The best drones for photographers of 2024

The most popular use case for drones is — you guessed it — photography. Luckily, there’s a drone out there for every type of photographer, and for every type of budget. DJI makes most of the popular camera drones, but there are also worthy competitors made by other brands.

Whether you’re looking to spend $200 or $2,000 on a drone, know that you can get an incredibly high quality flying robot (WITH a camera attached to it!), for often not much more than just a standard digital camera on its own.

What to expect from a camera drone, by budget and goals

You can get a decent camera drone for under $500. If you’re looking for professional image quality (maybe you need to shoot weddings or real estate), expect to spend $2,000 and up.

When it comes to our picks for the best drones for photographers in 2023, DJI dominates the landscape. But consumers must know DJI is the best and have validated our findings with their dollars. Here’s proof: Across the entire drone industry, DJI has a 54% market share, according to the DroneAnalyst Drone Market Sector Report. That accounts for commercial drones too. As far as the hobby side, DJI has a whopping 94% market share.

But while this list is dominated by DJI, there’s actually tons of variety for all types of photographers. Find the best drones of 2023 for you, on any budget:

The best camera drone for most people: DJI Mini 4 Pro

The DJI Mini 4 Pro

The DJI Mini 4 Pro encompasses all desired drone features: top-notch image quality, remarkable compactness and lightness, easy setup and take off, and an incredibly safe and stress-free flying experience. 

Previously, the DJI Mini 3 Pro topped the list of best camera drones for most people. But with the upgrades DJI made to the Mini line in September 2023, the DJI Mini 4 Pro now tops the list. 

The DJI Mini 4 Pro essentially compiles a comprehensive list of the best features found in drones. While it may not excel in every single aspect compared to more powerful DJI drones like the Mavic 3, the Mini 3 Pro stands as the best drone considering its overall performance, compact design, and price point. 

By fusing the petite dimensions of the Mini 2 and Mini 3 drones with the robust specification of DJI’s Air and Mavic series, the Mini 4 drone triumphs in every aspect: camera capabilities, battery longevity, safety, and smart functionalities.

The Mini 4 Pro has omnidirectional sensing direction, making it one of DJI’s safest drones. Another standout feature of the Mini 4 Pro is O4 Transmission, offering video transmission up to 20 km. It’s an incredible feature to see implemented in DJI’s more entry-level drone. 

The Mini 4 Pro (like the Mini 3) weighs just 249 grams, meaning it doesn’t fall under the purview of the Federal Aviation Administration if you’re flying for hobby purposes. That means no need to register your drone, and no need to comply with Remote ID rules. Learn more about why drones under 250 grams are such a big deal right here.

Price: $759

Flight time: 34 minutes

Buy it from:

Read my full review of the DJI Mini 4 Pro here.

The best drone for professional photography: DJI Mavic 3 Pro

The DJI Mavic 3 drone.

If you’re a serious photographer — and are willing to plunk down some serious cash — then DJI has another drone that is far more advanced. However, the price tag is bigger too. The wow-worthy DJI Mavic 3 Pro is easily the best drone for professional photographers, but it starts at $2,199. The even more advanced Cine Premium Combo will run you $4,799.

So why is the DJI Mavic 3 Pro so great?

While it’s tough to narrow down the best features on the Mavic 3 Pro, most pilots agree the top three specs are:

  1. A dual-camera system featuring Hasselblad
  2. An incredible 46-minute battery life
  3. Improved sense and avoid tech that makes this drone nearly crash-proof.

The Mavic 3 Pro has a three-axis gimbal with not one, not two but THREE cameras, which are:

  1. A custom Hasselblad wide-angle camera (24mm).
  2. Medium tele camera (70mm).
  3. Tele camera (166mm).

Upgrade option: Even more serious photographers or videographers who demand the highest-quality video might consider the Mavic 3 Cine Combo. The $4,999 drone comes with a few extra accessories, including the improved DJI RC Pro. But the real reason to spring for it is the higher-quality video, which offers Apple ProRes 422 HQ encoding for richer video processing, with an internal 1TB SSD onboard for high-speed data storage.

Price: $2,199 (or $4,999 for the Cine Combo)

Flight time: 43 minutes

Read more about the DJI Mavic 3 Pro here.

The best drone for photographers on a budget: DJI Air 3

Sally French, The Drone Girl, reviews the DJI Air 3 in July 2023.

While not as good as the DJI Mavic 3 drone, it’s also far cheaper. Enter, the Air 3 drone.

Where the DJI Mavic 3 Pro costs $2,199, the DJI Air 3 is about half that at $1,099.

The DJI Air 3 drone sits as a bit of a Goldilocks option between my top pick for most people, the DJI Mini 4 Pro, and the best drone for photographers, the DJI Mavic 3. It’s larger, more robust, and more expensive than the Mini 4 Pro. But it strips out some Mavic 3 features that you might not necessarily need, allowing you to save money.

The DJI Air 3 drone, like the Mavic 3, has two cameras: a wide-angle camera and a 3x medium tele camera. Both are capable of delivering 48MP photos and 4K/60fps HDR videos.  Other standout specs include:

  • Up to 46 minutes of flight time
  • Omnidirectional obstacle sensing
  • O4 HD Video Transmission System

The DJI Air 3 is the latest in the DJI Air line (following the beloved DJI Air 2S). It marks a series of firsts, including:

  • First within the Air Series with a dual-primary camera system (wide angle and tele)
  • First within the Air Series to include omnidirectional obstacle sensing
  • First drone of the Air Series to support 2.7K vertical video shooting (9:16)

It mostly stands out for its 1/1.3-inch CMOS sensor offering 48-megapixel photos and 4K video.

As far as deciding between the Air 3 vs. the Air 2s, the decision is tough. The Air 3 is bigger than the Mini 4 Pro, which means you’ll have to comply with FAA rules when flying in the U.S. If you frequently travel, it’s still bulkier than the Mini 4 Pro. Compared to the old days of the Phantom, this drone is super small, but it still will likely require you to check a bag, the way a Mini 4 Pro could easily stow away in an oversized pocket.

If you value camera quality, go for the Air 3. If you value portability (like you’re a frequent traveler) go for the Mini 4 Pro.

Price: $1,099

For you comparison shoppers, I’ve put together a couple of comparison guides to help you make the best buying decision. They are:

The best drone on a budget (it’s under $300, including controller): DJI Mini 4K

This drone is a very stripped down version of one of my other picks, the DJI Mini 4 Pro. The image quality is certainly far inferior. While both technically shoot 4K video, this drone has a smaller sensor. That translates to less detail and poorer low-light performance. If you’re primarily posting on social media, the video quality differences shouldn’t matter, but someone sharing videos on a bigger screen should consider an upgrade.

I’d definitely consider it DJI’s best overall drone under $600 when you factor in the price. And the price point is incredible, at just $299 including the controller.

That said — if you have wiggle room in your budget — you might consider the DJI Mini 3. That drone has a more powerful sensor and longer flight times (38 minutes, versus 31 on the DJI Mini 4K). Though because the Mini 4K is much cheaper, it wins in the “budget” category.

Like the Mini 3 and Mini 4 Pro, this drone only weighs 249 grams. That’s great for casual pilots who don’t want to worry about registering or Remote ID rules. The FAA currently only requires drones flying for hobby purposes to be registered and comply with the Remote ID requirements if they weigh 250 grams or more.

Price: $299

Flight time: 31 minutes

Read my full review of the DJI Mini 4K.

The best indoor drone (and the best racing drone): Avata 2

Sally French, The Drone Girl, reviews the DJI Avata 2 wearing the DJI Goggles 3 and using the DJI RC Motion 3. (Photo by Sally French)

Perhaps you’re a real estate agent seeking a great indoor drone. Maybe you want to get into drone racing without having to build your own drone.

If so, there’s no better bet than the DJI Avata 2 drone. It’s a new-and-improved version of the original DJI Avata which launched in August 2022, and it offers Cinewhoop-style drone racing in a ready-to-fly (and easy-to-fly) package.

But you came here specifically seeking a great camera drone. And yes, of basically any FPV drone out there, the Avata 2 offers the best camera quality you’ll find. It’s a 1/1.3-inch CMOS Super-Wide-Angle 12MP camera, offering greater dynamic range available and better image quality in low-light conditions than before. Here are some other key camera specs:

  • The lens: This ultra-wide-angle lens offers a viewing angle of up to 155°
  • Image quality: 4k/60fps, as well as slow-motion footage at 2.7K/120fps.
  • Color quality: 10-bit D-Log M Color Mode offers richer detail in highlights and shadows, which can be brought out in post-production and streamlined color grading

It’s all incredibly stable too. Check out how sleek this shot of my back patio looks:

Price: $999

Flight time: 23 minutes

Curious how this drone compares against one of my other top picks? Don’t miss this guide to the DJI Avata 2 versus Air 3.

The best drone for live broadcasts: DJI Inspire 3

The DJI Inspire 3 camera drone. Photo courtesy of DJI.

The DJI Inspire 3 is DJI’s most powerful, cinematography drone yet, with all sorts of features including a full-frame 8K imaging system, Tilt Boost and 360° Pan dual configurations, and dual-control for operators. This drone can detect obstacles in all directions.

There’s the option to display a live feed of up to 1080p/60fps, with an ultra-low latency of 90 ms. But with this new Pro version, the 4K/30fps live feeds are also supported with a reduced 5km transmission range, which unlocks the ability for ultra-HD output and live streaming on set.

Given that, I’ve specifically called it as your best option for live broadcasts. You might also consider this the Upgrade pick in the “best drones for professional photography” department.

If you’re more of a casual photographer, then this drone probably isn’t for you. It’s priced at $16,499, and that’s before you add on all the additional accessories.

Price: $16,499

Flight time: 28 minutes with dual-battery system

The best follow-me drone: DJI Mavic 3 Pro

The DJI Mavic 3 Pro and Cine version. Photo courtesy of DJI.

If this pick has you feeling a bit of deja vu, don’t worry. Besides being the best follow-me drone, it’s also our pick for the top drone for serious photographers. Not coincidentally, its smart features and follow-me skills are a big contributing factor to its winning that title. That includes multiple vision sensors (six fish-eye vision sensors and two wide-angle sensors). Together, they offer an extended sensing range to precisely sense obstacles in all directions.

Price: $2,199 (or $4,999 for the Cine Combo)

Flight time: 43 minutes

If you’re seeking a follow-me drone at a lower price point, turn to the DJI Mini 4 Pro, which also happens to be my top-recommend drone overall for most people. The Mini 4 Pro is the first drone in the Mini Series to include omnidirectional obstacle sensing. That’s executed via a pair of fisheye lenses on the front and the back to detect obstacles in all directions, offering up that standard forward, backward, left, right, and upward sensing.

The best camera drone made in America: Skydio 2+

This recommendation only comes to you as a “kind of.” Unfortunately, in August 2023, Skydio called it quits on its consumer drone arm. So, the Skydio 2+ is no longer in production. I’m still recommending it, largely because there just really aren’t any other good options for camera drones made in America.

Most American drone companies today focus on the military or high-end industrial markets. Many companies, including California-based GoPro, have tried to make camera drones yet failed. Most of the other top American drone companies, like Skydio or Teal, now only produce enterprise or military drones.

To get your hands on a Skydio 2+ drone these days, you’ll likely need to buy a used Skydio drone. Of course, weigh this option carefully given the risks of buying used drones.

So why do I love the Skydio 2+? This freakishly smart drone has six, 200-degree color cameras. That means Skydio 2+ can see everything in every direction so it theoretically never crashes. Whether you’re flying down a pine tree-covered mountain tracking a snowboarder, or you’re navigating down a trail following a mountain biker, this drone is a dream for pilots who fly in complicated environments.

Skydio 2+ shoots 4K video and captures images at 12MP. Also, the Skydio 2+’s omnidirectional obstacle avoidance capabilities are matched only by one other consumer drone on the market, the DJI Mavic 3.

Price: $1,099 (If you can get your hands on one). Variable pricing (assuming you even have luck) when you buy a used Skydio drone)

Flight time: 27 minutes

Read my full review of the Skydio 2 (the older model) here and my guide to the Skydio 2+ here.

The best non-DJI camera drone: Autel Evo Lite+

You don’t need to be Nancy Drew to realize that nearly every drone in this guide is from DJI. The reality is that DJI drones are of incredible quality for their price tag. They are more reliable than most. They’re simple to set up and get off the ground. But there is a myriad of reasons why you might want to consider a non-DJI drone. For camera quality, Autel is best.

The Autel Evo Lite+ drone bridges the gap between the expensive and high-quality DJI Mavic 3 camera drone. Yet, it sticks a bit closer in cost to the DJI Mini 3 Pro, which has a relatively low, $759 price tag.

It’s great for photographers, given its large, 1-inch CMOS sensor and the ability to capture 6K video. Also, the adjustable aperture ranges from f/2.8 to f/11.

You can’t fly it in dense areas, as its sense and avoid tech is not up to par versus what you’ll find with the Skydio 2+. However, it’s a decent follow-me drone (as long as you’re flying in open areas) thanks to Dynamic Track 2.1. This feature lets you select someone to track and follow, and the drone automatically keeps the subject in the frame.

Price: $1,259

Flight time: 40 minutes

Get the Autel Evo Lite+ now. It’s available for purchase from retailers including:

Read my full review of the Autel Evo Lite+ here.

Drone photography FAQs

Even if you’re a photo pro, there are terms and concepts specific to drone photography that you should know.

What is a gimbal?

A gimbal is crucial to keeping your aerial footage silky and steady. Without a gimbal, your videos will look shaky and every tiny movement will appear jarring to the viewer. So, if your drone doesn’t have a gimbal, don’t buy it.

What’s considered “good” flight time or long battery life?

This might not be the answer you want to read, but here it is: “It doesn’t matter.”  Given LiPo battery technology and how far it can be pushed (ahem, Samsung exploding phones) don’t expect a photography drone to fly much more than 30 minutes. Though, one drone in this guide, the Mavic 2 does have an impressive max flight time of 31 minutes. Instead, just buy some spare batteries!

Do I need to register my drone?

Usually yes! You do not need to register recreational drones under 250 grams. Otherwise, you need to register with the FAA when flying drones in the U.S. Our Getting Started Guide offers more information on drone registration.

Do I need a license to fly?

Maybe. If you’re flying commercially, you do. If you’re just flying for fun, you probably don’t need a full Part 107 certificate. Find out more about how you can get your drone pilot’s license from the FAA here. However, all pilots flying drones that weigh 250 grams or more must fly under Part 107 (and have said license). Otherwise, they must pass the FAA recreational drone test (referred to as TRUST).

20 Comments

  • Missed one! Best drone for videography, photography, and aerial mapping: DJI Phantom 4 Pro V. 2’s global shutter assures there is never trouble with the distorted shapes rolling shutter can cause in moving objects. Its 20MP camera, with 1-inch sensor, is better that other drone’s. It costs less to buy for what you get, and replacement parts–especially batteries–are less expensive.

  • Roscoe says:

    Having a drone that can stay up in the air for 30 minutes would be amazing! One day maybe…

  • Have you seen DJI’s new FPV drone? Should give that a review or at least flight-test.

  • DJI’s are the best. Haven’t found anything better for the price and durability.

  • Jerimiah says:

    I find it funny that you put all those drones but forget to even mention the evo 2, which in my opinion blows them away, 1800 gets you 3 bat with 40 min flight time, pelican carry case, 45mph, 5 mile range, 8k video, obs av, 3d mapping, fpv, dynamic track, and a whole bunch more.

  • ashishmondal30
    Ashish Mondal says:

    Nice information.

  • Emma Linda says:

    DJI drones are the best now.

  • Thank you for this information..

  • Mansi says:

    Your blog are really informative and it has really good user experience

  • I am thinking of buying a drone for photography as a hobby but it seems like there are too many restrictions on where you can fly and not fly. SO I am wondering whats the point. Seems like I cant fly it at the beach or in the hills, mountains. Thoughts, advice?

  • Aaron Stone says:

    I have some respect for this article for at least mentioning the skydio 2+, however, saying that DJI is the top has caveats. The Mavic was an early to market and is mass produced in China. I owned an original Mavic 1 and the experience was bad. DJI pushed bad software to the app store causing the drone to crash, they installed geofencing that prevented me from taking off in my own driveway, the drone sometimes would loose connection on takeoff and drift into trees. Don’t give your money to the CCP. Skydio 2+ is made in the USA and has the best obstacle avoidance system. While the DJI mavic 3 does have it there are a few reviews on youtube showing that it’s not quite up to par yet and they are only hopeful that firmware updates will fix it.

  • Everything you say about the Skydio 2 is true, yet you miss its most important feature: a truly lousy camera. Examine its footage. Note the bloom and missed pixels in just about every frame it shoots!

    I was sold on being an early adopter of Skydio 2, but wish I had not wasted my money. The problem with the Skydio is that after reviewing its video, one is obliged to leave its footage on the cutting room floor, if one values basic clarity in one’s imagery. This is easily visible even in the footage shown on Skydio’s own Website, including in the recent videos about Keyframe. The problem is especially apparent in greens and soft browns. Flights in red canyons look okay.

    Skydio 2 squeaks by on the excitement generated when viewers obsess on the stunts filmed. Study some footage looking at the backgrounds, not the subjects, and the problems become immediately apparent. Worst of all, Skydio ignores reasonable questions about these flaws. I had an awful run-around with tech support, until I finally noticed that the problems in my footage were apparent in all footage shot with any Skydio 2. When I noted this to tech support, with links to explicit footage, the response as only that they were sorry that they had not met my standards, a true cop-out for the junk they are passing off as expected and acceptable.

    Obviously, Skydio 3 may someday include a decent camera, but for now, the Skydio is only suited to being the only game in town for filming hair-raising stunts automatically, although in lousy quality, or for surveying roofs and whatever other tricks it has that create schematic maps, not visual imagery. It is also a good, but overly expensive first training drone, since it is incredibly crash resistant, but a less expensive drone in an open field could serve as well.

    It would be interesting to know more about how DJI’s geofencing affected you. There was likely a reason it prevented you from flying in your own driveway. I also live in a restricted zone, where only Part 107 flights are allowed.

    • Well said….S2+ is a joke as for it’s lousy camera…
      The new Autel series is pretty good, the PLUS ones are a major hit and probably will be drone of year 2022…
      As for Mavic 3…what a deception…bugs, failures, and now we descovered that is not a 4/3 sensor and they made it wrong by using a optical lens too small (you can see the margins of optical lens in all pictures)…DJI now is working on hiding this by cropping the footage…another mistake, as you do not buy a 4/3 but a close to 1″ sensor, with less pixels than Air2S…Big Big Fail

  • with out criticism and just plain great fullness for your continued support to the drone public. Your efforts and comments on drones is note worth and I hope you continue and you have my support. I look forward to the future and your help is taking all of us there.

  • damon says:

    I’m about to buy the mavic 2 pro for 1000 dollars which is the same price as the air 2s. Why do you strongly recommend getting the air 2s over the mavic?

  • Rex says:

    Great overview ! Thanks for all the updates and current info !

  • Tammy says:

    Heads up, the links provided under the DJI mini 3 all link to buy a mini 2

  • JohnSpaar says:

    If the rumor is true and China will not export DJI after 1 Sept, then seriously what is the best available(in stock) drone for real estate and building inspection. I have a Mini 3 pro and just got my Part 107 cert.

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