Best Drones With a Camera
Photography has come along way in the last ten years and a new way to capture beautiful aerial and scenic photography is by using a drone camera. First used by the U.S military in 1917 and then slowly branching out to filming and journalism, archeological surveys, wildlife monitoring, and even air strikes, these pieces of equipment are not only used for capturing beautiful photography. You may have once thought that a drone would be out of your price range, but there are a surprising number of affordable options available. However, once you get to know more about these amazing pieces of technology and what can be incorporated into them, you may feel cheated without all the bells and whistles, and those obviously come with a price.
Well, here it is. You have realized how much fun it could be to have a drone in your life. Whether it will be your new favorite toy or the perfect gift for a loved one, you’ll find it here. We have done the research and listed the top ten drone cameras on the market today, and we have also explained what makes them the best of the best. We have also included some criteria to keep in mind when looking for the drone camera that will be perfect for you. Keep in mind when looking at these drone cameras what features you are looking for, what terrain you will be flying in, and your budget.
- DJI Mavic
- 4.3 miles range
- Detects objects
- Holy Stone HS700
- Follow me feature
- Superior shots
- DJI Phantom 4
- Integrated gimbal
- GPS & GLONASS connectable
10 Best Drones With a Camera
DJI Mavic Pro
The Mavic Pro is capable of shooting 4K video at 30 frames per second and because of the integrated high-precision 3-axis mechanical camera stabilization system, you are provided with clear and stable images and videos.
In the air, you can control this drone within 4.3 miles. When it is in the air, obstacle avoidance technology and sensor redundancy manage to increase the safety and reliability of the drone. In addition, this is equipped with GPS and GLONASS functionality.
Besides being able to fly up to 40 miles per hour with this battery, you can expect around 27 minutes of flight time. When compared to the competition, this is one of the higher times you will find.
For such an impressive drone, it is amazing how portable it truly is. It folds down to around the size of a water bottle, which is fantastic. However, the small rubber bands that hold the gimbal in place are a bit fragile.
Thanks to the video transmission technology, you can receive a live HD video feed straight from the camera for up to 4.3 miles away.
Among the highly-impressive drones that DJI has manufactured, the Mavic Pro stands above them all. Why? No drone combines a camera of this magnitude, with as much high-tech integrated and exceptional portability.
- It has an insane range of 4.3 miles
- With objects within 49 feet, this can detect them and avoid hitting them
- Due to its design, can be taken anywhere with ease
- The gimbal assembly is not the best with small rubber bands that seem fragile
Holy Stone HS700 Ophelia
This device features a 5g 1080P Full High Definition camera, along with a 120-degree field of view, making it easy for you to capture beautiful shots. You can even switch out the stock camera and replace it with a GoPro Hero 2,3, or 4.
You can control your HS700 for up to 3,280 feet. One of the most admired features of this drone is the Follow Me mode. The drone will hover and follow wherever you and the remote control may go. You can also create a flight path ahead of time and the drone will follow it. The HS700 can travel at 25km per hour and up to 60km per hour downwind.
Doubling the battery capabilities of their last done, this Holy Stone HS700 has a twenty minute flight time. Of course, this depends on how many photos and videos you are capturing. Another great feature of this drone is the Auto Return. If the drone goes out of range or has a dangerously low battery, it will return to you at an altitude of 100 feet.
The build quality of this drone is quite amazing. Weighing in at .81 pounds, 370grams, this device still manages to hold up to the wind and capture amazing photos and videos. The brushless motor
Integrated wireless HD image transmission technology allows the slave controller to receive video information from the master controller. For up to 100 meters apart, the image quality will not suffer. The live video range for this drone is 1,300 feet.
Sporting a brushless motor and a lightweight, yet sturdy, body the HS700 is quite impressive. The brushless motor provides you with a powerful, yet quiet flight. Holy Stone may be new to this game, but they are quickly gaining popularity and improving their products with every new release.
Easy to assemble
5-7 hours battery charging time
Some reviewers perplexed by phone app
DJI Phantom 4
The Phantom 4’s camera is capable of not only shooting 4K video at 30 frames per second but also at 120 frames per second when shooting at 1080p. Also, images can be shot in a 12-megapixel, raw format.
With a maximum control range of 3.1 miles, you have a long range to play with. In addition, the Phantom 4 will detect obstacles in its path and avoid them and can return home.
With the battery fully charged and at full capacity, you could feasibly get around 28 minutes of maximum flight time.
To improve the balance and precision, the core design of the Phantom 4 lifts the center of the gravity closer to its heart. Also, it features a magnesium skeleton that manages to keep its stiffness while reducing the overall weight of the drone.
If you want to see a live view of what your drone is seeing, you will need to utilize your smartphone or tablet with the appropriate software to do so.
Perhaps the only “issue” is the Phantom’s 4 difficulty with transport. While not impossible, it does not collapse and needs a lot of room when you are traveling with it. However, the amazing build quality teamed up with the advanced camera make this worth the money.
- Features an integrated gimbal for smoother and stabilized footage
- It can connect to both GPS and GLONASS satellites
- Has obstacle avoidance for safer travel
- Not the best for travel as it can’t collapse
- Still requires a tablet or smartphone with the controller
DJI Phantom 3
This is the first camera on this list that is not capable of shooting 4K video. Instead, it maxes out at 2.7K (which is still beyond full high-definition) with a frame-rate of 30 frames per second. Also, the 3-axis gimbal provides stability to the video footage.
This features all the toys in terms of technology, which includes Point of Interest, Follow Me, Waypoint modes and Automatic Flight Assistant. The latter is convenient as this allows the drone to return to you on the fly. Plus, it does have GPS-assisted flight.
Similarly, to the other drones that DJI has designed, the Phantom 3 has a very impressive flight time of up to 25 minutes thanks to the intelligent battery.
Looking through various feedback and reviews, durability does not seem to be an issue and the overall build quality of the Phantom 3 is up-to-par with their other work.
As with the Phantom 4, which did not improve on this lacking feature, you can view the live video feed from your drone in conjunction with the free DJI Go application. But, due to the 2.4GHz Wi-Fi range, it does have a tendency to lag at times.
This is quality at its finest but even the hardcore enthusiasts must agree that there are a few caveats. A limited live video feed and the lack of being able to upgrade the camera if you desire to hold this back a tad.
- Includes a radio controller, an extra battery and a charger
- Has a solid range of 1000 meters
- Features automatic flight assistance that allows it to return home on a dime
- You can’t upgrade or remove the current camera
- Again, will not collapse and is not ideal for travel
Yuneec Typhoon Pro
Thanks to the 3-axis gimbal the camera is stabilized during the footage. In terms of the resolution, it can shoot 4K ultra-high definition content.
Technology such as Intel RealSense to navigate around obstacles, GPS for more accurate navigation, auto takeoff and land, and automatic return to home provide several advantages.
Likewise, to the other drones on this list, expect up to 25 minutes of flight time in one sitting.
A futuristic design is enhanced due to the propellers’ ability to fold up for transport. However, the camera spindle is very fragile and upon impact, the wires tend to rip out.
One of the biggest advantages of this drone is Yuneec integrated a 7-inch Android touchscreen on their controller that provides real-time footage of what the camera is seeing.
While it seems like a smart feature to have, this comes down to its no-fly zones. Because of this, the areas in which you can fly are limited. But, because of the overall design of the drone, it is definitely worth the money.
- No experience is needed as it is very easy to function
- Is backed by an upgraded one-year warranty
- Can shoot 4K ultra-high definition video
- Features programmed no-fly zones which limit the areas of flight
- The camera spindle is very fragile
Yuneec Q500+ Typhoon
Thanks to the re-designed lens which lowers the amount of distortion present in the image, the quality is enhanced. Despite it not having 4K functionality, it can shoot 1080p (which is still full-HD) at 60 frames per second.
Due to the fact that the Q500+ features three different flight modes (Smart Mode, Angle Mode, and Home Mode), there is some diversity in how you can use it. All three of these modes utilize GPS for improved flight. But, if it ascends beyond 400 feet it will not fly any longer.
There are two batteries included with the drone (5200 mAh) and they both provide up to 25 minutes of flight time.
As a whole, this quadcopter feels very light but well-engineered. In fact, it holds up pretty well to wind gusts.
On the Personal Ground Station, which sports a 5.5-inch touchscreen, you can view the live footage being captured by the camera. Although, users have claimed it can lag sometimes.
For someone who is looking to spend a little extra money but maybe not as much as some of the higher-end drones, the Q500+ is an ideal choice. It lands in the middle for practically everything but does have a terrific battery.
- Out of the box, it is ready to go
- Has a stellar flight time of 20 to 25 minutes
- The footage is stabilized thanks to the 3-axis camera gimbal
- The live video can lag at times
- Not the best screen as the LCD is very reflective in the sun
The DJI Spark brings a 2 axis stabilized gimbal camera to ensure you can reach all angles while filming, and that your video is stable for good quality. Spark's camera has an f/2.6 wide-angle lens with a 25 mm equivalent focal length.
The DJI Spark has a couple cool flying features such as gesture mode which allows you to fly the drone with your hands, it also has active track which the drone follows you while you are doing an activity or need to film hands-free. It is quite simple to fly and stays stable in the air when you are not touching the controls to ensure your drone does not crash.
The DJI Spark batter will give you about 15 minutes of straight flying time and takes about 1 hour and 20 minutes to fully charge. It is recommended to purchase an additional battery to lengthen your fly time.
The DJI Spark is built to be durable and can take some hits if you have an impact. For a smaller drone, when holding it, it feels durable and you can tell it was built to last.
After it is installed on your smartphone or tablet, you can receive real-time footage of what your drone sees. You can also live stream to youtube.
The DJI Spark overall is a great and durable drone if you are looking for a drone that is affordable and built to last. It is also great for individuals that enjoy sports or activities where you want to film yourself with the active track. This is a great drone and definitely one to check out.
- Great features that allow hands free filming
- Easy to pack
- Could have a longer battery life
The Syma X5C is equipped with an HD camera but let’s be honest, the video quality here is nothing to write home about. However, it will still suffice depending on your fuss about the quality.
While the distance you can control this drone too is very limited, only 30 meters, it does feature a 6-axis stabilization system which makes it easier to stabilize when it is hovering around in the sky.
Once again, yes, this is limited when it comes to the battery. With only a 500 mAh battery, it can only withstand around seven minutes of flight time on a single charge.
Despite being limited in other respects, the construction is admirable for this drone. It is wind-resistant and can survive the results of an inevitable crash that awaits it.
As you probably guessed, this feature is not available for this model. Instead, you will have to wait to see the footage after the recording has completed.
Some may question the appearance of this drone on this list. Look, it clearly can’t compete with DJI’s top models but due to the price, that is not what it is trying to do. Its attempt to be a solid drone for novices and users who are not concerned with advanced features and the video quality is admirable.
- Very solid construction that can handle a crash or two
- Integrated technology to prevent interference from another quadcopter
- Built-in 6-axis stabilization system
- Very limited flight time and distance
- Overall, incredibly basic
While the camera resolution is limited, although still high-definition at 720p, the rubber damping assists in reducing the overall vibration of the camera for smoother footage.
This is incredibly easy to fly and suitable for novices as it features three different speed modes and key control. Also, you can launch and land the drone with one simple button.
The battery is rated to fly for up to 15 minutes but because Forcel provides an additional battery, this time is essentially doubled.
Unfortunately, do not expect to put this drone in the air on windy days as it simply will not hold up. Due to its insane lightness near the tail, it has no stability in the wind.
This is one of the biggest design features you sacrifice when looking into basic drones. The U49C Drone does not possess this capability.
Is this a limited drone? Of course, it is, and is it for hardcore gurus? No, but this is still a stellar starter model that is ideal for those just getting into the technology.
- With a bonus battery, the flight time can be doubled
- Features three-speed modes and key control for ease of flying
- Ideal for beginners and children
- Does not feature live video playback
- In strong winds, this will get pushed around like nothing
Parrot Bebop 2
To improve the overall clarity of your captured footage (even in low lighting conditions), this is equipped with a fish-eye lens and can shoot 1080p video capturing.
In case a collision occurs, Parrot has programmed their drone to automatically shut down. Geniusly added, there is a powerful rear flash LED light for greater visibility and powerful motors that allow for great altitudes of flight.
The Bebop 2 is able to achieve a maximum flight time of 25 minutes thanks to its 2700 mAh battery.
For as lightweight and compact as it is, durability has been a concern for the Bebop 2. Try to avoid collisions at all costs as the smallest of dings tend to destabilize a motor.
All you need to do is download the FreeFlight3 piloting app from either Google Play or the Apple App Store to receive live playback from your device.
For what the Bebop 2 is, it is actually an impressive machine. Sure, it may not be built to withstand many bumps and bruises but at this price point, it's a steal.
- Very lightweight and compact design
- Provides great stability against powerful winds
- Can see live playback on your smartphone or tablet
- Can’t sustain impacts without a motor becoming destabilized
- Not the best in terms of build quality
Criteria Used For The Evaluation
The Video Quality and Camera Design
For some people, the be all end all of these types of drones will be the design of the integrated camera system. When it comes down to it, there are a few factors that will decide how competent a camera is. Firstly, is the resolution that it can output. Standard high-definition is classified as 720p (which is 1280 x 720), one step above that is 1080p (which is full HD and 1920 x 1080) and then there is 4K (which is ultra HD and 3840 x 2160). What does this mean for you? The higher the number, the more pixels there are and the better the resolution will be.
Next is the framerate. Typically, you will see framerates such as 30 per second and 60 per second (and perhaps even greater framerates). This is defined as the frequency in which frames are displayed in any type of video. As such, the higher the number, the more fluid the image which results in enhanced quality. Lastly, you may want a camera that shoots a raw video format. As opposed to the highly-popular JPEF format, raw does not compress any information and the result is untouched images that produce much higher quality.
Capabilities in the Air
Once the drone takes off and is in the air, the fun will truly begin. But, several design features need to be in order to get the most out of the experience. For starters, a very important feature to be aware of is the maximum distance that the drone can fly and still remain functional, before losing its reception. Top-of-the-line drones will allow you to control them for multiple miles, while others, only North or South of 1,000 meters. While in the air, though, how about certain technology such as an obstacle avoidance system, GPS functionality, or automatic flight assistance?
Let’s start with the obstacle avoidance system, which is exactly what you think it is. The drone is programmed to detect objects in its sight and avoid them. If the drone is two miles away from you, it may see an obstacle that you do not. To preserve the life and durability of your drone, this is an important feature. Whether it be a bird or a plane, it’s definitely not something that you want to collide with. Then, there is GPS technology. Developed in 1973 by U.S military, this type of GPS finds your location by collecting signals from orbiting satellites and providing you with an exact position within a few meters. For drones, this is used to provide a safer and more accurate flight, as it locks onto satellites in the sky for navigation. Also, automatic flight assistance is very convenient. Having the option of an automatic return home feature is convenient, so the drone knows exactly where to go when it comes back to you.
The Battery and Its Flight Time
If you have never done research on drones with cameras, you may be surprised when you start to analyze the maximum flight times of the best drones. You may be surprised to learn that the amount is much lower than you would expect. After all, is 28 minutes of maximum flight time honestly amazing? It may not seem like it but this is actually as good as it gets for this technology. So, do not shake your head when you see flight times between twenty and thirty minutes because that is where the top models land, for now.
Past this number, you can also analyze the battery itself; which will usually be measured in mAh (milliamp hour). This is used to describe the energy charge of a battery and how long it will last before needing to be recharged. Clearly, the higher the better, and anything below 1,000 is not going to last for too long.
The Overall Construction and Durability
Along with all of the technology that is included in a drone, including obstacle avoidance systems that detect oncoming objects and avoid them, crashes and collisions are nearly inevitable. As such, you may want to invest in a model that is capable of withstanding an accident without needing replacement parts. It is advisable to assess the overall build and research to see if any users have experienced durability issues. Of course, this is the many reasons why spending extra money on a top-end model is worth it as you may get a workmanship that consists of magnesium-alloy and carbon fiber.
But, lightness and portability can also be important. Drones are meant to be portable and those that do not fold up or pack down in any way can be a hassle to transport. The same concept applies with lightness. It is important to keep in mind that the lighter the drone, the flimsier the device will perform in the wind. Cheaper models may wobble around and be unstable in furious winds and you never know what Mother Nature has up her sleeve on a given afternoon.
If There is Live Footage
When you are normally recording with a camera, you can see everything that you are viewing. Clearly, this is not possible with a drone as it is flying up in the air and the only way you can view what the camera is recording is to receive live video from an external device. To achieve this, many designers integrate video transmission technology into their machines. Depending on the range and advanced nature of the technology, the feed that you are seeing may lag sometimes. Typically, it will have a certain range in which it will function properly and anything past that, lag may occur.
But, the manner in which this is achieved is also important. Some drones will come with a controller that includes a touchscreen with the live video feed. However, others will require you to download an application on either your smartphone or tablet. While this method is still not much of an issue for most people, it can become and issue if you do not own a smart device or if the one you own doesn’t possess the range of the video transmission technology.
Q: What Drones Need to be Registered?
Simply put, every single drone that you will ever own needs to be registered. Granted that your drone is heavier than .55 pounds, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) requires you to register it. They mandated this law back in late-2015 and it actually got shut down last year but alas, it became reinstated by President Donald Trump a few months ago. Question is, why does the FAA insist on making Americans register their drones?
They state that they do so for safety reasons and the good news is that the registration process is fairly painless. But, there is a $5 fee, per aircraft, and the registration is valid for three years. The registration process is also to ensure that anyone who will be flying a drone is aware of the rules and regulations. Some example rules include no flying over 400 feet, no drones over 55 pounds, no flying faster than 100mph, you may only fly in daylight or civil twilight, and you may not fly directly over people. This may sound like a pain, but if you want to fly your drone in the United States then this is the necessary process you must take.
Q: Are Drones Allowed in State Parks?
Now that you have your drone registered and ready to go, there are some other regulations that you must abide by. Take for example state parks and other public locations such as recreational areas, historical parks, and beaches. It is important for you to research whether or not these locations set forth any restrictions when it comes to drones. It truly depends on which state you are in and what their regulations are. For example, the California Department of Parks and Recreation states that drones are allowed in their state parks, state beaches, and state recreational areas.
However, some locations may have posted orders that prohibit them. Such reasons could include protecting a threatened species or a feeling of a potential threat to cultural or natural recourses. It is always best to be sure and check with your local district about the rules relating to drone-usage in specific areas. The penalty for flying a drone in a restricted zone can vary. Depending on the severity of your invasion, you can get away with a warning, the confiscation of your drone, or a fine between $400 and $2,000.
Q: Are There Countries Where Drones are Illegal?
Not only are there some countries where drones are illegal but there are actually quite a few of them. But, some have banned them altogether while others have very strict restrictions on them (but they can be used on certain occasions). Countries such as India, Nicaragua, Morocco, Iran, Iraq, Zambia, North Korea, and Cuba have completely banned them. Why so? Well, in the case of India, their government was concerned that drones could be used in coordination with a terrorist attack. Also, the concern of them being used to spy on government installations. To be honest, these are legitimate concerns and one can’t really blame them for banning them.
Countries such as Slovakia, Spain, Demark, and Croatia have not banned them, but there are strict regulations and gaining access to use them is such a hassle that it may not be worth it to you.
Q: What is the Difference Between Using a Smartphone or Remote Controller for Live Feed?
This was touched on a bit earlier but it is worth another look as DJI actually has this in their FAQ section of their webpage. As mentioned earlier, some designers will include live feed on their controller via transmission technology, while others require you to use an external application. But, what about those that offer both, which is feasible with those that allow live feed via their system? What is the difference if you were to choose one over the other?
As DJI points out with their Mavic Pro, the difference is truly night and day. While an application via Wi-Fi on your smartphone will have an extremely limited range, utilizing it with the remote controller with transmission technology will allow you to utilize the full range (which is 4.3 miles for the Mavic Pro). In short, if the technology is there, use it.
Q: Where Can You Fly a Drone?
Whatever you do, do not be naïve when you first buy a drone. No, you will not be able to fly it wherever you please and if you go in with the mindsight that you will fly it wherever and whenever you want, you will not own one long. Some good examples of where you can use your drone are locations where there is little to no chance of injury or property damage. For example, in your backyard, at your local park (if there are no restrictions), etc. Two, and this is obvious, anywhere where regulations do not apply. An important thing to remember is that there are different guidelines for drones that are used for recreation as opposed to commercial purposes.
Q: Do You Need Special Training Before Operating a Drone?
With all this talk about rules, regulations, and registration, you may be under the impression that you need a certificate or some sort of special training to operate a drone. Thankfully, this is not the case at all and anyone can control one. As such, it is up to you to take the utmost precaution when you are controlling the drone. For those who need some tips regarding safety, the FAA provides a few that will help you.
Firstly, they recommend you always keep sight of your drone and to never operate over 400 feet. At least, until you get the hand of the machine. Also, be sure that you are not under the influence of alcohol or drugs. This is common sense as everyone knows, your judgment is impaired when you are intoxicated with these substances. And, of course, respect other people’s privacy and do not fly in a manner that invades it.
The availability of drones to everyday people is quite the technological advancement. What was once only used by the military is now available to everyone and even at a decent price. Drones are special machines and everyone in their lifetime should operate one. Chances are you will be hooked and decide it’s time to invest in one of your own. Remember that if you want improved video quality, exceptional technology and the best of the best, you are going to pay for it. Though, the money you invest in a drone is well worth it as it may be the “coolest” device that you ever own.