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Summer is in full swing, and with the nicer weather comes the opportunity for more outdoor film shoots. Excited? You’re not alone. In addition to the benefits of natural light and getting to breathe fresh air while you work, it’s nice not to be constrained by ceilings. Sometimes a breathtaking aerial shot is all it takes to turn a good film, into a great one. With that in mind, filmmakers looking to maximize the potential of their outdoor shoots should pick up a camera drone.
Buying a camera drone is usually an expensive purchase, so we did our best to make the process a little easier for you. Below are six of our favorite drones to buy online, with options ranging from entry level to professional quality (although you can’t go wrong with any of them). Whether you’re making the feature film of your dreams, or doing videography in between projects, you won’t regret owning one. And let’s be honest, these things are fun! It’s a remote-controlled helicopter that you get to play with as part of your job! Once you get one, don’t feel bad if your “location scouting” takes twice as long as it used to because you can’t stop flying your cool new toy. For more gear to buy check out our recommendations for the best cameras for any budget, and best camera accessories.
If you’re just dipping a toe into the world of drone filmmaking, look no further than the DJI Mini 2. It’s one of the least expensive drones on the market, and still contains everything you need to get started. The drone is small enough to fit in your pocket, and you won’t need a license to operate it for non-commercial shoots. Every DJI drone (more on this brand later) can be controlled from your smartphone via the company’s app. Although the mini lacks the technical precision of some other drones on this list, it’s a great way to learn the ropes and is more than sufficient for smaller shoots. And the 4K camera means that your footage will look like you shot it on something much more expensive.
Another great budget option, the Parrot Anafi FPV is a compact, foldable drone that can still shoot some truly impressive video. Parrot stripped down this drone, removing sensors to keep the price down and the weight light. The result is a 4K camera drone with a variety of features that belong in a much higher price bracket. The camera and three-axis gimbal are great, and it syncs up well with your phone. Every aspect of this drone was designed with travel in mind, so the easy-to-use USB charging comes as no surprise. The only catch is that it can be more difficult to control and prevent crashes than other options on this list, so we recommend it for those who have flown drones before.
This AI camera is more than a drone, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t perfect for aerial shots. The PowerVision PowerEgg X Explorer can be used as a handheld camera, mounted on a tripod, or used as a drone. It shoots in 4K at 30FPS, and comes equipped with facial recognition technology. You can select a person and the camera will automatically follow them, making it great for tracking shots or sports coverage.
The next step up in the DJI line is this superb camera drone, which improves on the DJI Mini in almost every way. Still very portable, the Mavic 2 Zoom includes 8GB of internal storage, impressive battery life, and most important for filmmakers, a two-time optical zoom. The zoom is easy to control from the app, so if you are looking to do more with your drone than just go wide, you might want to look into this one. The 12-megapixel camera shoots up to 4K, but at lower resolutions it is capable of reaching frame rates of up to 60fps.
The Autel EVOO II is a high-performance camera drone for experienced users. The user experience is designed to maximize control, offering fewer protections against mistakes but maximizing freedom for those who know what they’re doing. That said, the hefty piece of film equipment comes with omnidirectional collision sensors, ensuring that your investment is safe while it’s in the sky. Those who prioritize frame rate should certainly go with this model. The 8K camera is capable of reaching 60fps in 4K resolution, and is certainly capable of meeting any film-related needs you might have.
We saved the best for last. If you’re a seasoned professional who demands the absolute best, or just like to dream about the finest gear, consider the Phantom 4 Pro. The flight performance is unmatched, with a variety of smart flying options that utilize GPS to take this drone wherever you need it to go, exactly when you need it to. The battery life is impressive, and it can stay in the air for over half an hour. The photographic quality is stellar as well, as the Phantom 4 Pro sits in the rarified club of drones capable of shooting 60fps in 4K. If you want to feel assured that you’ll never have to worry about your drone, this is the smartest pick.