The Best Drones for Photos and Video


If you’re an aspiring aerial photographer or videographer, a drone is your ticket to the sky. After test-flying nearly 25 models, we’ve concluded that the DJI Air 2S is the best drone because it combines a high-end camera with the latest autonomous technology for less than $1,000. We also recommend the DJI Mavic 3 and the DJI Mini 2. Pilots of all skill levels will find that DJI’s drones are exceptionally reliable and easy to fly.

How we tested

  • Image quality

    We’ve made photos and videos with all 25 of the drones we’ve tested since 2016 and compared them each time to see which results are the best.

  • Obstacle avoidance

    We fly drones through trees and at other objects that can get in their way to see if the drones detect them and avoid crashing.


How we tested

Note, however, that even though a 2021 Pentagon report indicates that DJI drones that had been used by the US government and were alleged to include malicious code are safe for use, there are ongoing concerns about the security of the drones, as well as allegations that the company provided drone technology to Chinese detention camps. Another concern: Android users have to download the company’s DJI Fly app directly from the website instead through the relatively secure Google Play store.

Our pick

DJI Air 2S

The best drone for aerial photos and videos

For a drone in the $1,000 range, the Air 2S packs impressive value by combining DJI’s reliable obstacle avoidance with a 5.4K camera and great battery life.

The DJI Air 2S package combines ease of flight with long battery life and a camera that can shoot 5.4K video (we recommend the Fly More Combo option because, among other things, it includes three rechargeable drone batteries). The Air 2S can sense and avoid obstacles approaching from the front, back, top, and below, and it can alert you to approaching aircraft. It can also hold its position steadily, even in moderate winds (DJI says it’s safe to fly in winds up to 23.9 mph; during our testing, the drone had no problem flying in 10 mph winds), so you can focus on your cinematography instead of having to worry about keeping the drone steady. This model also features DJI smart flight modes such as ActiveTrack, which directs the drone to autonomously follow and film a subject while also avoiding obstacles. Its 31-minute battery life is long enough for you to grab several shots before landing for a battery swap. And the Air 2S can go with you almost anywhere: At 7 by 3.8 by 3 inches folded and 1.3 pounds, it fits exceptionally well in our top pick for drone backpacks.

Upgrade pick

DJI Mavic 3

A drone with all the bells and whistles

If you want the best camera available on a DJI Mavic drone, the Mavic 3 is our pick.

The DJI Mavic 3 takes many of the best features of the Air 2S and, for twice the price, tacks on a superior 4/3 image sensor and a Hasselblad-branded camera (DJI bought a majority stake in the camera manufacturer in 2017). This model captures 20-megapixel photographs and 5.1K videos that look more colorful than those of the competition. It also has a 46-minute battery life—the longest of any drone we’ve tested.

Budget pick

DJI Mini 2

An impressive entry-level drone

A 4K camera paired with DJI’s autonomous features make this lightweight drone—a model that doesn’t require government registration—an especially good value.

If you’re just getting into drone photography for personal use and sharing on social media, the DJI Mini 2, a less expensive model that still includes a 4K camera, is a good choice. Its battery life, at 31 minutes, comes close to that of more expensive models, though it has a lower-quality camera and sensor, so it can’t quite match the quality of their images and video. This model folds up to about the size of a person’s hand and weighs just 249 grams; that’s a bit over half a pound and light enough for this model not to require registration for personal use. The Mini 2 still comes with the important features you need from a video drone, such as image and flight stabilization and an included controller, as well as smart flight modes (in which the drone flies itself to easily capture cinematic shots).

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