Buying your first drone for aerial photography can be a little intimidating.
Sure, you’ve got that perfect shot in mind, but it’s easy to get paralyzed when you start combing through all the technical considerations. Thankfully, several companies have added beginner-friendly drones to their lineup that are intuitive, easy-to-use out of the box and forgiving on your wallet.
If you’re just stepping into the world of aerial photography, chances are you’re not trying to spend a couple thousand dollars on your first drone anyways. If a hefty price tag is your barrier to entry, we’ve rounded up several sub-$1000 options that are ideal for learning the basics of drone photography. These drones are relatively easy to learn and offer high-quality images and video through an effective gimbal to ensure steady captures.
Before you take flight with your new drone, be sure to check out the local laws by you (or those abroad if you’re travelling) regarding drones. Airspace is usually heavily regulated in many countries, but most of the drones recommended in our list are less than 250 grams, making them exempt from having to register with the Federal Aviation Administration.
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The DJI Mini 2 offers a well-rounded mix of drone capabilities that will most likely fit all your needs as a beginner user. DJI has updated its sub-250 gram Mini drone, which now offers 4k video a 4x zoom while also being able to shoot RAW photos. The Mini 2 can also sync to your smartphone for programmed flight modes like automatic pan out, circle, and boomerang. Read our full review of the Mini 2 here.
If you’re looking for an even more affordable option from the market leader DJI, the Chinese drone company also offers its Mini SE at $299. This entry-level drone doesn’t offer 4k video like the Mini 2, but it is equally easy to use. For those who have used the original DJI Mini, the Mini SE may be a familiar feeling.
Even cheaper at under $100, the Ryze Tello offers all the key features for a beginner drone flyer. The camera specs are a little lacking but you could do worse than 720p video and 5 megapixels for a sub-$100 drone. The drone was built with a DJI flight control system and an Intel processor.
The market may be dominated by DJI, but Holy Stone is offering up their more affordable beginner drones like the HS720E. Holy Stone’s HS720E is often recommended by the subreddit r/drones as a sub-$500 option that’s much cheaper than DJI’s lineup. This drone comes in at 495 grams and offers similar programmable flying modes to DJI, but uses electronic image stabilization rather than a physical gimbal.
Hubsan recently released its sub-250 gram drone, the Zino Mini Pro, that touts three-direction obstacle avoidance. The Zino Mini Pro is often compared to DJI’s Mini 2 by drone YouTubers, but has a larger camera sensor offering more megapixels, longer max flight time, and internal storage up to 128 GB. Hubsan’s drone may offer some features that the Mini 2 doesn’t, but lacks the video stability that DJI drones are known for.
If you are in the market for a more powerful drone than the above options that’s still less than $1,000, DJI’s lineup includes the Mavic Air 2. A definitive upgrade from the Mini series, the Mavic Air 2 comes in at 570 grams so it requires FAA registration. Compared to its predecessor, the Mavic Air 2 has better camera quality, further video transmission distance and longer flight time.
Similar to the Mavic Air 2, DJI’s Air 2S is another upgrade option from the Mini lineup. The drone is an update to the Mavic Air 2 and is built with a larger camera sensor that can better capture details, especially in low-light situations. Unlike the Mavic Air 2, the Air 2S can shoot up to 5.4k video but has a 20-megapixel camera compared to the former’s 48-megapixel camera.
Also an upgrade pick, the Parrot Anafi is a strong competitor to DJI’s lineup . The Anafi’s gimbal has a unique feature of tilting 180 degrees that can offer some interesting shots, like bird’s eye view, that other drones can’t achieve. The 320-gram drone from Parrot also requires FAA registration but was designed to handle harsher temperatures and higher winds.