Last updated on April 3rd, 2020 at 07:43 am
After many hours of research, and the examination of around twenty models from the European market, we have determined that the DJI Mavic Air constitutes, in our opinion, the best quality/price ratio at present. Despite its compactness, this drone shows excellent material quality, displays a good image quality in photos and videos, has many fun flight modes, and displays very good autonomy. It is intended for advanced users looking for a drone that does not sacrifice quality for the benefit of portability.
Why trust us
The Selectos editorial team spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and comparing products in order to find those that offer the best value for money.
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How did we choose?
“Drones are today real tools for video and photo enthusiasts, but also for professionals”. Suddenly, it is sometimes difficult, when you want to embark on the purchase of a camera drone, to distinguish between the essential and the accessory.
Regardless of your level of expertise in drones, certain criteria must absolutely be examined, but they will not all be as determined in your choice:
- Recording quality: the quality level required will obviously depend on your need in this area, but whether you choose a Full HD or 4K recording, choose a model offering at least 30 fps (Images per Second) in which case your film will be jerky. Also check if the colorimetry is faithful both in video and in the photo. And, of course, the image quality will also be greatly dependent on the stabilization of the camera.
- Stabilization of the camera: it serves to obtain a good quality image, whatever the stability of the camera itself. Some devices incorporate electronic stabilization, where integrated software corrects the image and records artificially stable video. We lose a little bit in video quality but the result avoids the shaking effects. Others are inspired by gyro-stabilizers installed on helicopters: a motorized gondola compensates for the movements of the device to keep the camera in a fixed position. It is most effective if you do not want to compromise image quality.
- Obstacle detection : always useful in the event of a problem, an obstacle detection device allows your drone to regain control automatically if it thinks you are sending it into a wall (a much more common phenomenon than don’t think so, especially when you’re new). It can operate via the camera, by a 3D visual analysis of what surrounds it, or via a more efficient sonar, which maps the environment using ultrasound.
- RHT (Return to Home) : if your device exceeds its maximum range or runs out of battery, the RTH will cause it to automatically return to your position, following the command signal.
- FPV (First Person View) : it often consists of a screen integrated into the control that allows you to see what your drone sees. Sensation enthusiasts will be able to couple this video data with a virtual reality headset and thus walk in the air as if they were there.
- Range : the Directorate General of Civil Aviation has established that drones can only climb to 150 m, and that they should always be kept within sight. In certain circumstances, the ability of a drone to travel a particularly long distance without losing contact with the controller can however be very useful (mountainous area, etc.).
- GPS : If you still want a long-range model, prefer a camera drone that you can locate easily. Beyond the breakage, there is the question of loss! Thanks to the GPS, you will find it in any situation.
- Ease of control : most controllers look like joysticks with joysticks to direct the flight of the craft and buttons to launch certain precise functions. However, some controllers now have an integrated screen or the possibility of being connected with a smartphone, which sometimes allow more intuitive control.
- Autonomy : a compromise is often to be made here because a battery with a longer lifespan is generally heavier (even if manufacturers are working more and more on this point). A good battery will run around 20 minutes, but we always recommend that you invest in one (or more) spare battery (ies).
- Transportability : if you want to transport your drone on a daily basis, prefer a compact model, with folding arms, for example, and easily stowable in a bag.
If you are just starting out, don’t be too greedy in terms of power, visual quality, top speed, maximum altitude or range. Opt for a less spectacular drone, smaller, easier to maneuver, and, if possible, cheaper (so that its potential breakage affects you less). In addition, we strongly recommend that you watch for the following options:
- Radio controls : models that navigate via a tablet or smartphone are more intuitive but can pose a latency problem (Wi-Fi having a more uncertain range than radio waves). The time to take control of the inertias of the device, these inaccuracies can cost you dearly. Prefer radio controls if you are a real beginner.
- The propeller guards : this is a small, very light plastic hoop that covers sensitive parts without preventing air-flow. If your drone is not equipped, buy them separately. If it is not compatible with a propeller guard, do not buy it. Single blades cost several euros and the slightest shock can bend them. Ultimately, you may even damage the motors.
It is with all these criteria in mind that we have examined the twenty models of drones currently renowned on the market. The consultation of specialized guides and tests, as well as the comparison of many photos, allowed us to isolate a dozen among them, presenting a more interesting quality/price ratio.
We, therefore, decided between these by analyzing a multitude of user feedback, collected on various sales sites, specialized blogs, comment sections of YouTube channels and others, both on the English and French-speaking sides.
This allowed us to determine that the 5 camera drones selected are the most interesting at the moment.
The best cheap camera drones
We have determined our entry-level among the drones offered for less than € 100. And although a drastic sorting must be carried out in this price range (in particular to avoid everything that falls more within the domain of the toy), there is sometimes a model offering nice surprises.
DJI Ryze Tello: the best cheap
The fruit of the collaboration between DJI and Intel, the Ryze Tello was specifically designed for beginners.
This is noticeable on two levels: on the one hand, it is very compact (17.7 x 17.7 x 4 cm, for only 80 g), but also, above all, it is supplied for purchase with eight propellers and four propeller guards.
Although its finishes are impeccable, beware: it is plastic, which can be problematic in the event of a collision (even if this plastic is rather robust).
Its 5 MP sensor allows HD recordings at 30 IPS rather convincing for a device at this price (even if the result is quickly pixelated if the drone picks up speed). It is also equipped with digital stabilization, effective indoors but less outdoors, where it will often not be able to fight against the movements imprinted by the wind.
It is necessary to download the dedicated application to make it work (attention besides: the drone itself does not have internal memory and the videos are recorded on your smartphone). It nevertheless has the merit of offering a clear and intuitive interface (so, just slide your finger to take off the drone, and two virtual joysticks help you steer it). It is however possible to combine it with a GameSir controller, for more ease.
Whatever the control mode chosen, the range is limited to around twenty meters, cuts even sometimes sometimes occurring at around ten meters. It’s a bit short, but it’s still perfect for a beginner.
With this application, you can configure several automated flight modes, to facilitate certain shots, but the absence of any 3D recognition somewhat reduces its reliability in this area.
On the other hand, note that the most keen in programming can have fun creating some simple automated commands, which extends the “lifespan” of the drone to the fun level.
Finally, its autonomy of 10 minutes is quite satisfactory for a mini-drone, but since the recharge time is quite long (1:30), it is better to equip yourself with additional batteries.
In the end, here is a small drone offered at a very affordable price which differs from the immediate competition by its material quality and the visual quality offered, surprising on a mini drone, but whose reduced range and lack of features can quickly limit the ‘use.
The best mid-range camera drones
With the price increase, we have focused on devices offering better stability, a wider angle of view, and certain features capable of greatly improving the flight experience.
DJI Mavic Air: the best mid-range
We are staying with Dji, with a drone that appeared in 2018 and has quickly made a place for itself on the market.
With its 19.8 x 8.3 x 8.3 cm, it is already easy to transport. But that’s without counting on its foldable aspect, which brings it to the dimensions 16.8 x 8.3 x 4.9, allowing you to slip it into any bag.
The radio control itself is designed with this transportability objective in mind: it is reduced in size without hampering handling, it has the particularity of having its removable joysticks, without this being done to the detriment of the material quality.
In terms of image quality, here we have a 12 Mpx sensor, this time with 4K recording at 30 IPS. Many options are available, both in photography and video, with even the possibility of working in Full HD at 120 IPS, for a very correct result. The colors in the photo are very faithful and well contrasted (but users recommend not to push more than 200 ISO to avoid electronic grain). On the other hand, the video rendering, although very good, deserves to be more contrasted.
It has a gimbal stabilized on three axes, which provides remarkable stability and fluidity of flight. The Sport mode is particularly impressive, allowing it to reach a top speed of 68 km / h.
It has obstacle detection at 20 m, via 3D mapping. However, the obstacle must be large enough and contrasted. But the advantage is that it has front… and rear cameras for this!
You can manage it via a fairly intuitive companion app , allowing you to control a whole range of automated shots. Thus, “Rocket” takes a vertical photo, “Spiral” makes it revolve around you while filming you, while the “Dronie” leaves it pointed towards you while moving back and rising. But there are still many others (Asteroid, Boomerang,…). Regarding the video return, the manufacturer announces a range of 4 km, but latencies are observed from around 500 m.
Finally, in terms of autonomy, it is average: the 21 minutes announced seem to correspond to reality.
In the end, with all these qualities, the Dji Mavic Air is certainly one of the best drones available on the market in this price range. Not only does it offer many possibilities for fun, but everything is done with a very good image quality.
Parrot Anafi : the mid-range alternative
With the Parrot Anafi, we finally come to another actor than Dji.
A little longer (24.4 cm) but thinner (6.7 cm) than the Dji Mavic Air, it is a little lighter, with only 320 g. And since it is again a foldable model, it is very easy to transport.
By cons, it should be noted that, if no user feedback could report a major material quality problem, it gives an impression of less solidity than the Mavic Air.
It is equipped with a 21 MP sensor, which offers vivid and true-to-life images. There is also a 4K 30 IPS recording, this time with the possibility of going up to 60 IPS only in Full HD (against 120 for the Mavic Air).
However, it stands out from its competitor thanks to the integration of a digital zoom, allowing some interesting shots.
It is also equipped with hybrid stabilization – mechanical and software – which ensures stable images on almost any occasion, even at maximum speed (55 km / h).
However, we urge you to be careful about speed: the Parrot Anafi does not have an obstacle detection system. It’s a shame in this price range!
The application allowing to direct it is intuitive and complete … But a little less than that of Dji. This will not prevent you from spending many hours of fun testing the various shots, especially since the direction of the drone is very fluid.
Regarding the range, it suffers from the same defect as its competitor: announced at 4 km, the video return displays latencies once past the 500 m.
Finally, in terms of autonomy, it is a little higher than its competitor, since it reaches approximately 23 minutes. A spare battery is, however, again highly recommended!
In the end, Parrot offers us here an excellent drone, with serious assets to compete with Dji, if only at the price level. Nevertheless, its slightly more fragile design, its slightly fewer features and, above all, its absence of obstacle detection led us to prefer its competitor Mavic Air.
The best high-end camera drones
In this last section, we move towards drones for professional use, presenting an irreproachable image quality, an effective stabilization system, good autonomy and excellent maneuverability.
However, these are not drones that we would recommend to beginners, if only because of their high price, but also because the multitude of features offered could risk losing them.
DJI Mavic 2 Zoom: the best high-end
The Mavic 2 Zoom is one of the two versions developed in 2018 by Dji to renew its famous Magic Pro (2016).
The basic platform is the same for both versions and has been reworked to offer better aerodynamics (it reaches a top speed of 72 km / h in sport mode), and operate more quietly.
And while taking up the fully foldable side of the Mavic Air, to reach the dimensions of 32.2 x 24.2 x 8.4 cm when unfolded, and 21.4 x 9.1 x 8.4 cm when folded, this time it reaches the weight of 900 g, which therefore makes you subject to certain legal requirements.
It carries a multidirectional 360 ° detection technology, based on eight sensors: two at the front, two at the rear, two below and one on each side, on the sides of the drone. The result is a fairly precise measurement of the distances between the drone and an object.
This Zoom version embeds a 12 Mpx sensor, but it can “mount” up to 48 via an assembly system of nine automatic shots captured thanks to the variation of the 2x optical zoom that it embeds. It records in 4K, but the image can be taken in 1080p definition up to 8 km away for a latency-free broadcast on the application.
Its zoom also gives it some interesting effects in video, such as “Dolby Zoom”, or “traveling” mode (the drone moves away from the subject while zooming in on it in order to keep its initial size on the video, creating a interesting perspective effect).
The application also allows direct backup of photos, to avoid filling up the 8 GB internal memory too quickly (expandable up to 128 GB thanks to the Micro-SD slot).
Autonomy, finally, ranks it among the very good students, since it reaches almost thirty minutes.
In the end, this drone seduced us not only by its material quality and its image quality, but also, above all, by the possibilities offered by its 2x optical zoom, which makes it a very interesting product for filmmakers. Those who focus on photo quality, however, will benefit from turning to its friend, the Mavic 2 Pro.
DJI Mavic 2 Pro: the high-end alternative
We are not going to dwell very long on the appearance of this camera drone since, almost (2 g approximately), it offers exactly the same configuration and the same general performance in terms of aerodynamics, handling and autonomy.
But if it differs from its Zoom 2 counterpart, it is because, this time, it incorporates a 1 ”sensor at 20 Mpx. So, with this larger sensor, it captures more light, for an even more breathtaking rendering, with controlled colorimetry. Even in low light, the shots offer excellent rendering.
So, if you mainly use your drone for photos, it’s a safe bet that the Pro model will satisfy you much more than the Zoom. The latter nevertheless retains the advantage in video recording, by offering more shooting games, and that is why we kept it first place in our selection.
Note that, whether you choose one or the other model, it is highly recommended to equip yourself with the Mavic 2 Fly More Kit . This contains a transport bag, two additional batteries, a charging station, an adapter for charging via cigarette lighter, an adapter for an external battery, and two additional pairs of propellers. Admittedly, that raises the bill, but it is almost essential for the professionals to whom these two drones are intended.
Parrot Bebop 2 : this drone particularly stands out among the models under € 500 because of the exemplary automatic stabilization it offers, thanks to the combination of its vertical camera, its ultrasonic sensor, its barometer, gyroscope and of the acceleration sensor. To this is added video stabilization software, for a successful result in all circumstances. In addition, it is revealed, as Bertrand points out in his dedicated test “a real treat for conviviality”. Its lower image quality, however, made it lose its place in our selection to the benefit of Dji competitors.
Dji Phantom 4 Pro : it is the first Dji drone to have integrated a 1 ”sensor. However, it stands out in that it allows you to record in 4K at 60 IPS (against 30 IPS maximum for the Mavic 2 Pro). It is therefore the best alternative for those who absolutely need very smooth 4K recording. However, this is done at the cost of its autonomy (20 minutes). It is its very high price compared to the Mavic that pushed us to exclude it from our main selection.
DJI Inspire 2 : this higher-priced drone meets the needs of a professional market, in particular by offering 5.2 K (30 IPS) and 4K (60 IPS) recording, a top speed of 94 km / h, resistance to cold (down to -20 ° C) and autonomy of almost 30 minutes.
DJI Mavic Mini : an even more compact version of the Mavic Air, it is an example of portability. It has a very good display rendering and good handling. However, it loses the obstacle sensor of its elder, its motors are a little less powerful and it can only go up to a resolution of 2,7 K. It is all the same a very good model in view of the asking price.
In conclusion, which camera drone to choose?
The DJI Mavic Air wins our preference. Despite its compactness, this drone shows excellent material quality, displays a good image quality in photos and videos, has many fun flight modes, and displays very good autonomy.
But if you are a complete beginner, we can only recommend the DJI Ryze Tello . Proposed at an affordable price, it is rather resistant (especially since it is supplied with the purchase with propeller protections) and, although it is not the best in this area, it offers a amazing visual quality at this price.
Finally, the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom is aimed at aspiring filmmakers, who will benefit from its quality 4K recording, its foolproof stabilization, and the many effects offered by its 2x zoom.