A mini drone with a camera lets you take breathtaking photos whether it’s for professional or personal use. It certainly is a lot of fun tinkering and exploring its fascinating features, but how do you choose one? Mini drones have gained popularity over the years, but they were mostly used as playthings. And now they have evolved to also become tools for photography and videography. Choosing which mini drone with camera is right for you would greatly depend on how you intend to use it, along with other factors which will be discussed further in this guide.
One of the things you want to be careful about is not to spend thousands of dollars on one that you only want for casual use. Even the ones recommended for pros often don’t offer features that are worth the price. Our picks include a variety of mini drones in a wide range of prices and uses.
What Is a Mini Drone?
A micro-drone or mini drone, as the name suggests, is simply a smaller version of a typical drone, but with an important distinction.
The size of a mini drone varies but some of them can be small enough to fit your palms. These are also referred to as pocket drones. It is more versatile than a full-sized drone and easier to use, which makes it ideal for those who have never operated a drone before. These drones can be operated by one person to take photos of oneself so some have also called them selfie drones.
One of the most distinct characteristics of a mini drone and a mini drone with camera is that it can be flown indoors. Depending on the weather and the stability and quality of the drone, it can also be used outdoors. Because of its size, it can navigate through narrow spaces like corridors and fly through doors without a problem so it’s very easy to maneuver within enclosed spaces. You don’t need professional piloting experience to operate a mini drone.
If you’re curious about how to build your own drone, we have a detailed guide to help you.
How Is a Mini Drone With Camera Different From Ordinary Drones?
Aside from the addition of a camera, a mini drone with camera includes features that allow you to sync it with or connect it to a computer, and lately, even mobile phones. These types of drones are typically more affordable than full-sized ones. But how did drones evolve to become photography drones?
Originally, drones were used for military purposes. They were once called vaguely as “unarmed aerial vehicles” (UAVs). They were designed with safety and efficiency in mind, to prevent putting the life of a pilot at risk in combat zones. Unlike human beings, military drones don’t require rest so they can fly nonstop with minimal technical malfunctions. It’s still uncertain for which they were specifically used initially because it was highly classified, as in most cases. You might have also heard of drones being used for other industrial purposes like deliveries and agricultural uses, where they are used to water crops.
Now that they’re being used for fun, manufacturers have found a way to make them even more innovative. A mini drone with camera has more limitations than ordinary drones. They can’t be flown nearly as high as full-sized drones, though some brands are making efforts to push these boundaries. Because of its size and versatility, a mini drone with camera can often be synced and used with mobile phones. You can alter its settings and operate it directly from your mobile device. It is lighter so it doesn’t incur much damage if you accidentally crash it into your door or window. In terms of limitations, a mini drone with a camera’s flight time is shorter and doesn’t have a very wide control range.
Having mentioned these features, let’s get to our top picks to help you determine which mini drone with camera suits your needs best. If you’re not sure how to operate a drone yet, familiarize yourself with the process in our guide to flying a drone.
Top Picks: Best Mini Drone With Camera Models
On this list, we’ve included models in a wide range of prices and unique features.
DJI Mavic Mini Drone FlyCam Quadcopter
This pocket or selfie drone features a 2.7K camera and 30 minutes of flight time.
Check out this product on Amazon to capture beautiful aerial shots.
Lightweight and Portable
Despite being feature-packed, the DJI Mavic Mini Drone is lightweight. It is almost as light as a small smartphone. It weighs less than 0.55 pounds, which makes it exceptionally portable and safe. Its weight already includes the battery and propellers.
This mini drone with camera has intuitive features, making it friendly for novices. People without experience in flying drones can use it to take photos and videos without a problem. It also features a flight tutorial when you first use it. There is minimal to zero learning curve in using this mini drone.
The DJI Mavic Mini Drone allows you to take stunning, cinematic shots like a pro. It supports 12-megapixel aerial shots and 2.7K high-definition videos.
Long Flight Time
This selfie drone features a 30-minute flight time when fully charged, which is longer than most mini drones in its price range.
It is compatible with most smartphones, both Android and iPhones, and you can operate it directly from your device if you choose not to use the controller. It has its own app that you can download from the Play Store or App Store free of charge.
You can attach extra accessories to the drone to make it even more versatile. Take note that some of these accessories are available at an additional price. These include a snap adapter and a DIY creative kit. The kit lets you design the exterior of your mini drone to personalize it. You also have the option to purchase the combo, which already includes all the extra accessories.
The DJI Mavic Mini Drone FlyCam Quadcopter is available for under $400, and the combo or set is priced under $500. It is more expensive than other drones listed below but is still considered reasonable based on its durability and features.
DJI Mavic Mini Drone FlyCam Quadcopter Pros and Cons
- Longer flight time than most mini-drones
- Includes a gimbal protector
- Includes a remote controller that sometimes comes separately in other brands
- Customizable exterior
- Pricier than most mini drones with camera
- Only comes in one color but can be customized/personalized
- DJI Fly app getting buggy at times
- Requires SD card at all times (no local data storage)
Holy Stone HS720 Foldable GPS Drone
The Holy Stone HS720 mini drone with camera features a 4K camera and portable GPS. It has up to 26 minutes of flight time on a fully-charged battery.
Check out the HS720 on Amazon to start taking aerial videos for your hobbies.
Its built-in 4K camera allows for crisper and clearer shots. It also features an image stabilizer and is optimized for capturing videos in HD. Capture images and videos with minimal vibration. The lens is adjustable up to 90 degrees so you can take shots from multiple angles.
The camera is also designed with a shock absorber, making your shots more stable and keeps it at high resolution.
The GPS feature of this mini drone with camera lets the device return to your location on its own. All you have to do is press on the “return home” key. This feature is also automatically triggered once it reaches a low battery percentage.
Aside from returning to your original location, the HS720 has a “Follow Me” feature. The mini drone keeps up with your speed as it takes photos and videos.
You can fold your mini drone. It also includes its own carrying case, complete with gear shafts to ensure minimal movement as you travel.
You can also control your mini drone from your mobile phone using the drone app. This lets you easily share your photos and videos with your friends or on social media. It also allows for easy syncing with your computer.
Priced under $240, the Holy Stone HS720 is a great choice for pros and beginners alike who want professional-looking images and videos.
Holy Stone HS720 Foldable GPS Drone Pros and Cons
- High-resolution built-in camera
- Follow Me feature not offered in other mini drones with camera in its price range
- Military-grade durability
- Excellent customer support
- Stable flight
- Adjustable lens for multiple angle shots
- Has issues connecting to the app from time to time
- Flying duration reducing over time
- Option not to install the drone app but you will miss out on some features
Syma X20 Mini Pocket Drone
This selfie drone or pocket drone features a headless mode, which makes it easier to operate and is one of the more affordable models.
Check out the Syma X20 on Amazon to enjoy shooting videos from various high angles.
This mini drone with camera allows for a more stable flight. You can set your specified altitude in the settings so it’s easier to control.
Suitable for Kids and Beginners
Because of its easy-to-use features, the Syma X20 is suitable for beginners and kids. You can use it for indoor playtime with your family.
You only need to press one button for the mini drone to take off or land. When landing, the drone will return to its original location. This will protect the device from going out of control especially when it’s low on battery.
360-Degree Stunt Flip
You can make the pocket drone roll up to 360 degrees to capture unique images.
Adjust the speed of the drone’s movement according to your needs, which can be easily done within the settings.
The Holy Stone HS720 Foldable GPS Drone is available under $33 and is one of the most affordable portable models.
Syma X20 Mini Pocket Drone Pros and Cons
- Includes four additional propellers and other tools to adjust the pocket drone
- Intuitive controller with joysticks to fine-tune the drone’s movement
- Suitable for indoor use
- Must be charged through a USB cable
- Limited shot angles (reasonable for a pocket drone)
- Shorter flight time than most mini drones with camera in this price range
Snaptain S5C WiFi FPV Drone with Voice Control
This mini drone with camera is one of the most affordable models that offer plenty of unique features.
Check out the Snaptain S5C today and add excitement to your creative videos on a budget.
3D View Mode
This photography drone lets you connect your smartphone and put it in VR (virtual reality) mode for a 3D view when you’re capturing both photos and videos. The VR glasses are sold separately.
With one tap, you can activate the gesture control so you can take a selfie simply by raising your hand. This feature can be used within a two to three-meter range.
The mini drone connects to your WiFi and activates a signal warning when the connection is poor. You can use the WiFi connection to control the drone both from the controller and your mobile device.
The protective gear around this selfie drone’s propellers makes it more durable in case of collision.
Mobile App for Android and iOS
The Holy Stone HS720 Foldable GPS Drone also has an app available in the Play Store and App Store for Android phones and iPhones. From the app, you can activate voice control, gravity control, and toggle modes and settings.
Farther Video Transmission
This mini drone with camera can fly within a range of 80 meters, which is a lot farther than similar models of mini drones.
Because of the WiFi feature, you can easily and immediately share your photos and videos on social media. Your shots are also automatically stored within the device’s storage or SD card.
The Snaptain S5C WiFi FPV Drone With Voice Control is available at under $50 and includes the propeller protector. It is one of the most reliable mini drones under $200.
Snaptain S5C WiFi FPV Drone With Voice Control Pros and Cons
- Feature-packed affordable model
- Lightweight and easy to control
- High-resolution photos and videos
- Gesture control feature for seamless selfies
- Loses WiFi signal occasionally
- Not as durable as other models in its price range
- No automatic return home feature
Why Should You Use a Mini Drone With Camera?
A mini drone with camera comes in very handy when you want to take professional-looking photos and videos and don’t want to pay for a photographer. As for photography enthusiasts and professional photographers, it helps them capture stunning and breathtaking shots without extra help.
One of the biggest advantages of mini drones or pocket drones is that they allow you to take shots in multiple angles all on your own. A mini drone with camera is also a lot of fun to play with and explore whether indoors or outdoors.
Setting Up Your Mini Drone With Camera
Your mini drone would usually come folded in a box. You would have to unfold it, especially the propellers, before you can use your drone. Make sure that you spread out the wings of the propellers to ensure that they turn seamlessly during flight.
You should also adjust the settings of the drone’s camera to your preferences. Make sure that it’s in photo or video mode, whichever you want to use. It is recommended to watch a preview before taking the actual shots.
Make sure that all extra accessories are attached properly before using your mini or pocket drone. Usually, mini drones come with balancing bars or support to ensure a stable flight. These are usually attached to the bottom of the drone.
Flying the Mini Drone
Set your drone on the ground or a low, flat surface and start the motor as you would a vehicle. Before controlling the direction, first allow your drone to lift or take off. Once it’s inconsiderable height, then you can make it move in different directions.
How to Use a Mini Drone With Camera
Regardless of the model or brand, a mini drone with camera is pretty easy to use. It has a lower learning curve than ordinary or full-sized drones. Here are some of the tips and tricks when using a photography drone or mini drone with camera.
Before flying your mini drone in high altitudes, start by flying it indoors on a lower level. This will allow you to get familiarized with the controls, adjust the settings, and master your unique techniques.
Using the Remote Control
You don’t have to enroll in an aeronautics class to operate mini drones, but the mechanics for ordinary drones are almost the same, only mini drones are easier.
Most remote controllers or RCs come with pretty similar basic controls. They look like your ordinary controllers for game consoles and include joysticks and similar buttons.
Using the Accelerator
This is usually located on the left joystick. It lets you get the mini drone moving, as the name suggests. The faster and higher you move the accelerator, the faster and higher your drone will move.
Your right joystick usually controls the direction of your selfie drone. As you move it forward, back, left, or right, your drone will follow.
This control is usually the upper-left switch or button on your controller. Even though you have the accelerator to control your drone, this switch can move your mini drone with camera even faster or slower.
The upper-right button or switch allows you to flip or make your mini or pocket drone turn. Depending on the model of your drone, it can flip to varying degrees from 180 up to 360 degrees.
Take-Off and Landing Button
This button will vary on the model and brand of your mini drone. It lets your drone take off or land with one press of the button.
To ensure a safe and seamless landing, it’s a good idea to slow down the speed of your drone and hit the land button. Sometimes, some models would have an automatic landing feature so you don’t have to worry about safe landing.
Familiarizing With Controls and Features
As you can see from the list of mini drones above, different models offer different features. Some would include buttons for an emergency stop, return home, headless mode, and more. The location of these controls would be specified on your user manual so make sure to read it and practice before actually flying your drone.
Some mini-drones allow you to attach your phone to the controller or RC. These are usually the models that feature a mobile app that lets you control the drone directly from your mobile device. You use it in the same way you would attach or clamp your smartphone on a selfie stick.
Make sure that both your controller and drone are fully charged before use to ensure uninterrupted flying and accidental landings. Some would require batteries and others, like most pocket drones, would require USB charging.
Things to Consider When Choosing a Mini Drone With Camera
Now that you’ve seen some of our recommended models and brands, as well as the guide on how to use it, it will be easier to determine how to choose the mini drone with camera that fits your needs. However, here are some tips when choosing your photography drone.
The first thing you want to look at is the quality of the photos and videos your mini drone with camera can take. After all, that’s its main purpose. The most popular and also the recommended resolution is 1080p and 2.4K. These should be the standard even for lower-priced mini drones.
If you are willing to shed a little extra, you can get ones with a 4K resolution. This is great for hobbyists and pros. When choosing a higher resolution, you also need to consider the size of the files that you will be saving so make sure that the photography drone also offers generous storage space or at least, a slot for a micro SD or SD card.
You should also consider other specs of the camera such as its FPS (frame per second) and FOV (field of view). A higher FPS will let you take smoother shots and allows for special effects like slow-motion footage. The field of view or FOV determines the amount of view that your drone’s camera can capture. The wider it is, the better.
Your pocket drone or mini drone with camera doesn’t necessarily have to be military-grade unless you intend to use it constantly outdoors and for professional use. But it should be durable enough to withstand accidental crashes. It’s good to choose a mini drone with lens protection. Some models also offer propeller protection.
Battery Life or Flight Duration
Depending on your intended use for your mini drone with camera, you should pick a model that features a reasonably high flight time. If you’re fond of taking videos, make sure that the flight time is at least 30 minutes or higher. You might also want to consider how the controller and the drone are powered. If you don’t want the inconvenience of charging through a USB, make sure to choose a mini drone with external batteries that you can replace or charge separately.
This will greatly depend on your budget, but if you are willing to spend more on a mini drone with camera, make sure that it has all the basics plus extra features that make it worth the price.
For a photography drone that includes features like Follow Me or Return Home, it is reasonable to spend a few hundred dollars. If you think that you don’t necessarily need these features, you can do with models that are around $40 to $60.
Ultimately, choosing the right mini drone with camera would really depend on your needs and the features that you want to use. Consider the ease of use of the device as well as your experience in flying drones. If you’re a beginner, it’s best to choose models that have highly intuitive features with one-key operation. For pros, it’s always good to pick mini drones that allow you to have more freedom to tinker with the settings.