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Best camera drones 2022: Capture stunning aerial photography and video

The DJI Mavic 3 drone on a stone floor
(Image credit: Future)

The best camera drones available today are easier than ever to use and have the ability to capture truly exquisite photos and videos. And with options available for all budgets and requirements, not to mention a range of unique features, the perfect model for you is just around the corner. 

When considering the best camera drone model for you and your budget, camera functionality, sensor size, resolution for photos, video resolution, video frame rates and the ability to shoot video in ‘flat’ or Raw profiles alongside Raw photos are all important considerations. But it’s not just the camera functionality that you have to consider, size and weight are also factors you can’t ignore. But if the camera element of the drone is less important to you than other features, such as a small and lightweight design, take a look at our best drones and best beginner drones guides where you’ll be able to discover a more suitable model.

True professional models, like those used in television and movie production, are large drones that aren’t easily carried to remote locations. So, if you need to carry your drone over long distances for long periods, consider a lighter folding model that folds down to a small size for transportation. These models may not be on par with the largest and most expensive professional models available, but what they’re capable of in terms of photo and video capture is nothing short of impressive.

If you would like to get the most out of your camera drone with expert tips and advice on how to take better shots, check out our drone photography tips guide and our beginner’s guide to drone video. Not only will these teach you everything you need to know about aerial photography and video, but they’ll also help you to take your aerial shots to the next level.

Best camera drone overall

DJI Mavic 3 Drone

(Image credit: James Abbott)
A combination of portability and great image quality

Specifications

Camera: 4/3 20MP sensor & 1/2-inch 12MP sensor
Battery: 5000mAh / up to 46 minutes flight time
Video: Up to 5.1K
Frame rates: 5.1K up to 50fps / 4K up to 120fps / FHD up to 200fps
Foldable: Yes
Weight: Standard 895g / Cine 899g
Dimensions: Folded 221x96.3x90.3mm / Unfolded 347.5x283x107.7mm

Reasons to buy

+
High-quality Four Thirds camera 
+
Adjustable aperture 
+
Two different models available 

Reasons to avoid

-
Most expensive prosumer model available 
-
Not the smallest foldable drone 
-
Not aimed at beginners 

The DJI Mavic 3 is what you could call DJI’s flagship model despite not being the most advanced or expensive model in the company’s line-up. It is, however, the company’s most advanced folding drone that’s a highly portable 221x96.3x90.3mm when folded, and both models weigh less than 900g.

There are two models available – the Standard and the Cine – with the latter being the more advanced model. The main differences between them are that the Cine features a built-in 1TB SSD rather than 8GB of internal storage, with support for Apple ProRes 422 HQ video recording and comes with a Smart Controller with a built-in LCD touchscreen.

The dual Hasselblad camera is the jewel in the Mavic 3’s crown, with the main Four Thirds camera offering excellent image quality alongside an adjustable f/2.8 to f/11 aperture capable of capturing in JPEG and Raw. The second camera uses a 1/2-Inch CMOS sensor with an equivalent focal length of 162mm, a fixed f/4.4 aperture and a 28x hybrid zoom with limited functionality.

The Mavic 3 offers a level of control comparable to standard cameras for stills photography. Video shooting with the main camera is available at 5.1K up to 50fps, 4K at up to 120fps, FHD up to 120fps and when shooting Apple ProRes on the Cine model up to 50fps in 5.1K and up to 120fps in 4K. With both models, you can shoot in the flat D-Log profile for colour grading or in Standard profiles for footage that’s processed in-camera.

Best small camera drone

Autel EVO Nano+ drone

(Image credit: Future)
A fully featured palm-sized and lightweight drone

Specifications

Camera: 12.5MP 1/1.28-inch sensor
Battery: 2250 mAh LiPo 2S / up to 28 minutes
Video resolution: Up to 4K
Frame rates: 4K up to 30fps / 2.7K up to 30fps / FHD up to 60fps
Foldable design: Yes
Weight: 8.78oz / 249g
Dimensions: Folded 142×94×55mm / Unfolded 260×325×55mm

Reasons to buy

+
4K video and Raw Photos
+
Collision avoidance
+
Sub 250g category drone

Reasons to avoid

-
No Raw option for 50MP photos
-
4K video limited to 30fps
-
Can struggle in wind over 20mph

Sub-250g drones are popular options for beginners and professionals alike because of their regulator-friendly nature which sees them under fewer restrictions than larger models. The Autel EVO Nano+ was the first drone in this category to feature obstacle avoidance, which in turn brings into play Quickshots. These are automated flight patterns that allow you to capture professional-looking videos at the touch of a button. 

The Nano+ is available in four colors – Classic Orange, Deep Space Grey, Blazing Red and Arctic White, and features a folding design that makes it extremely small for transportation. Build quality is excellent, and this 249g drone, including a battery, is just 142×94×55mm when folded and 260×325×55mm unfolded, while spare batteries weigh just 82g.

Image quality from the camera with a 12.5MP 1/1.28-inch sensor, an equivalent focal length of 23mm and a fast f/1.9 aperture is excellent overall. For stills photography, you can shoot in Raw, JPEG or both when shooting 12.5MP photos, but when taking advantage of the 50MP photo feature, you can only capture photos as JPEGs. 

In terms of video, you can shoot at 4K up to 30fps, 2.7K up to 30fps and FHD up to 60fps with a maximum bitrate of 100Mbps. Video can be captured in both Standard and D-Log color profiles, with the former for straight-out-of-camera footage and the latter for color grading and use within professional workflows.

The Nano+ is available in two kits; the first is the standard bundle, which costs $899 / £719 and comes with everything you need to get started including a single battery, While the premium bundle comes with everything in the standard bundle but also includes two additional batteries, a carry bag, additional spare propellers, a power adaptor, a three battery charging hub and a propeller holder.

Best for stability

Yuneec Typhoon H Plus

(Image credit: Yuneec)

Yuneec Typhoon H Plus

Six rotor stability with a 1-inch sensor

Specifications

Camera: 1-inch 20MP sensor
Battery: 5250 mAh / up to 28 minutes flight time
Video: Up to 4K
Frame rates: 4K up to 60fps / FHD up to 120fps / HD up to 120fps
Foldable: Yes
Weight: 1995g (inc. C23 camera)
Dimensions: Diagonal 520mm

Reasons to buy

+
1-inch sensor in the camera 
+
Stable in windy conditions with six propellers 
+
Controller has a built-in touchscreen 

Reasons to avoid

-
Foldable but still large and heavy 
-
Smaller sensor than the Mavic 3 

Offering stability in higher winds, the Yuneec Typhoon H Plus is a hexacopter featuring six propellers with the ability to maintain flight with five propellers if one fails. This is a large and heavy drone that weighs 1995g and does fold down, but it remains much bulkier than other folding models so it’s not as easily transportable as DJI Mavic drones or the Autel Evo II Pro.

The C23 4K camera features a 1-inch sensor capable of capturing 20MP stills in JPEG and Raw formats, with 4K video available up to 60fps alongside FHD and HD at up to 120fps. The gimbal can rotate a full 360° for photo and video capture since the landing gear is raised once the drone has taken off so you don’t need to rotate the drone to compose your shots – great for subject tracking videos.

The controller features a 7-inch touchscreen display powered by Android and features an HDMI port to connect to an external monitor. What’s more, the Typhoon H Plus offers Team Mode which allows you to control the drone and camera independently using two remote controls. This means that the pilot can focus on flight while a camera operator takes control of the camera – perfect for professional filmmaking.

Best for portability

DJI Air 2S

(Image credit: DJI)
The most portable drone available with a 1-inch sensor

Specifications

Camera: 1-inch 20MP
Battery: 3500mAh / up to 31 minutes flight time
Video: Up to 5.4K
Frame rates: 5.4K up to 30fps / 4K up to 60fps / 2.7K up to 60fps / FHD up to 120fps
Foldable: Yes
Weight: 595g
Dimensions: Folded 180x97x77mm / Unfolded 183x253x77mm

Reasons to buy

+
 Small and lightweight 
+
 1-inch 20MP sensor 
+
 Up to 5.4K video 

Reasons to avoid

-
 Smaller sensor than the Mavic 3 
-
 Fixed f/2.8 aperture 

Taking the crown for best DJI drone with a 1-inch sensor from the Mavic 2 Pro, the Air 2S is now the best and indeed newest model available with this sensor size. The Air 2S features a folding design with a folded size of 180x97x77mm and a weight of just 595g, making it the smallest and lightest drone available with a 1-inch sensor. This makes it the perfect choice for photographers and videographers requiring excellent image quality in a small package that can be easily carried alongside other equipment. 

The camera features a 1-inch 20MP sensor with an equivalent focal length of 22mm. It’s capable of capturing stills in both Raw and JPEG formats, although it doesn’t offer an adjustable aperture so videographers will need to rely on ND filters to control shutter speed when filming. This is less convenient than having an adjustable aperture that can be used in conjunction with ND filters to control exposure, but the trade-off here is the small size and light weight of the drone.

In terms of video, you can shoot 5.4K up to 30fps, 4K up to 60fps, 2.7K up to 60fps and FHD up to 120fps with both Standard and D-Log profiles available for in-camera processed footage or footage that can be colour graded. A digital zoom provides up to 8x magnification when shooting FHD videos with a sliding scale to 4x at 4K, allowing you to film subjects without needing to physically fly closer. Zoom recording isn’t available while shooting 10-bit videos and 120fps videos, however.

Best for manually tracking moving subjects

DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0

(Image credit: DJI)

DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0

An older product that still packs a punch

Specifications

Camera: 1-inch 20MP sensor
Battery: 5870mAh / up to 30 minutes flight time
Video: up to C4K (4096x2160)
Frame rates: C4K up to 30fps / 4K up to 30fps / 2.7K up to 60fps / FHD & HD up to 120fps
Foldable: No
Weight: 1375g
Dimensions: 251×398.78×172.72mm

Reasons to buy

+
1-inch sensor 
+
Adjustable f/2.8-f/11 aperture 
+
Highly stable in the air 

Reasons to avoid

-
Large and bulky, but not heavy 
-
Not as portable as folding drones 
-
Takes longer to set up than foldable drones 

The DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 was announced back in 2018 but remains available to purchase on the DJI Store and from third-party retailers. At 1375g with the battery and propellors installed with a size of 251×398.78×172.72mm, plus the 904g controller and 468g for each additional battery, carrying everything in the included polystyrene case can be cumbersome but surprisingly comfortable to carry at the same time. 

The advantages of the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 despite its size and weight are stability and speed in the air; it’s a powerful and responsive drone that’s great for manually tracking moving subjects at speed thanks to a top speed of 45mph in Sport Mode. Its large size also makes it easier to see in the sky than smaller drones, which is always useful from a safety perspective.

The camera offers a 24mm equivalent focal length and features a 1-inch 20MP sensor capable of capturing stills in JPEG and Raw formats. The aperture is also adjustable from f/2.8 – f/11 so you can control shutter speed using ND filters and the aperture for more convenience. In terms of video, you can capture C4K (cinematic 4K) up to 30fps, 4K up to 30fps, 2.7K up to 60fps and FHD and HD up to 120fps in both Standard and D-Log colour profiles.

Best for class-leading safety features

Skydio 2+

(Image credit: Skydio)

Skydio 2+

If you need a safer drone, for new pilots, this is a good pick

Specifications

Camera: 1/2.3-inch 12.3MP sensor
Battery: 5410mAh / up to 27 minutes flight time
Video: Up to 4K
Frame rates: 4K up to 60fps / FHD up to 120fps
Foldable: No
Weight: 800g
Dimensions: 229x274x76mm (with antennas down)

Reasons to buy

+
Excellent subject tracking 
+
Class-leading collision avoidance 
+
Small and lightweight 

Reasons to avoid

-
Photos are only 12MP 
-
Not a foldable drone 

The Skydio 2+ may not provide the highest resolution for stills photography but it does offer 4K video. And where this drone ultimately excels is when it comes to intelligent autonomous flight thanks to class-leading subject tracking. The subject tracking performance of the Skydio 2+, even in complex locations such as woodland, is remarkable and provides much smoother video footage than other drones making it a great option for action and sports videos.

With a fixed body, the Skydio 2+ is bulkier than foldable drones but it’s still reasonably small at 229x274x76mm with a weight of just 800g so it’s still a highly portable option. The Skydio 2+ uses a dedicated autonomous flight system with Omnidirectional Super fisheye lenses to provide a 360° view for collision avoidance to help pilots maintain safe flight whether flying manually or taking advantage of the automated flight and subject tracking modes.

The 20mm equivalent camera uses a 1/2.3-inch 12.3MP sensor with a fixed f/2.8 aperture with the ability to capture photos in JPEG and Raw formats. Video is slightly more limited than other drone models, but you can shoot 4K at up to 60fps and FHD at up to 120fps so you ultimately have the main resolutions required by both enthusiasts and professionals.

Best professional-use drone

A DJI Inspire 2 with X5S camera

(Image credit: DJI)

DJI Inspire 2 & Zenmuse X5S

A professional solution offering interchangeable cameras and lenses

Specifications

Camera: Micro Four Thirds 20.8MP sensor
Battery: 4280mAh / up to 27 minutes flight time (depends on camera used)
Video: Up to 4K DCI (4096x2160)
Frame rates: 4K DCI up to 30fps / 4K up to 60fps / FHD up to 60fps
Foldable: No
Weight: 3440g (without camera) 3901g (with X5S but no lens)
Dimensions: Length 605mm (diagonal)

Reasons to buy

+
Interchangeable cameras and lenses 
+
Excellent image quality 
+
High performance  

Reasons to avoid

-
Expensive 
-
Large and heavy 
-
Not aimed at beginners or enthusiasts 

There are drone models aimed at every type of drone pilot, and the DJI Inspire 2 is firmly aimed at the professional market and comes in at a hefty cost to match. This large and heavy drone has a diagonal length of 605mm and weighs just under 4kg with a camera attached, so it’s far from a portable model. There are also several different cameras available for the drone, so we’ll consider it here with the mid-range Zenmuse X5S.

The Zenmuse X5S features a 20.9MP Micro Four Thirds sensor and lens mount compatible with eight DJI, Panasonic and Olympus MFT lenses. This camera provides 12.8 stops of dynamic range and the ability to shoot in JPEG and 12-bit Raw. Video can be captured at 5.2K up to 30fps, 4K DCI (cinematic 4K) up to 30fps, 4K up to 60fps and FHD up to 60fps. Raw video profiles include CinemaDNG and ProRes. 

The Inspire 2 is a large and powerful drone with a top speed of 58mph in Sport Mode that can accelerate from 0-50mph in five seconds. It even features self-heating technology for use in colder environments and the gimbal that can rotate the camera 360°. It’s a seriously well-featured drone before you even consider the stellar safety technology, flight and camera functionality available.

Best pro drone for image quality

Airpeak S1 drone

(Image credit: Sony)

Sony Airpeak S1

Smallest drone available capable of carrying full-frame mirrorless cameras

Specifications

Camera: Can carry Sony A1, A7 and A9 series cameras
Battery: 2518 mAh / up to 22 minutes (without camera)
Video: Depends on camera used
Frame rates: 5.1K up to 50fps / 4K up to 120fps / FHD up to 200fps
Foldable: No
Weight: 3144g (without camera)
Dimensions: Length 648mm (diagonal)

Reasons to buy

+
Incredible image quality possible 
+
Allows use of your Sony mirrorless cameras 
+
Smaller and easier to use than custom-built drones 

Reasons to avoid

-
Extremely expensive 
-
Large and heavy 
-
Short flight times 

Top-end professional drones are notoriously expensive and tricky to use, not least because of the batteries they use. But where these were once almost exclusively custom-built, the Sony Airpeak S1 is what you might call a ready-made drone offering ease of use and the ability to attach Sony’s full-frame A1, A7 and A9 series cameras. It’s an extremely expensive drone before you even consider the cost of the camera, but what it offers is the ability to capture the best image quality possible.

This is an incredibly powerful drone with a top speed of 55.9mph (without a camera) with wind resistance of up to 44.7mph, so it can be flown in even the most challenging conditions and still capture smooth video footage. Battery life is short at up to just 22 minutes without a camera attached, but this would be sufficient for many professional filmmaking situations. When purchasing the Airpeak S1, you will also need a compatible camera and gimbal mount.

The drone and camera can be controlled individually so a pilot can focus on flight while the camera operator focuses on filming. And with retractable landing gear, the gimbal and mounted camera can be rotated 360°. In terms of image quality, whether shooting stills or video, you can enjoy the best image quality for stills and video possible thanks to being able to mount Sony’s A1, A7 and A9 series cameras. Take a look at the specs of individual camera models to see what they’re capable of in terms of photography and video.

Best attachable drone camera

Insta360 Sphere Product Shot

(Image credit: Future)
A unique 360° camera designed for the DJI Mavic Air 2/2S

Specifications

Camera: Dual f/2 cameras produce a 360° view
Battery: Up to 48 minutes
Video: Up to 5.7K
Frame rates: 5K up to 30fps, 4K up to 50fps, 3K at 100fps
Foldable: N/A
Weight: 6.77oz / 192g
Dimensions: Designed specifically to fit the DJI Mavic Air 2/2S

Reasons to buy

+
Easy-to-use camera
+
Footage is easy to edit
+
Interesting and effective results

Reasons to avoid

-
Only available for the DJI Mavic Air 2/2S
-
WiFi connection drops around 10m
-
Video editing in the phone app is fiddly

Capturing 360° is becoming increasingly popular in drone photography and video, but simply strapping a 360° camera to your drone will also capture the drone itself; removing it from the footage to be able to take advantage of a full 360° view is extremely tricky and time-consuming, but there is another option if you’re the owner of a DJI Mavic Air 2 or DJI Air 2S: the Insta360 Sphere. 

The Insta360 Sphere is an innovative camera that uses two cameras to capture a seamless 360° view where the drone is essentially invisible. The dual 7.2mm f/2 cameras can capture video in 5.7K up to 30ps, 4K up to 50fps and 3K at 100fps. Video modes include Standard Video, HDR, Timelapse, TimeShift, Bullet Time and Loop Recording, with Standard, Vivid and LOG color profiles available. And in most situations, simply setting the camera to capture video in 5.7K and flying the drone for a few minutes captures enough footage to create a much more exciting video.

After simple and slow flights with the drone over, under and around obstacles while capturing 360° footage, you can use the Insta360 phone app or Insta360 Studio desktop app to create immersive FPV-style video with ease. video effects such as camera direction, movement, speed, drone rolls, flips, dives and other effects can be applied during editing using templates and keyframes

The Standalone kit costs $423/£440 and includes the Sphere camera, two sticky lens guards, two lens caps, one battery, a charging cable, a lens cloth and a landing mat. The Memory Card Kit costs $440/£456 and includes all of the above alongside a 64GB microSD card. The price on the Insta360 website includes customs duty and import tax.

More information about drone flight

For some, flying a drone is a fun end in itself. But for most people, the whole point of buying a drone is to be able to capture amazing aerial photos and videos, alongside being able to get a camera into locations and positions not accessible on foot. This means that the camera and the image quality it produces are important considerations when choosing the right drone for you.

All the drones covered in this article require you to register with the FAA (US) and CAA (UK) because they all weigh over 249g. It’s a simple process that involves a basic multiple-choice test, and once completed you’ll have a better idea of what you should and shouldn’t do with your drone. And most importantly, you’ll be legal to fly your drone and not be at risk of receiving a hefty fine. For more detailed information, check out our guide to drone regulations.

We’ve covered the best camera drones available right now in this article, but even if you’re looking for something smaller, lighter and/or less expensive, even beginner drones can provide excellent image quality. And if they're too expensive, we do have a look at the cheapest drone deals right now too.

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James is an award-winning freelance landscape and portrait photographer, as well as a highly experienced photography journalist working with some of the best photography magazines and websites with a worldwide audience. He’s also the author of The Digital Darkroom: The Definitive Guide to Photo Editing. www.jamesaphoto.co.uk (opens in new tab)