from accidentally running into anything. This might not seem like much, but it’s a big leap and since it costs around a thousand dollars… you’ll be happy for it if you decide to fly in crowded airspace.
This drone isn’t just easy to fly… the entire thing is made to stay in flight and protect your investment.
If you’re a clumsy operator, or just want to take video without worrying about the mechanics of drone flight then we can strongly recommend the Typhoon.
Pros and Cons
- 4k camera
- Collision avoidance
- 5 rotor fail-safe
- No experience required to fly
- Will not respond in flight-restricted areas
Deciding on a Drone
Like any advanced technology, there’s a lot to consider when you’re looking at drones.
Thankfully, the technology has been made pretty much newbie-proof over the last few years, so you don’t need to keep in mind a whole bunch of different numbers and memorize specifications.
So, let’s look into what separates the wheat from the chaff when it comes to these exciting toys.
The batteries placed in your drone have a huge impact on the amount of fun you’ll be able to have with them.
For the most part, you’re going to have trouble finding anything which can last for over thirty minutes, with lower-end models only running around twenty minutes or so.
For most of the big-name drones there are replacement batteries available, but if you’re planning on flying for a long time you may want to calculate the cost of extras into your budget.
Of course, the camera which comes with your drone is going to be one of the big factors if you’re purchasing them for this reason.
Even a simple camera is pretty much necessary if you’re planning on flying with any range, of course, but some drones come with professional quality HD cameras which are perfect for capturing breathtaking footage.
You’ll want to consider what you’re planning on doing with your drone, since this is likely to figure highly into the cost.
If you’re planning on flying in inclement weather, you’re also going to want to make sure that you have an integrated gimbal which will keep the camera steady even if the drone is getting rocked by winds.
Some drones come with an attachment for you to place your own camera. If you’re looking at one of these, then you’ll have to get a camera separately or attach one you already own.
Mounting your own camera is probably the best idea for those who are planning on using their drone specifically to take video since you can upgrade it without any difficulty just by switching out what’s on the mount.
You’re going to come into contact with two types of motors.
Standard motors are a lot cheaper, they’re just your usual fare when it comes to electric motors.
Brushless motors, on the other hand, raise the cost by quite a bit but also allow you to go for longer before they need replacement.
Remember that unless you buy a super cheap drone, these aren’t really toys but instead devices that you’re likely to be working on at one point or another.
Integrated GPS and RTH Functionality
Super high end drones have some extra features which are pretty much integral for super heavy usage of your device.
Integrated GPS lets you know where your drone is at all times, as well as letting the drone itself “know” where it is. This is super useful, especially if you get frequency hijacked since it will let you quickly locate your drone.
RTH, or return-to-home, functionality is pretty awesome.
It lets the drone return to a designated place when it hits the end of its battery or at the press of a button. You can probably immediately see some usage for this.
This is an expensive feature, but if you’re going to place an expensive camera on a drone you’ll quickly find it to be pretty much one hundred percent essential. This way, even if something happens, you can get your drone back or find it at the very least.
You can also get follow-me mode on integrated GPS drones, which allows the drone to home in on your location and follow you without you having to mess with the controls.
Follow-me is particularly useful for those who want to film themselves partaking in an active activity like mountain biking, since you can focus on what you’re doing and the drone will follow and record.
Ease of Use
Of course, quadcopters are pretty stable but the cheaper ones lack the advanced electronics which make them easier to fly. You’ll quickly find that cheap drones can be something of a handful until you’re really used to them.
More expensive drones tend to get easier to fly, although the most expensive get a bit harder to fly due to being more user-controlled. These tend to be racing drones and the like, however, rather than dedicated camera drones.
When you buy your drone, there’s a couple of extra things to keep an eye out for beyond the drone itself.
The first is definitely the cost of the batteries. Most of us aren’t going to be happy with only half an hour of flight time, so we’ll need to invest in a couple of extra batteries right up front.
Different brands and drones are going to have different battery costs.
You also need to look into the availability of parts a bit. DJI and the other big names are easy to work with here, but cheaper, no-name drones might not even have parts available.
Legal Concerns and Drones
Unfortunately, irresponsible operators have messed things up for many hobbyists. The fact is that certain drones are illegal in certain municipalities.
There are two sets of rules which apply to people piloting drones: those for hobbyists and those who are intending to use them commercially.
The latter applications aren’t obvious to most people, we’re not talking about deliveries here, instead we’re talking about using your drone to take pictures for stock imagery, movies, or whatever other purpose you might put them through to make money.
It all gets really complicated once you get the FAA involved, since they’ve repeatedly issued edicts and repealed them… all without actually having the rule of law behind them. Instead most of their suggestions thus far are just that.
At this point, hobbyists are free to fly as long as they don’t do anything really stupid.
Clarifying that, you probably want to avoid any and all of the following:
- Flying near aircraft, and especially near airports in general. Five miles away is a good general guideline, we’d say you want to be aware of the direction of any and all airstrips as well.
- Flying over 400 feet in most locations
- Don’t fly over groups of people
- Keep your drone away from large events, such as ball games
- Stay away from emergency efforts… no matter how tempting the footage may be this is a big one. A drone can seriously mess up any kind of aerial aid to the location.
As long as you stick by all of those guidelines you should be fine as a hobbyist.
If you have commercial intent you’re going to need to dig down and do some research. You’ll have to pass a test and get a Part 107(Small Unmanned Vehicles) certification. That’s a complicated process which is outside of the scope of this article, so keep that in mind.
For the most part, common sense should be fine for most people with one caveat: US National Parks are a no-go zone for drones entirely.
Remember that it’s your responsibility, not just to yourself but to the entire community of people enjoying these drones, to not do anything risky or stupid. It’s not just you who can be affected if you make a really serious error of judgement.
There are also apps available, such as AirMap, which can let you know where it’s legal to fly.
Just be aware of the legal issues surrounding these devices and you’ll be fine.
Safety and Drones
In addition to the legality, keep in mind that powerful drones can cause some serious damage to both the operator and bystanders.
You should always have a backup plan in place in case something goes awry.
A lot of people invest in heavy-duty gloves to ensure that they don’t get cut by the props if something happens during takeoff.
We’ve compiled some general tips to make sure that you and your drone stay safe.
The location you’re flying in is of paramount importance. You can’t just take off in any given area, there are some restrictions as we noted above.
In addition to that, you’ll want to avoid flying over people. If the drone falls it can cause serious injuries to folks and in addition to the questionable ethics… you’ll also be held civilly liable in the long run.
You should also make sure that you have permission on private property. There have been some complicated legal cases resulting from flying a drone in the wrong area and having it shot down, and most people aren’t going to be happy about replacing a drone that’s been hit by a shotgun shell.
Military bases are a bad idea for obvious reasons. You’re likely to end up with a destroyed drone and some serious charges if you do risk it.
Always keep your drone within your line of sight. Things can get out of control quickly if you get too far out, and that’s not good for you or the drone.
In addition to that, try not to rely too heavily on collision detection features. It only takes a split second of delay for a failure to signal to be catastrophic. The chances are low, but they’re definitely there and it’s not something you should take for granted.
If you’re about to crash, you’re going to want to throttle all the way down. This will keep your drone from taking too much damage in a crash. This protects your drone and whatever you hit, and it’s pretty important to make sure that you learn how to do this quickly.
Always take the battery out of a drone before you work on it. This is good advice for pretty much anything, but a powerful drone can really screw you up in a hurry and you’ll find it a lot harder to work on them in the future.
Because you could very well end up missing fingers.
Your goal anytime you manage to get into a crash is twofold: reduce damage to the drone and anything, or anyone, you might hit.
This means throttling down, and practicing constant vigilance while you’re flying. You really don’t want to hit someone or an animal since it’ll damage both your drone and the individual in question.
On top of that, drones are fairly fragile and a high speed collision can turn it into a thousand dollar pile of scrap in a hurry.
Steering away for a glancing hit after dropping the throttle is the best practice.
The big one to avoid, however, is aerial collisions. If there’s another drone operating in the area then you’re going to want to be super careful, but more importantly you need to always show deference to aircraft, hang-gliders, and other larger vehicles. A mid-air collision can lead to absolute disaster in those instances.
If you find yourself in that situation, however, chances are you haven’t been following the rest of our safety advice.
The big takeaway? Have fun, but always be safe when operating your drone.
When it comes to picking out the best drone camera around you just need to put in a little bit of thought. As long as you’re willing to do your research and remember to budget in extras, you’ll be good to go and well on your way to getting amazing footage that you’ve hardly dreamed of before.
It’s a revolution, and you can be on the front line.