After many hours of research, and the examination of about twenty models from the European market, we have determined that the DJI Mavic Air constitutes, in our opinion, the best quality/price ratio at present. Despite its compactness, this drone demonstrates excellent material quality, displays a good image quality in both photo and video, has many fun flight modes, and displays very good autonomy. It is intended for advanced users looking for a drone that does not sacrifice quality for the benefit of portability.
How did we choose?
“Drones are today real tools for video and photo enthusiasts, but also for professionals” (Thomas, StudioSPORT.fr ). Suddenly, it is sometimes difficult, when you want to embark on the purchase of a camera drone, to distinguish between the essential and the accessory.
As David, experienced drone pilot and founder of Culturefpv.fr points out , the first question to ask is the use for which it is intended. While some action cam enthusiasts will buy a drone to film their sports performances, others will use it to capture breathtaking landscapes during their travels.
Regardless of your level of expertise in drones, certain criteria must absolutely be examined, but they will not all be as determining in your choice:
- Recording quality : the quality level required will obviously depend on your needs in this area, but whether you choose a Full HD or 4K recording, choose a model offering at least 30 fps (Images per Second) in which case your film will be jerky. Also check if the colorimetry is faithful both in video and in photo. And, of course, the image quality will also be greatly dependent on the stabilization of the camera.
- Stabilization of the camera : it is used to obtain a good quality image, regardless of the stability of the camera itself. Some devices incorporate electronic stabilization, where integrated software corrects the image and records an artificially stable video. We lose a little bit in video quality but the result avoids the shaking effects. Others are inspired by gyro-stabilizers installed on helicopters: a motorized gondola compensates for the movements of the device to keep the camera in a fixed position. It is most effective if you do not want to compromise image quality.
- Obstacle detection : always useful in the event of a problem, an obstacle detection device allows your drone to regain control automatically if it thinks you are sending it into a wall (a much more common phenomenon than don’t think so, especially when you’re just starting out). It can operate via the camera, by a 3D visual analysis of what surrounds it, or via a more efficient sonar, which maps the environment using ultrasound.
- RHT (Return to Home) : if your device exceeds its maximum range or runs out of battery, the RTH will cause it to automatically return to your position, following the command signal.
- FPV (First Person View) : it often consists of a screen integrated into the control that allows you to see what your drone sees. Sensation enthusiasts will be able to couple this video data with a virtual reality headset and thus walk in the air as if they were there.
- The range : the general direction of the civil aviation established that the drones could only go up to 150 m, and that it was always necessary to keep them within sight. In certain circumstances, the ability of a drone to travel a particularly long distance without losing contact with the controller can however be very useful (mountainous area, etc.).
- GPS : If you still want a long-range model, prefer a camera drone that you can locate easily. Beyond the breakage, there is the question of loss! Thanks to the GPS, you will find it in any situation.
- Ease of control : most controllers look like joysticks with joysticks to direct the flight of the craft and buttons to launch certain precise functions. However, some controllers now have a built-in screen or a possibility to be connected with a smartphone, which sometimes allow more intuitive control.
- Autonomy : a compromise is often to be made here because a battery with a longer lifespan is generally heavier (even if manufacturers are working more and more on this point). A good battery will run around 20 minutes, but we always recommend that you invest in one (or more) spare battery (ies).
- Transportability : if you want to transport your drone on a daily basis, prefer a compact model, with folding arms, for example, and easily stowable in a bag.
If you are just starting out, don’t be too greedy in terms of power, visual quality, top speed, maximum altitude or range. Opt for a less spectacular drone, smaller, easier to maneuver, and, if possible, cheaper (so that its potential breakage affects you less). In addition, we strongly recommend that you watch for the following options:
- Radio controls : models that navigate via a tablet or smartphone are more intuitive but can pose a latency problem (Wi-Fi having a more uncertain range than radio waves). Time to take control of the inertias of the device, these inaccuracies can cost you dearly. Prefer radio controls if you are a real beginner.
- The propeller guards : this is a small, very light plastic hoop that covers sensitive parts without preventing air-flow. If your drone is not equipped, buy them separately. If it is not compatible with a propeller guard, do not buy it. Single blades cost several euros and the slightest shock can bend them. Ultimately, you may even damage the motors.
It is with all these criteria in mind that we examined the twenty or so models of drones currently known on the market. The consultation of guides and specialized tests as well as the comparison of many shots allowed us to isolate a dozen among them, presenting a more interesting quality / price ratio.
We therefore decided between these by analyzing a multitude of user feedback, collected on various sales sites, specialized blogs, comment sections of YouTube channels and others, both on the English and French sides.
This allowed us to determine that the 5 camera drones selected are the most interesting at the moment.