With over 50% of the market cornered, it’s not an opinion that DJI owns the consumer camera drone market until a major company comes along and makes a play. Sony? Canon? Anyone? Competition fosters innovation, and we all know it’s all about the camera. Sure, it’s great I can wave at the drone, but deep down, it’s all about the image and video quality.
And the market is only getting larger. Head over here for an infographic on the growth of the camera drone market expected over the next five years in the United States alone.
Best DJI Drones
1. DJI Mavic Pro
Not the most expensive of the lot, but damn can you beat the portability mixed with quality? Now that the shipping woes have been worked out, these units fly off the shelf. It punches way above its weight class, and if you need a travel drone, there’s not a better option. If you need proof, YouTuber ProCinematicFX shows off the type of shots you can get with the Mavic Pro:
Yeah, it’s obvious the channel knows its way around Adobe CC. The good news is there are plenty of tutorials to show you how to edit your footage and add a killer soundtrack. Check out our guide here to get you started on the best YouTube channels.
Technically the Mavic Pro lists out at $999. That’s all fine and good, but you want extra batteries, a case, car charger, etc. Bundle it for $1299, and you’re set.
2. Phantom 4 Pro
The flagship of the Phantom series until the Phantom 5 comes out. Take all the advanced features unveiled in the Mavic Pro – extended range, etc. and pack it into a video and still photography beast. It has the one-inch sensor at 20MP. A mechanical shutter for those photography nuts among us. Five directional obstacle sensing for the ‘oops moments’ and priced at $1,499.00.
Those wanting a dedicated screen can add it on for $300. Personally, I prefer using an iPad. We all have a tablet at this point, and you’re not locked into DJI’s app ecosystem. Nothing wrong with the DJI Go 4 App, but it’s nice to have options. The extra $300 you’d spend can grab two batteries. Which would you rather have?
Why isn’t it first? The Mavic wins by combining a crazy feature set with portability. The Phantom 4 Pro is portable, but not toss in a small bag small. It’s the price you pay for better tech, camera sensor, and more. And then there’s the low light capability. It’s off the charts when compared to the regular Phantom 4:
3. DJI Spark
DJI’s answer to those wanting an entry-level drone. Think of it as a selfie drone and at $499; it’s hard to beat the price for something brand new. There are compromises. First, the camera is not on a 3-axis gimbal. You get a two-axis setup with electronic image stabilization. Next is the limited battery life of 16 minutes, but you can plug it in without removing the battery to charge it. The range is limited to an advertised 1.2 miles. Figure just under a mile in normal conditions.
What makes it #3? It’s tiny and the perfect camera drone for kids or those just wanting a selfie drone. If you’re not interested in flying two miles out for the perfect shot, the Spark is in your wheelhouse. It’s built like a tank, so handing it off to my nephew is no problem.
The $499 is a bit of headline grabber. For the remote controller, extra batteries, charger, case, etc.exact same, the true cost is $699. Still a solid deal, but that represents a more realistic price point.
4. Phantom 4 Advanced
It’s $150 cheaper than the Phantom 4 Pro, but you lose the 5.8Ghz band and a variety of sensors. The Phantom 4 Advanced has to be the oddest price point of the bunch as you’re better off grabbing the Phantom 4 Pro for the extra $150. It’s almost as if this is supposed to be the Phantom 4, but it wasn’t quite ready. Outside of lacking the 5.8Ghz band and the safety sensors on the sides and rear, same as the Phantom 4 Pro.
Why not go with the cheaper option? The sensors are great for indoor flying. The 5.8Ghz band in the Pro allows you to switch between the 2.4 and 5.8 if one or the other is full. That’s huge when it comes to transmission quality and control lag. If the price difference were $300, I’d say go with this over the Pro and snag two extra batteries. Maybe that’s what the future holds for the Advanced, but for now, it’s not.
5. Inspire 2
If you’re a professional, this will be at the top. If you’re not, there are better ways to blast through $6,000.00. That’s the cost of the premium combo. If it were me, I’d go with the Phantom 4 Pro and buy a plane ticket somewhere amazing. Those needing it have a true dual operator camera drone now. The front-facing FPV camera for the pilot, while the second operator controls the 360-degree gimbal.
The Inspire 2 oversamples 4K footage to 5.2K and the burst rate on still photography is 14fps in RAW+JPG or 20fps in RAW only. It’s a monster, and you either know why you need it or have serious disposable income.
Other DJI Drones?
Those looking for the Phantom 4 should know it’s no longer being manufactured by DJI. You can snap it up off Amazon for less than $850. The Phantom 3 Pro is still one of my favorites because it can take a damn beating. Talking pine tree collision, a front flip on landing, another tree impact chasing my nephew, and it still fires up every time. It’s also on Amazon for $733.
This list is about what you can purchase for a reasonable amount, and it’s ready to fly out of the box. Left off includes the entire Matrice line which is for true professionals or industrial use cases. Wouldn’t mind the Phantom 5 or whatever is next to have a dual camera payload setup, but that’s dreaming a bit too much. Still, come on DJI. Hook us up.
Last update on 2018-01-20 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API