After spending hours, researching the best drones with a camera for aerial videographers and photographers, DJI Drones Mavic 2 Pro is the best drone for photography & videography, thanks to its most sophisticated high-end camera, self-determining obstacle dodging or prevention feature, flexibility, portability, and long battery life. DJI Mavic Spark is our best cheap drone pick.
Best drones with a camera: DJI Mavic 2 Pro
The Mavic 2 Pro features a Hasselblad-branded drone camera (the Swedish camera company), which captures color-rich 4K videos that looks more vibrant and clear with its HDR-equipped camera, 20-megapixel photographs looking far better than those of its competitors.
Its power to act and perform to its best capability and intelligence of sensing obstacles and avoiding them coming from any direction, firmly holding its position during gentle winds and allowing you to focus on your cinematography instead of getting concerned about keeping the drone steady.
Flying up to 44.7mph (72kph) with a battery running time of up to 31 minutes on a single charge, delivering 8 km 1080p Video Transmission, 2x Optical Zoom Camera, and smart-flight modes like,
ActiveTrack, which gives direction to your drone for a free follow and keeps rolling your film, at the same time, avoiding all obstacles in the way.
A 31-minute of strong battery life means you do not have to land for a battery exchange like you would have to do with other drones. It’s 8.4 by 3.6 by 3.3 inches folded and just 900 grams in weight, compatible with the DJI Goggles FPV headset, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro drone is our top pick in this category. CNET also reviewed this model.
Second-best: DJI Mavic Air
DJI Mavic Air is our second-best pick in the best drones with a camera category. Disbursing this price gets you the drone, a battery, the proprietary charger, a redesigned remote controller, a small carrying case, four propeller guards, and two full sets of propellers.
Mavic Air is the most compact and portable drone to house a 3-axis mechanical Gimbal that helps create steadier shots. It comes with horizontal, vertical, and 180° panoramas.
Performance, Camera & Battery
With 4K 30 fps, Mavic Air shoots and records a video at 100 Mbps capturing every second with its Ultra-HD quality. Coming with a microSD card slot with 8GB storage so you can save videos and photos in your aircraft itself. Works well with DJI Go 4 application on your android and iOS smartphones.
Battery time of up to 21 minutes which we feel is a little less for a drone of this price range. Mavic Air is also limited to 4 km/2.5 miles using the controller. With 430g in weight, Mavic Air can fit into your small backpack or your large pockets.
A 12-megapixel CMOS sensor and an f/2.8 lens help to shoot the best-quality videos and photos. With QuickShot and ActiveTrack Modes on.
Best cheap drone: DJI Spark
The DJI Spark is our budget pick in this category. For most people, buying this drone model is affordable and satisfactory in terms of performance. The DJI Spark is less expensive for aspiring drone videographers and photographers for personal use and also for social media sharing.
This entry-level drone comes with the great feature of preventing itself from any possible collision.
A few drawbacks we came across, DJI Mavic Spark has shorter battery life and also the range, plus it can’t take or capture 4K video, just 1080p. It weighs lesser, almost half compared to other expensive models.
But it does include impressive video drone features like image and flight stabilization with an included controller along with intelligent smart-flight control option modes like ActiveTrack, gesture control, QuickShot, and TapFly.
With a satisfactory image quality camera (12MP) and a mechanical gimbal with a powerful lens (1/2.3″ Sensor), DJI spark is a favorite for most people as it comes under their budget. In Wirecutter tests, DJI spark gave positive results.
How we picked
Best pick: DJI Mavic 2 Pro
Second-best drone review: DJI Mavic Air
Best cheap drone: DJI Maic Spark
Fly carefully: Some Tips
Drone laws: Drone Regulations in the United States of America
How we picked
We read a lot of professional reviews, we did analysis and study plus we also spoke to the professional videographers and photographer experts who are handling these drones on a day-to-day basis.
Instead of using high-end cameras, they all have shifted to using drones for their professional work, like covering big marriage events functions or rallies, marathons, advertising shoots, etc. We have listed down some criteria while looking for drones test;
A high-quality camera:
Basically, the more you pay for photography and videography specialized drones, the better quality camera you will get. At the same time, for our budget pick drones, since they come at a much cheaper rate, we are also ready to acknowledge they come with less powerful specifications. But for our top pick, we only included models that can shoot at-least 12-megapixel photos and 4K video.
Long battery life:
Longer-lasting batteries usually are more in weight and large. So the makers have to balance the battery life with the drone size. Smaller flight time means lesser shots, lesser videos, and low flexibility. We recommend drone batteries that at least run for 20 minutes, subsequently spending more time flying in the field.
The foldable arms make drones more compact and convenient to carry also since they are lightweight and could be carried in a small backpack or sometimes even in your large cargo pants, plus they are portable enough to be used as an everyday tool, so we strongly recommend to buy a smaller price drone, to begin with, later you can upgrade it whenever you feel more confident in piloting your drone.
Long flight range:
Drone laws and rules say you must forever keep a drone inside your line of sight. The drone’s intelligence to fly a particularly long distance without losing contact with a controller can be a useful tool.
Flying quadcopter models shaped like X is pretty easy to operate and fly. The quadcopter body architecture helps in capturing a stable video and photo as they can hold their position in the air quite firmly.
Preventive crash sensors:
Some drone models can sense barriers coming in any direction and adapt their flight path to dodge a possible crash or accident. Features like this, help you to have better control as they automatically sense any obstacles approaching from the front, back, and bottom directions.
It maintains the steady balance of your camera attached to a drone with accelerometers, even when you’re flying in windy conditions.
The drone should have a safe return-home feature that brings your aircraft back to where it started, the point where you begin, all automatically. Even if the drone loses contact with the controller, upon pressing a button it should have the ability to come back to the launch point.
Most upgraded budgeted drones come with cinematic autonomous flight modes, where, upon pressing a button, you can instruct a drone to follow you down a mountain or fly in a circle, or chase you while you snowboard on your adventure holiday trips.
DJI Mavic 2 Pro
DJI Mavic 2 Pro is the best drone for aerial videographers and photographers. It can sense any bump or barrier that may be approaching from any direction. Very easy to fly, and it shoots sharp videos and photos. Its three-axis gimbal supports powerful image balance and stabilization.
With 31-minute battery life, means you will end up landing less often, compared to other less battery life drones. Mavic 2 Pro’s capability to return to its launch point autonomously lets pilots get more cinematic-looking shots.
Mavic 2 Pro uses sensors to encounter all barriers up to 65 feet away nearing its front, back, bottom, and top or even side directions. Obstacles sensing takes away your stress from flying. You can also switch off the obstacle sensor and dodging feature if you feel the need to fly close to a barrier.
During one of the tests, we did, in Dhulagarh palace in Jaipur for a marriage that was being covered with a drone, this model stopped short when we tried to fly it at a tree. It also beeped loudly to warn us of any approaching obstacle which I think was great.
Also to note, the Mavic 2 Pro’s sensors only work when you’re flying in a Tripod and ActiveTrack mode on.
The DJI Mavic 2 Pro Drone is the first drone in the Mavic line that comes with a camera that competes with DJI’s previously higher-end Phantom drones. The 20-megapixel, 4K camera is branded by Hasselblad, a Swedish company. DJI and Hasselblad, together come with a drone that has a 1-inch CMOS sensor that can be used in lower light conditions because it runs on an ISO of 12,800.
The Mavic 2 Pro shoots 4K video at up to 30 frames per second (which is weaker than Phantom 4 Pro v2 which shoots 60 fps) with a 100 Mbps max bitrates, the processing speed at which the camera is recording. The aperture can be set anywhere between f/2.8 and f/11. At up to 31 minutes, the Mavic 2 Pro’s battery life is remarkable.
Phantom 4 Pro also has 30 minutes of flight time. The more portable Mavic Air and Spark have 21 and 16 minutes of flight time, respectively.
With its pre-programmed flight modes, this model is a treat for all Cinematographers and photographers. Its ActiveTrack mode directs the drone to follow itself, and QuickShots mode can autonomously film in cinematic ways like circling or zooming away from yourself.
It’s TriPod mode that limits the drone’s speed to 3mph along with preventing it from jerky movements for clear shots. All these features combined make Mavic Air 2 Pro a great drone and famous among industry experts.
Although the Mavic 2 Pro’s wireless controller has a slot to hold a Smartphone it does not have a secondary LCD like Phantom drones. Use DJI Go 4 application for drone camera settings, GPS maps, and smart flight modes. It also displays a 1080p live feed from the camera, along with a built-in video editing tool.
You can connect your Smartphone to the controller via USB Type-C, Micro-USB, or lightning cable. You can also use the DJI app to control everything about the drone, but you would still need to use the controller to fly it.
The Mavic 2 Pro may not be best for people with older Smartphones, as it requires iOS 9.0 or later or Android 5.0 or later. It also suits best phones and not tablets since its controller is very compact.
DJI Mavic Air
DJI Mavic Air takes just 8 seconds to sync 25 photos, creating crystal-clear 32 MP Sphere panoramas. This model shoots a video at an unbelievable 4K 30 FPS, recording at 100 Mbps catching every second with its Ultra-HD quality.
The Mavic Air is also the first DJI drone to introduce USB-C for content transfer. Unfortunately, this USB port can’t be used to charge the drone. You’ll have to carry around the proprietary charger.
It also comes with a microSD card slot with 8GB storage internal storage that helps you to save videos and photographs directly to the aircraft and also export files through its USB 3.0. So, if you miss bringing a card, you can carry on shooting with just a single tap.
Setting up the Mavic Air isn’t difficult if you’ve used a DJI drone before. If you haven’t, you will have to install the DJI Go 4 app on your android or iOS phone. Just follow the steps on the screen to connect to the drone, either straight via Wi-Fi or by linking to the controller.
The thrill of Mavic Air batteries offers a flight time of up to 21 minutes with a max speed of 68.4 kph with enhanced Wi-Fi video transmission, providing a 720p live view from up to 4 km away.
It, for sure adds to your adventuring needs. You can also pair this Mavic Air model with the DJI Goggles for FPV flight, though a USB cable is required to connect. Also, 21 minutes of battery life is too less for the drone which is as expensive as this one, we feel.
DJI Mavic Air is loud compared to the much more expensive Mavic Pro Platinum with low-noise propellers. Its seven-camera vision system and three-direction environmental sense any possible crash avoid quite effectively. The transmission range for the Mavic Air is also limited to 4 km/2.5 miles using the controller.
Although that is double compared to DJI Spark’s 2 km/1.25 miles range, considerably shorter than the 7 km or 4.3 miles compared to DJI Pro. The Mavic Air depends entirely on Wi-Fi rather than also using radio frequency (RF) for its drone-to-controller connection.
One of the best features I like, the SmartCapture that proves best for sharing on social media, is the additional QuickShot modes – named Asteroid and Boomerang. Like the earlier QuickShot options applicable on both the Pro and Spark, Asteroid and Boomerang have preset flight paths that catch short videos with a subject as the focus and work with just a few taps on the app.
Weighing 430g, it has the ability to slip into a backpack or even your cargo pants’ large pockets. Recording 1080p 120 fps slow-motion video, it is capable of capturing all your high epic-speed adventure moments.
Its new HDR algorithm, helps you to acquire the right exposure settings smartly, as per lighting conditions. Its foldable arms are taking portability to a whole new level.
The Mavic Air’s integrated camera picks up a 1/2.3”, 12-megapixel CMOS sensor and an f/2.8 lens with a 35-mm equivalent focal length of 24 mm to shoot best-quality videos and photos.
It’s an ultra-portable drone, with a 3D foldable design that also comes with a foldable remote controller. It holds your Smartphone most flexibly. Very easy to use and fun to fly and its ActiveTrack can sense up to 16 selectable objects together, at the same time, allowing you to pick the right tracking subject. ActiveTrack follows targets even when they’re jumping, running, or cycling.
Mavic Air’s smart capture feature offers a fun, simple, and spontaneous way of controlling and launching the drone with hands. It also has a TapFly feature that works in forward, backward, free, and coordinate modes and helps you to focus on just your shot. It lets you fly wherever you tap on your mobile device screen.
DJI Mavic Spark
DJI Spark is the most popular, reasonable, and low-priced in this ideal beginner drone category. Though the absence of 4K recording, advanced Artificial Intelligence, and extended battery time and range (All available in Mavic 2 Pro), makes Spark a less overall drone feature compared to other high-end expensive models.
DJI Mavic Spark can take off, do landing and return to its launch point with just the press of a button. It holds its position in the air with the help of an in-built smart enough positioning system. Beginners can control the Spark drone from their smartphones and start taking photos and shooting videos at the same time also can learn how to pilot a drone before they go to the more advanced expensive versions of drones.
Offering up to 31 miles per hour and 16 minutes of battery time, not suited for professional videographers and photographers as it has specifications exactly half of what other advanced drones have. This is a beginner drone with just a 12-megapixel camera that can record 1080p video that’s less than the 4K capacity of the Mavic 2 Pro.
DJI spark is unable to produce high-quality professional videos but is good enough to create quality videos that could be posted on social media platforms. The camera is seated at a 2-Axis gimbal (compared to the 3-Axis of Mavic Pro) but its mobility, flexibility, and sharpness contribute to the overall performance of DJI Spark.
DJI Mavic Spark’s autonomous features and smart fly modes help learners gain more confidence flying the drone as it can prevent any barriers or obstacles, hold its position firmly in the air and return to its launch point or home safely.
It is equipped with smart flight modes like ActiveTrack (track and follow yourself/subject), QuickShot, which helps to film with a preset fly pattern, like ascending straight or circling, and TapFly which is tapping on a point on the screen where you want your drone to fly.
Gesture control, which means controlling all your drone’s actions with your hands. You can also use the DJI Go app or gestures to control the drone.
Drone Laws in the USA: Drone Regulations (Source – UAV coach)
According to the Federal aviation administration, flying a drone is legal in the US, but we recommend being aware of and compliant with the drone regulations listed below before doing so. To know more about drone laws and regulations in the US, read here.
Based on our research and interpretation of the laws, here are the most important rules to know for flying a drone. Registration is required for all but the nano category which is less than or equal to .55 pounds. Register your drone.
Recreational drone flight regulations:
- Must not fly higher than 400ft above ground level
- Keep the aircraft in eyesight at all times
- Must not fly over unprotected people or moving vehicles
- Stay 25ft away from individuals or vulnerable property
- Must not photograph or conduct surveillance on individuals who have an expectation of privacy without their permission
- Must not fly in adverse weather conditions that could affect visibility (wind, fog, etc.)
- No drugs or alcohol can be involved
Before you start, you must know the drone flying guidelines. Read FAA Drone Regulations (Source: Newegg). Also, be careful about no-flying zones in the US. See the website and map showing no-fly zones.
Fly Carefully: Some tips
You must do everything to decrease the chances of any possible crash or something going wrong, especially when you fly your drone for the first time.
Reading the manual in detail is also very important to avoid getting yourself in trouble with these expensive drones. People tend to crash as they skip reading or following the steps mentioned in the manual. There are also some drone clubs in your area that you can join and talk to these members and take help with before you start your first flight.
You must avoid doing the below.
- NEVER fly under the influence of alcohol or drugs
- NEVER fly indoors
- NEVER fly near an airport, heliport, power lines, stadium, fireworks show, or a fire
- NEVER fly near The White House.