Best Drone Cameras for 2017 & Buyer’s Guide

Technology is advancing each day. One had to go to a photo booth to take pictures back in the day, then use a handy cam to record videos, then came the expensive DSLR cameras for photo shoots. Now one can easily take a snap or shoot a video from their smartphones. But if you think that’s it for the camera technology, let me introduce you to the world where cameras can now fly. Yes, you guessed it right, I’m talking about the super cool Camera Drones.

Camera Drones are simply amazing and very easy to operate. People are using these for filmmaking, vlogs and what not. These cameras are the absolute MUST-HAVES for not only hobbyists but everyone related to the videography world. Yes, these awesome little flying machines can be quite expensive, but once you get to know their features and the stuff you can do with these, they’re totally worth it.

The following are reviews about the top 10 flying camera drones out in the market today.

 

Top 10 Flying Camera Drones

  1. Autel Autel Robotics X-Star Premium Drone ($$$)
  2. DJI Mavic Pro ($$$$)
  3. Yuneec Typhoon H UHD 4K Collision Avoidance Hexacopter Drone ($$$)
  4. DJI Phantom 4 Quadcopter ($$$$)
  5. DJI Phantom 3 Professional Camera Drone  ($$$)
  6. Yuneec Q500 4K Typhoon Quadcopter Drone  ($$$)
  7. Parrot AR Drone Quadcopter ($)
  8. 3DR Solo Drone Quadcopter  ($$)
  9. Parrot Bebop Quadcopter Drone  ($$)
  10. Cheerson CXHOBBY CX-20 Professional ($$)

 

Top Rated Flying Camera Drone Reviews

 

1. Autel Robotics X-Star Premium Drone, Best Camera Drone with amazing Shooting Modes

The number one on the list of best flying camera drones is the Autel Robotics X-star Premium Drone. Just like its name, it really is premium in every single way. It is one of the absolute best options in the market because of its design, camera quality, and overall features. This camera drone is available in two colors, the usual white and a cool orange as well.

 

This drone is equipped with an Ultra High Definition 4k camera that makes excellent quality videos. One other cool thing about the camera is that there is a 3-axis quick-release gimbal stabilizer. You can download the app named, Starlink on your Android or iOS smartphones to get a live HD display of about 1.2 miles and enjoy the autonomous flight modes as well.

The features include a dual GPS/GLONASS navigation, Starpoint Positioning System, remote controller with LCD and the SecureFlyTM interference protection. The drone comes with a high-quality hard case, fast charger, intelligent battery, 64-GB Micro SD card and spare propellers as well.

One downside to this Autel Drone can be the interference issue. It is really susceptible to magnetic fields that can cause problems in controlling the drone. But it does come with the SecureFlyTM protection that can help minimize the problem.

Pros

  • 4k camera with stabilizer. Can make UHD videos and take 12 MP photos.
  • Remote controller with LCD
  • Burst shooting, Time lapse mode and AEB (Auto Exposure Bracketing) as well
  • Intelligent battery gives almost 25 minutes of flying

Cons

  • Antenna has interference issues
  • Calibration can take time

 

2. DJI Mavic Pro, Best Portable Camera Drone

The second on the list is the amazing flying camera drone named, DJI Mavic Pro. The Chinese company DJI has been manufacturing some of the best camera drones. And this model, the Mavic Pro is definitely up there with the top ones in the market. It has a solid and compact design. It is dubbed as the best portable drone because it can be folded and that makes it even smaller and easy to carry around.

One of the best things about this drone is the OcuSync transmission system. One can fly this drone at a remarkable speed of 64km/h with a transmission range of about 7 km, thanks to this system. Other than that, the TapFly and ActiveTrack are the two features that make the shooting experience with its 4K camera even better. The drone has the ability to sense objects coming its way and can avoid them to provide safety as well. In addition to all that, you can fly this drone inside your home as well thanks to the vision positioning feature. This can be paired with both GLONASS and GPS as well to provide accurate positioning.

One of the downsides to using this drone can be the fact that it can’t really work well in strong winds as it gets unstable.

Pros

  • Can be folded
  • OcySync Transmission System
  • Can fly it outdoors and indoors as well
  • More than 20 minutes of battery life

Cons

  • Can get unstable against strong winds
  • Comparatively expensive than other models

 

3. Yuneec Typhoon H UHD Hexacopter Drone, Best Camera Drone with 7-inch Touchscreen

The next one on the list is a bit different than other drones in the market as it is a Hexacopter rather than a quadcopter. It means it uses six propellers for flying rather than the usual 4. The Typhoon H camera drone made by Yuneec is another super cool drone with a 4K camera that requires no installation or assembling of parts or anything at all. You can literally just take it out of the box and have fun taking pictures and filming videos in the air.

One of the best things that I personally liked about Yuneec Typhoon H is that it comes with an ST16 remote controller that is equipped with a high quality 7” touchscreen. The company has focused on the safety features as well. It has a 5 rotor fail-safe, 6 rotor safety as well as the collision avoidance technology that basically senses objects and makes the camera safe.

This drone is extremely easy to fly thanks to 8 different flight modes and features like automatic land and takeoff as well. The drone comes with a 4K camera that provides a 360o stable view for UHD filming and 12 MP photos.

The 8 flight modes are pretty amazing, but you need to do a bit of homework before flying the drone on those modes. Otherwise, you can end up crashing the drone and damaging it.

Pros

  • Compact size
  • GPS stabilized flying with 8 flight modes
  • Controller with 7-inch touchscreen
  • Safety features

Cons

  • Needs a bit know-how before flying on different flight modes.
  • Poor customer support

 

4. DJI Phantom 4 Quadcopter, Best Professional Camera Drone

The next one is another camera drone by the Chinese company, DJI. This model is known as the DJI Phantom 4. It definitely is one of the best camera drones in the market, the only reason it is not THE best is because of its bulky design. It is not that portable and lightweight as compared to other camera drones in the market. However, it is certainly not less than any camera drone based on features, quality, and performance.

It is considered as the most popular and professional drones in the market today. What makes it this good? Let’s find out.

The Phantom 4 is amazingly easy to fly and move around, it has the ability to automatically land and takeoff, thanks to the GPS technology. The drone is equipped with a brilliant camera that can film at 30 fps in 4K resolution and can efficiently take 12 MP photographs, thanks to the f/2.9 lens. In addition to all that, it has the Gimbal Stabilization technology as well.

This drone is simply amazing. However, there have been some complaints about sudden crashes. That can be the only downside to using this drone.

Pros

  • Excellent GPS positioning
  • Brilliant camera results
  • Auto land and takeoff

Cons

  • Accessories/parts are expensive compared to other model’s parts
  • Bulky and big design

 

5. DJI Phantom 3 Professional Camera Drone, Best Camera Drone with Live View Feed

The next one is yet another camera drone by the company, DJI. This one is the DJI Phantom 3 camera drone. It’s from the DJI’s Phantom series, they have made some of the coolest drones with all advanced features in this series. And the Phantom 3 Professional model is certainly one of the best amongst them.

This drone has an extremely easy setup process and flying this drone is also pretty simple and straightforward. It is definitely one for the pros and the amateurs as well. The drone comes with a super high-quality 4K camera that produces some of the crispest and clear photos and videos as well.

One can use this drone indoors as well, thanks to its vision positioning system. One of the best thing about this drone is that it has the Lightbridge digital steaming feature. This allows people to simultaneously store the full-size video and stream 720p video online. The Phantom 3 has its own smartphone app as well that is compatible with both iOS and Android as well. You can control the camera and also view everything being recorded by the camera from your smartphone.

One downside of this camera drone can be its weak battery life. It can’t really last longer than 20 minutes.

Pros

  • Brilliant camera result, thanks to the 4K camera
  • Lightbridge Digital Streaming
  • Stable in the air

Cons

  • Weak battery life
  • A bit expensive as compared to other camera drones

 

 

6. Yuneec Q500 4K Typhoon Quadcopter Drone, Best Camera Drone with Stable and Smooth Flight

The next up is another camera drone by the company, Yuneec. This one is the Yuneec Q500 Typhoon Quadcopter drone. It’s quite different than the previous mentioned camera drone by Yuneec. You can tell the difference between the two by just looking at them, as this Q500 model has a nice typical quadcopter design. Unlike the other Typhoon H model that has 6 propellers. Other than that the features are also pretty different.

Both the models offer amazing features and excellent performance. Yuneec has been one of the biggest competitions for the camera drone giants, DIJ, thanks to the Typhoon series.

This Q500 Typhoon also has a 4K camera that lets you take HD pictures and make videos quite conveniently. The camera drone comes with quite a unique controller. This remote controller for Q500n Typhoon has a very basic all-in-one kind of the idea behind it. The controller has a screen that lets you enjoy a first person view of whatever the camera is recording, and you can control the camera from the screen as well. There is a small Wizard controller you can use to control the drone as well.

All in all, it’s a nice camera drone with excellent features. However, it does take more time to charge than any other camera drone. Also, there have been complaints about getting blurry edges in videos.

Pros

  • Stable and smooth flight
  • Easy setup and control

Cons

  • Takes more time charge
  • Blurry video result
  • No WayPoint navigation feature

 

7. Parrot AR Drone Quadricopter, Best Cheap Camera Drone

The next up is a camera drone that is absolutely perfect for beginners. It is the Parrot AR Drone Quadricopter 2 Edition. It comes at a very affordable price and is extremely easy to use. So, if you’re a beginner and are looking for a camera drone where you won’t have to spend much, this will be the best option. One other cool thing about this camera drone by Parrot is that it is extremely tiny as compared to other drones in the market, making it very easy to carry around and fly.

parrot quadricopter

This Parrot AR Drone is available in a super awesome orange and blue color combo and has a unique design. It is considered a mix between a toy quadcopter and a professional camera drone as it does not have a remote control and a professional camera, but it certainly is way more than just a toy quadcopter. You can have fun flying the drone, performing stunts, etc. and at the same time enjoy taking photographs and making videos as well.

The drone isn’t equipped with a high-end professional camera, but the 2 built-in cameras let you have amazing pictures and shoot good quality videos. The AR Drone has a couple of downsides as well. The battery life isn’t that great as compared to other camera drones and in addition to that, there is no remote control. You have to control the drone using your smartphone.

Pros

  • Affordable price
  • Fun camera and drone functions
  • Extremely easy to use
  • Compact size

Cons

  • Battery life isn’t great
  • No remote controller
  • Can’t be used without a smartphone

 

8. 3DR Solo Drone Quadcopter, Best Camera Drone for its Price Tag

The next on the list is the 3DR Solo Drone quadcopter which is certainly one of the best camera drones out in the market because of one main reason; the price to performance ratio. The company has focused on this very ratio and manufactured a super cool camera drone. It’s really amazing because of its price tag and the features you get for that affordable price.

Before I review this product, one should know that the market is dominated by two kinds of camera drones. One, where the drones are equipped with high-quality HD 4k cameras and the second, where drones are equipped with top of the line GoPro cameras. And yes, this 3DR Solo quadcopter lies in that second category. You will have to buy and attach a GoPro camera with this 3DR drone. Or you can buy the bundle pack that includes a gimbal stabilizer, GoPro and much more, all still at an affordable price.

The 3DR Solo drone is compatible with your Android and iOS smartphones. In addition to that, you get a super cool gaming style remote controller with this camera drone. It’s extremely easy to operate the drone using this controller.

A downside of this drone can be its GPS system that isn’t really strong comparatively in the market.

Pros

  • Gaming style remote controller
  • Affordable price
  • Solid and compact design

Cons

  • Weak GPS. Loses connection
  • Battery life isn’t great either

 

 

9. Parrot Bebop Quadcopter Drone, Best Camera Drone Compatible with iOS, Android and Win 8.1

The next on the list is another camera drone manufactured by the company Parrot. This one is known as the Parrot Bebop Quadcopter Drone. It is available in a very cool red and black color combo. The Bebop has a very typical and simple design as it has 4 propellers connected and the camera mounted in the center. It is quite compact and extremely lightweight as well that makes it easy to fly and carry around as well. In addition to all that, it comes at a very affordable price as well.

The features of the Parrot Bebop include a 180o camera that lets you enjoy 14 MP HD 1080p pictures and videos, 3 axis image stabilization, fast charging lithium batteries and auto return home feature as well. It is extremely easy to setup; you just have to take it out, assemble a few parts and you’re good to go. One thing that you will need, however, is a smartphone to control and fly this camera drone. There is no remote controller with this drone.

You’ll have to download its app named, Free Flight Pro that is available on both Android and iOS devices.

Pros

  • Compact design
  • Affordable price
  • Easy to setup and fly
  • Compatible with iOS, Android and Windows 8.1 as well

Cons

  • No remote controller
  • Smartphone or tab needed to control the camera drone
  • Defective batteries. Need to change frequently

 

 

10. Cheerson CXHOBBY CX-20 Professional, Best Camera Drone for Videography Hobbyists

The last but certainly not the least camera drone is the Cheerson CX-20 Camera drone. As its name might suggest, this one is suited for the hobbyists. Not exactly the type, professionals would go for, but it definitely is among the top 10 with advanced features and cool solid design.

The CXHOBBY CX-20 does not come equipped with a camera, but there is a GoPro mount available. You can mount different lightweight and handy cameras such as a GoPro thanks to the removable external mount on the Auto-Pathfinder. The features included on this drone include vision positioning system, automatic return home feature, and Pathfinder as well. The drone has a pretty attractive white color design.

It is extremely easy to setup and fly. The downsides, however include the battery which takes the longest to charge and is the first one to finish compared to other camera drones in the market. Also, one other downside can be the fact that its spare parts are hard to find.

Pros

  • Auto return home feature, positioning system, and Pathfinder
  • Cameras such as GoPro and other handy cams can be mounted

Cons

  • Battery life is short
  • Spare parts very hard to find in the market

 

  

FAQ/Buying Guide for Best Flying Camera Drones

What does RTF, BNF and ARF mean?

The most important thing that you need to know before buying and actually flying a camera drone is that not all kinds of drones are ready to fly. When you’re going to buy a camera drone for yourself, you are going to come across acronyms like RTF, ARF, and BNF.

RTF basically means, ‘Ready to Fly.’ If you find this written on a camera drone, it means it doesn’t require any kind of setup or assembling of parts. You just have to take it out, and do simple necessary things like charge the battery or install the propellers or get the drone and controller connected, and it’ll be good to go.

ARF means, ‘Almost Ready to Fly.’ Now if you see this written on a drone, it means you’ll have to assemble a couple of parts to get the drone flying. These drones are basically similar to quadcopter kits. An ARF kit may even leave components out such as a battery, ESCs, etc. You’ll need to read the description very carefully before flying the drone.

BNF means, ‘Bind and Fly.’ These drones mostly come assembled, but they don’t have a controller. You’ll have to separately buy a controller for this kind of drones. You’ll have to check the frequencies of the receiver and transmitter before buying a controller for your BNF drone. The controller HAS to be compatible with the drone for it to be used.

Which Camera Drone is Best for you?

The camera drones can be divided into the 3 following categories; first is the beginner category, the second is the intermediate and the third can be the advanced one. All the camera drones can be categorized in one of these 3 based on their price tag, setup, camera and your personal drone flying skill.

Now, if you’re into just photography on a hobby level and have never operated a drone before, a beginner level camera drone will be just perfect for you. It won’t cost you much, as there are a couple of really amazing options available in the market that have advanced features but come at a very affordable price. And the best thing about them is that they don’t require much setup and are extremely easy to fly.

Now, if you’re really into photography and videography as well, and you have flown/operated camera drones before, you can go for the intermediate level. These camera drones have a slightly bigger and heavier design. Also, the camera quality is better (720p or above), and the super cool thing is that you can mount different lightweight cameras such as GoPro and have fun flying and shooting videos.

Now, if you’re a professional vlogger or a filmmaker, you definitely have to go for the advanced category. These are quite expensive, but the features you get make these absolutely worth it. These drones are equipped with UHD 4K cameras that produce some of the best photographs and videos you’ve seen.

What Accessories/Add-Ons to buy with Camera Drones?

The following are some of the MUST HAVE accessories or Add-ons that you need to buy with a camera drone.

  • Gimbals

Gimbals are accessories that you can buy easily with camera drones. Most of the professional and high-end camera drones are equipped with advanced gimbals that give the drone stability. But there are quite a lot of camera drones that come without gimbals. So, you can easily buy one and attach it to the drone’s frame to give the camera more stability. You’ll notice a huge difference in the camera result with and without gimbal attached.

  • Remote Controllers

Similar to gimbals, mostly camera drones come with their own remote controllers. But again, there are some really cool camera drones that do not have remote controllers, and in order to fly them, one has to use a smartphone or tab. Now, yes using smartphone or tab to fly and take pictures or shoot videos can be fun, but remote controllers can give you better control over the drone. That control makes the flying the drone quite convenient.

  • Batteries

One of the most important accessories you can invest in are drone batteries. Most of the camera drones in the market struggle with battery issues. They either take too long to charge or are just overall weak and give the drone very less flying time. So, it’s better to buy a powerful drone battery or backup pack for even the powerful high-quality camera drones.

  • Propellers

Buying a few extra propellers for your camera drone as a backup can be a very useful investment. Collision with trees, buildings or crash landing, etc. can damage the propellers. So, it’s important that you buy extra propellers. There are some camera drones available in the market that actually come with spare propellers, so that’s a plus point in buying those drones as well.

  • Camera drone Cases/Backpacks

Investing in a cool case or a backpack for your camera drone can go a long way. You’re obviously going to be taking the amazing camera drones with you almost everywhere you go, and carrying camera drones around can be uneasy. There are some models that are huge and have a bulky design. You can’t just go around carrying them in your hands. Hence, a backpack/case is a must.

What to do to Prevent your Camera Drone from Crashing? 

Most of the camera drones are equipped with several safety features and settings that can help make the flying experience easier as safer. You’re going to be spending hundreds of dollars to even thousands on camera drones, so it’s very important that you don’t end up damaging them.

The one common question that everybody asks is that how can I safely fly and land the camera drone without crashing it. As it was mentioned above, the answer is the use of safety features on your drone. These safety features include automatic return and land features that make sure your drone doesn’t just drop out, especially when the battery is about to die. Other settings include ‘no-fly zones’ that make sure your drone doesn’t fly in a restricted area.

Most of the companies have smartphone apps that are compatible with iOS and Android devices that help you give all details of the positioning, etc. And another cool thing you can do on the app is attend a virtual drone flying school that’ll help you master the drone flying art.

Conclusion

The market is flooded with really cool camera drones nowadays. Some offer excellent features while some come at a very affordable price, some offer portability while some are huge and professional and well, the list goes on. But to try and have all that in one drone, you’ve got to check out our number pick for this list, that is the Autel Robotics X-Star Premium Drone. It has a super UHD 4K camera with gimbal stabilizer technology that lets you take amazing photographs and shoot HD videos with so much ease. Not just that, you can have fun with different shooting modes including, Burst, time lapse, and AEB as well. The battery on this thing is amazing. It gives you more than 20 minutes of flying. And in addition to all that, it comes with a powerful remote controller as well.

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Author: Patrick Cooper

Patrick has over a decade’s experience writing about consumer electronics on the web. An avid traveller, he is the father of two adopted pitbulls and a greyhound. Cheif editor at WhatRocksAndWhatSucks.com, right now Patrick lives in Austin, TX. Reach him at patrick@wraws.com or on Google+.

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