- 7 Best Drones for Still Photography
- OUR #1 CHOICE
- DJI Mavic 2 Pro Drone Quadcopter
- DJI Mavic 2 Zoom Drone Quadcopter
- Autel Robotics EVO Drone with Camera
- FIMI X8SE Portable Drone with Camera
- Contixo F24 4K Quadcopter Drone
- DJI Mavic Mini FlyCam Quadcopter Drone
- How to choose a drone for photography
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Final words
While drones are more popular in video production, it’s also a powerhouse tool for photography. Stability is king when it comes to the best drones for still photography. It should allow you to take clear, crisp, and detailed photos even if you’re not holding the camera.
For this post, I’ve scoured the market for the best drones that offer topnotch photography performance. As an avid photographer myself, below are my top 7 picks:
7 Best Drones for Still Photography
OUR #1 CHOICE
OUR TOP PICK: DJI Phantom 4 Pro Plus+V2.0 Drone Camera
Product Name: DJI Phantom 4 Pro Plus+V2.0 Drone Camera
Product Description: If you're looking for the best drones for still photography, you'll never go wrong with the DJI Phantom 4 Pro Plus. DJI is the leading brand for drone products, and I'm a proud owner of their Phantom 4 Pro. Let's start with the camera quality. This drone boasts 1080p for livestreaming and Cinema 4K for videos and photos. It also has a 5.5" 1080p screen built into its remote controller so you can see in detail what you're going to capture. The screen remains visible even if you're standing under direct sunlight. This beast has an unbeatable transmission range of 8 kilometers and a flight speed of up to 72 kph. I also love the automatic frequency switching made possible through OcuSync 2.0. Moreover, the Phantom 4 Pro+V2.0 camera is equipped with a 3-axis motorized gimbal. It also has a one-inch CMOS sensor that uses a mechanical shutter. This eliminates rolling shutter distortion, so your photos are always crisp and clear.
Offer price: $$$
Value for Money
For the best photography experience, this drone sports the Intelligent Flight Modes. It includes ActiveTrack, TapFly, Gesture, and Draw Mode, among others. These modes let you choose a flight path, altitude, and route through the remote controller.
Overall, I don’t mind splurging on this bad boy. It’s one of the best drones in the market, especially for professional photographers and videographers who are looking for quality.
Aside from the drone, you will also receive a 32 GB microSD card, battery, charger, micro USB cable, gimbal clamp, and a carrying case.
8-kilometer transmission range
Multiple flight modes
Automatic frequency changing
None so far
DJI Mavic 2 Pro Drone Quadcopter
Another DJI drone I swear by for photography is the Mavic Pro 2. It’s a tad cheaper than the Phantom 4, but it’s not short of spectacular features.
This sports a Hasselblad L1D-20c camera that boasts a 1-inch CMOS sensor. This is the perfect drone to capture breath-taking aerial sceneries. I also like the camera’s color detail, which can give DSLRs a run for its money.
Aside from that, it has a maximum flight distance of 18 kilometers when there’s no wind and at a consistent 50 kph speed. For wind resistance, the Mavic 2 Pro is rated at 29 to 38 kph. For each charge, this drone can fly for up to 31 minutes straight.
Like the Phantom 4, the Mavic 2 Pro has the same 3-axis gimbal so you can take steady shots. It also comes with an 8 GB internal storage that can support up to 128 GB through microSD cards.
One of my favorite features here is ActiveTrack 2.0. This uses omnidirectional obstacle sensing, so your drone will not crash into anything. It also has a low-noise design and hyperlapse for smooth flights.
As for the camera quality, you will enjoy up to 5472 x 3648 pixels on every still image. Meanwhile, it has a maximum of 4K video resolution, perfect for videography. You can also adjust the aperture of the camera to avoid over-exposure.
DJI Mavic 2 Zoom Drone Quadcopter
Not to be too biased for DJI, but I really want to recommend the Mavic 2 Zoom if you want a slightly cheaper alternative to Mavic 2 Pro. This has a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor with up to 4x optical zoom on top of the 2x optical zoom.
This drone is all about dynamic perspectives. You will enjoy 31 minutes of flight time and up to 44 mph of maximum speed on a 905G take-off weight.
Aside from that, this has a 3-axis gimbal so you can take steady photos. It also shares other Mavic 2 features like the omnidirectional obstacle sensing with hyperlapse. In addition, it has a low-noise design, an adjustable aperture, and a dolly zoom.
This is paired with a standard DJI remote controller with up to 135 minutes of flight time. You will also enjoy up to 8 GB of internal storage that can support up to 128 GB in SD card storage.
Another thing that I like about the Mavic 2 Zoom is its wide-angle shot for more creative possibilities. I also like that it has folded blades that make a perfect choice for traveling. It also shoots super-resolution when pointing straight down, which is very cool for still photos.
Lastly, I like the fact that Mavic 2 Zoom is compatible with a wide array of mobile devices. It also sports the FlightAutonomy system for quieter and safer flights every time.
Autel Robotics EVO Drone with Camera
The Autel Robotics EVO Drone with Camera is an excellent investment for photographers who are just getting started. It offers a resolution of 4K at 60 fps with a recording speed of 100 mbps. For a compact drone, this is stellar quality.
Aside from that, this has a long flight range of 7 kilometers at a top speed of 45 mph. You can enjoy up to 30 minutes of flight time for every charge. The good thing here is that this drone package comes with three batteries so you can keep flying even if the first one runs out of juice.
Moreover, it has a failsafe feature that will notify you once the battery is low. This prevents your drone from getting lost.
One of the strongest points of the Autel Robotics drone is its GPS technology with GLONASS. This is a dual positioning system used even by the military. It helps you avoid obstacles and set your path for smooth and accurate flights.
For photographers, this drone offers stability to capture clear and detailed images. It has a downward vision, too, which allows you to take still photos of the ground.
Lastly, this comes with a remote controller with an OLED monitor where you can see the scenery in real-time. It has a 720 HD resolution that lets you view the scenes you’re going to capture.
FIMI X8SE Portable Drone with Camera
If you don’t want to splurge a bit, you should check the FIMI X8SE. It’s cheaper than DJI options, but it doesn’t cut corners on the functionality.
This drone boasts of a 4K HDR video quality and impressive still photo resolution. To ensure that your photos are always clear, this drone utilizes a 3-axis mechanical gimbal. It also uses Smart Tracking and Smart Flight Modes, so your drone won’t crash or get lost.
Moreover, this has an 8-kilometer transmission range, which is quite impressive for this price. It’s also equipped with precise vision positioning and a rain-proof design.
Aside from the drone itself, you will also receive a remote controller that you can connect to a smartphone or tablet. This way, the remote controller is transformed into a digital display where you can see the live feed from the drone’s camera.
From flight planning shoots, panoramas, Cine shot, and hyperlapse, this drone will not disappoint. You can also use its Smart Tracking mode to lock in a targeted view so you can take the most stunning photos.
Despite its powerful features, the FIMI X8SE is foldable and easy to pack for your travels. Just make sure that you get a microSD card to start using this drone.
Aside from photography, this drone can also lift small items like baits and the likes. I’ve tried putting 14 ounces of weight, and it took off pretty easily.
Contixo F24 4K Quadcopter Drone
For photographers looking for a foldable drone on a budget, the Contixo F24 Pro might be the best find. It sports a 4K video resolution and topnotch image quality for aerial shots.
Aside from that, this camera has a 90-degree vertical adjustable angle with a 120-degree field of view. It allows you to take panoramic shots of the breath-taking scenes.
You will enjoy a 30-minute flight for each charge, but you can always purchase another battery if you want to extend this period.
You can also take advantage of the various modes of the drone. It has Gesture Mode, Orbit Mode, and Follow Me mode. You can also use the Tap or Fly feature so you can fly in a custom path in 16 different waypoints.
Unlike the previous Contixo drones I’ve used before, this one has a stronger GPS positioning. It also has a decent transmission range of 1,700 feet. This drone is stable, but you should avoid take-offs during strong winds and inclement weather. Also, it has improved thrust power and battery efficiency, which allows the drone to perform better,
Moreover, this has a brushless motor, so the blades run quietly without cutting back on its power. It doesn’t breakdown easily, ensuring continuous flights.
Overall, this drone is fairly easy to use among beginners. However, I wish that the stability of the drone will be improved when taking videos.
DJI Mavic Mini FlyCam Quadcopter Drone
Do you want a DJI drone but don’t have the budget to splurge? For starters, I highly recommend the DJI Mavic Mini. It sports a lot of the Mavic 2 Pro features but in a much lower price range.
For this drone, you will get a camera that can capture 12 MP photos and 2.7K HD videos. It also sports DJI’s 3-axis gimbal for guaranteed stability when taking photos. This guarantees smooth and clear images on every single shot.
Moreover, the Mavic Mini only weighs 250 grams, one of the lightest in the DJI line up. With this, you don’t have to worry about FAA registration. It’s only as light as a typical smartphone.
Aside from that, this comes with a remote controller that you can connect to an array of smartphones for live video and image feed. I also like the charging base of this drone, which makes charging a total breeze.
Overall, this is highly portable, and it bears the DJI quality. You’ll never go wrong with this drone if you’re looking for the right balance between price and features.
Compared to other drones in the same price range, the Mavic Mini doesn’t feel like a toy. I was actually surprised to achieve some spectacular shots when I tried this during my last vacation.
However, I also noticed that the software needs updates and that the app drains phone battery while flying. I hope they will also update the DJI GEO Fencing for more accurate flight plans. Nonetheless, these are just minor niggles for this affordable drone.
How to choose a drone for photography
As drones become more and more popular, a lot of brands are making their own versions. This makes it difficult for newbie photographers to find the one that suits their budget and needs. To make it simpler, I’ve listed the things you should look for below:
✔️Folding vs. non-folding
Camera drones usually come in two types: folding and non-folding. Both are functional, but each one comes with pros and cons.
Folding drones are portable and suitable for traveling photographers. It’s also more lightweight than non-folding types, so it’s less likely to require FAA registration. And in most cases, folding drones are also cheaper than its non-folding counterparts.
However, the downside here is that folding drones can’t endure strong winds like non-folding ones. While you’ll be lugging a bulky non-folding drone, it offers the advantage of stability and reliability.
This isn’t to say that all folding drones are goners. To be fair, DJI does an excellent job of making durable folding drones. However, you’ll notice the difference once you’re flying it at wind speeds of up to 15 mph.
My non-folding DJI Phantom 4 Pro can endure winds of up to 22 mph. But to be fair, some folding units from the same brand are also rated for this wind speed.
In the end, the construction and material will play a big role in the performance of a drone, folding or not.
Since you’re looking for the best drones for still photography, one of the first things you should check is the camera quality. I’ve always been a follower of DJI, but cheaper options also offer a similarly high-quality camera.
The rule of thumb for photography drones is 4K video and at least 12MP for image quality. My DJI Mavic 2 Pro can shoot an image with a resolution of 5472 x 3648 pixels. This is a champ for still photographers, whatever the subject is.
I always recommend HDR-capable cameras so you can take panorama shots and the clearest images you can ever see.
Aside from that, look for a 1-inch sensor since it’s the gold standard for most drone cameras in the market. The most powerful option in the market so far is a 4/3-inch CMOS sensor. However, it also translates to a higher price tag.
The concept is that the larger the CMOS, the better it would be for low light applications. But you’re shooting during the day, splurging may not be necessary.
✔️Field of view
Expanding on the camera feature, you should check the FOV or field of view of the lens. This refers to how wide the camera can capture on any given shot. A wide FOV will let you capture panoramic images without the need to fly higher distances. This will help compensate for shorter flight ranges.
Drones in the market vary widely when it comes to the field of view angles. It could be anywhere from 60 to 180 degrees.
The Contixo F24 drone I reviewed here offers 120 degrees of FOV, which is decent enough for beginner photographers. Meanwhile, most drones from DJI I’ve tried range from 77 to 80+ degrees.
Take note that a wider FOV isn’t always ideal. A wide field of view angle will produce photos with a bird’s eye view appearance. It’s not natural and may not be useful for most still photographers. With this, the choice of FOV depends on your needs.
Drone photography is challenging since you’re not holding the actual camera. This is why there should be ways for you to control the camera settings. It includes the aperture, zoom, fps, and more. Through this, you can take the best photos, whatever the environment.
The more adjustable the camera is, the easier your job will be. This is a must for every professional photographer.
One of the most important features of a photography drone is stability. This guarantees that your photos will be clear and on-point. For this part, I highly recommend a built-in, 3-axis mechanical gimbal that will limit the shakiness of the camera during the flight.
This type of gimbal ensures that the motion of your camera will be smooth and stable. It pans, tilts, and rolls smoothly. This feature comes in handy for photography, much so for videography.
If you’re using Photoshop or Lightroom for your photos’ post-production, you should look for a drone that can take RAW/DNG images. This will give you more editing possibilities.
So how does this work? RAW/DNG photos have intact data as received by the camera’s sensor. Since the photo is more detailed, it would easier and satisfying to process. This is even more important for nighttime photos.
The device that connects you to your drone during a flight is the remote controller. Each brand has its own controller design, usually consisting of buttons and joysticks.
Some drones have controllers with built-in displays. This allows you to see the view without the aid of a smartphone. Meanwhile, the likes of FIMI X8SE can be connected to a tablet or mobile phone to see the live feed from the camera.
Overall, the controller should be ergonomic and intuitive, especially for beginners. It should be easy to operate so you can focus on taking pictures.
✔️Flight speed and range
The flight speed and range of the drone is very important. Photography drones can have maximum flight ranges from 30 to 44 mph. Fast flight speeds allow the drone to hover and overcome winds.
To achieve this, the drone needs to have a motor with excellent thrust power. This will allow you to send the drone to great heights within a small amount of time.
Another thing you should check is the range of the drone. This is very important if you don’t want to lose an expensive drone in the middle of nowhere.
Most of the drones I’ve tried over the years have transmission ranges of a few meters to several kilometers.
For example, the Contixo F24 has a range of 1,700 feet, which is roughly half a kilometer. This is already decent for casual photographers who are looking for budget finds.
Meanwhile, most of the DJI drones I reviewed above boasts a transmission range of up to 8 kilometers. This is a champ for professional photographers, though the price is understandably steep.
To make the most out of your drone, you should look for various flight modes. This will automate several functions for better control. It also comes in handy in different weather and environments you want to shoot.
Let’s take DJI drones, for example. It’s popular for its intelligent flight modes. The following are some of it and how it works:
- ActiveTrack mode. In this mode, you can mark an object so your drone will track it. It can be an animal, vehicle, or person. This way, the drone follows the object even if the subject isn’t holding or using the remote controller.
- TapFly mode. The TapFly mode allows you to launch the drone by simply tapping on a connected smartphone. This allows you to focus on taking the best shots since the drone flies automatically.
- Waypoints. In this mode, you can set a flight path for your drone. This feature is helpful if you want to repeat shots and plan the shots you want to take.
- Tripod mode. By using this, you can keep your drone flying still in a specific spot. This allows you to take shots and video footage of an area.
- Draw mode. This mode lets you draw a path on your controller, which the camera will follow.
- Gesture mode. Of all the modes I’ve tried, only the Phantom 4 Pro has this feature. It allows you to control your drone through the gesture of your hand. It’s a very cool and futuristic feature.
Most drones will have similar modes but with different names. What matters is it suits your needs as a photographer. You should perform in-depth checks and research about the drone you’re planning to buy to get the best value from your investment.
✔️Flight time and battery power
One practical feature you should consider is the flight time of the drone. On average, drones can fly for up to 30 minutes on each charge. This is the standard across brands and price ranges. If you need to fly consistently for more than half an hour, I suggest buying more battery packs.
The Autel Robotics EVO Drone I reviewed above comes with three batteries so you can fly for long hours. Nevertheless, all drones have battery packs you can purchase separately if you wish so.
GPS technology is required if the drone has a Waypoint mode. It defines the path you set for your drone’s flight. More advanced drones have this feature for better navigation.
With GPS technology, the drone will know where it took off. You only need to press the ‘Home’ button for the drone to come back to your spot. This prevents the device from getting lost.
Aside from that, GPS allows for autonomous flights. It uses a pre-determined flight path. Through this, you can focus on taking pictures as the drone follows the route you set.
Moreover, advanced drones are equipped with GLONASS for better positioning and to avoid obstructions.
✔️Software and application
A mobile application is very important when using a drone. This will let you control and customize the drone settings to your liking. It will also allow you to convert your mobile device into a remote controller on several modes. Like the controller, the mobile app of the drone should be easy to learn and use.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q: Is a drone worth it for photography?
A: Photography drones will take your craft to new heights. It will let you take photos of sceneries a typical camera can’t capture. However, reliable and high-quality photography drones have a hefty price tag. Still, it’s an excellent investment that will pay for itself in the long run. Just make sure that the drone of your choice has the features that suit your needs.
Q: Can you fly Mavic Mini at night?
A: Based on my experience, yes, you can fly a Mavic Mini at night. However, you should keep the movement at a minimum. Aside from that, the image quality isn’t as good as compared to daytime shots. It doesn’t have a dedicated night vision feature, so this is quite understandable.
Q: Do I have to register a photography drone?
A: It depends on the features of the drone. The Federal Aviation Administration requires drone registration if it’s heavier than 0.55 pounds. Small and light drones don’t usually require registration. To be sure, you should check the FAA regulations here.
Q: What is the best camera drone to buy for beginners?
A: I swear by the DJI Mavic Mini, FIMI X8 SE, and Contixo F24 if you want budget-friendly options. From there, you can upgrade to more expensive and advanced units. When choosing a drone, you should always consider your photography needs and features.
Q: Is drone photography profitable?
A: Base on my conversations with friends who are drone photographers, I can say that it’s quite a profitable niche. It’s popular and applicable to a lot of occasions. From weddings, birthdays, gender reveals, travels, and so on. As long as you’re willing to invest in durable equipment and learn new skills, you can earn a nice living with this job.
Q: What will happen if I don’t register my drone?
A: If you have a drone that requires registration under FAA rules, you will be fined and sued for not complying. Penalties for this violation could be as expensive as $27,000 aside from a criminal charge. It’s best to register your drone. Besides, it will only cost you $5 per drone, and it’s already valid for three years.
The best drones for still photography will let you take photos like no other. You can now capture panoramic still photos without riding a helicopter. Just make sure that the drone you’re going to purchase has the right features to suit your photography needs.
What do you think of these camera drones I reviewed above? Have you tried any of it before? Share your experience with us!