Man in field flying a drone (Dreamstime)
Review 27 September 2017

6 of the best drones for photography and video, from beginner to best-in-business

Thinking of getting into drone photography and film-making? Drone expert Fergus Kennedy picks 6 of the best, from a drone for beginners and one for travelling to shooting ultra high quality

Cheerson CX10WD (Amazon)

Cheerson CX10WD (Amazon)

1: Best for learning Indoors

Cheerson CX10WD

Before you take to the skies with an expensive new flying camera, it's a good idea to get familiar with the controls on a microdrone.

This tiny multirotor is even equipped with a camera that transmits an image to your phone-mainly for seeing where you're heading, so don't expect high quality images. The CX10 is best for indoor use and is great for practicing your flying skills. It lacks GPS stabilization, so you'll need your wits about you to avoid crashing into the furniture.

Remember to buy some spare propellors. If you take it outdoors make sure it's a calm day as the wind will easily blow it around.

Price: £42.99

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DJI Spark Sunrise Yellow (DJI)

DJI Spark Sunrise Yellow (DJI)

2: Best for photography on a Budget

DJI Spark

A big step up from the Cheerson, the Spark is a palm-sized device. It is GPS stabilized, which means that the drone will not drift with the wind when flying outdoors. The drone can be controlled with your phone or an optional remote control. In either case, the video from the drone's camera is transmitted to your phone screen so you can see what you're shooting.

The little DJI unit packs a lot of punch for its size, with a 2-axis electronic gimbal to give buttery smooth video and shake-free stills. It has a host of 'smart' features, including 'follow me', allowing the drone to track a moving subject automatically, and an orbit mode to allow it to automatically circle a subject.

The tiny size does mean that the image quality, while good is not up there with the larger drones, and it won't cope as well in stronger winds. Its range is up to 2km in unobstructed environments, but note that legally in the UK you should always keep your drone within line of sight.

Expect flight times of up to 16 minutes in ideal conditions, more realistically 10-12 minutes.

Price: £519

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Mavic Pro (DJI)

Mavic Pro (DJI)

3: Best for Travel

DJI Mavic Pro

Moving up in size from the Spark, the DJI Mavic Pro has a neat folding design, meaning it's easy to pack it in a camera bag with your other gear. It's also GPS-stabilised and has proximity sensors on the front to automatically detect obstacles and stop it in its tracks before it crashes, making the Mavic a great little drone.

The camera is stabilised by the 3-axis electronic gimbal and can shoot 4K video and 12 megapixel stills in RAW or Jpeg format. It has the smart features of the Spark, but its extra power and bulk allow it to cope with stronger winds and fly faster.

It comes complete with a remote control unit and will fly for up to 27 minutes on a single charge. It's range is up to 7km in unobstructed environments.

Price: £1099

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Phantom 4 Pro Black (DJI)

Phantom 4 Pro Black (DJI)

4: Best for Photography Enthuiasts

DJI Phantom 4 Pro

I've mentioned DJI a few times now. I've tried numerous different models by other companies, but realistically, in my professional opinion, the most recommendable drone models are virtually all DJI.

Sitting at the top of the ever-popular Phantom range, the Phantom 4 Pro represents a step up in camera spec. Using a larger, 20 megapixel 1" imaging sensor, photos from this model should resolve more detail than those from its smaller siblings and cope better with low light situations.

Like the Mavic, this drone will shoot RAW still images, which is great for photographers who love to do more than basic adjustments to their images on the computer. Video enthusiasts will love its ability to shoot 4K resolution video at up to 60 frames per second.

Most of the smart features from the other models are carried over and the Phantom 4 Pro sports sideways-facing collision avoidance in addition to the forward-facing sensors. The large battery gives it an impressive flight time of up to 30 minutes and the range can be up to 7km.

Price: £1589

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Inspire 2 (DJI)

Inspire 2 (DJI)

5: Best for Professional Video

DJI Inspire 2 Premium

The Inspire 2 comes in a range of flavours (and prices) depending on which camera system you want to fit to it. It represents a substantial jump in price over the Phantom range, so what does all this extra cash buy you?

For a start, the camera can be controlled by a second person with a second remote control unit. This is particularly useful when shooting video, as it allows the pilot to concentrate on flying the drone, while the camera operator focuses on the shot. Indeed the pilot can access the video feed from a second, forward-facing camera, while the camera operator can point the main camera where he wants.

There are a range of camera options, but possibly the most versatile is the X5S system. Based around the popular micro four-thirds lens mount and sensor system, the drone can be fitted with a variety of lenses from very wide angle to mid-range telephoto and zoom. This will add some diversity to your still and video shots.

In addition, the larger sensor size will do well in low light. Maximum flight time is very respectable at 27 minutes, with an operating range of 7km.

Price: £3688-£6269, depending on camera set-up. 

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AERIGON (Intuitive Aerial)

AERIGON (Intuitive Aerial)

6: Best for Shooting Hollywood-quality Movies

Intuitive Aerial Aerigon

If you need to get a fully loaded state-of-the-art cinema camera airborne, you're going to need some serious lifting power. The Aerigon drone will happily take off at an all-up weight of 25kg, and, with 12 rotors and three separate batteries, you have a certain degree of redundancy to save your precious investment should something go wrong. There's no collision avoidance or smart functions, so you'll be relying on some well-honed piloting skills.

This type of drone is for top-level industry professionals, who need the versatility to lift digital cinema cameras with whatever lens set-up the shoot requires.

With the weight involved, it comes as little surprise that flight times may be less than 10 minutes with a large camera setup. Among many other big movie credits, this drone was used to shoot a scene for the James Bond film Spectre in central London.

Price: Around £35,000 not including camera

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Fergus Kennedy is the author of Drone Photography And Video Masterclass, a new book from Ammonite Press, out now and available to buy HERE and at good bookshops.

Fergus Kennedy is a marine biologist, photographer, and film-maker, and an experienced multi-rotor pilot and camera operator. Through his company, Skylark Aerial Imaging, he provides aerial video, still photography, and 3D modelling services to clients, including the BBC, ABC Television, Canon Europe, Love Productions, WWF, and the Royal Navy.

Main image: Man in field flying a drone (Dreamstime)