Until recently, aerial photography (and video) was an expensive show that required helicopters, planes, or build-your-own rigs. This is no longer true thanks to the relatively cheap drones. It’s no surprise that so many people have discovered drones and the unique perspectives they can offer.
Options range from personal “selfie” drones to advanced models capable of producing professional-grade photos and video.
Our pick: DJI Air 2S
The DJI Air 2S is our top pick for most drone users. It strikes a great balance between features and price, and in some cases outperforms more expensive models. Its small size makes it good for travel, yet it is intuitive enough to fly.
Notably, the Air 2S includes a camera with a Type 1″ sensor, a feature previously reserved for models that cost hundreds of dollars more. It shoots 5.4K/30p video and 20MP photos in Raw or JPEG format, and DJI’s Smartphoto feature uses technologies Computational imaging to deliver high-quality images A new feature called Mastershots will automatically shoot and edit a series of videos together for sharing.Pilots are assisted by DJI’s APAS 4.0 (Advance Pilot Assistance System), which uses obstacle avoidance sensors to navigate around objects in the aircraft’s path without pilot.
The Air 2S is ideal for most hobbyists and advanced users, although professionals will find that it meets their needs most of the time. The only notable drawback is the lens with a fixed aperture, which means that advanced users may need to rely on ND filters more than they would when shooting video.
Best for Pros: DJI Mavic 3 and Mavic 3 Cine
The DJI Mavic 3 and Mavic 3 Cine are our top picks for professionals or enthusiasts who demand the best video or image quality available from an all-in-one drone. It features a dual camera module that combines a 20MP four-thirds image sensor capable of high-quality capture with a secondary 1/2″ sensor designed for zoom, and boasts an impressive 46-minute flight time.
Both versions of the Mavic 3 can record 5.1K/50p and 4K/120p video using the 200Mbps codec. The Cine adds the ability to record with the industry standard ProRes 422HQ, a more advanced console with a built-in ultra-bright display, and 1TB of internal storage—albeit at a higher price.
Between a large image sensor, great video specs, and best-in-class flight time, the Mavic 3 and Mavic 3 Cine are the best choice for those who want the best performance available without switching to a larger professional model that features interchangeable cameras. For everyone else, we recommend taking a look at our top pick, the DJI Air 2S.
We considered all of the drones below when selecting our winners. Choosing the right drone is a very personal choice that depends on a specific set of factors that matter most to you, so take a look at all drones for a detailed analysis of their strengths and weaknesses.