This Years Best Camera Drones for Aerial Photography

Start capturing amazing aerial imagery by first choosing the best value system to fulfill your needs

Drones with cameras and Camera Drones are easily the most popular type of drone. Most people purchase a copter with the intention of capturing amazing aerial imagery.

Aerial flying cameras have come along way and now have some very advanced features. More importantly they are fitted with high quality stabilized cameras capable of acquiring 4K videos and high resolution images.

There are a few configurations when looking for a camera drone. One is to buy a platform with a camera stabilizer known as a gimbal. Then attaching a 3rd party camera of your choice such as a DSLR or Mirrorless. These systems are usually intended for commercial use but with drones becoming more affordable a consumer can now easily get their hands on a pro system.

The other is a drone with an integrated camera attached. These are the most popular choice as the system comes turn key with everything ready to go. With camera technology becoming increasingly smaller yet still very capable, drones with cameras are hard to beat.

Like all segments there are many choices that come at various price points. Our camera drone guide will break down all the best systems available today. Also see our small portable mini drones with camera guide.

Consumer / ProSumer Camera Drones

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DJI MAVIC PRO
Editors Pick
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DJI Mavic Pro 

The DJI MAVIC Pro is a drone for the masses. It’s small compact size, feature set and price will make it a top choice for most anyone. The MAVIC holds our #1 position as it satisfies most all the functionality we look for in a drone. Powerful features such as: obstacle avoidance, long light times, extended range, stabilized 4K imagery and of course it’s ultra compact size. The only drawback is the MAVIC’s tiny image sensor introduces more noise and a slightly soft image. If you are looking for broadcast quality footage the MAVIC may not be for you. For everyone else we highly recommend this amazing camera drone.

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DJI PHANTOM 4 PRO
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DJI Phantom 4 PRO

The DJI Phantom series are DJI’s best selling drone and may be the worlds best seller as well. The latest Phantom 4 PRO finds a sweet spot between image quality and portability. Although not as portable as the MAVIC it still produces a superior video and image. The Phantom 4 PRO’s features set an industry standard and even exceed those found in it’s flagship sibling the Inspire 1. With built in obstacle avoidance, active tracking, and great 4K video quality. If video quality is your number one concern the Phantom 4 PRO will still be the best choice with value in mind. If you can sacrifice a little image quality the MAVIC has a similar feature found the phantom 4 at a fraction of the size, weight and for less money.

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dji inspire 1 pro
DJI INSPIRE 1 PRO
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DJI Inspire 1 PRO

The DJI Inspire 1 PRO is a great choice for serious filmmakers. The Inspire packs some serious punch for the money. Although the PRO model is priced higher than most turn-key drone kits, it’s still excellent value all things considered. Alternatives will require a much larger platform fitted with DSLR type cameras. Like all current DJI drones the Inspire 1 uses the DJI GoApp with HD Lightbridge technology. For users with stringent high production requirements the Inspire PRO RAW is also available. It’s size is larger than most main stream camera drones but still very portable. If you need pro quality imagery in a small size the Inspire 1 PRO will be a great fit.

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YUNEEC TYPHOON H
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Yuneec Typhoon H

The Yuneec Typhoon H is unique in that it has a 6 rotor propulsion system. The extra 2 rotors provide more lift and power but more importantly, redundancy. Traditionally on a quadcopter if any one of the motors, esc’s or propellers were to fail the drone would loose control and crash. With the Typhoon H loosing a motor or a broken prop will not be an issue. Another distinct advantage the H has over is rivals is the fact the camera has 360 degrees of rotation. This functionality is only found on the high priced DJI Inspire 1. When used in dual operator mode the Typhoon’s camera can be controlled independently. As a added option the typhoon can be flown using Yuneec’s Wizard Wand. Control of the Typhoon is achieved by simply pointing the wand to the desired destination and the H handles the reset. The only downside to the Typhoon H is it’s range is limited in comparison to DJI’s products and for Image quality the DJI Phantom still has a edge. The Typhoon offers excellent value and should be top on your list of drones to consider.

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gopro karma
GOPRO KARMA
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GoPro Karma Drone

The GoPro Karma, GoPro’s first and long anticipated drone is value focused. GoPro set-forth to really create a product that could function as not only a drone but a portable creative platform. Following GoPro’s legacy as a leading action camera manufacture, the Karma can be easily folded up for compact transport and outdoor adventure. One standout feature is the removable gimbal system. The GoPro Hero 5 camera and stabilizer can be quickly removed from the Karma and used to capture all your non aerial footage. Then re-inserted into the Karma for all your aerials. This is very appealing to adventure seekers who need to pack light. One kit does it all. The Karma may not be as refined or feature rich in comparison to it’s competitor the Phantom 4 or MAVIC, but it’s rugged all in one design and user simplicity will be very welcoming to many. If you are a outdoor adventure seeker the Karma is a great kit for the money.

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phantom 3 se
DJI PHANTOM 3 SE
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Phantom 3 SE

For those on a budget the Phantom 3 SE is a great choice. DJI’s way of re-purposing old stock but giving the end user a great system for the money. The SE version is alot like the the Phantom 3 pro but uses DJI wifi technology and does without the lightbridge system. Because of this the SE version comes with the basic phantom remote controller and not the upgraded one found on the ph3 pro / advanced and Ph4. Although range may be a little limited it’s still fitted with a 3 axis stabilized camera shooting 4K @ 30FPS and 12mp stills. Control range is reduced to 4km max which is still plenty far enough for most applications. Like other phantom 3 versions it also features vision positioning, 25min flight times and GPS functions to boot. If all you want is some nice pictures or are looking for a hobby grate unit this SE model phantom is a great buy.

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Professional / Commercial Drones with Cameras

dji inspire 2
DJI INSPIRE 2
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DJI Inspire 2

The DJI Inspire 2 has found a top spot in our professional category when paired to DJI’s powerful x5R camera. The Inspire 2 has many distinct features that set it apart from it’s predecessor the inspire 1. These powerful features make the inspire 2 a viable choice for professional applications. The Inspire 2 has enhanced safety features such as dual batteries, IMUs, compass and barometers. Additionally the I2 adds a obstacle avoidance system and front mount pilot FPV camera. The optional X5s camera produces amazing cinematic 5K footage normally only found on larger platforms costing far more. The Inspire 2 could very well become the new industry standard for professional filmmakers alike.

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DJI Matrice M600

DJI’s M600 holds a top position in our commercial category, not because it’s one of the best professional drones, but rather the value and features this drone offers. Their are many commercial grade drones available today all built to handle different tasks. The M600 does a great job of offering good quality without breaking the bank. This platform is specifically designed for high-end aerial cinema but can also be used for mapping and data acquisition. It’s powerful enough to lift small film camera such as the RED and Aerri. DJI’s latest gimbal named “Ronin MX” is perfectly paired to the M600 and can also support broadcast quality cinema cameras. For those looking to use this system as a mapper, DJI has added support for they popular X Series cameras. When fitted with the X3 or XT thermal one can expect 35+ minutes in the air. Endurance is crucial for mapping area coverage. Flying wings and Vtol are still king for mapping but the convenience and value this platform offers is hard to ignore. If you need to lift heavy payloads (13lbs) and don’t have tens of thousands to invest in a rig, the M600 should be top on your list.

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FREEFLY ALTA 8
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FreeFly Alta 8

The FreeFly Alta is a powerful AP rig with a unique folding design that makes transportation a breeze. It’s still no DJI MAVIC but for a heavy lifter it packs down surprisingly small. FreeFly’s ALTA is derived form their popular MOVI gimbals. They were one of the first companies to develop a high quality plug and play handheld gimbal system. These brushless stabilizers revolutionized the film industry. It’s this stabilization technology that has made it’s way into the Alta’s Synapse flight control system. The Alta is built on a sturdy carbon fibre airframe with a convenient collapsing arm system. The Alta is also available in a 6 or 8 rotor configuration. The 6 rotor is a little underpowered for a full professional cinema rig set-up, so we would recommend the Alta 8 for it’s additional payload capabilities. The ALTA is priced higher than it’s DJI competition, although the professional build quality helps justify this price. FreeFly’s ALTA is geared for aerial filmmaking as the camera can be mounted above or below the airframe for more dynamic shots. If you want a system that does not require preparatory batteries and accessories, plus high end build quality, the ALTA may be a good fit.

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DJI Matrice M100

DJI’s M100 or Matrice 100 on it’s own is a good drone with a relatively small footprint and good endurance. It doesn’t fold up like it’s larger M600 but smaller in size and still very manageable. Where the M100 really shines is when it’s paired up with powerful 3rd party software. DJI Has enabled the M100 to be developer friendly opening a world of data acquisition possibilities. Developers such as PIX4D and DroneDeploy have created user friendly apps to automate the aerial mapping workflow. PrecisionHawk has provided a powerful solution for farmers and the agri industry with their “smart farmer” packages. For custom applications such as Mapping, Volumetric’s, Multispectral, Thermal, Inspections and SAR the Matrice M100 is a very capable professional drone.

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