In this guide, we’re taking you through our picks for the best drones with cameras you can buy right now. Aerial photography used to be a niche pursuit, requiring the chartering of expensive planes and helicopters, but drones have made it more accessible than ever before. Now, more or less anyone has access to the tools required to capture stunning aerial images – so which drone is the best one?

It’s all a matter of perspective of course. Our expert review team has spent a lot of time testing the latest drones and putting them through their paces, and the reality is that there is not going to be any one drone that is ‘right’ for everyone. Depending on your budget, your flying confidence, and the kinds of images and videos you want to capture, the best drone with a camera for you could be any number of different models. So in this guide, we’ve included a range of different drones for different budgets, all based on the expert opinions of our reviewing team.

A note on weight – why 0.55lbs / 250g matters

For most people, the simplest way to get up and running, without additional expense or worry, is to look for a drone under 250g / 0.55lbs, as there are stricter rules for drones that weigh more than this.

In the US you’ll need certification called TRUST, for recreational flying of drones under 250g. Luckily this is simply an online test that takes around an hour to complete. You can find more information on the FAA website. If your drone weighs over 250g (0.55lb), then you’ll need to register your drone with the FAA, on the FAADroneZone site.

In the UK you’ll want a a sub-250g drone if you don’t have a licence, and you will need to get a Flyer ID and Operator ID from the CAA to fly a drone over 250g.

If you’re located elsewhere, or travelling to a different location, make sure you check local restrictions as they may differ!

Once you have your licence / certification, you’re able to fly a drone in most places, apart from in the flight restriction zones around airports, military bases and prisons etc. You can even fly over people as long as there isn’t a crowd.

How to choose the best drones with cameras

As camera drones tend to be quite similar in terms of specifications, picking the right one tends to be a matter of balancing features and price.

Higher priced drones will have better battery life, which means longer flight times. They also often can shoot video at higher resolutions and frame rates, and may also have sophisticated features like omni-directional object avoidance sensors and image stabilisation for getting smooth footage even in choppy, windy conditions.

Another thing to bear in mind though is that all these features don’t just make the drone more expensive: they also make it heavier, which as we’ve seen, can mean you need a licence to fly it.

Brand-wise, DJI is the dominant force in the drone market and each year it brings out increasingly sophisticated models that promise to enable you capture better images more easily than before. It’s not the only player though, so we have included the best non-DJI drone in this guide to allow you to compare. So let’s take a looks at our choice of the best drones with cameras this year.

Best camera drone for enthusiast photographers: DJI Mavic 3 Classic – £1,119 / $1,279

DJI Mavic 3 Classic in flight. Image credit: Angela Nicholson

Amateur Photographer verdict

Like all DJI’s recent imaging drones, the Mavic 3 Classic is easy to set up and fly, and seeing the images on the controller screen is bound to put a smile on your face.
  • Great results from the larger-than-average sensor
  • Class 1 classification
  • Easy to fly
  • The price rises if you want the DJI RC controller
  • Requires an understanding of the drone regulations
  • Extra batteries advisable

At a glance

  • 20MP Four Thirds type
  • 24mm (equivalent) f/2.8
  • 5.1K video at up to 50p
  • Max flight time 46 minutes
  • 895g

DJI makes three versions of the Mavic 3, the Standard, the Classic and the Cine version. The Mavic 3 Cine is aimed at filmmakers, the standard Mavic 3 features a wide-angle camera, and a telephoto camera, and this new Mavic 3 Classic does away with the telephoto camera to make a more affordable option. This means it’s most likely going to be more than enough of most enthusiast photographers and videographers.

It features one 20MP 1-inch camera with a 24mm equivalent focal length. There’s 8GB of onboard storage, and this can easily be upgraded using the microSD card slot.

Like almost all the drones in our list, the Mavic 3 Classic folds for easier transport. Its powerful motors means that its very stable in flight and can cope with pretty strong winds. It’s very easy to fly manually but comes with DJI’s suite of automated flying modes to keep things simple.

Read our DJI Mavic 3 Classic review

Best camera drone for advanced photographers: DJI Mavic 3 – £1,719 / $2,049

The DJI Mavic 3 mid-test by our reviewer. Photo credit: Angela Nicholson

Amateur Photographer verdict

The most expensive entry in our guide the Mavic 3 is listed in the company’s consumer range, but it has plenty to satisfy professional users.
  • Intuitive flying
  • Keeps going for ages
  • Solid image quality (with main camera)
  • Tele camera only shoots JPEG, not RAW

At a glance

  • 20MP Four Thirds type and 12MP 1/2-inch type sensors
  • 24mm (equivalent) f/2.8-11 and 162mm telephoto (equivalent) f/4.4
  • 5.1K video at up to 50p
  • Max flight time 46 minutes
  • 895g

As mentioned previously, there are now three versions of the Mavic 3, the Classic (above), the Standard (this one) and a Cine version. The Mavic 3 Cine is aimed at filmmakers and has a 1TB SSD onboard plus the ability to record in Apple ProRes 422 HQ, but the standard Mavic 3 is more than enough of most enthusiast photographers and it’s likely to keep many pro videographers satisfied too.

It features not one, but two cameras, with a 12MP 1/2-inch type camera with an effective focal length of 162mm sitting next to the 20MP 1-inch 24mm (equivalent) main camera. In practise, you’ll want to limit the telephoto camera to checking out routes or distant objects and use the main camera for the serious photography.

Like all the drones in our list, the Mavic 3 folds for easier transport. It’s added bulk over models like the Mini 3 Pro, and its more powerful motors means that its very stable in flight and can cope with pretty strong winds. It’s also very easy to fly manually but comes with DJI’s suite of automated flying modes to keep things simple.

Read our DJI Mavic 3 review

Best sub-250g drone: DJI Mini 3 Pro – £689 / $759 (with remote)

DJI Mini 3 Pro fits in the hand when folded. Photo credit: Angela Nicholson)

Amateur Photographer verdict

Easy to fly, has great stabilisation and delivers exceptional quality images and footage from all three cameras.
  • Regulation-friendly flying
  • Excellent 4K video
  • 2 or 48MP stills
  • Not robust
  • Propellers a screw-fixed rather than bayonet fit
  • No lens hood so flare can be an issue

At a glance

  • Weighs less than 249g
  • 12/48MP 1/1.3-inch CMOS sensor
  • 4K video recording at up to 100p
  • 24mm equivalent f/1.7 lens
  • 3-axis mechanical stabilisation

Weighing only 249g means that the Mini 3 Pro is regulation-friendly and can be flown in residential, recreational and industrial areas, and even over people (but not crowds) – provided you have Flyer and Operator ID’s from the CAA, and the relevant TRUST certification in the US.

Thanks to its 12/48MP 1/1.3-inch CMOS sensor, the Mini 4 Pro captures better quality stills and video than the DJI Mini 3. It’s sensor also has a quad-Bayer design which means that each of its 12-million-pixels are split into four sections that can report separately to deliver 24MP images, or they can combine to give 12MP images.

Just like the Mini 3 Pro, the standard Intelligent Flight Battery that comes with the drone allows up to 34 minutes of flying. Interestingly, DJI has ditched the 2.7K video option that’s available with the Mini 3 Pro but Full HD recording is still possible up to 60fps (200fps in SlowMo mode)

The Mini 4 Pro now features an updated omnidirectional obstacle avoidance system, which is especially useful when flying under tree branches or bridges. Just like its predecessor, it’s also prone to drifting in the breeze, but the stills and video are impressively good for such a small drone.

Read our DJI Mini 3 Pro review

Best first drone: DJI Mini 2 – £379 / $429 (Fly More Combo)

DJI Mini 2 in flight – photo: Angela Nicholson

Amateur Photographer verdict

An easy to fly and fun to use drone, anyone looking for their first drone or a small easily-portable drone to take anywhere won’t be disappointed inthe Mini 2
  • Great value for money
  • Useful video modes
  • Decent quality images
  • Below-average battery life
  • No object-avoidance

At a glance

  • 12MP 1/2.3-inch type sensor
  • 24mm (equivalent) f/2.8
  • 4K video at up to 30p
  • Max flight time 31 minutes
  • <249g

Aside from the smaller sensor and the lack of an object avoidance system, the Mini 2 is similar to the DJI 3 Pro, but it’s more affordable, making it a great choice for a first drone.

Like the Mini 3 Pro, it can be flown manually (with the benefit of GPS), but there’s also DJI’s QuickShots modes (Dronie, Helix, Rocket, Circle and Boomerang) which make it easy to get smooth video footage.

DJI supplies the Mini 2 with the RC231 controller, which is also available with the Mavic 3 and Mini 3 Pro. This has a clamp and cable connections to hold a smartphone, with the DJI Fly app giving control over the drone.

Technically, the Mini 2’s maximum flight time per battery charge is only 3 minutes shorter than the Mini 3 Pro’s, but in reality we found it more like 8-11 minutes shorter. That’s not a major issue if you invest in the Fly More Combo and get a couple of extra batteries though.

In flight, the Mini 2 is stable for its weight and it delivers good quality stills and video.

Read our DJI Mini 2 review

Best step-up drone: DJI Air 2S – £590 / $679

The DJI Air 2S in flight. Photo: Angela Nicholson

Amateur Photographer verdict

A worthwhile upgrade from the Mavic Air 2, it is steady and easy to fly
  • Excellent sensor quality
  • 5.4K video
  • Log footage option
  • Quite heavy

At a glance

  • 20MP 1-inch type sensor
  • 22mm (equivalent) f/2.8
  • 5.4K video at up to 30p
  • Max flight time 31 minutes
  • 595g

While its 595g weight means that you don’t get as much freedom to fly the DJI Air 2S as you do with the Mini 3 Pro, it has a 20MP 1-inch type sensor which enables it produce high-quality stills and 5.4K video at up to 30p. There’s also 10-bit D-Log video, bringing greater scope for grading footage.

It’s size and weight means the Air 2S is more stable than any of DJI’s Mini range of drones and, while its wind resistance is rated the same as the Mini 3 Pro’s (10.7m/s or 24mph), it’s much less prone to drifting in a breeze.

It also has DJI’s MasterShots and QuickShots modes to simplify flying complex manoeuvres and FocusTrack lets you select a subject to follow.

In addition, you get up to 31 minutes flying time with each battery and 4-way obstacle sensing to help avoid collisions with trees and the like.

Read our DJI Air 2S review

Best non-DJI drone: Autel Evo Lite+ – £1,299 / $1,399 (premium bundle)

Autel Evo Lite+ drone. Image: Autel Robotics

Amateur Photographer verdict

A great option for slow motion videos with its 120p recording option, but keep in mind that you will need to register it with the FAA as it weighs more than 250g.
  • Great camera controls
  • 40-minute flights
  • Smart avoidance sensors
  • Somewhat pricey

At a glance

  • 20Mp 1-inch type sensor
  • 29mm (equivalent) f/2.8-11
  • 5.4K video at up to 30p
  • Max flight time 40 minutes
  • 820g

With a 20MP 1-inch type sensor, this non-DJI drone goes head-to-head with the Air 2S. The Evo Lite+ can capture 5.4K video at 30p and the aperture is variable from f/2.8 to f/11, which makes controlling the shutter speed a bit easier. A firmware update has also added a Log profile and you get up to 40 minutes flight from a single battery charge, giving this Autel drone extra appeal.

Autel has also equipped the Evo Lite+ with forward, backward and downward-facing sensors to help you avoid obstacles in flight and it handles well in the air whether you’re controlling it with the sticks or using one of its autonomous modes.

Crucially, the Autel Evo Lite+ produces great-quality video and stills with the 4K 60p and 1080p at 120p modes giving the opportunity for slow-motion playback.

Best budget drone: Ryze Tello  £99 / $99

Ryze Tello drone

Amateur Photographer verdict

If you are completely new to flying drones and just want to get some practice, the Ryze Tello is a great budget option
  • Incredibly cheap
  • Very light (meaning it isn’t subject to regulations)
  • Max 720p video
  • Pack an extra battery!

At a glance

  • 5MP 1/1.28-inch type sensor
  • 23mm equivalent
  • 720p video at up to 30p
  • Max flight time 13 minutes
  • 80g

It may not be the most feature-rich drone but the Ryze Tello uses DJI technology and costs less than £100. That means if you’re not sure if you’re going to like flying a drone, or you want to give the kids a taste of being a pilot, you’re not risking quite as much as with another drone.

Ryze doesn’t include a controller in the basic kit, that’s extra, but you can fly it using the Tello app on your phone.

With a 5MP camera on board and video limited to 720p, the Tello isn’t for serious use, but it weighs just 80g, so you have the freedom to fly it almost anywhere. As usual, you can extend its 13-minute flight time with extra batteries and it’s ideal for getting aerial shots on holiday and having fun at the park or in your back garden.

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If you’d like more help in choosing a great camera or lens, have a look at our latest reviews, and buying guides.

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