“The best cam­era is the one you have with you.” Source: digitaltrends.com

Are you about to buy your first quad­copter? Giv­en the vari­ety of mod­els and the range of prices, it is not always easy for a begin­ner to make a choice. In this arti­cle, we will dis­cuss the main cri­te­ria to con­sid­er when choos­ing a drone and make some rec­om­men­da­tions about the mod­els avail­able for dif­fer­ent tasks.


First of all, con­sid­er how you plan to use the drone.

  • Are you going to fly a quad­copter just for fun?
  • Do you need a drone pri­mar­i­ly for self­ies and/or fam­i­ly pho­tog­ra­phy from inter­est­ing angles?
  • Are you plan­ning to shoot pro­fes­sion­al video or qual­i­ty social media con­tent?
  • How impor­tant is pho­tog­ra­phy to you?
  • Are you going to take the drone with you on your trav­els?

After you answer these ques­tions, you can under­stand the main char­ac­ter­is­tics and func­tions of the quad­copter that you need to pay atten­tion to before buy­ing. In this arti­cle, we will not touch on cheap (and almost dis­pos­able) micro drones, which are essen­tial­ly just toys, as well as large high-end drones designed for com­mer­cial film­ing.

The size

This is an impor­tant cri­te­ri­on as it direct­ly affects porta­bil­i­ty and usabil­i­ty. The com­mon phrase “the best cam­era is the one you have with you” is quite applic­a­ble to quad­copters.

  • If you are look­ing for a drone that you can car­ry with you any­where and any­time, you should pay atten­tion to minia­ture mod­els weigh­ing up to 250 grams.

A drone like the DJI Mav­ic Mini (and the new gen­er­a­tion Mini 2) fits eas­i­ly into your pock­et or bag. In most com­pact mod­els, man­u­fac­tur­ers make some com­pro­mis­es, cut­ting back on func­tion­al­i­ty in exchange for porta­bil­i­ty, but with the Mav­ic Mini, DJI seems to have found a hap­py medi­um. Even if you end up with a less advanced mini mod­el like the DJI (Ryze) Tel­lo, the abil­i­ty to fire up the quad­copter at any time is some­times worth the sac­ri­fice of windy sta­bil­i­ty or obsta­cle avoid­ance.

DJI Mini 2, although it fits in the palm of your hand, boasts very advanced func­tion­al­i­ty. Source: theverge.com

Com­pact, fold­able drones like the DJI Mav­ic Air 2 and Sky­dio 2 have all the fea­tures found in larg­er mod­els, while still being small enough to take on trips, hikes, and shoot a vari­ety of extreme sports.

Larg­er drones, like the Mav­ic 2 Pro and DJI’s Phan­tom series, usu­al­ly boast bet­ter flight and shoot­ing per­for­mance. Although progress does not stand still and the same Mav­ic 2 Pro can fit in a back­pack with the rest of the equip­ment, a sep­a­rate case is usu­al­ly need­ed to trans­port a high-end quad­copter.


When it comes to flight, weight is para­mount, which is why drones have light­weight cam­eras with small sen­sors and minia­ture lens­es. How­ev­er, there are impor­tant dif­fer­ences between the mod­els.

Some quad­copters have very small sen­sors, sim­i­lar to those found in smart­phones. For exam­ple, the minia­ture DJI (Ryze) Tel­lo is equipped with a 1/5″ sen­sor, and this is one of the fac­tors that allows the drone to remain so small. The most com­mon sen­sor size in mod­ern quad­copters remains 1/2.3″.

1/2.3″ cam­eras remain the most pop­u­lar drone cam­eras. Source: androidauthority.com

The type of shut­ter also mat­ters: some mod­els, such as the DJI Phan­tom 4 PRO, are equipped with a mechan­i­cal shut­ter, which helps to get rid of arti­facts such as rolling shut­ter dur­ing shoot­ing.

Final­ly, pay atten­tion to the avail­able for­mats and record­ing qual­i­ty. Many drones can shoot pho­tos in RAW in addi­tion to JPEG, and 4K is becom­ing the stan­dard for video.

  • If you plan to shoot a lot of high-qual­i­ty video, pay atten­tion not only to the res­o­lu­tion, but also to the frame rate, bit rate, and codecs used.

Flight characteristics

Flight per­for­mance, such as speed and agili­ty, can be espe­cial­ly impor­tant if you are going to shoot fast-mov­ing sub­jects.

  • The max­i­mum speed of a quad­copter is a crit­i­cal fea­ture for shoot­ing cars in motion or extreme sports.

The claimed flight time on a sin­gle bat­tery charge for most drones is 15–30 min­utes. In real flight con­di­tions, it usu­al­ly turns out less, includ­ing because it is rec­om­mend­ed to land the drone with a cer­tain amount of charge.

Management and data transfer

Drones aimed at more advanced users have sep­a­rate remote con­trols with but­tons and switch­es for impor­tant func­tions. You can con­nect the quad­copter to the remote con­trol via Wi-Fi or a spe­cial data trans­mis­sion sys­tem, which usu­al­ly pro­vides a longer oper­at­ing dis­tance and a more sta­ble con­nec­tion com­pared to Wi-Fi. For exam­ple, DJI’s Ocu­Sync 2.0 sys­tem works up to 10 km, while the max­i­mum Wi-Fi trans­mit­ter range in the com­pa­ny’s cheap­er drones is 4 km.

  • If your goal is to shoot high qual­i­ty pho­tos or videos, the remote con­trol with a spe­cial data trans­mis­sion sys­tem is the best option.
To cap­ture high qual­i­ty pho­tos and videos, it is bet­ter to choose drones with a sep­a­rate remote con­trol. Source: pixabay.com
  • Impor­tant: accord­ing to safe­ty rules, your drone must always be in the line of sight!

They usu­al­ly con­trol mini and self­ie drones via a smart­phone, the range of trans­mit­ters here is no longer mea­sured in kilo­me­ters, but in meters. If you want to car­ry the drone in your pock­et, tak­ing it out for fam­i­ly pho­tos on a walk, for exam­ple, this is a con­ve­nient option with­out using extra devices. Many quadro­copters can be con­trolled using spe­cial ges­tures — for a num­ber of tasks, the remote con­trol becomes com­plete­ly unnec­es­sary.

Some mod­els, such as DJI Spark, are con­trolled both from a smart­phone and using a sep­a­rate remote con­trol.

Automatic modes and obstacle avoidance systems

The auto­mat­ic (“smart”) flight modes are very use­ful as they can take con­trol of some or all of the flight while you can focus on the cre­ative part of the shoot. Many of these modes are already stan­dard on new drone mod­els, but do you need one?

  • If you main­ly shoot pho­tographs, you should pay atten­tion to mod­els that have spe­cial pho­to modes: shoot­ing panora­mas, “stitch­ing” ver­ti­cal shots, as well as advanced set­tings such as man­u­al expo­sure or auto­mat­ic expo­sure brack­et­ing (the cam­era shoots three or more iden­ti­cal frames with dif­fer­ent expo­sure val­ues ​​in each).

For video, the auto­mat­ic flight modes are even more sig­nif­i­cant: they make it eas­i­er to track the sub­ject and will help even begin­ners get cin­e­mat­ic shots. The smooth move­ment of the drone that these modes pro­vide helps improve video qual­i­ty with­out resort­ing to com­pli­cat­ed shoot­ing tech­niques.

Obsta­cle avoid­ance sys­tems will not elim­i­nate the need to learn how to fly a drone and will not be a sub­sti­tute for care­ful pilot­ing, but they help to avoid col­li­sion with large objects: trees, build­ings. In addi­tion, these sys­tems are use­ful for nav­i­gat­ing in con­fined spaces. The most com­mon type of obsta­cle avoid­ance sen­sors are frontal sen­sors, which look ahead in front of the drone. There are also mod­els equipped with sen­sors on the back, bot­tom and sides.

Additional accessories

In addi­tion to the drone itself, you will prob­a­bly need addi­tion­al acces­sories — this should be tak­en into account when cal­cu­lat­ing the nec­es­sary bud­get.

First of all, these are addi­tion­al bat­ter­ies, and their cost varies quite a lot. For exam­ple, a bat­tery for DJI Spark will cost about 5 thou­sand rubles, and for DJI Mav­ic Air 2 — already 8 thou­sand. Add two or three bat­ter­ies and the price of the drone will sky­rock­et. Some­times quad­copters are sold imme­di­ate­ly with sev­er­al bat­ter­ies (for exam­ple, DJI’s Fly More Com­bo ver­sions). Pilots who fly quite often may need a sep­a­rate hub to quick­ly charge their quad­copter bat­ter­ies.

Oth­er acces­sories include polar­iz­ing and ND fil­ters for video shoot­ing, microSD cards, spare parts like pro­pellers, and for larg­er drones, a car­ry­ing case or back­pack.

Brief recommendation on models

For photographers and videographers

The DJI Mav­ic 2 Pro is great for the tasks of pho­tog­ra­phers and video­g­ra­phers. Source: fotosklad.ru

The DJI Mav­ic 2 Pro is arguably the most advanced pho­to and video drone that, unlike a num­ber of high-end film­mak­ers, fits in a back­pack and is already equipped with a built-in cam­era. It has a 1‑inch sen­sor and a vari­able aper­ture lens, as well as a whole range of video shoot­ing modes for pro­fes­sion­al video­g­ra­phers.

Alter­na­tive: DJI Phan­tom 4 Pro. A mod­el that is tra­di­tion­al­ly includ­ed in most rat­ings of the best drones of all time. A 20-megapix­el cam­era with a 1‑inch sen­sor helps you cap­ture pro­fes­sion­al-qual­i­ty pho­tos and videos.

For traveling

DJI Mav­ic Air 2 is the gold­en mean of the DJI line in terms of com­pact­ness and func­tion­al­i­ty: 34 min­utes of flight, obsta­cle avoid­ance sen­sors in front, behind and below, video in 4K res­o­lu­tion with a bit rate of 100 Mbps.

An alter­na­tive option is the Hub­san Zino 2. At a cost of about 50 thou­sand rubles, this fair­ly com­pact fold­ing drone is equipped with a three-axis mechan­i­cal gim­bal for sta­bi­liza­tion and allows you to shoot 4K video at 60 frames per sec­ond.

A drone that is always with you

Com­pact and bud­get DJI (Ryze) Tel­lo will delight you with its capa­bil­i­ties. Source: dynnexdrones.com

DJI Mini 2. We recent­ly reviewed this beau­ti­ful minia­ture drone. DJI man­aged to put a 4K cam­era and a three-axis mechan­i­cal sta­bi­liza­tion gim­bal on the “baby”, while the entire quad­copter fits in the palm of your hand.

An alter­na­tive option is DJI (Ryze) Tel­lo. This mini drone, unlike many com­peti­tors, boasts 13 min­utes of flight on a sin­gle bat­tery charge and a good set of auto­mat­ic flight modes, includ­ing self­ie and take­off / land­ing in the palm of your hand.


The DJI Phan­tom is one of the most pop­u­lar drone lines ever in the indus­try.

Buy­ing a drone is sim­i­lar to buy­ing a cam­era — choos­ing the right mod­el main­ly depends on how you intend to use it:

  • Decide what you want from the drone — fly it for fun, shoot pro video or take panoram­ic shots.
  • Decide what size quad­copter is right for your needs: it can be a mini trav­el drone or a more advanced but larg­er mod­el.
  • Choose among drones with cam­eras that pro­vide the pho­to and video qual­i­ty you need.
  • Don’t for­get about flight per­for­mance: flight time on a sin­gle charge can be a crit­i­cal fac­tor for you.
  • Choose the con­trol meth­ods and com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tem depend­ing on the tasks: for pro­fes­sion­al work, you will need a remote con­trol and a com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tem like Ocu­Sync 2.0 from DJI.
  • Pay atten­tion to the pres­ence of auto­mat­ic flight modes and an obsta­cle avoid­ance sys­tem, which will great­ly sim­pli­fy the work with the drone at the ini­tial stages and help you shoot high-qual­i­ty video.
  • Con­sid­er not only the price of the drone itself, but also the cost of acces­sories for it. To some extent, you are buy­ing not only the quad­copter itself, but also the ecosys­tem of the man­u­fac­tur­er — the com­mu­ni­ca­tion sys­tem, appli­ca­tion and acces­sories.

How­ev­er, some­times mod­est prac­ti­cal expe­ri­ence can mean more than any the­o­ret­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions. So if any of your friends have a drone, ask them to try and fly it for a bit. Also keep an eye on our reviews — man­u­fac­tur­ers are con­stant­ly improv­ing their mod­els by adding fea­tures, and new bud­get drones get fea­tures that were pre­vi­ous­ly only avail­able for high-end devices.

If you already have a quad­copter and want to share your expe­ri­ence, we’d love to hear about it in the com­ments.

*In prepar­ing the arti­cle, mate­ri­als from the resources dpreview.com and drone1.ru were used.


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