Where Can I Buy A Drone ((BETTER))
Images, and the devices that capture them, are my focus. I've covered cameras at PCMag for the past 10 years, which has given me a front row seat for the DSLR to mirrorless transition, the smartphone camera revolution, and the mainstream adoption of drones for aerial imaging. You can find me on Instagram @jamespfisher.
where can i buy a drone
And, now the bad news: You get what you pay for. If you want an aerial video platform that can capture stunning footage, you need to spend some cash, anywhere from a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. Because drones are such pricey propositions, it pays to do your research before buying one.
The DJI Mini 3 Pro is the most capable ultralight drone on the market. Its 249g takeoff weight (with a 34-minute battery) means you can get around FAA registration, though creators who don't mind forms and fees can add in an extended life battery to push flights beyond 45 minutes. Three-way obstacle sensors, automated flight modes, and 4K60 video round out the feature set. We especially like the APAS function, an autopilot that can navigate through complex spaces all by itself, for low-to-the-ground use.
The DJI Air 2S has a camera with an oversized Type 1 (also called 1-inch) sensor for much better 20MP stills than you can get from the DJI Mini series drones. It supports 5.4K30 and 4K60 video with HDR, flat, or standard profiles, plus it can snap photos in Raw or JPG format. DJI's strong safety features are here too, including GPS location, obstacle sensors, ADS-B to warn you of nearby manned aircraft, and a 30-minute battery.
The Air 2S is a compelling drone for stills-first creators. The Type 1 sensor may lag behind Quad Bayer chips in pixel count, but captures a wider dynamic range, so photogs have more leeway for edits to exposure. Video pros should appreciate the 5.4K resolution and choice of three profiles too, but you may want to step up to a Mavic 3 for more serious cinema work. Keep in mind that you must register this drone with the FAA.
The DJI Mavic 3 sports the best drone camera of any foldable model. A big Four Thirds format sensor with a Hasselblad color profile delivers excellent footage and stills straight-out-of-camera. All-around obstacle sensors allow the drone to fly around obstructions, an integrated GPS keeps it steady in the air, and forty-plus-minute flying times make for safer flights. Dedicated pros can step up to the Cine version ($4,999), which adds 1TB SSD storage and ProRes 422 video. If you want to spend less, the Classic edition drops the telephoto camera and cuts the cost to $1,599.
The Mavic 3 is ideal for cinematographers, indie filmmakers, vloggers, and other creative professionals. The drone is heavy enough to require FAA registration and you need an operator's license to use it for paid work, but it's still small enough to carry in a shoulder bag. If you work on location or travel to beautiful places, the Mavic 3 is a worthwhile splurge, and the Cine version is available for creators with ProRes workflows.
Creators who want a dual-aspect drone for TikTok and YouTube should consider this drone. It conveniently streams live video straight to a smartphone app, is capable for stills, and remains stable even when you fly it near the 400-foot altitude limit. If you don't want to spend quite so much ($560 with a remote), the Mini 2 is the best alternative. On the other hand, if you can spend more, the Mini 3 Pro adds useful obstacle avoidance sensors.
The Autel Evo Lite+ uses a Type 1 sensor camera for picture quality that's competitive with the DJI Air 2S, with the additional benefit of a variable aperture to cut incoming light without the need for ND filters. The folding drone can fly for around 40 minutes on a full battery and supports three-way obstacle sensors to prevent midair accidents.
The Autel Evo Lite+ is a capable camera drone for creators who don't want to support DJI. Its 6K camera is capable and, although we wish we could fine-tune the video profile, a flat look is available if you want to edit for color. Its price is a knock against it, though, considering the Air 2S costs around $1,000, but you might find the Lite+ to be worth it for extended flight times and to sidestep DJI's sometimes restrictive Fly Safe(Opens in a new window) geofence.
The Evo Nano+ is a good drone for pilots who want a quadcopter they can take up in the air without baked-in geofencing restrictions, like the DJI FlySafe system that some see as restrictive. The 249g takeoff weight allows you to use it a bit more freely than heavier drones and the picture quality is very good, with aggressive sharpening being the real knock. The Nano+ is a good drone for beginner and advanced pilots alike.
The DJI Avata is an FPV drone, one in which you see the camera view through a set of VR goggles, not on a smartphone screen. A nose-mounted camera, motion-sensitive remote, and 30mph Sport mode are there for thrill seekers. Meanwhile, built-in prop guards keep it flying after minor bumps and downward-facing sensors make low-to-the-ground flights possible. You can slow down and take your time too, if you like, for Cinewhoop-style long takes to channel your inner Scorsese and Welles.
The Avata is a drone for those who want fast-paced, close-to-the-ground, and elaborately choreographed footage. Take the Avata up high and you might see some wobble in the camera that you don't get with cinema drones, but you can also bank and turn to convey a sense of motion. We like that it's easy enough for anyone to pick up and fly, though pros can swap a dual-stick remote for fully manual flight at 60mph. On the other hand, we're a bit put off by just how easy it is to crash; make sure you have a safe place to fly it.
This is the one drone on the list that's safe enough for tweens and teens to fly. The Tello doesn't have much power and its 720p camera isn't one you'd ever use for a vlog. But its low cost is appealing to parents shopping for a learning toy, even if some kids might just prefer flying around to programming commands.
You don't need to register some mass-market drones (those that are lighter than 250g), but you still need to take the Trust test. The DJI Mini family is exempt, as is the Autel Nano series. Entry-level models omit obstacle avoidance (included in the Autel Nano and upmarket DJI Mini 3 Pro), but still include GPS stabilization, automated return-to-home, and automatic takeoff and landing. They're safe drones to fly.
Almost all of the models here have some safety features. For instance, if your control signal is interrupted or if the battery gets down too low (most drones can only fly for around a half-hour between charges), most of these drones will start to head back to the takeoff point and land.
Several products on the market sell as drones but don't quite fit that description. Remote-controlled aircraft have been around for ages. But with the recent surge in popularity, quadcopters that would simply be sold as RC products are now being tagged as drones. These don't include GPS stabilization, return-to-home functionality, and other automated flight modes that make a drone a drone.
Small drones aren't only for racing, either. Some people use tiny, homemade Cinewhoop drones for long, one-take video tours(Opens in a new window). GoPro sells an ultralight version of its flagship action cam, called the Hero10 Bones, for DIY drone builders who want the best video quality for these types of shots.
DJI models currently dominate our top picks and there's a good reason for that. The company is simply a few steps ahead of its competition right now and offers products at a lot of price levels. It made a huge splash with its iconic Phantom series, and its folding Mini and Air lines (formerly called Mavic) are the best small drones we've tested.
Some pilots are sour on DJI, though. Its FlySafe geofencing system adds an authorization requirement to areas with flight restrictions. Professional operators who are allowed to fly may find the process of getting up in the air to be too cumbersome with a DJI drone.
There are a few other brands you can explore. The Autel Robotics Evo drone family is a good alternative. Autel is also a Chinese firm, but the US government hasn't singled it out in the same manner as DJI. Its Evo Nano series competes with DJI Mini drones, and larger Evo Lite drones match up with DJI Air models in size and capabilities. You pay a bit more for Autel on average and its drones aren't quite as finely polished, but the company's models have proven capable in testing.
France-based Parrot offers the Anafi, another good folding drone; it's a solid option for consumers wary of buying tech from Chinese firms. Unfortunately, it's difficult to find it in stock. Skydio is another company to consider. The company runs out of California and its drones are made for adventurers who want automatic tracking. They help you get aerials without a camera operator but aren't as suitable for cinematography as DJI's drones.
For a long time, the DJI Phantom series was about as small as you could go if you wanted to get a full-featured drone that maintains stability in the air and includes strong safety features. That's no longer the case. Hikers and travel photographers appreciate a small, light kit, and they can now get a drone that fits into a backpack.
Of course, not every small drone is a top flyer. Some are barely capable of getting off the ground and require you to use your smartphone as a remote control, which makes for a sloppy flying experience. Make sure you get one with a real remote.
Ultimately, you can't go wrong with any of the models we list here. For the latest field-tested drone reviews, check out our drone coverage. And, if you just bought a quadcopter and are looking to get started, read our guide on how to fly a drone. 041b061a72