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The 4 best drones of 2022: Flying cameras compared

The 4 best drones of 2022: Flying cameras compared

Amazing drones. I can buy a stable 4K camera that slips into my pocket for a few hundred dollars. This is a technology that was the stuff of dreams a few years ago. But now, thanks to companies like DJI, dreams are coming true.

Here, then, are the best drones to help make your dreams come true. They are selected based on research and personal experience. I am a licensed and insured drone operator and have spent dozens of hours flying these drones for testing, work and fun.

DJI Mavic 3

Best drone overall

DJI Mavic 3

Features

  • Dual Camera: 24mm wide angle and 162mm telephoto
  • Maximum 5.1K @ 50fps recording
  • 20 megapixel camera
  • Omnidirectional Obstacle Avoidance Sensors
  • 46 minutes max Estimated flight time

This is DJI’s leading consumer/educational drone. It’s big, it’s mean, it’s loud, it has two cameras, and it’s the perfect drone to get the job done. If conditions allow you to fly a drone, the Mavic 3 will deliver.

The wide angle main camera is one of the best cameras I have used in a drone, it is capable of taking amazing photos and videos. The telephoto camera – which DJI refers to as “Explorer Mode” – takes some getting used to, and while the quality isn’t the same as the main camera, it does allow for some interesting and unique shots.

If you are looking for the best drone, look no further.

Read the review: DJI Mavic 3 review

Positives

  • Fantastic camera system
  • A powerful drone that is stable in high winds
  • Great battery life (even if not as good as advertised)

Negatives

  • expensive
  • A big drone that can’t fit in a pocket
  • RC Pro controller required for best experience

DJI Mini 3 Pro

Best drone for budding professionals

DJI Mini 3 Pro

Features

  • 1 / 1.3 inch 24mm wide angle camera
  • 4K video recording 60fps max
  • 12/48MP photos
  • Flight time 34 minutes
  • Weight subclass 249g

The long-awaited Mini 3 Pro has arrived. This is an upgraded version of the Mini 2, with a redesigned chassis, upgraded camera, bigger battery, and the addition of obstacle avoidance sensors.

The 250g subclass is important in some areas because it is in an area where there are fewer regulatory headaches. This is a big problem in places like Europe, less so in places like the United States.

However, the Mini 3 Pro is such a capable drone that you can put it in a pocket and take it with you on your adventures. This is not something you can do with the Mavic 3!

Read the review: DJI Mini 3 Pro Review

Positives

  • Small and lightweight
  • Excellent 4K camera
  • Really easy to fly

Negatives

  • Expensive compared to Mini 3
  • No sensors to avoid side obstructions
  • The optional DJI RC Smart Controller adds to the price

DJI Mini 2

Best cheap drone

DJI Mini 2

Features

  • Sub-250g drone
  • 1/2.3″ 24mm wide angle camera
  • 4K video recording 30fps max
  • 12MP photos
  • Journey time is 31 minutes max

Now that DJI has released the Mini 3 Pro, it’s easy to think the Mini 2 is now outdated. Not so fast! The Mini 2 is the perfect drone for that first time buyer or someone who just wants a cheap drone.

The price of Mini 2 is really competitive. For less than $500, you can pick up a great drone that is capable of taking great photos and videos. It is a great drone for vacation or for hiking.

Read the review: DJI Mini 2 review

Positives

  • Small and lightweight
  • Very competitive price
  • Big bang for buck
  • easy to fly

Negatives

  • The light weight makes it a bad choice in windy conditions
  • No sensors to avoid obstacles
  • The camera has limitations in low light conditions

DJI Mavic Air 2S

Best drone for those who want professional results without breaking the bank

DJI Mavic Air 2S

Features

  • 1″ 22mm Wide Angle Camera
  • Flight time up to 31 minutes
  • 5.4K max at 30fps for video
  • 20MP photos
  • Specifications

This is the drone for people who want more than what the Mini 2 has to offer, but don’t want to buy the Mavic 3. This drone is perfect for even the most demanding of discerning consumers.

For the price, the Mavic Air 2S is great. You get a 5.4K still camera that can stay in the sky for nearly 30 minutes, and capture amazing movie shots.

The only thing this plane is missing are the side sensors. However, with careful flying, that shouldn’t be a problem at all.

Read the review: DJI Air 2S Review

Positives

  • Front and obstacle avoidance reading sensors
  • Exceptional camera quality
  • Decent flight time

Negatives

  • No sensors to avoid side obstructions
  • It’s a pretty big drone, and definitely not something that fits in a pocket
  • Not cheap

What is the best drone?

DJI Mavic 3 is ZDNet’s best choice.

Drone

price

obstacle Avoid

Camera Resolution

DJI Mavic 3

$2,049

All round sensors

5.1 K

DJI Mini 3 Pro

$759

Front, back and down

4K

DJI Mini 2

$449

Nobody

4K

DJI Mavic Air 2S

$1,299

Front, back and down

5.4K video

What is the right drone for you?

To help decide which drone is best for you and your lifestyle, use case, or what you have, consider the following:

Choose this plane…

If you want or want…

DJI Mavic 3

If you want the best consumer / consumer drone

DJI Mini 3 Pro

Want a high-quality ultra-portable drone, or want the best drone under 250g

DJI Mini 2

Budget drone

DJI Mavic Air 2S

You want a high-powered drone, but you’re not ready to pay the Mavic 3 money!

How did we choose these drones?

I am a licensed and insured drone operator, and instead of spending time reviewing these drones, I’ve spent dozens of hours flying these planes, whether for testing, flying for fun, or doing business.

I’ve put these drones in their stride in many countries around the world, flying them in cold, inclement weather, and to the mouths of active volcanoes. I know their capabilities, and I know that these drones will deliver high quality photos and videos under the toughest conditions.

In addition to testing the camera and flight characteristics, I spent a lot of time testing the obstacle avoidance sensors. While I don’t think any drone operator should rely on it for everyday use, it is a handy safety feature to use in case something goes wrong.

These drones have been tested to the max. This is why I chose them and recommend them.

Are drones easy to fly?

yes! Modern drones are really easy to fly.

This doesn’t mean there is no learning curve, and I highly recommend spending the time learning to fly – choose a wide open area like a park or beach so you can get a feel for what your drone can offer.

Are sensors on drones foolproof?

no.

While they are good and can do things like avoid people and trees and things like that, they can be fooled by things like branches, power lines, and phone wires.

Obstacle avoidance sensors are a safety feature, not something you have to rely on all the time.

Can you fly drones in the rain?

no!

Drones are not rated as water-resistant, and rain — and even fog — can damage the drone’s sensitive electronics. While you will watch YouTube videos of people flying in the rain and snow, I don’t I recommend it.

Are there alternative drones worth considering?

While DJI is the biggest name in consumer drones, there are other players. Another brand worth checking out is Autel. I’ve tested quite a few of these drones from Autel, and while I haven’t put as many hours into them as I have with their DJI counterparts, I think there is at least one drone worth considering.

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