For a long time, aerial photography was reserved for the absolute professionals. Those who didn’t have an official job or a pilot’s license could only hope for a successful snapshot through the tiny cabin window on the annual flight south.
A head-on image of monumental rocky cliffs in the foaming surf? Unthinkable. The epic view over the sea of lights of a metropolis at the blue hour? Only through stained high-rise windows. For those who could not or did not want to afford a sightseeing flight, the Ferris wheel and viewing platforms were usually the highest of emotions.
But technical progress once again brought us salvation and new photographic possibilities with the actually quite simple invention of quadrocopters. They are easy to control and fly stably. Why don’t we actually attach a camera to it?
No sooner said than done, drone photography was born. With the four- to eight-rotor aircraft, you can fly high at any time and produce aerial photos in high-resolution image quality as you please. Drones set no limits to your creativity – apart from the strict rules of use and no-fly zones, of course.
The Best Photo Drones: An Overview
Here you will find a list with brief information on the currently most interesting drones for aerial photography. From the entry-level device to the professional drone, there is a suitable model for everyone.Super entry-level model: DJI Mavic Mini 4 . With a tiltable 12 megapixel camera, great flight behavior and a maximum flight time of 30 minutes, the DJI Mavic Mini 4 is one of the best beginner models for drone photography.
All-rounder for film and photo: DJI Mavic Air 2 . The DJI Mavic Air 2 delivers up to 48 megapixels (interpolated). You can also film at 60 fps in 4k with extremely safe flight behavior despite the top speed of 68.4 km/h.
Perfect for low light flights: DJI Mavic 2 Pro . The 20 megapixel sensor of the DJI Mavic 2 Pro with a maximum light sensitivity of ISO 12800 delivers the highest image quality even in poor lighting conditions.
Flying Binoculars: DJI Mavic 2 Zoom . With 2x optical and 2x digital zoom, the 12 megapixel camera of the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom covers an extremely large focal length range of 24 to 96 mm.
Safe on the go: DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 . The DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 is equipped with a high-quality 20 megapixel camera and 4k video mode. Thanks to stereo cameras and infrared sensors, the risk of collision is minimized.
Great video quality, cheap price: Parrot Anafi . A 180° swiveling camera with 21 megapixels, lossless digital zoom, 4k video and a compact, foldable housing make the Parrot Anafi a purchase recommendation.
Selfie drone with 4k video: Yuneec Breeze 4k . A cheap mini drone with a 13 megapixel camera and various automatic programs for selfies and video sequences in 4k. But rather unsuitable for manual flying.
Absolute top model: Yuneec Typhoon H Plus . The good 1-inch sensor with 20 megapixels, 4k video with 60 fps, a gimbal that can be swiveled through 360° and great flight characteristics attest to the Yuneec Typhoon H Plus’ suitability for professionals.
The best DJI photo drones Best Drones With Camera
The Chinese technology group Da-Jiang Innovations Science and Technology Co. Limited., DJI for short, was founded in 2006 by engineer and entrepreneur Frank Wang. Since then, the Shenzhen-based company has primarily developed and sold drones for private and professional aerial photography.
DJI gradually expanded the product range and, in addition to its well-known quadrocopters for film and photography, now also offers technically sophisticated gimbals and large drones for use in industry and agriculture.
However, we are only dealing here with the photo drones from DJI. These are not only popular with photographers because of their good flight characteristics. Rather, it is the cameras from the Swedish manufacturer Hasselblad, to which DJI secured the majority of the rights in 2017, that make the DJI drones particularly popular.
DJI Mavic Mini 4: High-quality entry-level model
You get an ideal entry-level model in drone photography with the DJI Mavic Mini 4. The mini drone, which can be folded to the size of the palm of your hand, weighs just 249 grams, convinces with good flight characteristics and easy handling.
The compact quadrocopter has a camera on board that can be tilted from -90° to 20° with a 24mm lens (f/2.8) and an effective resolution of 12 megapixels. In video mode, the DJI Mavic Mini manages 2.7k (2704 x 1520, 30 fps) or Full HD with at least 60 frames per second.
For a cheap beginner drone, the DJI Mavic Mini 4, which is equipped with hovering sensors, convinces with extremely stable flight behavior and achieves peak values with a maximum flight time of 30 minutes. The speed does not break any speed records, but at 46.8 km/h in sport mode it is enough for at least somewhat faster flights.
The controller of the DJI Mavic Mini 4 is simple and minimalistic. The obligatory joysticks (removable for transport), a return button, a wheel for gimbal control and the shoulder buttons for photo and video recording reduce the functionality to the essentials.
Incidentally, with its slim weight, the DJI Mavic Mini 4 is just below the magic limit of 250 grams and thus falls under the drone class C0 according to the EU drone regulation of 2020. So you don’t need a drone driver’s license, nor is there an obligation to identify the drone.
You can get the DJI Mavic Mini 4 for 399.00 euros as a recommended retail price.
DJI Mavic Air 2: Inexpensive all-rounder for film and photo
The DJI Mavic Air 2 is equally suitable for videographers and photographers. In the price range of semi-professional drones around 1000 euros, it not only delivers excellent imaging values, but also scores with smooth flight behavior, a long flight time of 34 minutes and uncomplicated control.
With its 12 megapixel CMOS, the Mavic Air 2 not only records high-quality videos in 4k with 60 fps. By means of interpolation, pictures of up to 48 megapixels are even possible in photo mode. In tests, the DJI Mavic Air 2 even competes with the image quality of its bigger sister, the Mavic 2 Pro, despite the smaller sensor.
Thanks to its smooth flight behavior and the reliably working collision sensors, the DJI Mavic Air 2 is also suitable for newcomers to drone photography. Anyone who still feels unsafe in free flight can use various pre-programmed flight maneuvers and thus capture great scenes.
The tracking function of the DJI Mavic Air 2 is also extremely helpful. In this mode, it independently follows an object or remains aligned with it in free flight. So you can easily film yourself mountain biking or skiing. Anyone who likes to travel fast will be happy about the high top speed of 68.4 km/h.
As is typical of the Mavic series, the DJI Mavic Air 2 can also be folded up to be compact and portable. With a weight of 570 grams, however, it falls under the new EU drone regulation under the C1 class, which requires labeling and registration.
DJI Mavic 2 Pro: Highest image quality even in poor light
Like all drones in the Mavic series, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro also relies on the proven foldable design and is therefore easy to transport despite its high weight of 907 grams. The special feature of this professional quadrocopter compared to the Mavic Air 2 is the camera technology.
For the DJI Mavic 2 Pro, it comes from the Swedish camera specialist Hasselblad and was mounted in a generously tilting and swiveling gimbal (-90° to 30° / -75 to 75°). The 20 megapixel sensor in 1-inch format gives you very good results with a maximum of ISO 12800 even in poor lighting conditions. In addition, the aperture can be freely adjusted from f2.8 to f11.
The DJI Mavic 2 Pro also performs extremely well in video mode, but unfortunately the 60 fps are missing in 4k as the icing on the cake. The Mavic 2 Pro is content with 30 frames per second. If you want more, you have to downshift to 2.7k. The videos can be saved directly to microSD cards up to 128 GB in 10-bit HLG or 10-bit D-Log format.
In autonomous flight via Active Track mode, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro manages perfectly on its own thanks to omnidirectional sensors for obstacle detection. If you like to fly yourself, DJI’s OccuSync 2.0 technology gives you a perfect 1080p video signal with a maximum range of 8 km according to the manufacturer.
This is best enjoyed with the optional DJI Smart Controller with integrated display. So you always have a good picture even in strong sunlight and can fully concentrate on your 31 minutes maximum flight time without having to worry that your smartphone in the supplied controller will suddenly go off at 72 km/h.
DJI Mavic 2 Zoom: More flexibility thanks to 4x zoom
DJI presents a slightly modified version of the Mavic 2 Pro with the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom. The real difference, as the name suggests, is in the camera used. This comes again from Hasselblad, has only 12 megapixels, but a zoom function.
In addition to the double optical zoom from 24 to 48 mm in 35mm format, the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom also offers a double digital zoom. With this you can do it losslessly with HD recordings on 96 mm. As with other Mavic models, a fast hybrid AF consisting of phase and contrast autofocus ensures the sharpness is right.
Of course, compromises have to be made elsewhere for the zoom. The image quality of the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom is very good, no question about it. But the waiver of at least 8 megapixels is of course important for professional use. The maximum ISO value has also been reduced significantly to ISO 3200 in favor of the image quality.
Since the housings of both models are identical, apart from the camera and a minimal weight difference of 2 grams, nothing changes in terms of the excellent flight characteristics. With the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom you are safe and calm on the move and can also concentrate fully on filming and taking photos.
If you can do without the extremely high light sensitivity and the 20 megapixels of the DJI Mavic 2 Pro and would rather have more flexibility in image design, we recommend the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0: Highest quality and security
The DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 is significantly more massive than the rather slim Mavics. Which puts us directly at a disadvantage: The drone, which weighs almost 1.4 kg, cannot be folded and is therefore completely unsuitable as an “always with you” device or for hiking trips in nature.
Of course, the DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 also has its massive advantages and these lie, for example, in its flight behavior and obstacle detection. With three stereo cameras, the Phantom 4 Pro scans its surroundings and creates a 3D map from it. Using infrared sensors, it reliably avoids obstacles at speeds of up to 50 km/h.
Of course, DJI also gives the Phantom 4 Pro a powerful camera. This gives you 20 megapixels in a 1-inch sensor format with a dynamic range of twelve f-stops. On night flights you can take pictures with up to ISO 12800. In 4k video mode with a strong 60 fps, the limit is at least ISO 6400.
As usual, the DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 also offers all sorts of different flight modes. The most ingenious is probably the draw function, in which the drone automatically flies along a route drawn on the display with your finger. The gesture mode, which automatically triggers the camera based on certain movements, is also helpful for selfies.
All in all, with the DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 you get a professional photo and video drone with great features. Only the battery mounted on the outside of the case is sometimes a bit difficult to snap into place when it is replaced.
The best Parrot photo drones
The French electronics company Parrot SA has existed since 1994 and sells various devices for wireless communication from Paris. In addition to Bluetooth headsets, hands-free car kits and wireless speaker systems, Parrot’s drones are particularly worth a look.
As the company name suggests, the developers at Parrot SA feel absolutely in their element in the air and have been successfully developing drones for about ten years, which are mainly used in the leisure sector.
With the Parrot Anafi, the French manufacturer finally made the leap onto the market for professional photo drones with Ultra HD quality in the summer of 2018 and will certainly continue to be positively heard of in the future.
Parrot Bebop 2: Good entry-level drone despite a bad camera
Light and shadow come together in the Parrot Bebop 2 beginner drone, which is extremely fast at 65 km/h. Flying the small quadrocopter is easy to learn and, thanks to a large number of pre-programmed maneuvers, is a lot of fun. At just under 25 minutes, the maximum flight time is also okay.
Unfortunately, the Parrot Bebop 2 is less convincing with its camera. A fixed fisheye lens with a 180° picture angle and an aperture of f2.3 is used here. Behind it is a 14 megapixel sensor, which records photos with a maximum resolution of 3800 x 3188 pixels or Full HD videos with 30 fps.
The Parrot Bebop 2 also lacks a stabilizing gimbal for the camera. Camera shake is only corrected digitally, which unfortunately sometimes leads to perceptible image errors in videos. The image quality is also hardly impressive in difficult light situations.
If you are looking for an easy-to-understand and compact drone to start with or to practice, you can certainly try your luck with the Parrot Bebop 2. The Parrot Bebop 2 is also definitely suitable as a fun sport device. Unfortunately, the drone is not recommended for ambitious photographers and videographers.
Parrot Anafi: Top video drone at a low price
After the Parrot Bebop 2 was unfortunately not able to convince, we have to take a stand for the French manufacturer at this point. The Parrot Anafi combines everything a good drone should have and can easily compete with the well-known competition from DJI.
The compact folding design makes the Parrot Anafi a constant companion, and it not only flies smoothly, but also extremely quietly. The only disadvantage: With the Parrot Anafi you have to fly a little more carefully, the drone does not have any environment sensors apart from a ground sensor.
If that doesn’t bother you, you can get a flying eye with a good 21 megapixel CMOS from Sony. The digital zoom gives you a focal length of 23 to 69 mm for photos and 26 to 78 mm for videos. The image quality of the photos could be a little better, the videos in 4k with 30 fps or full HD with 60 fps look great.
A special feature of the Anafi: The camera, which is stabilized in the 3-axis gimbal, can be swiveled vertically by 180°. In combination with various pre-programmed flight maneuvers, this enables you to have cool perspective changes, extremely dynamic tracking shots and, last but not least, the opportunity to film upwards.
With the Anafi, Parrot gives you almost 25 minutes of flying fun, during which you can draw on unlimited creativity at speeds of up to 50 km/h. Of course with due caution due to the lack of collision sensors. But caution should always be capitalized when flying drones anyway.
The best Yuneec photo drones
Yuneec International Electric Aviation Ltd. is a relatively young company based in Jinxi. From 1999, the development of model airplanes started there, soon expanded and finally went over to the production of electric drives for airplanes.
Innovative aviation technology has always been Yuneec’s passion. So it is hardly surprising that the Chinese company soon discovered aircraft for private use in addition to electrically powered airplanes and helicopters.
Yuneec now has various drones on the market that are suitable for aerial photography. From the compact recreational drone to the professional hexacopter, there is the right model for every application and every price range.
Yuneec Breeze 4k: cheap selfie drone
With a total weight of only 385 grams, the Yuneec Breeze 4k is clearly one of the portable mini drones for short snapshots on the go. For everything else, the maximum flight time of just 12 minutes would also be too short.
Yuneec itself advertises the small Breeze 4k as a selfie drone. The 13 megapixel camera, which can be tilted from 0 to 90° and has a field of view of 117°, is always sufficient for this. The Breeze 4k is also capable of 4k video (30 fps) and the results do not look bad at all for a drone in this price range.
Integrated image stabilizer and stable flight behavior ensure blur-free and sharp video clips. Significant imaging errors only occur when the camera pans very quickly. The photo quality of the Yuneec Breeze 4k is only okay, but easily enough for social media.
Controlling the small photo drone is a bit fiddly. Yuneec does without a controller here, all functions are controlled directly via the smartphone via an app. If you want to use the Yuneec Breeze 4k primarily as a selfie drone, you won’t have any problems with it. This method is rather unsuitable for free flying.
Yuneec Mantis Q: Good flight characteristics, bad camera
The Yuneec Mantis Q comes in the classic design of a compact drone. The foldable arms and rotors and the low weight of 480 grams make the Mantis Q the ideal travel companion at first glance. But what about the technology?
In tests, the Yuneec Mantis Q received consistently positive comments for its flight characteristics. In addition to the usual automatic modes (tracking, point of interest, selfie, etc.), the drone has voice control and can be controlled manually using a controller. With a top speed of 72 km/h and a flight time of 33 minutes, the Yuneec Mantis Q achieves very good values here.
Unfortunately, the camera with 13 megapixels and a field of view of 117° (corresponds to a focal length of 21.5 mm) reveals clear weaknesses. The photos usually appear cloudy and washed out and show clear vignetting. Even RAW files are difficult to recover in post-processing.
Unfortunately, the same problem also runs through the video mode of the Yuneec Mantis Q. This is made more difficult by the fact that the electronic stabilization is only active in Full HD mode. 4k quality as a purchase argument is thus destroyed by annoying camera shake.
All in all, the Yuneec Mantis Q can be a lot of fun when flying is the main focus. However, if you primarily want to film and photograph, you should stay away from the Mantis Q and grab it as an alternative to the Parrot Anafi or a cheap Mavic variant.
Yuneec Typhoon H Plus: Professional in all disciplines
The Yuneec Typhoon H Plus is absolutely professional in all disciplines. The large hexacopter with a combat weight of almost 2 kg takes on the otherwise mostly unbeaten competition from DJI in a direct comparison.
What is striking about the Typhoon H Plus is the completely balanced relationship between drone and camera technology. No compromises are made here, but simply the best possible technology is used.
The absolute highlight of the Yuneec Typhoon H Plus is clearly the almost freely movable gimbal, in which the 20 megapixel camera is housed. You can tilt the camera between -90° and 15° and pan a full 360° to suit your mood. The field of view is 91°, which corresponds to a focal length of 23 mm.
The imaging performance of the 1-inch image sensor also meets professional requirements. Only photos in high ISO ranges (maximum ISO 6400) show a slightly disturbing image noise. Videographers will be happy about the 4k video mode with 60 frames per second.
Thanks to the 3-axis image stabilizer and the smooth flight characteristics of the Yuneec Typhoon H Plus, recordings remain blur-free even at a top speed of 72 km/h. Forward-looking ultrasonic obstacle detection and save landing with 5 out of 6 rotors in the event of a defect ensure safety.
The Yuneec Typhoon H Plus is also optionally available with RealSense technology.
General guidelines for drone photography
I hope this article was able to help you in choosing the right aircraft and you will soon achieve your own first results in drone photography. So that you can enjoy this hobby in the long term and stay on the safe side legally, please note the following points!
Take out insurance before your first flight!
Probably none of you would get behind the wheel of a car without insurance. When flying a drone, you should also see yourself as an active road user, and aircraft in particular can quickly lead to severe injuries or serious damage to third-party property in the event of an accident.
Therefore, you should make sure that you do not have to be liable yourself in the worst case. Accidents involving drones are not directly covered by most liability insurance policies, but it is usually possible to add additional services to the existing insurance package without any problems.
Be sure to note the takeoff weight of your drone!
According to the currently applicable standard, all drones with a take-off weight of more than 250 grams (weight when ready for operation including the battery) are subject to the labeling requirement. This must be done by means of a fireproof plaque bearing the pilot’s name and address.
In addition, depending on the weight class, you must be able to show a so-called drone driver’s license (from 2 kg) or even apply for an ascent permit (from 5 kg) from the state aviation authority. Current information on the EU drone regulation can be found at the Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure .
Always fly on sight and under 100 meters!
Even if most drones have a much longer range and some manufacturers advertise with it: The maximum flight altitude and the maximum distance from the pilot are regulated by law!
Even during automatic flight maneuvers, such as circling objects, visual contact with the drone must always be maintained and the maximum flight altitude of 100 m may only be exceeded with special permission.
Exceptions from the BMVI apply to flying with video goggles, which of course makes direct visual contact impossible. Here you can fly with a “spotter”, i.e. another person who keeps an eye on the drone.
Observe the observance of no-fly zones!
If you want to be on the safe side, it is best to fly at model airfields. But flying a drone over uninhabited areas is usually not a problem. However, the following areas are taboo for drone flights:
- Locations of the police and fire brigade
- main roads and waterways
- Constitutional bodies, federal and state authorities
- industrial plants
- residential plots
- nature reserves
Flight bans apply not only to the location directly, but also to the immediate vicinity. You should keep a minimum distance of 1.5 km from such areas. The German air traffic control drone app is very helpful in order not to accidentally fly into a no-fly zone.
Be careful when taking photos and videos in public!
When taking photos with a smartphone or digital camera, §59 of the copyright law usually applies. According to this, such recordings fall under the so-called “freedom of panorama” and are legally harmless if the following points are observed:
- The motif is in a public and freely accessible place
- The motif can be used freely and is not reserved for private use
- The motif is permanently in a public place (caution with temporary art installations!)
- The subject can be photographed from a public place without any tools
The last point is relevant for drone photography, since with the drone as a technical aid you leave the “I” perspective and thus also the area of freedom of panorama. So if you want to publish your image material, you should make sure not to infringe any copyrights (recognizable buildings, etc.) or personal rights of recognizable people.