The 8 Best 4k Drones in 2019 (Buying Guide)

As someone who has edited a TON of drone footage, I can tell you people who say there is no image quality difference between 4k and 1080p video are crazy.

Along with just straight up looking better, when editing 4k video you can zoom, punch in, take stills, and pan without losing too much image quality because you have so many pixels to work with.

Best 4k Drones (Top of Page Picture)

If you want to learn more about camera terminology, I will do my best to explain everything you need to know as far as buying a drone goes below the quick navigation menu.

I will explain terms like camera resolution, frames per second, video bit rate, and other technical things about cameras. If you want to just straight to the list of drones I recommend, just use the quick navigation below.

Want to learn more about 4k video cameras before deciding on a drone? Keep Reading!

4k Camera Drone Flying into Sunset

What the Heck Does 4k Even Mean?

The call images 4k because they are around 4,000 pixels wide. It can be a bit confusing because 1080p resolution actually came from image width, but the name 4k does come from the image width.

What are the Main Things I Need to Understand About 4k Cameras?

I will cover these in detail below, but here is a bulleted list of what I consider the main things.

  • Resolution
  • Frames per second (FPS)
  • Bitrate

Resolution: Not all 4k cameras are created equal. First of all you have different levels of 4k, there is true 4k (4096 pixels x 2160 pixels) and 4k Ultra HD (3840×2160). Cinema 4k is a higher resolution, which without getting too technical just meals there are more pixels. If you want a truly top of the line 4k capable drone, look for one that shoots in cinema 4k.

List of File Sizes – Cinema 4k vs 4k UHD vs 1080p (Full HD)

The first number represents pixels across the screen. The second number represents pixels down the screen.

  • 4096×2160 – Cinema 4k
  • 3840×2160 (4k UHD) not as wide as cinema 4k ( 3840 pixels compared to 4096)
  • 2048×1080 – 2k video
  • 1920×1080 – (1080p Full HD)
  • 1280x720p – (HD)

Is 4k Video Really Better?

4k video is actually 4k times the size of standard 1080p (full hd) video. And while a lot of people will try to make the argument that 4k televisions screens aren’t 4 times the size of 1080p screens so it doesn’t make a difference, 4k screens still have 4 times the number of pixels per square inch. This increased pixel density leads to cleaner, crisper, and more detailed video. You will especially notice the difference if you are up close!

So Why Would Anyone Not Shoot in 4k?

While I almost exclusively shoot in 4k anymore, it does come with some downsides. Some computers, phones, and tablets still can’t play 4k footage properly. If you have a low end computer you might be frustrated when viewing your 4k drone footage. It you have a sub 4k display screen or a slow hard drive the video might might look laggy, distorted, and possibly even crash your computer. That said, you can always shoot in 4k then downsize it to 1080p pretty easily.

The other major downside is the one I stated above, file SIZE! Yes I put size in all caps because shooting in 4k fills up storage devices super fast. If you’re going to buy a 4k camera drone make sure you invest in a large SD card!

The Good News: If you buy a 4k drone, you can always turn down the settings to 1080p, but with a 1080p Drone you cant turn them up!

Okay, Enough 4k talk, Lets getting into the list!

Do Pixels Really Matter That Much? Is 4k Really Better?

More pixels mean more information, which usually leads to a sharper image. The major downside of recording in a super high resolution like 4k is you end up with file sizes. Now having a 4k camera might not matter as much on a smaller screen,

Frame rate: When shopping for drones you’ll see the term frame rate thrown around a lot. Frame rate is measured in frames per second (FPS). You might think a that higher frame rate is always better for every type of shot, but that’s not the case. Different frame rates give the video an entirely different feel. The video below does a good job of explaining that if you want to learn more. When shopping for drones, usually high-end 4k cameras will have high max frame rates. Just because a drone has a max frame rate of 60 FPS doesn’t mean you have to shoot at 60FPS. Like resolution, you can always turn a high-end camera’s settings down, but you can’t turn a low-end camera’s settings up.

Bitrate: Is basically the amount of data that is being stored in a second. In the drone world, you will usually see it measured in megabits per second (Mbps). If you’re planning on buying a 4k drone, bit rate will be VERY important. The video below does a great job explaining why. I recommend you watch it all the way through.

Ok, now that we know the basics of cameras and what specs to look for, let’s dive into the list of 4k camera drones!

Here Are the Best 4k Drones of 2019

1. DJI Mavic Air (Best Value)

Of all the drones I own, the Mavic Air is my absolute favorite. It has a professional grade camera and an amazing design. I actually made a YouTube video reviewing this drone and comparing it to the DJI Mavic Pro and DJI Spark.

At first glance, you might not think that this thing can fit in your pocket, but it can! It is designed so well that when folded this 4k capable drone can fit right in your pocket. The drone has 3-axis gimbal, foldable design, and a camera that shoots 4k at 30 frames per second.

If you watch the video, you’ll see the only thing that I don’t love about this drone is the video transmission system. It utilizes an enhanced Wifi video transmission system, which isn’t bad, but it’s not on par with another popular DJI transmission system called OcuSync. Basically, OcuSync does a better job filtering out interference and gives you a better signal strength between your drone and your controller.

DJI incorporated enhanced Wifi into the Mavic Air in order to keep the price point down. The technology is cheaper than OcuSync, and they decided by using a cheaper transmission system they could beef up the camera and sell this drone at a price point that the general consumer can afford.

DJI recently released the Mavic 2, but it’s almost double the price of this drone. In my opinion, the DJI Mavic Air is the absolute best 4k camera drone for the money. I will cover the most notable features and specs of this drone below.

Here is a good video review of the Mavic Air.

The 4k Camera

Video Recording

When I first read the Mavic Air didn’t have a camera that could shoot cinema 4k I was a little disappointed. I actually almost didn’t even buy it. I figured since my Mavic Pro’s camera already recorded cinema 4k video and the other specs were similar I would pass on the Mavic Air, but then I saw the camera shot at a bit rate of 100 Mbps. That is a significant upgrade from the 60 Mbps bit rate of the Mavic pro. That sealed the deal for me, and I can honestly say I am so glad I bought this drone. Along with being smaller than the Mavic Pro, I can honestly say the video quality is even better.

The 4k ultra HD camera on the Mavic Air is equipped with a 3-axis stabilized gimbal. If you don’t know anything about gimbals, 3-axis is as good as it gets. What a gimbal does is compensate for the natural shakiness of a drone, which means your shots are going to look a lot smoother. It will also make your shots much smoother and look more professional as the turn.

If you’re looking for a drone that can capture slow motion shots, look no further than the Mavic Air. It can even shoot Full HD (1080p) slow motion shots at 120 frames per second. As mentioned above, it has a ½.3” sensor that records at 100 Mbps. The camera’s 24mm lens has a field of view of 85 degrees (extremely impressive). The camera can record footage with the MOV or MP4 container using either MPEG-4 or H.264. Professionals can use D-LOG, D-Cinelike, standard, and other image styles as desired.

Camera Quality

The Camera’s CMOS sensor takes both JPEG or RAW photographs (max size of 4056 x 3040 at 12 megapixels).

Photo Modes

Single Shot

  • Burst 3/5/7
  • Interval (2-60 sec)
  • Panorama (horizontal, vertical, 180 degrees, full 360 photos at 32mb)
  • Fun sphere photo mode
  • HDR/AEB for high contrast setting

Notable Features

The 3-axis Gimbal

The 3-axis gimbal is the most notable difference between the DJI Mavic Air and the less expensive DJI Spark in my option. The gimbal on the Spark only covers pitch and roll, while the 3 axis gimbal on the Air covers pitch, roll, and yaw. Yaw stabilization makes a HUGE difference in video quality when the drone turns from left to right or right to left. The 3-axis gimbal can be tilted from -90 degrees to +22 degrees. This means the camera on the air can look straight down and even upwards.

The Body

The Mavic Air is a sharp looking. It’s made from a durable plastic that doesn’t scratch easily. It has collapsible design like the Mavic Pro. Another improvement DJI made to the Mavic Air that wasn’t included is on the Mavic pro is the when the drone rotary arms are extended there is a mesh to protect the cables/wires. With the Mavic Pro there are some exposed wire, which isn’t a huge deal, but I love the attention to detail the Mavic Air is made with.

The drone measures 6.6 inches (16.8 cm) long by 3.2 inches (8.3 cm) across by 1.9 inches (4.9 cm) tall. The drone has two front Led lights that can be turned off when recording and a backlight led to help locate the drone while flying.

Internal Storage

The Mavic Air is the first DJI to feature 8 GB of internal storage, and while this is not a lot, it’s still a great feature to have in-case you forget your SD card or your card runs out of storage.

Vision Positioning System

The vision positioning system (VPS) is made up of ground sensors, which are located on the bottom of the drone. These sensors allow the Air to hover in place and hold position very well. Along with allowing the drone hold position well, these sensors make the automatic landing feature very effective. You can even land the Air at night with the press of a button.

Obstacle Avoidance Sensors

The Mavic Air has 4 obstacle avoidance sensors. Just above the camera, on the front of the drone, there are 2 obstacle avoidance sensors that will automatically stop the drone if comes to close to an object. Located on the rear of the drone, there are another 2 sensors. Obstacle avoidance is a great feature for drone pilots because it’s easy to get distracted checking video feed and trying to capture the perfect shot. Obstacle avoidance even protects against unseen obstacles like tree branches.

The Propellers

The propellers are on the Air are not foldable, but you can leave them attached when traveling without any problems. They are made of a strong plastic. DJI does sell replacement propellers, as this is often the most damaged part of any drone.

Foldable Landing Gear

To make the drone more compact, DJI added extendable legs that can be unfolded during flight and act as landing gear. The folding landing gear allows the case for the Air to be even smaller, which is another reason why this is the ultimate travel drone.

The Battery

The battery on the Mavic Air doesn’t have as long of a flight time as larger DJI drones like the Mavic Pro or Phantom 4 pro, but still for a small drone, an 18-20 minute flight time is still impressive. The battery on the Mavic air Weighs 0.3 pounds (140 grams). The battery on the Mavic air is on the bottom of the drone and has a 2.375 mAh capacity. The battery has LED indicators that let you know how much battery juice is remaining. This is an excellent feature, particularly for nighttime flights. To charge from 10 to 100 percent takes around 45 minutes.

Control with Remote or Smartphone Alone

The Mavic Air can be controlled with a dedicated remote control or with a smartphone using the intuitive DJI phone application. The remote operates

Intelligent Flight Modes

Active Track: Pilots can set an object to track like a car, runner, cyclist, or another moving object. Most drones with active track can only track from the front. The Mavic air can also track from the front and circle the object with its front/rear obstacle avoidance system.

Quick Shot: Has all the same quick shot modes as the Mavic and Spark (Drone, Circle, Helix, and Rocket) with the addition of 2 new modes (Boomerang and Asteroid).

Smart Capture: An improved version of the advanced gesture mode incorporated into the Spark. This mode, also known as Jedi mode, allows the drone operator to control the Air through movements or gestures.

TapFly: Simply tap a location on the screen and watch the Air navigate to this position.

Tripod Mode: Tripod mode allows pilots to tightly control the drone to get controlled shots or while in tight places. This is a great mode for indoor shots. This mode limits the drone to a max speed of 2 mph and obstacle avoidance is disabled so users can fly close to objects.

Cinematic Mode: Allows the drone to move at normal speed in P mode, but smooths breaking and acceleration to smooth out shots.

Point of Interest: Fly your drone above a “point of interest” and mark the location. You can then have the drone fly around the point of interest at a set radius to get great shots from all angles.

DJI has also added Advanced Pilot Assistant System (APAS): Allows the drone to navigate around obstacles rather than just stopping when the vision sensors detect an obstacle either in front or behind.

2 New Quick Shot Modes

Boomerang Mode (New): Drone flies away while circling your position then comes back toward you (like a boomerang).

Asteroid Mode (New): Drone Starts out high and comes down and forward to you, like an asteroid falling out of the sky.

Pros and Cons

Mavic Air vs. Mavic Pro

Pros

  • Added backward obstacle sensing.
  • Increased horizontal hover accuracy
  • 430g compared to 734 grams
  • 68.4 kph vs 65 kph max speed in sport mode
  • 2 new intelligent flight modes

Cons

  • Air has a Max range of 10km compared to 13km
  • 28.8 kph vs 36 kph in p mode
  • 21-minute flight time compared to 27
  • Range 2.4 miles compared to 4.3 miles of Mavic Pro (signal strength)Negative

2. DJI Mavic Pro

The Mavic Pro doesn’t have as much buzz as some of the “latest and great drones,” but it’s still one of the best 4k camera drones out there in terms of vale and performance. The only drone the Mavic Pro might be second to as far as value is the Mavic Air. I own a Mavic Pro, and I still love flying it. It’s durable, easy to fly, and has better signal strength than any drone I’ve ever flown. With the Mavic Pro, you won’t have to worry about losing connection or having a choppy live feed unless you’re flying outside of the drones rated max range.

Here is a good video of the Mavic Pro if you want to watch a video review, or you can just keep reading my text review.

When the Mavic Pro was released in 2016, it was an absolute game changer. Before the Mavic line came to be, if you wanted a 4k drone you had to buy a much larger and more expensive drone, like one of the drones from the Phantom line. The controller design was also very innovative. It’s super small and compact and feels almost like a gaming controller. Before the Mavic Pro, drone controllers were large and bulky.

The Mavic Pro almost seemed like a compressed version of the phantom 4. People were blown away by its foldable design, which nowadays seems to be the gold standard.

Weighing in at only 1.6 pounds, with a flight time of up to 27 minutes and a top speed of over 40 miles per hour in sport mode, this is a seriously impressive drone for the money. It comes equipped with 4 vision sensors, allowing the drone to know where it is, what’s around it, as well as the pilot’s location at all times. If you’re someone who flies a lot, consider the DJI Mavic Pro fly more combo, which we will talk about in a future review.

The Camera

The camera on the DJI Mavic Pro has a 26mm lens with a field of view of 78.8 degrees, which is very narrow (allows for more cinematic footage) and is seriously impressive for a consumer drone. The lens comes with an F-stop of 2.2, compared to most other DJI drones with an F-stop of 2.8, which allows the Mavic to perform even better in low light settings. The camera on the Mavic Pro is capable of shooting cinema 4k at 24 fps with the drone’s 3-axis stabilized camera.

The cinema 4k camera is capable of shooting at 30 fps. When shooting in full HD, the camera can record at a maximum of 90 fps, and in standard HD at 120 fps. It comes standard with a 1/ 2.3” sensor and a max photo resolution of 4,000 x 3000. It shoots 12.35 megapixel photos in JPG and DNG (RAW) formats. Unlike the phantom series, this quadcopter has a plastic cover to protect the camera and gimbal. The Mavic’s mini gimbal does a great job keeping the camera stabilized, allowing you to shoot great photos and videos.

Notable Features
The Controller

One unique feature about the Mavic Pro controller is its built in display monitor. You still need to hook up a smartphone to get a live feed, but one great thing about the Mavic Pro is that if your iPhone runs out of battery or the DJI App crashes unexpectedly you can still have a display screen to check signal strength, battery life remaining, distance, height, current speed, and more.

Everything you need to control the drone is built into the controller, so your phone is essentially only used as a monitor.

If your DJI app crashes you still have everything you need. The remote comes with an integrated lightning cable, android cable, and USB cable. Don’t want to fly with the controller?

The Remote Operates on 2.4GHz frequency, which is fairly standard. Charging the controller from 20 percent to 100 percent takes around 1 hour and 45 minutes.

The Battery

The battery on the Mavic Pro is in a great location on the top of the main body and is super easy to connect and disconnect. The battery is rated at 27 minutes under ideal conditions, however DJI has also stated under normal conditions the battery will last around 21 minutes. The charging brick has 2 USB connectors. It has a total capacity of 3,830 mAh. It has 2 fast release buttons and 4 LED indicators, allowing you to know roughly how much battery life is remaining. The batteries take about 1 hour to charge from 20 percent to 100. The DJI intelligent flight batteries reduce the chance of crashes due to battery malfunctions. With the DJI go App you can see real-time information about the battery, letting you know if you need to bring the drone home.

Other Cool Features

The return to home feature will automatically return the drone to home if things go wrong. The drone comes equipped with GPS + GLONASS positioning. DJI has added Gesture Mode for selfies. You can control the quadcopter without a remote controller using WiFi and your smartphone. The ability to hover in place, along with sensors located on the bottom of drone, make flying the Mavic indoors easy. The second compass added to the quadcopter reduces the chance for incorrect direction changes due to compass error. Basically, if one compass fails the drone will use the other compass to orient. The drone also allows you to set the return to home altitude, which will allow you to set a height above obstacles, allowing the drone to easily avoid trees and other obstacles while returning home. Two sonar sensors on the bottom of the drone allow it to hold its position while flying indoors or at low altitude without GPS easy (works up to a height of 10 meters).

Flight Modes

Gesture Mode: wave your hands and automatically take selfies.

Point of Interest Mode Fly: circles around an object at various settable speeds.

Active Track: Drone will follow you around and automatically focus, the collision avoidance system will automatically avoid obstacles.

Follow Me Mode: Automatically follows the drones control signal, not as powerful as active track due to the minimum height of 10 meters.

Waypoints Mode: Record a flight route to travel later. Allows you to retake shots on the same route. You can adjust the camera angle while the drone travels its path.

Course Lock Mode: Allows the drone to fly in a straight line as you rotate the drone, allow for cinematic shots with ease.

Return Home Mode: Automatically returns the drone to home with the press of a button.

Tapfly Mode: Tap on the screen and the drone automatically flies to the tapped location.

Terrain Follow Mode: Keeps the drone at a set height as the terrain around it changes elevation. Allowing you to focus on taking great shots, rather than height.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Flight Specs built into the controller so you can fly the drone without your phone
  • A narrow field of view prevents propellers from showing in camera footage
  • Foldable compact size makes traveling easy
  • The battery is easy to swap out
  • Hovers in place like a dream
  • Camera based tracking
  • A Second compass is Included
  • Performs well in the wind
  • Quieter than other Phantom drones
  • DJI Go App is very familiar
  • Impressive max range
  • A narrow field of view
  • Vision positioning system

Cons

  • When phone is in controller it hits covers the home button
  • Camera cover can cause glare
  • Controller currently cannot hold tablets
  • Not complete 360 degree collision avoidance system

3. DJI Mavic 2 (Personal Favorite)

DJI’s latest drone, the DJI Mavic 2, is perfect for professionals and hobbyists alike. The most impressive thing about the DJI Mavic Pro 2 is that it has a 4k UHD camera with a 1″ CMOS sensor. Just like the Mavic Air, the camera records at 100mbps, resulting in very detailed footage even when zoomed into while editing. The Mavic 2 is by far the best portable 4k drone on this list. You’ll do weigh whether the boosted camera on the DJI Mavic 2 outweighs the lower cost of the Mavic Air and Pro.

4. DJI Phantom 4 Pro

DJI Phantom 4 professional is a tried and true drone that has earned a great reputation in the drone community.

Here is a good video review on the Phantom 4 Pro. I think you’ll be very impressed by this drone!

If you’re looking for a professional drone this is one you certainly won’t regret buying. This drone is capable of recording cinematic 4k at higher bit rates (60 frames per second) than the standard phantom 4, giving the user more detailed photos and images. DJI has added a lot of great features on the Phantom 4 Professional. 2 new rear-facing obstacle avoidance cameras, and infrared obstacle sensors on its side give the phantom 4 Pro, combined with the downward facing obstacle sensors, gives this quadcopter 5 directions of sensing.

The 4k Camera
The camera on the phantom 4 professional has been redesigned. The camera now has a 1” sensor, allowing for 20 MP photographs in DNG Raw. While the standard phantom 4 did record 4k, the pro version records at higher bit rates and has some extra features. A mechanical shutter added to the camera makes for great moving shots, and improve quality in lowlight settings. If you look over the specs of the Phantom 4 Pro you’ll quickly see this is one of the best 4k drones out there. As far as value goes I would say it’s a toss up between the Phantom 4 Pro and Mavic Air.

Notable Features

The Controller

The standard controller for the Phantom 4 Pro itself is impressive.

DJI Lightbridge technology automatically detects interference, and switches from 2.4 to 5.8G transmission.

The playback mode allows you to replay footage you just shot while the drone hovers in place, allowing you to make sure you captured the shot just the way you wanted before moving on.

Easily control the ISO, aperture, and shutter speed separately using the DJI Go App.

For around an extra 200-300 dollars, you can get a controller with an integrated 5.5 inch LCD monitor that is twice as bright as most smartphones and tablets, allowing you to easily view the screen, even on bright days.

Not having to mount your smartphone or tablet to the controller reduces the amount of time you will spend setting up the quadcopter.

The upgraded controller also has 2 USB ports, a micro SD card slow, and an HDMI out port.

The Battery

The battery life on the life the phantom 4 Pro is rated at 30 minutes. Most users do report this claim to be accurate and report flight times between 25-30 minutes. Another great thing is the battery on the phantom for is compatible with the phantom 4 Pro. Like all lithium-ion batteries, the battery does lose capacity in cold weather.

Intellegent Flight Modes

P (Positioning) Mode: Uses obstacle avoidance sensors (does limit the speed of the drone)

S (Sport Mode): Disables obstacle avoidance in every direction (useful in heavy winds or traveling long distance)

Atti (Attitude) Mode: Fly as fast as sport mode. GPS + Glonass stabilization disabled. The built in barometer automatically holds quadcopter’s height. (good for flying indoors)

Normal Flight Mode: You control every aspect of flight

Profile (New): Tracks the selected target horizontally from any side.

Spotlight (New): Locks the Phantom 4’s camera on a target while you fly in any direction

Circle (New): Swings 360 degrees around the target

Point of Interest Mode: Hover over the point you want and hit record POI, then select the radius by pulling the right stick back and hit apply. You can change radius and speed you want the drone to orbit and you can also pause in any position.

Follow Me Mode: Automatically allows the drone to follow the subject. Select the target you want to follow and press apply. For this to work, you need to be carrying the controller. Most users prefer to use active track over this mode. Older drones do not have active track, but for the newer drones, this feature is not necessary.

Waypoints Mode: When using this flight mode stay above obstacles you could crash into. Fly around to different areas and press the C1 button on the back of the Phantom 4 Professional’s controller to set it as a waypoint. Once set, click the map on the bottom right corner to view your waypoints. You can select the speed you want the drone to fly and what you want the drone to do after completing its journey.

Home Lock: This allows the drone to take a straight path from the home point. You can set the direction to go straight away from you or towards you

Draw: This allows you to draw a line along the screen for the drone to follow.
Note: the camera will need to be pointed along the ground. You do have the ability to choose the speed and altitude the drone will fly on. You can also can spin the drone and pitch the gimbal while traveling along the path. Once it reaches its destination it will hover in place.

Gesture Mode: This allows you to get the drones attention by waving your hands in the air. First, wave your hands in the air to allow the drone know you are the subject, then place your arms at your side and the drone will take a picture. You don’t have to have the remote in your hands, leaving your friends wondering how you got the picture.

Active Track Mode: This will allow you to select an object or person on the screen to have the drone follow. First, draw a box over the object you want to track. Next select go. Even if you set the controller down the drone will continue to follow you. You can orbit manually and change the height of the drone.

Tapfly Mode Tap the screen for the drone to fly forward or backward or free. Basically, the drone will fly forward and then from there, you can point the drone in another direction you want it to go.

Tripod Mode: This will allow you to take much more stable video at the cost of speed. It’s easy to use, just select tripod mode. The max speed in this mode is about 4 miles per hour. If you want a nice smooth stable shot, turn this flight mode on. It is also an easy mode to make precision landings with the DJI Phantom 4 Professional quadcopter easy.

Terrain Follow Mode: Drone will adjust altitude based on the terrain beneath it. Although it is a cool flight mode, most users say it’s easy enough to just adjust altitude manually.

Position Mode: Uses a combination of GPS downward cameras, ultrasonic emitters, and upgraded motors for amazing self-correction and stability in the air.

Course Lock Mode: Similar to home lock, except you can now select course and line drone will fly along. With the home point you are limited to the paths according to where your home point is.

Attitude Mode: Turns off GPS system and allows you to make sharp banks and turns.

Sport Mode: Turns off sensors, forward facing collision avoidance mode will not let you get some shots you may like to take. It will not let you fly close to a tree, pole, or person. For some fliers this limitation, along with the reduction in speed makes this seemingly awesome mode unusable. For some instances turning on sport mode might be necessary.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Obstacle Avoidance
  • Additional Sensors
  • Comes with carrying case
  • Familiar DJI remote control
  • DJI Go App is intuitive with great features
  • Upgraded controller available
  • 16GB memory card included

Cons

  • DJI Go App does crash time to time
  • Records in 4k but only streams 720p
  • HDMI not included on standard remote
  • Obstacle avoidance has blind spots when traveling at unusual angles

5. DJI Phantom 3 Professional

What do you know… Another DJI Drone! The Phantom Professional 3 has been out for a while but it’s still one of the most reliable 4k camera drones on the market so I had to add it to this list.

The Phantom 4 is loved by professionals and hobbyists alike. It comes ready with all the normal DJI features, including GPS Navigation with auto takeoffs and landings, an intelligent high power flight battery, DJI Intelligent Design, a preinstalled safety database of no-fly zones, and a strong mobile app for iOS or Android devices as well as many new and improved features. DJI has merged new and advanced features from previous models together to create easily one of the best drones on the market today.

The Camera
The Phantom 3 Professional comes with a standard DJI camera located under the shell of the drone. The Phantom carries a 4k UHD video camera that allows for flawless and clean videos along with calm and focused photos. This model contains a new generation of DJI’s own Lightbridge technology. This allows 720p HD digital streaming live from the drone. The Phantom 3’s camera is able to be seen in real time as you fly and can also be shared in this method. For flying indoors Phantom 3 includes an integrated array of optical and ultrasonic sensors that allow indoor flying accurately without GPS. The cameras biggest feature is the Ultra HD 4k resolution. The Phantom 3 can handle 730p or 1080p footage at rates up to 60fps. With the decision of MP4 or MOV file formats. The camera does well balancing out bright and dark lighting and creates very balanced footage.

Notable Features
Intelligent Design

The Phantom 3 Pro’s design is minimal and intelligent all packed in one. The design is fairly the same as most DJI models with a standard base shell and four detachable rotors connected with the camera placed beneath. The standard base is made of plastic but feels far from cheap with its durable white shell. The size is just right, in 23 inches from rotor to rotor with the drone being able to fit inside a backpack with the rotors removed. The shell weighs a little less than three pounds and easy enough to be carried in one hand which makes its portability easy and useful. The controllers have been redesigned completely. Using innovation, DJI has managed to construct a comfortable and easy to use controller that specializes in aerial photography. Users will have the power to not only control their drone, but also to take pictures, tilt the camera, and direct/ maneuver easily all at their choice. As this is an expensive piece of machinery, a big issue here is obviously the durability in which the Phantom Pro 3 delivers.  The DJI Pro 3 can survive drops, scrapes, and crashes quite well. With resumed functionality, even after drops of up to multiple stories high. The rotors, if damaged are very easy to remove and replace.

Overview
First things first, is the bad. The DJI Professional isn’t cheap. The removable batteries will cause problems for some as they only last 20 minutes of flight time each. This causes an issue for those wanting to record for an extended amount of time. A huge benefit is that the DJI Professional 3 is very easy to learn and fly. The drone is very well balanced in the air. The remote is better designed than ever with a new integrated battery, physical controls and pairing with devices like ipads and select smartphones. Although the camera has some issues like difficulty in the difference between 1080p and 4k, its benefits out way them easily.  The camera is the main attraction here and it delivers exceptionally well. The video capture is excellent in motion and stand by. The 20mm wide angle lens along with the 4k video capture makes it a force in video or filmmaking. The camera can capture raw and JPG images along with high-quality live stream. The automated flight modes and GPS make it perfect for locations and shooting indoors is no issue here. The movement of the DJI Phantom Pro 3 gleams as well. A huge problem with previous DJI models were the challenging learning curves with each drone, but that has not been reduced greatly. The Phantom Pro 3 still takes some practice to use, but the learning curve has never been smaller. A lot of this is thanks to the new flight stabilization. This flight stabilization along with the intelligent designs make for smooth and calm flights.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Ease of use in flight mode
  • Simplified learning curve
  • Ultra 4k camera
  • Flight stability
  • Smooth aerial movement

Cons

  • Price
  • Battery Life
  • Distorted Video quality at times

6. GoPro Karma

Looking for a drone to capture some amazing outdoor shots, and/or easily share your experiences with others live? If so, the GoPro Karma Drone might be for for you, especially if you already have a GoPro. The GoPro Karma with a GoPro Hero 5 is a similar price to the DJI Phantom 4 Pro.

The GoPro Karma is a slim and compact drone with retractable arms, making it ideal for transportation. The Gimbal, which GoPro calls the stabilizer, is detachable, and can also be used as a handgrip. This feature is similar to what DJI Has included on their Inspire series, but that is at a much higher price point. Another great thing about the Karma is that it comes with a backpack carrying case. DJI and other companies do sell great carrying cases for their drones, but you have to buy them separately.

The Karma system is more than just a drone that allows you to get aerial photography. GoPro advertises the system as a “life capturing solution.” The GoPro Karma grip allows you to take your other GoPro mounts and mount the karma gimbal to them for some great handheld shots. For diehard GoPro fans, the Kara drone is a great buy. This quadcopter comes with auto shot paths, which gives 4 awesome flight modes, including orbit, dronie mode, reveal, and cable cam (read more about each below).

The 4k Camera
The GoPro Drone is compatible with the Hero 5 or Hero 4. These cameras are capable of recording 4k video and live stream in 720p. The gimbal stabilizer is located on the front of the drone, which has some pros and cons. With DJI drones when moving forward at high speeds, the drone tilts forward, which can cause the propellers to show up in the corners of the shot. With the gimbal located in the front, there is no chance of seeing the propellers in the shot. One concern of the gimbal and GoPro located in the front, durability comes into question. Although the camera does give some amazingly smooth shots, its response time is not as fast as some other drones at this price point.

Notable Features

The GoPro Passenger App

The Karma was designed to allow users to share their experiences with others. This application does just that, it allows others to tag along on your experiences as a passenger. It allows others them to see live video and control the camera through their smartphone or tablet. This allows you to focus on controlling the drone while they control the camera, allowing you to have a more enjoyable experience. Download the app for free on App Store or Google Play.

The Battery

The battery is one major complaint users have with the GoPro drone. It is advertised to last 20 minutes, but most users experience the battery only lasts about 15-16 minutes before it automatically lands the drone. This is not a huge deal if you have extra batteries, but the Karma only comes with one. You can buy extra batteries, but they are rather expensive (around $99).

Other Cool Features

If you already have a GoPro hero 4 you won’t have to buy a new GoPro because the GoPro Karma is compatible with the hero 4.

Another cool feature the GoPro drone has is a playback feature, so you can replay footage you just took while the drone is hovering in place.

This allows you to make sure you captured the shot just as you wanted before moving on to something else.

As we said before this GoPro Karma Quadcopter comes with a great backpack/carrying case.

The low profile of the drone allows for the backpack to be thin, making it super easy to take with you anywhere you go without being a big

Intelligent Flight Modes

Orbit Mode – lets you fly the drone up in the air. You can pick a point on your screen, as well as the desired radius you want to drone to fly on. The Drone flies around in a circle giving you an amazing shot of a desired point at all angles.

Dronie Mode – Set the drone up in front of you for a selfie shot. The drone then flys backward and up, revealing the operator’s location and giving the viewers an awesome perspective.

Reveal Mode – This is a Hollywood shot where the camera start from the downward position and as the drone moves forward it slowly pans up, revealing what is in front of the camera.

Cable Cam Mode – The name comes from how cameras are often connected to a cable and slowly moved along the cable to give a smooth moving shot. Well, with drones you can do this without a cable. Basically, the drone just moves slowly using GPS coordinates to give a great moving shot.

Unlike the phantom controllers, the GoPro drone controller was designed to be more like a gaming controller.

It was also designed to make controlling the quadcopter easy and intuitive.

It has a built in LCD that folds up, and while it is in the downward position it covers the pad.

Another great thing is you will never need to control the drone with your smartphone because the controller is included.

Easily automatically tak eoff and land the drone with a single touch on the controller screen.

The screen is super bright and easy to view, even on bright days or if you are wearing sunglasses.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Super portable
  • Low profile
  • Foldable landing gear
  • Everything fits into the case
  • Karma grip is detachable
  • Remote is unique and user friendly
  • Compatible later GoPro models
  • Modular (easily to replace broken parts)
  • Very smooth shots
  • Price is competitive

Cons

  • Memory card not included
  • No Sensors (obstacle avoidance)
  • Need a GoPro or pay more to buy it with a GoPro
  • Flight time is less than advertised (around 15 rather than 20)
  • Camera and Gimbal are not protected by landing gear like on DJI drones

7. DJI Phantom 4 Standard

This is a comprehensive DJI Phantom 4 Standard Quadcopter review. Out of the box, it is small and lightweight thanks to the magnesium chassis. The motors have been upgraded for a 20 percent increase in speed, making the max speed of the phantom 4 over 70 miles per hour in sport mode. What’s even more impressive than the Phantom 4’s speed is its stability in the air. Position mode uses the GPS, downward facing camera, inertial measuring unit, and upgraded motors for extremely stable video/photos and impressive self-correction. The Phantom 4 provides the 3 things every drone flyer is looking for, stability, predictability, and high quality images/photos. Flying this drone is enjoyable and relaxing.

The 4k Camera
The camera records 4k video at a maximum 30 frames per second, and captures images in 12.4 megapixels. The shutter speed can be set from 8 seconds to 1/8000 of a second. This makes taking great videos/images at any time of day or lighting easy. The higher the bit rate a camera has means the more information being stored, thus higher quality photos/images. The camera on the phantom 4 delivers 60 megabits per second, which is quite impressive. All camera modes use the same bit rate on the phantom 4. The field of view of the phantom 4 is 94 degrees with a 20mm field of view. This narrow field of view allows for limited distortion and clearer photos/images. The white balance on the DJI Phantom 4 standard is very impressive compared to other drones in its price range. The Go Application provides many settings that are useful when trying to capture the perfect shot.

Flight Modes

Normal Flight Mode – You control every aspect of flight

Draw – This allows you to draw a line along the screen for the drone to follow.
Note: the camera will need to be pointed along the ground. You do have the ability to choose the speed and altitude the drone will fly on. You can also spin the drone and pitch the gimbal while traveling along the path. Once it reaches its destination it will hover in place.

Gesture Mode – This allows you to get the drones attention by waving your hands in the air. First, wave your hands in the air to allow the drone know you are the subject, then place your arms at your side and the drone will take a picture. You don’t have to have the remote in your hands, leaving your friends wondering how you got the picture.

Active Track Mode – This will allow you to select an object or person on the screen to have the drone follow. First, draw a box over the object you want to track. Next select go. Even if you set the controller down the drone will continue to follow you. You can orbit manually and change height of the drone.

Tapfly Mode – Tap the screen for the drone to fly forward or backwards or free. Basically, the drone will fly forward and then from there you can point the drone in another direction you want it to go.

Tripod Mode – This will allow you to take much more stable video at the cost of speed. Its easy to use, just select tripod mode. The max speed in this mode is about 4 miles per hour. If you want a nice smooth stable shot, turn this flight mode on. It is also an easy mode to make precision landings.

Terrain Follow Mode – Drone will adjust altitude based on the terrain beneath it. Although it is a cool flight mode, most users say it’s easy enough to just adjust altitude manually.

Point of Interest Mode – Hover over the point you want and hit record POI, then select the radius by pulling the right stick back and hit apply. You can change radius and speed you want the drone to orbit and you can also pause in any position.

Follow Me Mode – Automatically allows the drone to follow the subject. Select the target you want to follow and press apply. For this to work you need to be carrying the controller. Most users prefer to use active track over this mode. Older drones do not have active track, but for the newer drones this feature is not necessary.

Waypoints Mode – When using this flight mode stay above obstacles you could crash into. Fly around to different areas and press C1 button on the back of the controller to set it as a waypoint. Once set, click the map on the bottom right corner to view your waypoints. You can select the speed you want the drone to fly and what you want the drone to do after completing its journey.

Home Lock – This allows the drone to take a straight path from the home point. You can set the direction to go straight away from you or towards you

Position mode – uses a combination of GPS downward cameras, ultrasonic emitters, and upgraded motors for amazing self-correction and stability in the air.

Course Lock Mode – Similar to homelock, except you can now select the course and line drone will fly along. With the homepoint you are limited to the paths according to where your home point is.

Attitude Mode – Turns off GPS system and allows you to make sharp banks and turns.

Sport Mode – Turns off sensors, forward facing collision avoidance mode will not let you get some shots you may like to take. It will not let you fly close to a tree, pole, or person. For some fliers this limitation, along with the reduction in speed makes this seemingly awesome mode unusable. For some instances turning on sport mode might be necessary.

Pros and Cons

Pros

  • Satellite lock
  • Position in space is excellent
  • Obstacle avoidance
  • Vision Sensors work great
  • Super Pro 4k Camera

Cons

  • HDMI adapter not included if you’re looking to hook up FPV goggles
  • Flight time exaggerated in some cases. Most users say around 20 minutes mixed use

8. Autel Robotics EVO