A drone is simply a remote-controlled pilotless aircraft or missile. In the case, however, the scope of the definition of a drone is limited to just a remote-controlled pointless aircraft. Drone technology is still quite new but it’s application to photography is huge.
The use of Drone technology is now on the rise that there is no better time to invest in one so as to advance your photography career. Drone now come with the top-notch 4K camera and portable form factors. This simply means that many of the top drones available in the market today can easily be folded for easy transport. Great drones today also have super-steady video stabilization which is a feature of virtually every drone model available currently. You don’t have to undergo intense training to fly a high-quality drone.
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Most photography drones are quite easy to pick up and start flying, although selecting the best drone can be quite a challenge. To this end, we have taken the pain to review and recommend the following top drones. To be candid, the best drones available today are by DJI and Parrot.
Drones by these two manufacturers continue to rule the skies. Interesting, these drones are quite affordable and you don’t need a huge budget to be able to buy one although some models such as our number one pick, the DJI Mavic Air don’t come cheap.
#1 DJI Mavic Air
The number one drone to have in 2018 is the DJI Mavic Air. This drone though small in size has high capabilities. It comes with 4K video recording, a three-axis gimbal as well as an upgraded obstacle avoidance system and onboard storage into a compact and foldable form factor that easily slips into a jacket pocket. You will hardly find a better drone that packs up so neatly and is as equipped as the DJI Mavic Air.
Pros of DJI Mavic Air
- Incredible portability
- 4K video at up to 100Mbps; 12MP HDR stills
- Near-perfect obstacle avoidance
- 8GB internal storage.
Cons of DJI Mavic Air
- Slightly jerky gimbal controls
- Could have better range
- Need multiple batteries for a great flying experience.
Overall, this drone is a beast in the air as it combines the tech and foldable rotor arms of the DJI Mavic Pro and the small form factor and playfulness of the Spark with significant improvement on both. It is available from $699 on Amazon. The price may be significantly higher if you buy from other dealers or if you are buying it with other accessories.
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Design and Build
The drone features a compact and foldable form factor returns, the recessed gimbal adds protection but the clip-on cover is however awkward. The controller is redesigned and features removable joysticks. It also comes with USB-C port for data transfer only.
Performance and Control
The DJI Mavic Air is definitely a top performer any day. With improved obstacle avoidance system, gesture controls, top speed of 68.4 km/h (40 mph) and maximum transmission distance of 4 km (2.5 miles) with the controller; 50m with the mobile device.
#2 DJI Mavic 2 Pro
The DJI Mavic 2 Pro is the second drone to be reviewed on this list. This powerful drone gives the sharpest video and photos out of any consumer-level drone. This is because it comes equipped with a color-rich 4K HDR- equipped camera.
- Great foldable drone design
- A 1-inch 4K camera sensor
- New modes like Hyperlapse.
- Very expensive
- Can’t shoot 4K at 60fps
- Mavic 2 Zoom is a compelling alternative
- DJI Mavic 2 Pro deals
- You can get the DJI Mavic 2 Pro for about $1499.99.
#3 DJI Spark
The DJI Spark is a mini-drone that anyone can fly. It is no larger or heavier than a can of soda. It is quite portable and comes with automatic flight capabilities and the ability to recognize hand gestures both of which outshine its few problems.
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- Controller-free gesture controls
- Absolutely tiny
- Automatic Quickshot modes.
- Spotty Wi-Fi connection with smartphones
- Short flight time
- Easily swayed by the wind
- The DJI Spark is available from $499.
Build and Handling
Although the DJI Spark is small, its main body though feels dense and solid as a brick. The limbs of this drone feel just as sturdy thanks largely to heavy ribbing. Also, there are nearly no visible seams along the body of the drone which is an indicator of the fact that the drone’s fuselage is molded from one solid piece of plastic.
You can easily set up the drone to fly by attaching the propeller guards, turning it on and linking to your smartphone through the DKI Go 4 app. You can, however, skip the controller and command the DJI Spark with just hand gestures through the Palm control feature.
#4 DJI Phantom 4
The DJI Phantom 4 adds groundbreaking object avoidance plus an improved high-quality, robust build. It is a fine upgrade of the Phantom 3 Professional. The major upgrades are the robust design, improved materials as well as clever flight aids using new sensors although the camera performance has been improved too.
- High-quality stabilized footage
- Object avoidance
- Easy to fly.
- Phantom 3 batteries not compatible
- Constant software updates
- The app can get a bit confusing
- You can purchase this drone from $591.
The DJI Phantom excels in the area of the live stream. You can view what you are filming on a connected phone or tablet via the DJI Pilot app for both Android and iOS.
Build and Handling
The Phantom 4 has an ultra-lightweight magnesium alloy body finished in a brilliant white. It feels far more solid than the Phantom 3 and weighs 100g more, tipping the scales at 1,380g. The propellers have been changed also as the Phantom 4 features quick-release style propellers similar to those on the Inspire range of quadcopters.
#5 Parrot Bebop 2
This drone is a very likable smartphone-controlled drone that captured good photographs and videos. It is, however, the addition of the FPV kit that makes this drone really stand out. It offers a better control experience as well as an amazing perspective on the world from the skies.
- Great battery life
- Stable flight performance
- FPV accessories work well.
- The video is glitchy at long distances
- Fisheye camera suffers from lens flare
- Autonomous functions cost extra
- This drone is quite affordable as it is sold from $279.
The Bebop 2 looks so much like the original Bebop that you will be forgiven for thinking that it is only a slight upgrade on the original Bebop. In reality, the Bebop 2 is much more powerful than its predecessor. It boasts a more robust design and larger capacity battery which are two of the biggest problems associated with the first Bebop.
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Build and Handling
The drone features a unique design in that it is not a single solid unit. It is made up of two main elements, connected by a series of shock-absorbing rubber balls. The main body of the drone houses the camera and electronics.
The design makes it a little flimsy in the hand but it means video recording is less prone to shake from the powerful rotors on each arm. The plastic rotors are removable and are fitted to the drone using a special tool.
#6 Parrot Anafi
This drone which is thin and bug-like is an excellent choice for experts and filmmakers. The incredible vertical range camera of the drone captures 4K UHD films and 21MP photos, plus sports 2.8x lossless zoom. The drone being lightweight and slim won’t take up much room in your bag. The drone, however, has no obstacle avoidance which makes it difficult to recommend over DJI models for beginners.
- 4K UHD video at 30 fps
- 21MP HDR stills
- 180-degree vertical camera
- 23-minute battery life
- Slim, durable frame.
- Zero obstacle avoidance
- Many flight modes behind a paywall
- No backup battery
- The tendency to drift randomly.
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#7 DJI Mavic Pro
Although it has been overtaken by the DJI Mavic 2 Pro, the Mavic Pro is still one of the best drones around. This drone is small and the camera is mounted on a gimbal which is unusual for drones of its size. The drone delivers great results when used for both photo and video shoots in good lighting. Low-light shooting may be challenging with this drone due to the small size of the sensor.
The top speed of this drone is around 40 mph and the battery gives you 20 to 25 minutes of aerial action. This drone comes with a dedicated remote control that also uses the display of your phone to show you live images of what exactly the drone is seeing.
- Follow mode
- Gesture controls
- App-only accessibility
- Unremovable camera and gimbal
#8 DJI Inspire 2
DJI Inspire 2 is a sleek metal composite bodywork upgrade on its predecessor and it is much more attractive. The advanced object technology on the drone means you don’t have to be worried about the beautiful body of the drone getting damaged when you accidentally clipped a tree.
The twin-battery arrangement gives you more than 25 minutes of flight time and the ability to swap camera lenses gives professional photographers and videographers complete control over their images and videos.
- Amazing build quality
- Good battery life
- Plenty of features
- Cost is high compared to more consumer-oriented drones
#9 DJI Inspire 1
This drone is purely a professional drone and its price tag reflects that. It’s available from $1799. This drone sure looks intimidating. It comes with its own controller. The performance of this drone in the air is exemplary even in very windy conditions. It is swift and easy to maneuver when twinned with its excellent controller. The downsides of this drone are the price and the battery life which is only between 15 to 20 minutes before it drains.
- Stable and speed performance
- 4K video recording
- Feature-rich mobile app
- Excellent bundled remote
- Battery life could be better
- Price puts it out of reach for many consumers
#10 ZeroTech Dobby
This drone is small enough to fit into your pocket. It is the smallest drone on the list and one of the cheapest. Though small, this drone packs power and is quite versatile. The small size though means this drone suffers in strong winds but on a good day, it performs impressively.
The drone is controlled by a smartphone application and has features such as orbital moves, object tracking, and facial recognition are all included as standard and are easy to execute. The audio and visual sensors of the drone are fixed on its underside which means you can perform palm take-offs and landings, and you can use it indoors. It is not quite surprising that such a small drone does not have a long battery life.
The battery only lasts between 5 and 10 minutes depending on variables such as wind speed and recording time. The photo and video quality of this drone are considerably lower than that of other more expensive drones on this list.
- Highly portable
- Good stability
- Low cost
- Poor stamina
- Video recording could be better
These are the top photography drones available in the market as of now. You can find more comprehensive reviews of each drone listed here to know more about their specifications and abilities.
Below is a video review
A Photography enthusiastic. I work with a group of other professional photographers to provide you tips on photography