With the camera drone market set to enter a new decade, companies are racing to add as many features as possible. Everything from autonomous flight modes to smart shots to make your videos and photos look amazing. But, let’s remember why we all want a drone in the first place. Let’s take a look at the best drones for sale right now.
First, let’s establish some guidelines. You can buy custom solutions that have a RED camera underneath it and blow anything off-the-shelf out of the air. So, we are focusing on camera drones under $2000.
If you have the $100K to spend, then feel free to go wild, but you should already know your use case or just have a ridiculous amount of extra cash lying about.
Our guide to the top drone cameras for sale is all about accessibility for the average consumer. It will solely focus on the camera in terms of image and video quality as it relates to its stated specs. All other features are pushed aside in favor of which drone pushes the limit in terms of quality.
Here are the Top Camera Drones for Sale
It shouldn’t surprise anyone, but in the consumer drone market, it’s almost a one-company show. DJI thoroughly dominates the off-the-shelf camera drone industry. There is some competition, but you can look at the sales figures, search trends, or even your local clubs to see the reality of the market.
1. DJI Mavic 2 Pro
It should come as no surprise the company’s current flagship camera drone comes out on top in the battle for camera supremacy. The Pro-variant of the Mavic 2 line is the only DJI drone with a 20-megapixel, one-inch sensor currently for sale. There is some hope the Phantom 4 Pro will make a reappearance, but those hopes fade by the day heading into 2020.
Depending on your use case, it would be pretty simple to interchange the Mavic 2 Pro with the Zoom in the top spot. That’s thanks to its 2x optical zoom paired with a 12MP sensor. Yes, you take a bit of a hit on the sensor front, but what you gain with the zoom is a brand new perspective. And a really easy dolly zoom ‘shot mode.’
Easily the most unique looking camera drones on the list, the Parrot Anafi also claims the title for the highest megapixel count at 21. Another element you can add to the list for the Anafi is the forward-slung camera, which allows it to pan vertically across its entire 180-degree plane.
What holds the drone slightly back from the top spot among camera drones is the same 21-megapixel sensor. The Sony 1/2.4″ is one of the more acclaimed sensors on the market, but with the Anafi battling the juggernaut of DJI, it needs a bit more to topple the flagship Mavic 2 Pro. It does, however, compare quite favorably against the Mavic Air, which is its more traditional competition.
What You Can Capture with an Anafi.
4. DJI Mavic Air
The oldest model on the list is the Mavic Air. A sub-$1000 camera drone, it is your best option for those looking for an ultra-portable, 4K-capable drone. You’ll see a ton of travel vloggers opt for it for those reasons alone. High quality and doesn’t break the bank.
Its camera sensor is solid, and 12MP count along with the video frame rates aren’t all that dissimilar from the Mavic 2 Zoom minus the optical zoom and a host of other, non-camera features.
The baby on the list is the latest offering from DJI, the Mavic Mini. It’s the replacement for the DJI Spark and ticks a ton of upgrade boxes over the now discontinued Spark. On the camera front, it’s a massive leap forward thanks to the 12MP sensor and the ability to shoot 2.7K video. Yeah, no 4K here on a camera drone that starts at $399. Can’t have everything in life.
The big headline with the Mavic Mini is the weight. 249 grams seems impossibly light, yet DJI slides in under a host of international registration requirements. Hell of an accomplishment heading into 2020.
What You Can Capture with a Mavic Mini.
Get Educated on the ‘Camera’ Drone
Megapixel Count & Sensor Size. The headline number in every drone announcement is the sensor. It’s the first thing I look at as well as the legions of enthusiast pilots across the world. How many megapixels the drone’s sensor can resolve is one of the most significant marketing points. Currently, the industry is entrenched between a 12MP or a topline 20MP sensor like that in the current-generation DJI Mavic 2 Pro.
Why does the count matter? The higher the number, the more detail you can render in your photos and videos. Those extra megapixels also allow you to crop in on an image effectively, giving you another focal length at your disposal to get the perfect shot.
When DJI announced the Phantom 4, the actual sensor size became a new point of the company distinguishing itself from the competition. Instead of the 1/2.3-inch sensor seen in all consumer camera drones up until that point, a one-inch sensor was now being used. Why does size matter? A larger sensor means more surface area for light to render the image or video. Here’s an image to illustrate the difference in surface area between the one-inch and 1/2.3-inch sensors.
Field of View (FOV). You won’t hear much about in marketing, but it’s a part of the drone camera that is absolutely vital to get correct. I think we all remember the days of the GoPro fisheye look. That’s an extreme FOV. Having said that, you do want a camera drone with a wide field of view, as some models will begin cropping the footage as you step up in various 4K shooting modes. A good range is something like the DJI Mavic 2 Pro, which has a 77-degree FOV.
Bitrates. A basic primer on bitrates is it’s a measurement on how much data can be pushed to the storage device. What you want to see on a camera drone is a high number when filming in 4K. Most flagship drones can handle 100Mbps with next-generation models in 2020 expected to push past this threshold.
Drones and Cameras Heading into 2020
While 2019 was a bit of a let down on launches, 2020 promises to be one blistering year in terms of announcements. DJI is coming off its self-imposed hiatus of flagship drones in January with a host of new drones, including the next-generation Mavic 3, Inspire 3, Mavic Air 2, and hopefully a new Phantom 5. Come on, DJI. We want a Phantom.
The company will have its AirSense technology fully deployed and expect the market to be reinvigorated as the juggernaut begins its move forward into a new decade. As for the competition? FPV is making moves, but DJI has itself covered there, and there’s little to no rumors of a major player jumping into the market.