The 10 Best Drones For Photographers

Updated January 15, 2018 by Lydia Chipman

10 Best Drones For Photographers
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
We spent 42 hours on research, videography, and editing, to review the top picks for this wiki. For all manner of shutterbugs – from amateur photojournalists on shoestring budgets to professional filmmakers with deep pockets – these multirotor drones for photographers are specifically designed with versatile capabilities to provide agile eyes in the sky and capture visually stunning aerial imagery. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best drone for photographers on Amazon.

10. GoPro Karma

The much-anticipated GoPro Karma comes with a removable stabilizer and grip to let your imagination take flight and produce smooth, high-precision footage wherever your adventures take you -- into the air across rugged terrain, as far as you dare to go.
  • 35mph top speed for up to 20 minutes
  • works with gopro hero5 mounts
  • controller range is limited
Brand GoPro
Model QKWXX-015
Weight 11.2 pounds
Rating 3.6 / 5.0

9. Parrot Bebop 2

The Parrot Bebop 2 has a built-in 14MP fish-eye camera for taking high-definition pictures and recording videos at 1080p. It features multiple sensors for exceptional stability and a 2,700mAh battery for up to 25 minutes of flying time per charge.
  • highly responsive controls
  • can be used indoors or outside
  • not the best resolution in low light
Brand Parrot
Model PF726203
Weight 7.5 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

8. DJI Spreading Wings S900

A lightweight, sturdy carbon fiber hexacopter airframe with retractable landing gear and arms that fold down conveniently for transport, the DJI Spreading Wings S900 is designed for maximum versatility in the hands of professional aerial photographers and videographers.
  • anti-vibration dampers
  • camera and gimbal sold separately
  • not suitable for novices
Brand DJI
Model CP.SB.000163
Weight 14.5 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

7. UDI U818A

The UDI U818A may not take the highest quality photos, but if you need some practice time to get the hang of drone photography, it's a great bargain that comes fully equipped right out of the box and requires no FAA registration to fly.
  • 6-axis gyro stability
  • camera and 2 lipo batteries included
  • battery drains quickly
Brand USA Toyz
Model PF722001
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

6. Yuneec Typhoon H Pro

Using intelligent obstacle avoidance to protect its payload at speeds of up to 43.5mph, the Yuneec Typhoon H Pro hexacopter has a 360-degree, anti-vibration, gimbal-mounted 4K camera for taking vivid snapshots and filming high-resolution videos in 8 different flight modes.
  • retractable landing gear
  • builds a 3d model of surroundings
  • 25 minutes maximum flight time
Brand Yuneec
Weight 17.1 pounds
Rating 3.8 / 5.0

5. UDI U842 Predator

For exceptional ease of use, the affordably priced UDI U842 Predator features gravity induction mode for control by hand gestures. It has a high-definition video camera, and each of its two 1,000mAh LiPo batteries provides up to nine minutes of flying time per charge.
  • performs 360-degree eversions
  • replacement parts readily available
  • withstands impacts well
Model UDI U842 Wifi
Weight 8.3 pounds
Rating 4.1 / 5.0

4. Holy Stone F181

Featuring 6-axis gyroscopic stabilization to help keep it steady while you figure out how to control an airborne camera, the Holy Stone F181 is a good place to start if you're not quite ready to invest in a premium drone just to crash it until you work out the kinks.
  • 1280 x 720 pictures and 30fps video
  • headless mode operation
  • faa registration not required
Brand Holy Stone
Model F181
Weight 2 pounds
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

3. DJI Mavic Pro

With a frame that folds down to the size of a water bottle, portability is the hallmark of the DJI Mavic Pro, but it also boasts a 4K 12MP camera with a high-precision 3-axis mechanical stabilization system for smooth, crisp videos and beautifully clear still photographs.
  • top speed of 40mph
  • 27 minutes flying time
  • multiple autonomous flight modes
Brand DJI
Model CP.PT.000642
Weight 9.6 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

2. Yuneec Q500 4K Typhoon

Capture amazingly detailed imagery anywhere using the Yuneec Q500 4K Typhoon, which features a gimbal-mounted 12MP camera for recording still photos, 4K/30fps UHD video and 1080p/120fps slow-motion video. It also has a "follow-me" function for taking selfies with ease.
  • comes with personal ground station
  • ready to fly right out of the box
  • controller with 5-inch touchscreen
Brand Yuneec
Weight 27.2 pounds
Rating 4.8 / 5.0

1. DJI Phantom 4 Pro

The stuff of an aerial photographer's dreams, the DJI Phantom 4 Pro has a 20MP, 1" CMOS camera with 24mm lens, 84° FOV, recording bitrate of up to 100Mbps and 6400 maximum ISO for video – all protected from damage by an advanced multi-directional obstacle avoidance system.
  • 30 minutes of flying time per charge
  • mp4 and hevc format video recording
  • 128gb micro sd capacity
Brand DJI
Model CP.PT.000488
Weight 10.3 pounds
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

Take Your Photos Higher

Whether your goal is to capture still photographs or stunning video, the drones on our list provide you with range, altitude, and an interface that keeps you in control of the camera as well as its flight path.

Most of the drones on this list are quadcopters, which are flying machines powered and propelled by four rotary blades situated parallel to the horizon. Two of these rotors move clockwise, and the other two move counterclockwise. If all the blades spin at the same velocity, they create a force against the air beneath the body of the quadcopter, causing it to rise. With a decrease in power, the copter can hover or decrease its altitude.

By increasing the power to the two blades moving clockwise, or to the two blades moving counterclockwise, you will spin the copter along its Y axis, or yaw, without affecting its angle of flight. By increasing the power to only one of the clockwise rotors and decreasing the power to its clockwise partner (and vise versa with the counterclockwise rotors), you can affect the copter's pitch, providing a tilted, momentous turn. Increase the power to any of the two rotors next to each other, and the copter will move in the direction opposite them.

There are other possible rotor combinations that allow you to achieve more advanced maneuvers, but what's important about these copters is that they all have a little mount on their underbellies to hold a camera. Whether that camera is part of the copter package – or the mount arrives empty and waiting for whatever camera you fit to it – depends entirely on the brand and model.

Once airborne, the camera interfaces with its video monitoring system while you control the copter with a handheld radio controller. Sometimes the drone controls are incorporated into the app that controls the camera, and other times the video relay for the camera is built into a physical controller for the drone.

Take Your Tests

Even the most inexpensive combination of drone and camera isn't cheap, and the most expensive among them ought to require an insurance policy. Too many times have I heard a woeful story from a young photographer or cinematographer who got their hands on a shiny new drone, only to run it into the ground on their first flight and break the drone, the camera, and their bank.

The best thing you can do for the insurance of your gear before picking up a drone for photography is to get your hands on a cheap, tiny kid's drone like you see those depressing salesmen playing with in the hallways of malls across the nation. These will give you an inexpensive, low-risk opportunity to familiarize yourself with the nuances of drone flight before setting aloft equipment worth a couple grand or more.

Then, once you've honed your skills and purchased your photography drone, if it's the kind to which you affix a camera of your own, take it for a test flight or two (or twenty) before strapping your camera to its chassis.

When you're ready to purchase that photography drone, the choice between a drone with a camera built into it and one with a bracket designed to receive popular models of action camera is a tough one. While the brands and models with cameras attached to them already tend to be slightly less expensive overall investments, they run the risk of becoming obsolete a lot sooner than a drone whose camera you can quickly replace.

The other major variable to consider is the control interface. If you find that you require separate controllers for the camera and the drone, you're liable to give up hope of ever coordinating a proper shoot, unless you have a talented drone operator and a talented cinematographer working in effective concert with one another.

The far better layouts are the drones whose apps allow for total control on your smartphone or, preferably, your tablet, and the models whose physical controllers also have interactive touchscreens for camera feedback and control.

A Long, Slow Ascent

In 1907, Louis Breguet, a French designer and builder of aircraft, created a four-rotor aircraft that achieved brief flights, momentarily hovering a few feet above the ground. Repeated attempts to achieve flights greater than a few meters off the ground, without overworking the pilots on board, were largely unsuccessful for the next sixty years or so.

Then, in the late 1970s, Bell Helicopter and Boeing came together on a joint military endeavor to research the possibility of an tiltrotor quadcopter aircraft that could operate as a quadcopter during takeoff and landing, but that could also tilt its rotors into the configuration of a more traditional airplane to achieve greater speeds once airborne.

While Bell and Boeing chipped away at the project, which would eventually get shelved in the early 21st century, advances in the use of drone aircraft for military strikes began a reintroduction of radio-controlled aircraft to the public. Suddenly, radio controlled fliers seemed less like the domain of the outcast enthusiast, and more like the domain of the rugged military man, a shift that allowed a whole new market of consumers to take the technology seriously.

Once people started mounting their GoPro cameras and other action cams onto the bodies of their drones, all bets were off, and the photographic and film industries would never be the same.

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Last updated on January 15, 2018 by Lydia Chipman

An itinerant wordsmith with a broad constellation of interests, Lydia Chipman has turned iconoclasm into a livelihood of sorts. Bearing the scars and stripes of an uncommon diversity of experience—with the notable exceptions of joining a religious order or becoming an artist—she still can’t resist the temptation to learn something new.

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