High-quality photography and cinematography is something that holds the same passion for amateurs as it does for professionals. However, high prices and inaccessible products drive many people away. Fortunately, this is slowly becoming a thing of the past. Professional gear is within reach of most consumers, and even consumer-grade stuff is blurring the line between the two.
A great example of this is camera/video drones. The craze started out when vloggers started to use drone footage in their videos. A lot of companies quickly realized that there is a lot of demand to bring high-quality drones to the professional market. While there are a lot of players in the game right now, very few come close to the level of DJI. Hence, they are the most popular brand out there.
DJI has a few drones that you can pick from. But it isn’t always easy to decide on which one is right for you. Portability, price, and video quality are all important things to keep in mind. With that mindset, we compiled the best DJI drones available in 2021. No matter your needs, you’ll find a DJI drone that fits your criteria.
The DJI Mavic Air 2 is the successor to the incredibly successful Mavic Air. The original was the brand’s best consumer-grade drone at the time. We can confidently say the same for the Mavic Air 2. Keeping quality, price, and features in mind, the DJI Mavic Air 2 is the best drone for most people. It combines a high-end sensor with powerful flight performance that all comes together to represent a great value.
Let’s get the numbers out of the way first. The Mavic Air 2 weighs about 570g. It easily folds up so carrying it is not a headache. The max flight time is rated at 33-34 minutes, depending on the wind. It can cover a max distance of 18.5km. For the sensor, it’s using a ½-inch CMOS sensor that captures gorgeous 48 MP photos. It can also shoot 4K footage at 60fps. Other than that, it can also shoot in HDR. There are a lot more specs than those, but these should bring you up to speed.
The DJI Mavic Air 2 has a manageable size. It can fit into most photograph gear bags. It has a low profile when folded up. Flying is easy to understand, and you get the hang of it quite quickly. Sensors on the front and back detect and avoid obstructions. It has running lights so you can see it in the dark. Other than that, it is also easy to track.
You can do a lot with the DJI Mavic Air 2. This includes shooting 8K hyper-lapse videos, QuickShost, panoramas, and more. It’s also easy to fly thanks to its APAS 3.0 obstacle avoidance feature. It takes power, portability, and advanced features all into account. You can shoot some very creative aerial shots thanks to the smooth 60fps video modes.
While the Mavic Air 2 is technically a mid-tier entry in the lineup, it rarely feels like one. The battery life is quite long when it comes to flight time, image and video quality are quite strong. Obstacle detection and avoidance are also excellent. Features like HDR video and Raw images are just the cherry on top. This is an excellent drone and the one to get for most people.
The original DJI Mavic Mini enjoyed its success for quite a bit. This time, DJI decides to rebrand this as the DJI Mini 2 and it serves as an update to the original Mavic Mini. The camera is more stabilized, it has various photo modes, and stronger motors than the original. Simply put, the DJI Mavic Mini 2 is the perfect entry-level drone. This one is going to be quite popular among beginners.
In terms of design, it is quite similar to the Mavic Mini. The Mini 2 has the same frame and comes in at 249g. Since it is so lightweight, there is no need to get it registered in the USA. Fold up the Mini 2 and it can easily fit into a small bag. Although, the remote is a bit bigger this time. Battery life is also better, as it has a flight time of 30-31 minutes, depending on the wind.
The DJI Mini 2 comes with a single battery, while you can buy spares separately. It uses a 1/2.3 CMOS sensor and shoots at 12 MP. You can shoot in either Raw or JPG. It can shoot video at 4K 30fps. If you want 60fps footage, you’ll need to stick with 1080p. It has transceivers for both GPS and GLONASS positioning. You can use the DJI fly app for flight control. It also takes automated quick shots. Unfortunately, subject tracking and HDR modes are not available in this one.
The Mini 2 can now shoot 4K video, whereas its predecessor was stuck at 2.7K. The addition of extra pixels is appreciated. Still, shots are saved at 12 MP in JPG or Raw, your choice. Out of the box, the Mini 2 shoots JPGs. While some video features are missing here, the Mini 2 can still take incredible shots. You can get more creative with this drone than you might initially think.
Overall, we believe that the Mini 2 is the best drone for beginners and casual folks. It drops some of the enthusiast features to lower the price, and it’s well worth the compromise. The Mini 2 doesn’t have much competition either, as the only closest one is the Parrot Anafi.
Both the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom are excellent professional video drones. They also happen to be quite similar. It’s difficult to talk about one without the other. In terms of Mavic 2 Zoom, the name itself implies the obvious feature it has over the 2 Pro. The Mavic 2 Zoom is a very versatile drone and allows for some extremely creative shots.
The Mavic 2 Zoom is quite a large drone. You’ll need a separate bag to carry it around with you, and it also weighs about 905g. The remote control is also updated this time around. It has folding clips to attach your phone at the bottom. It features a monochrome display screen, and you can the drone without your phone. This drone can fly up to 31 minutes on a full charge. It also has obstacle avoidance and other safe flight features.
In terms of specs, the Mavic 2 Zoom has a 1/2.3 CMOS sensor and shoots at 12 MP. It can shoot in 4K at 30fps and for 60fps the resolution limits to 2.7K. It has a D-Cinelike color mode as well. Apart from that, it can shoot in JPEGs as well as Raw formats for photos. The zoom lens allows you to change the focal length while recording. You can pull off incredible shots with this Zoom lens. It can also stitch together multiple zoomed-in photos to create one 48 MP wide-angle image.
Of course, the biggest advantage is the optical zoom. This drone can shoot quite close to the subject with the help of the zoom lens. You don’t need to move your drone in most of the time. There are a lot of situations where having this zoom lens is going to come in handy. While the Mavic 2 Pro might produce better-looking shots, the Mavic 2 Zoom is more versatile.
When it comes down to it, we think the Mavic 2 Zoom is more interesting than the Mavic 2 Pro. That’s the sole reason why it’s higher on this list. In no way does that make the Mavic 2 Pro bad, it’s just that the zoom lens is incredibly fun to play around with.
You can say that the Mavic 2 Pro is the sibling of the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom. Both of these cameras are similar in size and shape, but the Mavic 2 Pro lacks the zoom lens. With that said, the Mavic 2 Pro makes up for that with some incredibly advanced features. Depending on the use case, the Mavic 2 Pro can sometimes have a leg up on the Mavic 2 Zoom. It is hard not to recommend both.
The Mavic 2 Pro is the successor of the original DJI Mavic 2. Not only is it big on features, but it’s also bigger in size. While it can fit into your video gear bag, keeping it in a separate space is ideal for most people. The Mavic 2 Pro weighs about 207g. It also has a new remote control with a folding clip to attach to your phone. If you don’t want to attach your phone, the remote can get the job done itself. Battery life is rated to be at 31 minutes of max flight time.
The camera is where things get quite different. This one features 1-inch CMOS sensors that can shoot 20 MP stills. Surprisingly, the aperture range is also wider from f/2.8 to f/11. This allows you to play around with lighting a lot. You can shoot in 4K at 30fps and for 60fps you can shoot in 2.7K. One advantage it has over the Zoom is the ability to shoot in a 10-bit Dlog-M color profile.
This means that the colors, HDR, and low light performance are better on the Pro. At least, that’s for the out of the box experience. When shooting in a flat profile, both of these can look quite similar. But in the Dlog-M color profile, the Pro looks more organic and sharper. Of course, this depends on if you want a better-looking picture out of the box, or if you want to play around with editing software.
The Mavic 2 Pro is great because it requires little to no color grading. You can use the footage as is, and it still looks cinematic. However, the lack of the Zoom lens is quite apparent after using the Mavic 2 Zoom. Both have their ups and downs, so choose carefully.
Last but definitely not least, we have the Phantom 4 Pro V2.0. This is a relaunch of the original Phantom 4 Pro. This is the drone that earned DJI their reputation back in the day. It brings a bunch of new features and improved flight technologies to make it a better experience. In terms of price, it is not the cheapest drone by a long shot. However, it’s worth taking a look at it you take your drone footage seriously.
The Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 is big and bulky. Its white exterior is easily recognizable. That bulky exterior makes this a very rugged drone. However, it hard to ignore the size of it. This thing weighs about 1375g, and it lacks a foldable design. It comes with a large polystyrene case with a carry handle. While that makes things convenient, it doesn’t take away from the sheer size of the drone overall.
Even the controller is rather large. It has a clean white design and a holder for your phone or tablet. The Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 is quite responsive and ensures a smooth flight experience. It’s not quite as easy as flying a Mavic, as those controllers are a bit smaller. However, it has all the usual flight features like obstacle avoidance, and new sensors all around.
While this drone doesn’t bring anything else inherently new, it’s still hard to hate it. This 1-inch CMOS sensor can easily shoot at 4K in 60fps. It’s also quite fast, ridiculously so. This might prove that the drone is perfect to be used for capturing fast-moving objects. It also has a 10-bit Dlog-M profile and HDR support.
The Phantom Pro 4 V2.0 is big, bulky, and expensive. It has a rectilinear lens, which makes it great for mapping. It also shoots in 4K 60fps, unlike both the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom. If you don’t care about this feature, by all means, go with the other drones on this list.