So many Drones - Which one is for me? (Buying Guide for Beginners)
Buying a drone is the most childish experience I’ve had in a long time. My gosh how many dumb excuses was I making for why I definitely NEED 3 extra batteries, every filter, active tracking, a drawstring bag with the words "Extra Propellers" on it.
There are so many cool features like active-tracking, orbit, tap-to-fly. I've tried ALL of them. Tried. That was it, never needed them again, so don't stress if you don't have some obscure extra thing.
The meat of this is the Sensor - the video quality in the end. You have to balance that with the expereince - will you want to fly it often to actually practice?
With all that being said, this is what I consider the barrier of entry for Video Production with a drone, just like Photography, it is the DJI Mini 2 - $350ish Used. $450 New.
Honestly that's like the LOWEST quality you can get people to buy with and it still rocks. It also takes RAW photos.
Being sold as the updated version with better range now called the DJI MINI 2 SE
- 4k Footage - 3840 x 2160
- Identical controls/settings to higher end models, you can fly smooth and slow in Cine mode.
- 3-axis gimbal, just as stable in wind/shakey flying as Mavic or Air and even at the beach it has done well
- Viewable clearly through app on phone as preview monitor
- $300ish used if you're looking locally.
- Lots available on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace
It will get the job done just fine so long as you set it up the way we set all our drones up - in manual, exposed correctly, steady PATIENT flying.
Don't try to push it and do something crazy like filming a sunset expecting rad footage... Look away slightly because facing the sun will be just too much work for that little sensor.
DJI told me they don't want the Mini 3 Pro and Mini 2 to compete. It isn't a replacement its just a more VIP option but the same size.
Mini 2 SE (2020) - $350
(used to be called Mini 2)
4K Video, RAW photos photos, no collision sensors but can live in your pocket
Mini 3 (2022) - $450
4K, RAW photos, Great connection, Vertical Filming, .76 inch sensor, really impressive for the convenience and ease
Mini 3 Pro (2022) - $750/$900
Get the $900 one, it is a billion times worth having a dedicated smart remote especially for so little extra.
.76 inch sensor, 4K footage, vertical filming, 12 megapixel RAW photos, quietest body type, looks like a bug when its flying. Could write a book about this thing. By far the most fun, incredible connection. Footage often looks like it came from a bigger drone. Activetrack to follow you around if you care about that.
I've got a review on the Mini 3 Pro as well, LOVE it.
Air 2S (2021) - $1000
Not as fun as Mini 3, not as quality as Mavic 3, so kind of neither benefit. Color profile is sometimes maybe gud, sometimes maybe sheit. People who have it really like it though so
5.4K footage, 1 inch sensor. 20 megapixel photos which is great for pros.
60fps if you care (I don't). After the Mini 3 Pro being out for a year, that thing just overperforms and I'd say just get a Mini 3 Pro instead.
Mavic 2 Pro (2018) - $700 Used
King of drones up until 2021. 1 inch sensor, 20 megapixel RAW photos. Beautiful image but software/firmware is getting dated. You would do better with most newer drones.
Autel Evo Lite Plus (2022) - $1100
6K 1 inch sensor, 20 megapixel photos. Flies pretty rigid so stick to front/back and left/right. Really nice picture, lovely reds like in all Autels. Oversharpened image but I can live with that. Fun colors to pick from give extra points, could use on a work day no sweat. Doesn't beat DJI but this isn't bad.
Autel Evo Nano Plus (2022) - $700
4K footage, f1.7 lens (just means a bit brighter image) 12 megapixels. Features promoted at launch still haven't come, software janky crashes. Was not a good time. Great at low-light and sunsets compared to the Mini 3 Pro though, that is the one strong suit. Everywhere else it loses bad.
Mavic 3 - $2150/$2850
4/3 inch Sensor, 5.1K footage, 20mp photos. Long flight time. Get the normal version not the $4000 Cine version if you don't know what Prores format is.
Mavic 3 Classic
Not typing all that again, you get the point. Minus the Zoom lens, everything else is the same. Crapping myself at the price being so cheap now.
DJI Mini 4 - No, don't even start asking.
Inspire 2 + X5S camera - $7000+ Used
Shoots 6K RAW Video (literally filming in RAW photos)
5.2K 422 Prores and 4K Proress 4444 incase you know what that all means. Cinema formats but such a pain to lug around, and the noise is a lot. It's more like a once in a while, Ace in the hole to blow something out the water or shoot Stock Footage and practice cinematography. Interchangeable lenses are really nice too.
Thankfully there isn't really a brand that charges 3x the price for the same quality of drone. You pretty much get what you pay for.