We dive into the entry-level and enthusiast options from popular drone makers, like DJI, to see what each new drone brings to the market.
If you’re an aspiring aerial photographer or videographer, a drone is your ticket to the sky.
After 55 hours of research and test flights of 17 models, we think the DJI Mavic Air 2 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 2 Pro and DJI Mavic Mini; pilots of all skill levels will find that DJI’s drones are exceptionally reliable and easy to fly.
The DJI Mavic Air 2 combines ease of flight with long battery life and a camera that can shoot 4K video in a package that costs less than $1,000
We recommend buying the Fly More Combo, which among other things includes three rechargeable drone batteries.
The Mavic Air 2’s ability to sense and avoid obstacles approaching from the front, the back, and below, as well as to steadily hold its position even in moderate winds (DJI says it’s safe to fly in winds up to 23.6 mph), lets you focus on your cinematography instead of worrying about keeping the drone steady.
It also features DJI smart-flight modes such as ActiveTrack, which directs the drone to autonomously follow and film a subject while still avoiding obstacles. Its 34-minute battery life means you don’t have to land for a battery swap as often as you would with the competition, and at 7 by 3.8 by 3.3 inches folded and 1.3 pounds, the Mavic Air 2 can go with you almost anywhere—it fits exceptionally well in our top pick for drone backpacks.
The DJI Mavic 2 Pro takes many of the Mavic Air 2’s best features and, for twice the price and a slightly shorter battery life, tacks on a superior 1-inch image sensor and Hasselblad-branded camera (DJI bought a majority stake in the camera brand in 2017), which captures 20-megapixel photographs and 4K videos that look more colorful than those of the competition.
It can also sense obstacles from all directions, which means it’s safer to fly than the Mavic Air 2. And unlike the Mavic Air 2, it’s compatible with the DJI Goggles FPV headset we recommend.
The DJI Mavic 2 Zoom is a great choice for aerial photographers and videographers who need to work from a distance, whether they’re shooting a child’s soccer match or wildlife. It looks and flies the same as the Mavic 2 Pro, but it trades out the Hasselblad camera in favor of a different camera that can zoom two times optically and two times digitally (with software that avoids losing detail) for up to 4x usable “lossless” zoom. However, filming with more than 2x zoom requires you to shoot at 1080p instead of 4K.
You could crop the Mavic 2 Pro’s higher-quality videos to get a similar zoom effect, but that requires you to spend more time processing videos and doesn’t allow for as wide a variety of cinematic filming options. Like the Mavic 2 Pro, the Mavic 2 Zoom features DJI’s obstacle avoidance and smart-flight mode tech, plus a 31-minute battery life and a foldable body.