4K is no longer a nascent technology and it looks like it’s the new standard for cameras, with more and more media being produced and consumed in higher resolutions due to televisions and computer screens becoming less and less expensive to make.
That’s great news for drone lovers, as it now means there’s an extensive selection of 4K camera drones on the market to choose from, which start at a reasonable price of $349, and can go up to $3000 plus. But which one should you choose and which of the cameras offer the best quality? We’ve compared some of the most popular choices and use cases, to hopefully steer you in the right direction.
What is 4K camera drone?
A video camera drone with 4K ultra high definition resolution is defined as a display with at least 8 million active pixels, with the lower resolution boundary being at least 3,840 x 2,160. So, if you own a 4K drone, this will deliver a huge four times as much detail as 1080p full HD.
One of the benefits of working at these high resolutions is that if you are producing content in full HD (1080p), you can zoom into your video and select the exact shot you want, easily correcting and improving the framing of the video after you have shot it.
Best 4K drone for beginners
Mantis Q Yuneec
It doesn’t compare to the other 4K cameras on the list, but the Mantis Q shoots high quality 4K video and comes with a lot of features for the price point of $449.
That 4K camera is a 1/3.06 CMOS sensor at 12 megapixel resolution. It captures more than adequate still images, and video is nice in the right conditions. Make no mistake, however, this is a small sensor, which makes for poor low light performance. Overall, for the price and features, we think this can be a great beginners drone.
Best 4K drone for photography
DJI Mavic 2 Pro Try this drone out at our Cancun location!
The DJI Mavic 2 Pro is our favorite drone on this list, it’s packed with incredible features that build on the hugely popular Mavic Pro, and has an amazing camera designed in collaboration with camera legends, Hasselblad. It has the same 1” sensor that the top end of DJI’s previous models, the Phantom 4 Pro has, which allows for a better dynamic range, less image noise and great low-light performance.
We couldn’t mention however the DJI Mavic 2 Pro without talking about the Mavic 2 Zoom, as these two versions are identical in flight specs and dimensions. The differences between the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom can be found in their camera specifications.
The Mavic 2 Zoom offers more zooming power, enabling it to use the “Dolly Zoom” effect. It also features “SuperRes“, which can patch photos together to create 48-megapixel images.
DJI Mavic 2 Zoom Try this out at our Peru and Philippines locations!
However, the Mavic 2 Pro features a larger sensor, more colors (10-bit vs. 8-bit), and DLog-M (for professional filming – you can color grade in post-processing, and uniquely the mode captures the most color information). This Pro version of the Mavic 2 also enables drone pilots to capture HDR videos.
At the time of writing, the Mavic 2 Pro will set you back $1,499, whilst the Zoom variant costs $1,249.
Best 4k drone for professionals
DJI Matrice 600
If you’re looking to capture professional cinema grade aerial shots, DJI’s self-proclaimed first heavy lifter, the Matrice 600, could be the drone you’re looking for. Designed with six rotors for extra redundancy and stability, it also has an acceptable flight time thanks to the six onboard batteries. With the Zenmuse X5 or XT camera, the M600 has a flight time of up to 35 minutes, and with the Ronin-MX or a heavier payload, a flight time of approximately 16 minutes.
Camera wise, as you can practically add any camera you want with the Ronin stabilizer, you can choose the leading class of 4K or even 8K to shoot your video. With the bare bones kit offered at $4,999, you’ll want to really make sure this is the drone for you.
Alternatively, consider the DJI Inspire 2
At a slightly lower price point, this premium photography drone is packed with many professional features. One of its most impressive features is its CineCore image processing system, which allows it to capture footage in 6K(!) resolution. It also has an incredible top speed of 58mph.
The stock Inspire 2 doesn’t actually come with a camera attached, but it’s designed to work with a handful of cameras in DJI’s Zenmuse line, allowing you to choose the best camera fit for your needs.
Endlessly reliable, and with two batteries allowing it to stay in the air for much longer, the DJI Inspire 2 is a clear winner for discerning filmmakers, but comes at a cost; from $3000 (without a camera).
Best budget 4K camera drone
ZLRC Beast SG906
This is the first GPS drone with a 4K camera that has been released below a price point of $150, and with a couple of intelligent flight modes and a very reasonable flight time of 23 minutes, it makes it a great entry drone for those on a budget or just wanting to get started with flying or to even see if flying a drone is for you.
The one major downfall of the Beast is that it doesn’t stabilize the video you shoot, so you can end up without that silky smooth motion we’re becoming incredibly used to. The 4K is also only available for shooting photos, whilst video is limited to 2K.
Or alternatively consider the Zero Zero Passport
The Hover Camera Passport made by Chinese manufacturer Zero Zero Robotics is also a great option. It can shoot 4K (although it is limited to 30fps) and shoot images with it’s 13 megapixel camera, which even has a built-in flash. It’s got some pretty nifty facial recognition and gesture control built in AI too, which makes this drone a lot of fun.
It’s also just 0.53 pounds (242 grams) with battery included, so US residents won’t have to register it with the FAA before flying.
However, the Passport definitely isn’t the drone to get if you’re looking for high-performance flight. It tops out at 17mph (In manual mode), doesn’t have GPS, and has a suggested max range of just 65 feet, but for $299 you’re getting a lot for your money.
It’s a list heavily dominated by DJI and that makes sense. Currently DJI offer the best range of consumer drones on the market, you won’t be disappointed with a DJI drone, although they come with a price tag. With the drone market expecting to triple in size by 2023, new contenders are rapidly entering the space, and some at a much more affordable price point than the DJI drones. Keep checking back as we’ll keep updating this list if any of these new contenders hit the top spots!
If you’re looking to try out some of the DJI camera drones for yourself before you take the plunge, all of our locations operate with DJI drones. You can fly the DJI Mavic 2 Pro in Mexico, a Phantom 4 in Brazil and the Mavic 2 Zoom in Peru and the Philippines, so you can decide for yourself which 4K drone is for you!