The 9 best drones for aerial photography

Looking for the best drones money can buy? We’ve got you covered. Are you on a budget? Not even a problem. Nowadays, drones can take stunning photos and videos, and you don’t really need to break the bank — although you definitely can if you’re looking for the very best of drone photography.

 Carmine Chiriacò, runner-up of the Urban section at the 2020  Drone Awards.

Drones have evolved greatly in recent years. It’s not just longer and better batteries and maneuverability, but the picture quality and image stabilization have also made massive strides. It used to be that only professional equipment could snap quality photos, but that’s not the case anymore. Even a tiny drone you can fit in your pocket can shoot 4K videos with ease. Aerial photography and filming have never been as accessible.

We’ve scoured the net and reviewed some of the best drones for photos and videos out there. The list is far from exhaustive (it’s almost like every week there’s a new hot drone on the market), but we think there’s something here for all types of drone enthusiasts — hobbyists and professionals alike.

1. Our pick for Best Drone Overall (price/quality): DJI Mavic Air 2

It’s honestly hard to argue against DJI being the best drone company overall — and they’re not even paying us for this (our DMs are open, DJI). But when you look at what you get for your money, the build quality, and the software that you get with their drones, it’s really hard to find anything better.

You’ll find several DJI drones in our list, but the one that offers the most for the price is the DJI Mavic Air 2. With a 48MP Camera, 4K Video and 8K Hyperlapse, the Mavic Air 2 is truly a spectacular drone. You get a remote controller that connects to your phone (as with all DJI drones), and it’s very easy to get started with it, even if you have no previous experience.

The quality of the drone, both in terms of flight and the photos it takes is spectacular. We couldn’t find any fault with it and were thrilled by the performance it offered. At around $700, it’s not cheap, but it doesn’t break the bank. It’s a perfect drone for beginners looking to get a simple and reliable drone, as well as more experienced users who want stellar performance.

2.Best Cheap Drone: DJI Mini 2

If you’re really new to using drones, probably you won’t want to spend a fortune and this is where DJI Mini 2 comes in handy. It is a lot cheaper compared to other drones, but this does not necessarily mean you will be losing on the quality side. Actually, this drone does a lot of the things that other more expensive types can do, and it does so at a fraction of the cost.

It has a range of up to 10km, which is really not bad, it also includes collision avoidance and a 4K camera. With its 31 minutes of battery life, which is similar to many more expensive examples out there, you’ll have plenty of time for your outdoor art projects.

My favorite part about this drone, besides the price, is the weight — which is strategically chosen at only 249g. This does not only mean that you can easily carry it in your backpack but because it is under 250 grams, it also means that it does not require registration for personal use (and you can use it straight from the box). The flight time is around 30 minutes, but you can get a “Fly more” package.

3. The best *very* cheap drone: Ryze Tello

Let’s be honest, if you just want a drone that flies in the sky and takes some photos, you’ll likely be hesitant to spend a few hundred dollars. I feel you! That’s perfectly reasonable, and this is why we recommend the Ryze Tello to get started with.

At a mere $99, this is a true bargain — and with a respectable 5MP Camera and HD720, you get the real drone feel for the cost of a fancy dinner. Mind you, the quality isn’t the same as the other drones on this list and there’s a reason why others cost more, but if you want a low-risk entrance to the world of drones, this is the perfect option.

The only major shortcoming to be aware of is the flight time. At only 13 minutes, it *will* feel insufficient. The good news is that if it does, and you want a drone that can do more, you’ll already have some experience.

5.Best Drone for Traveling: The Ultra-compact Parrot ANAFI

Drones are generally small, but when it comes to traveling (or if you just don’t have a lot of space to work with), having an ultra-compact drone can make a difference — and when it comes to ultra-compact (and overall quality), The Parrot ANAFI takes the prize.

Travelling also means lightweight and small equipment that could fit in a backpack. The Parrot ANAFI drone is ideal for traveling as it is not only lightweight but it also folds, taking up less space compared to other drones measuring only 2.5 by 2.6 by 9.6 inches (HWD) when folded and weighing only 11.3 ounces. Its USB-C smart battery lasts for a 25 minute flight time and can be charged from a laptop or power bank. With 4K video and HDR 3x digital zoom lens, you won’t be skimming on quality just for the sake of portability.

Even though this drone might look a bit flimsy at the beginning, it’s surprisingly durable and sturdy, which makes it a great companion for your next adventure. Seriously, it folds so neatly.

6. Best Waterproof Drone: Powervision PowerEgg X

With very few exceptions, all drones are vulnerable to water. Even a few drops can cause damage, and a big splash or a heavy rain should always be avoided — but not with the Powervision PowerEgg X. This incredibly versatile drone can be used in all kinds of weather, be it rainy or windy, and even land on water without losing on the quality side. How amazing is that? As if being waterproof and 4K wasn’t enough, this drone can also be used as an autonomous personal AI camera, or a handheld 3-axis AI camera.

A very nice feature as well is the Patented SyncVoice technology which is able to pick up high-fidelity sound using the mobile phone’s microphone or you can even attach a wireless microphone and it automatically synchronizes the audio with the footage. Do I need to say more?

Other interesting features that need mentioning, the 4K camera has a resolution of 12MP and 60fps and the drone can reach a speed of up to 65kph / 40mph, with its battery lasting for about 30 minutes in dry mode.

7. Best Professional Photography Drone: DJI Mavic 2 Pro

If you’re looking for a professional-level drone and you’ve got the money to splurge, this is the right one for you. It just does everything. The drone is a joy to fly and very easy to maneuver for beginners and pros alike. In addition, it’s sturdy but surprisingly foldable, which also makes it a good companion for traveling. Plus, it’s expensive, but it’s not that expensive — if you catch a good discount, you can get it for around $1,500.

Its battery will last up to 31 minutes of flight time, it reaches a maximum speed of 44 mph, and it has a takeoff weight of 907g which could be incredibly useful, as you can attach a few things to it. I wouldn’t recommend using it to carry packages, but you can if you truly want to.

When it comes to the quality of the images, the drone is equipped with a 3-axis gimbal for steady shots, and with its 20MP one-inch sensor, its photos are sharp and crisp — to add, even more, it can shoot raw images and 4K video at 30fps. When it comes to storage, this model has 8GB internal storage and supports SD cards up to 128 GB, which is enough space for a lot of high-quality images.

What makes this drone amazing, besides the features already mentioned, is that it offers possibly the most advanced flight and camera tech currently available, which means that it is great for pro-grade images but, if you can afford the price, you shouldn’t have any problems as a beginner as well.

8. Best Drone for zooming: DJI Mavic 2 Zoom

If you are particularly interested in zooming and capturing detailed, ground-level images, the best drone for you is probably the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom which allows you to experience a very dynamic perspective. It is powered by a 1/2.3-inch 12MP sensor with up to 4x zoom which also includes a 2x optical zoom (24–48 mm). This means that you can capture close-up shots of people or animals, while still maintaining the safe and legal distance of 50m.

The battery lasts for up to 31 minutes of flight time, which is pretty standard I would say, meaning that just for this particular feature you won’t be spending extra battery life. It also has a 44 mph maximum speed which is great for using outdoors in nature, and a 905G takeoff weight which might come in handy depending on the extra equipment that you would like to use.

Among the features, it’s worth mentioning the omnidirectional obstacle sensing, the adjustable aperture which offers a bit more flexibility, and the low-noise design which may come in handy if you want to photograph wild animals. I also like how stable it feels in the air — when you’re zooming in, any weird movement can wreak havoc on your images, but this almost never happens with the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom.

9. Best Drone for science: DJI Phantom 4 PRO

There’s probably no drone quite like the DJI Phantom 4 PRO. Where do I even start? The 20MP sensor i the onboard camera, redesigned to use a 1-inch Megapixel CMOS sensor? The five directions of obstacle sensing? The powerful video processing? You can do anything and everything with the DJI Phantom 4 PRO.

The only reason why we haven’t listed this as the best professional drone is its price tag — just over $2,000. It’s not that it’s not worth it, it really is; but if you’re just looking at photography, I’m not sure it’s worth the extra $500 compared to the DJI Mavic 2 Pro. Both are superb drones, but the Phantom 4 goes the extra mile. Do you really need that? Well, that’s up for you to decide.

But the Phatnom 4 really shines when it comes to science. Are things like photogrammetry or Lidar your thing? Then this is the drone you may want to look at. You can replace its camera with a thermal sensor or a lidar one and be on your way for what, just a few years ago, would have probably cost you a few good tens of thousands.

The field of aerial photography (and drones in general) is progressing rapidly. We’ll do our best to keep this list updated. If you find any drone we may have missed or you’d like to see added to the list, send us a shout out!

Disclaimer: Purchasing these products may earn ZME Science a commission. This helps support our team at no additional cost to you. We will never advertise products if we don’t think they’re good. If something is here, it’s because we like it — period.

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