Which Top RC Drones With a Camera should you choose if you’re all about creating exciting footage that puts your viewers right in the middle of the action? Camera hardware isn’t the only important element. A drone with a great camera but poor maneuverability will dramatically limit your ability to capture those breathtaking scenes that you want to share with audiences. The heftier your optical gear and lenses are, however, the more likely it is that you’ll have to upgrade to a model with enhanced payload-lifting power.
Picking the right camera drone for you can be a daunting task. There are endless options, variations, and modifications to consider, as well as features, camera qualities, and sizes. The most important thing to consider is what you need the drone for in the first place. Are you recording bird migrations from up in the sky? Taking wedding video from above? Capturing still photography from new and exciting vantage points?
Feeling overwhelmed? Don’t you worry. I am here to help you zero in on what you need, take a look at some options, and hopefully narrow down your search to find your perfect camera drone! This buying guide will help you find the top rated camera quadcopter.
- Ready Made or Build Your Own
- The Basics
- Why Size Matters in Camera Drones
- Battery Life
- Weight Carrying Capability
- Agility in Flight
- Several Different Drone Size Categories for Drones with Cameras
- Micro Drones
- Mini Drones
- Mid/Medium Sized Drones
- Large Drones
- UAV Camera Specifications
- Resolution and FPS
Ready Made or Build Your Own
If we really plan to break this down, it’s important that we start here. Do you want a camera drone which comes ready to take out and fly on day one, or are you more the “do it yourself” type? Unknown to some, there are many options for building your own drone out there. Some are inexpensive and more of a hobby project, where others are fully functioning and ready to compete against other ready made drones.
If you decide you want to build your own drone, simply search for “drone kits,” “UAV kit” (which stands for Unmanned Aerial Vehicle), or any variation of this phrase. You will be blown away by what you find! I sure was. Who knew just how many kits were for sale for building a drone of your very own?!
Next up, we’ll check out which basic features are most important to you in your search for the ideal camera drone. Things like size, material, and flying power are crucial to your ability to utilize your drone for the particular use you are buying it for. Looking at these features first is important, because until you know the basics you will need, you won’t know where to start in your search for the perfect camera drone.
Why Size Matters in Camera Drones
Have you thought about where you will be keeping your drone when it is not being used? If not, you should start considering this important piece of the puzzle right away. If you only have a small amount of storage space, you will either need to deconstruct your drone in some way after every use and reassemble it before every use, or you will need to be looking for camera drones within the sizing parameters of the storage space available to you. Think about these specifications before you begin. You do not want to end up with a drone too big to store. Otherwise you will basically be adding a new piece of furniture to your home.
Planning on traveling with your camera drone? A drone with a camera can be a fantastic way to document a road trip, vacation, or destination wedding. However, the bigger the drone, the harder it will be to pack up and take with you, especially if your destination requires flying on a conventional airplane. Many drones have cases available for purchase online and elsewhere.
Here’s one industry leading company’s website for drone cases in case you’d like to get an early look, or, if travelling is important to you, consider doing your search in reverse and picking a size range for cases first and later narrowing down which camera drones will fit in that sized drone case. If your drone is truly massive, the case will be too. Therefore, if you plan to travel a lot, or even at all, with your camera drone, looking at models that come in smaller sizes would be a good idea to maintain convenience, ease, and peace of mind.
Will you be using your camera drone to film or fly in remote locations? How long will you need it to stay in the air before coming back down? Can you afford several sets of batteries for your drone? If not, how often will you be able to wait for its batteries to recharge?
All of these questions and more are vital to the decision you are about to make for which drone with a camera is the best choice for your specific criteria. Smaller drones are lighter, so their battery can sometimes last longer. However, smaller drones also have less of a weight capacity, so their batteries will be smaller, and therefore they may burn out sooner. Larger drones can carry heavier weighted batteries, and therefore can sometimes last longer too. This can be a confusing road to navigate. So which style is better for you?
One way to combat this endless debate is to focus on the batteries used in each drone. Higher quality LiPo batteries combined with lightweight materials will often mean the best battery efficiency. There are some camera drones that can fly without interruption or recharging for 45 minutes at a time or longer! You can reduce charging time by equipping yourself with the best drone battery charger on the market, which will help you charge faster and can charge more batteries at the same time. Keep an eye out for these types of drones if your work or hobby will require your drone to stay in the air continuously for long periods of time.
Weight Carrying Capability
If you plan on modifying your camera drone at all, such as by switching out the camera for a more appropriate one for your field of work or play, then pay special attention to each drone’s ability to carry weight. Some camera drones are built to withstand only the total weight of the drone and the originally attached camera.
Keep in mind that many camera drones will not operate properly if the original camera is removed, replaced, or tampered with, so leave this up to someone who is more experienced if you are not. The weight of any modifications will affect the drone’s ability to do anything and everything, right down to its ability to lift off of the ground and fly, as well as the way in which you can control your camera to film or take pictures. So, if you do plan on modifying any part of the drone at all, you had better be careful to make sure that the drone will still be able to operate at full capacity after the changes have been made. Otherwise, a fun and quirky project could very well turn into the demise of your beloved, and often quite expensive, camera drone.
Agility in Flight
The size of a flying object directly relates to its ability to move in a flexible and adaptable motion through the sky. This is just as true for small, hand controlled camera drones as it is for much bigger faster and stronger fighter jets, commercial airliners, and military UAVs. If you compare a commercial airliner to a fighter jet, you will notice the immense difference in mass, shape, and maneuverability before you notice just about anything else at all.
A large sized drone with a camera will generally be a bit more bulky, wide, and heavy, so moving it through the air will require much larger lines, turns, and loops. A smaller drone will be tight, compact, and agile. Here’s a video showing five cool camera drone tricks for beginners.
Remember to consider what you want to be capable of when choosing your drone size. Everything comes down to weight, width, height, and agility.
Several Different Drone Size Categories for Drones with Cameras
Micro drones are just that, micro. They are usually smaller than the palm of your hand and are so lightweight that if you take them outside you risk having them fly away with a quick gust of wind. I have yet to see a micro drone with a camera attached, but I mention them here just to provide some perspective for the other upcoming sizes of camera drones we will be looking at.
Miniature drones are not always camera drones either, but they certainly can be. Mini drones are generally made for beginners who want to experience the feeling of owning and flying a drone, without the financial commitment of their immensely higher priced counterparts. These drones are generally most often not used for commercial needs, but instead are predominantly used for fun for beginner drone enthusiasts. Mini drones make a great gift for anyone looking to get into drones as a hobby.
Some mini drones are camera equipped. These drones are not to be confused with toy drones because, although they are small in size, they are not small in camera features or flight capabilities. They are made to be compact, portable, and fully functional. Mini camera drones can be as small as the size of your hand and still maintain full functionality. These smaller camera drones are perfect for the novice flyer, as their small size makes them easier to control and safer to occasionally crash. Quadcopters of this size are generally a cheaper alternative to their bigger counterparts, so crashing and damaging them means a lower cost for repairs or replacement parts.
Most mini drones are small enough to fly indoors and can perform certain tricks and tasks that other drones simply can not. Picture the difference between flying a commercial airliner in a loop verses doing the same loop with a fighter jet, and you will understand the difference between doing a trick with a big camera drone verses doing the same trick with a mini camera drone. If you plan to do any wild maneuvers with your camera drone, pick a mini drone with a camera that meets your standards for picture or video capturing ability.
Mid/Medium Sized Drones
These camera drones are a few sizes larger than the mini drones we just discussed. Sometimes referred to as “hobby” drones, mid sized drones with a camera are usually about two to three times the size of their mini drone counterparts. Their batteries are usually large enough to keep the quadcopter high in the air for more than twenty minutes at a time.
Some of these drones, like the Syma X5SW, are able to stream live videos to a phone real time! Features like this are important to look out for, because if you need to see what’s coming while flying through narrow lanes or around dangerous obstacles, it will be necessary to be able to have a point of view reference to fly off of. You need to think long and hard about what you will need to accomplish with your drone with a camera before you make a purchase. With proper video equipment and unrestrained flying capability, a mid size drone with a camera in this price range is truly a steal of a deal.
Our final size category, large drones with a camera are much greater in size and power. Generally bought and used at the commercial level, these drones and quadcopters are perfect for industrial or professional work. Acquiring a drone of this size and potentiality can be an expensive endeavor. However, if you are planning on using your new drone with a camera for professional or semi professional work, getting a large camera drone might be your best option.
Large drones generally have the best cameras with the best capability and functionality. Most will come equipped with HD 4K photo and video cameras attached right from the start. This means that capturing the perfect shot of that epic landscape or fast moving action scene will be practical and somewhat easy to achieve. Modification is also an option with large camera drones, however, with such awesome capability right from the start, there is almost no point in pursuing this option for most camera drone purposes, even in the professional filmmaking realm. The equipped cameras in this category of camera drones allow for top of the line, high definition recording at fast speeds.
With little to no wind interference due to heavy arms and widespread wingspans, these pictures and videos should come out looking perfect at best and professional at least. Don’t expect to be able to fly a large camera drone perfectly if you have never flown a drone before, though, as they can be bulky, heavy, and unforgiving to even the occasional crash. So new buyers should steer clear of this category, unless they are willing to make a large and rather risky investment in something they may not be able to control properly.
UAV Camera Specifications
Resolution and FPS
Clearly, the type of camera included with your new unmanned aerial vehicle is going to be of paramount importance, depending on how serious your particular line of work or hobby is. A great drone with a weak camera can make some beautiful aerial shots look like pixelated mosaics. This is why I took special care in going through many different camera drone options and researching their camera specifications, with resolution and FPS being the most forefront.
Most modern drones with a camera offer both still photo and video capability. That is why I chose to review FPS, or Frames Per Second, over mp, or megapixels. So, when searching for your ideal drone with a camera, be sure that the camera meets all of your needs or wants, and not just some of them.
That being said, the results I came up with are fairly simple to follow.The same goes for any camera with a speed of 30 fps or slower.
This is great news for you! It means that you can expect – and even demand – from your UAV producing organizations a top of the line product with top of the line features for lower and lower prices each year. The quality of the camera for your drone is no different. Accept only the very best for your professional or hobbyist needs. They should be as important to your drone’s producer as they are to you.
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