Not so long ago, drones with decent cameras were not only expensive but there were also very few of them. Whilst this probably made it easier to choose it put decent camera drones out of reach for most consumers.
Fast forward to today and there is now a wide range of high quality camera drones for both the hobbyist photographer as well as the professional. Camera drones offer you the opportunity see locations and angles that you couldn't normally reach, no matter how good your camera skills are.
As well as this, drones in general have become easier to fly, have a huge amount of built in functionality for videos and photos and are quite portable, all of which have made camera drones extremely popular.
With that in mind, this article aims to highlight what to look out for and a handful of drones targeted towards those looking to get into drone photography.
The first question to ask yourself is what exactly are you trying to accomplish? Are you looking to take some shots of the family, wildlife or take your camera drone on your next holiday? Or are you looking to use it professionally for inspections or wedding shoots?
If you're looking to use your camera drone professionally then flight time and camera quality are likely to be much more important to you than portability. If you're looking to travel with your drone, then of course portability is going to be much more important which in turn is likely to have an impact on flight time.
As well as the camera, there are a number of other features you need to take into account when choosing your drone. Lets take a look at some of those now and why they are important.
Obstacle avoidance With your attention often on getting the best shot, you might want to consider camera drones that also come with built in obstacle avoidance. Obstacle avoidance usually comes at a premium but it might save you in the long run - you'd be amazed how quickly your drone can get into trouble with just a few taps on the joystick!
Gimbal This is what keeps the camera steady when you're recording video or taking a photo. It's probably one of the most important parts of a decent camera drone. That is, you could have an amazing 20mp camera, capable of HD video but without a gimbal you'll struggle to capture smooth video and quality will suffer.
Recent improvements has meant there is a much better offering of reasonably sized drones with a decent flight time. 20mins + has become the norm for good camera drones which is more than enough time to get your shots. Less than this and you'll probably find yourself a little rushed looking for a landing spot all the time.
If you're planning lots of travelling, you'll probably want to consider a camera drone that is smaller in size and perhaps folds away. This almost always means you'll be sacrificing something else such as flight time or camera quality. This is why it's so important to ask yourself what you're trying to accomplish before you buy.
Camera sensor and lenses
If you're a professional photographer, you'll almost certainly have to accept a smaller sensor size than you're average camera. But that's not to say there aren't some very high quality cameras on the drones we're listing here. .
Now, Lets look at the options.
If you're budget can stretch, you really can't go wrong with the Mavic 2 pro. With 31minutes of flight time, it's one of the longest flying drones out there which is incredibly helpful when you don't have to rush lining up the perfect shots.
It comes with an integrated Hasselblad camera with a 1-inch CMOS sensor and adjustable aperture. It is stabilised by an incredibly impressive precise 3-axis gimbal which provides some of the most stable recordings you can get with a drone.
Its larger than average sensor gives a much better resolution and works extremely well even in low light. Aperture control gives advanced users the ability to tinker with exactly how much light enters the camera but most will probably be wise to stick to the automatic mode.
The mavic 2 pro comes only comes with 8GB internal storage, so if you're planning to do some serious recording in 4K UHD at 30fps, then you'll need to get a much larger MicroSD to go with your shiny new drone.
The only real downside to the Mavic 2 pro camera is that doesn't support zoom. Fortunately this is where the Mavic 2 Zoom comes in, which boasts a 2x optical zoom and a 2x digital zoom, so if that's particularly important to you then the Mavic 2 Zoom is the drone for you.
The DJI inspire 2 is a beast of a drone. Weighing in at 3440g it's certainly the biggest and heaviest drone on this list and that doesn't even include the camera. The inspire 2 really is one for the professionals. With a flight time of 28minutes, max speed of 94kph and forward and upward obstacle avoidance to boot. With it's packed out functionality, it's weight and size is hardly a surprise.
As well as it's impressive obstacle avoidance, it has a number of additional safety features, such as recording its home co-ordinates at takeoff to ensure a very precise return to home, should there be any loss of signal of low power issues. Certainly the kind of peace of mind you need if you're spending around $4000 on your drone.
What really makes the Inspire 2 a cut above the rest is that you can mount 2 different cameras (at this time of writing). Both of which will comfortably record 4k video @ 60fps as well as up to 24 megapixel stills. This really is a camera truly capable of creating stunning videography. Worth checking out the full camera specs here: https://www.dji.com/uk/inspire-2
This short summary doesn't really touch the surface in terms of the functionality of the inspire 2 but it's certainly one to check out if your looking for a serious piece of kit for commercial purposes.
In our opinion the Parrot Anafi offers exceptional value for money, providing an all round solution for those looking to enjoy flying drones whilst capturing some good quality photos and video.
Perhaps the most exciting thing about the Parrot Anafi is that it's so compact. It folds down to the size of a large pencil case and weighs just 320grams. And not only is it compact, it's incredibly quiet too which makes it a fantastic contender for someone looking to travel and capture some holiday snaps. And don't assume it's portability and quite flight makes this a fragile drone. The Parrot Anafi can also cope with up to 50 KM/H winds.
In terms of the camera, the Parrot Anafi comes with a Sony 1/2.4-inch CMOS sensor capable of 21 megapixel still shots and can shoot 4K UHD video at up to 30fps. With a smaller sensor, this drone doesn't quite perform as well as something like the Mavic 2 Pro and is certainly aimed at the more casual photographer but that is absolutely reflected in the price.
If you're looking for a powerful yet easy to use drone, packed with quality features then this is a great option, especially if you're a traveller. The only thing it doesn't come with is obstacle avoidance but if you take it steady, this shouldn't be a problem.
Similar to the Parrot Anafi, the DJI spark is a pretty compact drone too. It isn't foldable like the Anafi but it weighs just 300g and measures 14.3cm x 14.3cm x 5.5cm. Whilst it's small, it still packs a punch, with a flight speed of up to 31mph and a flight time of around 16minutes. It also comes with front obstacle avoidance which is a nice bonus for a drone in this price range.
In terms of the camera, the Spark comes with 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor capable of shooting 12MP photos and 1080p video. It also has a 2 axis gimbal for super smooth footage. It's definitely targeted towards a hobbyist photographer but still takes great shots. Interstingly, the spark also offers 'gesture controls' which means you can have it take selfie photos by signally your hand in the right way to the Spark camera!