Last Updated on October 14, 2018
Many of us drone enthusiasts are having fun piloting a quadcopter as a hobby, a sport or a group activity with friends and family. We all wish to own one of those high-performance drones like one from the Phantom 4 series. Not many of us have a couple of thousand dollars to spend on high-performance drones. So, if you are a hobbyist who wants a good performance but affordable drone camera to fly around and to take aerial shoots, you have come to the right place.
We have selected a list of top-rated and affordable camera drones here. Some with features such as 4K camera, GPS and mobile-app flight planning. Check out our Camera Drone Buying Tips and our aerial photography series on camera features and types of aerial photography shoots to aid you with your selection decision.
Our top-rated affordable camera drones at a glance:
|Parrot AR. Drone 2.0 Quadricopter Power...||350 Reviews||View on Amazon|
|Hubsan X4 H501Ss Professional Version 5.8G...||57 Reviews||$180.00||View on Amazon|
|ZEROTECH Dobby Mini Selfie Pocket Drone with...||4 Reviews||$399.98||View on Amazon|
|Ehang GHOSTDRONE 2.0 Aerial with 4K Sports Camera||If you like app-controlled drone, shoot high speed action events, 4K camera, 25 min flight time||Affordable Easy to fly Shoot 11 photo/s Return to Home One Year Warranty|
|Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Power Edition||If you are looking for an indoor and outdoor App-controlled drone and 30+ minutes of flight time||Intuitive flight control app Live video streaming Affordable|
|UPair One Plus Drone 4K Camera 5.8G Mobile App Version||If you like the look & design of a Phantom but want an affordable alternative to capture high quality images and videos, 4K camera, 18 min flight time.||Affordable 4K camera Stability via GPS and gyro mobile app flight route planning Return to Home|
|Traxxas Aton Plus Quadcopter with 2-axis gimbal||If you have a GoPro® Hero 3 or Hero 4 and you are looking for a sport quad, shoot high speed action events||Easy to set upGPS FastDurable Flight status via mobile appReturn to Home|
|Hubsan H501S X4 Pro||If you are looking for a complete FPV package, 1080P HD camera, 20 min flight time||Affordable Durable brushless motors Great ‘selfie’ drone Headless mode, built-in GPS, altitude mode, automatic return, follow me function|
|Zerotech Dobby Mini Selfie Pocket Drone||If you are stylish and into film shooting & portability and 4K camera||Mobile device's swipe function Dual satellite positioning Orbit, target tracking, auto pull-away and facial recognition|
|3DR Solo Aerial Drone||If you already own a GoPro Hero3+ or Hero4 and you are a self-help individual, and 25 min flight time||Stream live HD video from GoPro® direct to iOS/Android devices Orbit mode, follow me, cable cam (linear tracking), selfie mode|
1. Ehang GHOST DRONE 2.0 with 4K Sports Camera
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If you are looking for an easy-to-fly camera drone with 20 plus minutes of flight time and a 4K Sports camera, the Ehang GHOST DRONE 2.0 with 4K Sports Camera fits the bill. The Ghost is easy and intuitive to fly. In our opinion, even if you have not flown a drone before, you can maneuver this quadcopter easily using your smartphone.
We think the Ehang GHOST DRONE 2.0 with 4K Sports Camera (View on Amazon) is one of the easiest drones to fly. You control the Ehang Ghost 2.0 using your Android or iOS device. After you download the Ehang Play app, you can set up your flight plan and have the Ghost execute the flight route. You also have an option to do avatar flight control – have the Ghost following the movement of your phone. This Ghost drone has a flight time of 25 minutes (on a single charge) and it has a half mile of flight range. Its horizontal speed gets 25 mph in GPS mode, 43 mph in manual mode. It has a safety feature of ‘Automatic Return’ in case of low battery or lost communication.
The Ghost Drone 2.0 has a 3-axis gimbal and a 4k sports camera. In an environment with high speed action and lots of movement, this drone camera rig really shows off its capabilities. Its 4K sports camera can continuous shoot 11 photo/s, lens FOV 120°. The controllable range of the 3-axis gimbal: Yaw 360°/ Pitch Angle -90° to +30°. This Ghost 2.0 rig is ideal to record your vacations, sporting events or work in progress in your remodeling or landscaping projects.
The quality and rich features of Ehang Ghost 2.0 with 4K Sports Camera compare well to other camera drones costing twice as much, and it is easy to fly with its mobile app. Its manufacturer Ehang gives a ‘No Fault’ warranty for the Ghost 2.0 – they repair or replace your Ghost drone up to three times in a year free of charge! The Ehang Ghost 2.0 is one of the best-value drones in the $300 range.
Quick tip: The 3-axis gimbal of Ghost 2.0 also supports GoPro3, GoPro3+, GoPro4.
2. Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Power Edition
- Easily updates to meet FAA requirements
- Intuitive piloting through Smartphone/tablet control
- Automatic stabilization system for assisted control for indoor and outdoor flight
- Live video streaming and HD video recording
We have been a fan of the Parrot AR Drone 2.0 since it was unveiled at CES Las Vegas back in 2012. We like the ‘Power Edition’ – two 1500mah batteries are included. We get about 15 minutes of flight time from one battery; some people get more than 30 minutes of flight time from these two high-density lithium polymer batteries.
The Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Power Edition (View on Amazon) is an indoor and outdoor camera drone – it comes with one indoor hull and one outdoor hull. This is a RTF app-controlled drone, you only need to connect the battery, download AR’s Freeflight 2.0 app, you are ready to fly. The default flight mode setting is set for beginner skill. You can easily change the piloting mode (via the Freeflight app) to suit your flying style. If you are a beginner, you would love its flip and barrel rolls by just hitting a button.
AR 2.0 Power Edition allows you to fly as far as 165 feet away. The pressure sensor will automatically correct and maintain a steady position in the air even in wind speed up to 15 mph.
A quick glance at the spec of the Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Power Edition:
- Camera: 720P 30fps HD camera, wide-angle lens 92° diagonal.
- Flight Control: using your iOS or Android device.
- Connection: Wi-Fi hotspot.
- Live stream video
- Range: 50 m (165 feet)
- Flight time: about 30 – 36 minutes (two 1500mah batteries)
From the extended battery life of 36 minutes of flight time, HD camera, live video streaming to its intuitive flight control app, the Parrot AR 2.0 drone camera is definitely worth this affordable price point.
Quick Tip: If you have an Nvidia Shield portable gaming device, you can use it to control the Parrot AR Drone 2.0 Power Edition with its physical sticks.
3. UPair One Plus Drone 4K Camera 5.8G Mobile App Version
If you want a ready-to-fly (RFT) and an affordable camera drone that takes high resolution video and picture shoot, UPair One Plus Drone 4K Camera 5.8G Mobile App Version will meet your needs. Read our review of Upair One Plus drone 4k camera. The UPair One Plus Drone (by GTEN Innovation) is not in the same class as DJI Phantom series but it has a resemblance to Phantom’s sleek look and stable form design. The UPair One Plus is a RTF drone – it comes fully assembled (minus the propellers), the gimbal and 4K camera are even mounted on the UpAir One Plus out of the box.
A quick glance at the spec of the UPair One Plus Drone 4K Camera 5.8G Mobile App version:
- Camera: 4K, 16MP, 4K2K@25FPS/2.7K@30FPS.
- Position hold, altitude hold, follow me mode.
- Headless mode, camera mode, FPV mode.
- Up to 15 GPS Satellites used for positioning.
- Stability via GPS (up to 15 satellites) + gyro stabilization.
- Allows recalibration in-flight.
- Flight range = 800 meters
- Flight time = 18 minutes
- 7 inch display included
- Flight route planning on your iOS or Android device using the “UPair” app
The UPair One Plus 4K camera has more features than many of the comparable models in the $300 range. We especially like the high-resolution video by its 4K camera (Sony lens and CMOS pickup) and its GPS-linked and gyro stabilization features. The informative data displayed on the Ground Controller screen is exceptional, and, it can recalibrate in-flight. It does not have ‘collision avoidance’ but at half the price of a Phantom 3, the UPair One Plus 4K drone camera is an affordable alternative to capture high quality images and videos for your projects.
- You want to buy a class 10 high speed micro SD card 16G or 32G if you want a video record of your flight.
- If you are good with 2.7K Camera, you can get the UPair One Plus with 2.7K Camera (View on Amazon). The 2.7K model costs a little less than the 4K Camera model – it comes with 5.8G FPV Monitor Transmit Live Video, 2.4G Remote Controller, and GPS Auto Return Function.
4. Traxxas Aton Plus Quadcopter with 2-axis gimbal
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If you own a GoPro® Hero 3 or Hero 4 and you love fast action and shooting film, Aton Plus quadcopter gives you 50 mph in sport mode, and a very stable 2-axis gimbal platform to shoot smooth film with your GoPro®. The Aton Plus can take you from a beginner to an experienced drone pilot with its three selectable modes: film, sport and expert. It has a flight time range from 20 minutes to 30 minutes – depending on how hard you fly this quadcopter.
A quick glance at the spec of Traxxas Aton Plus Quadcopter with 2-axis gimbal
- 50+ mph speed in sport mode
- 2-axis gimbal for your action camera
- Larger 5000 mAh 3s LiPo battery for extended flight times
- Dual-mode GPS
- Three selectable modes: Film Mode, Sport mode, Expert Mode
- Air Brakes
- Flight time 20-30 minutes
- Return to Home
Traxxas Aton Plus is a sport quadcopter that is durable, fast and versatile. It has one of the easiest calibration – you just turn on the transmitter, plug in a charged battery, wait a minute for Aton to locate GPS satellites; when you see 4 solid green LEDs, this quad is ready to take off. Aton Plus has notable features such as air brakes, GPS, Return to Home, 6-axis stabilization and you can access Traxxas Flight Link using an iOS or an Android device to get a full-color graphical user interface. Traxxas Flight Link allows you to check flight ready status, adjust film mode speed, set geo fence radius, set flight ceiling altitude and view battery status.
If you want to go with a fixed camera mount, you want to consider Traxxas Aton Quadcopter.
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- Aton has 3000mAh 3S LiPo battery and a fixed camera mount
- Aton Plus has 5000mAh 3SLiPo battery and 2-axis gimbal
Both Traxxas Aton and Traxxas Aton Plus are fast and durable sport quadcopters.
5. Hubsan H501S X4 Professional version
- 5.8G FPV with 1080P HD camera are tuned amazingly to capture stunning pictures and...
- Built-in GPS(Universal version) positioning system, the accurate positioning...
- With Brushless motor and WIth Follow me function,headless mode,one key return
- The intelligent battery with large capacity extends the flying time last to 20...
Hubsan H501S X4 Professional 5.8G includes an upgraded FPV Transmitter. In our opinion, the professional version is worth the extra budget – because you get extra range right out of the box with the upgraded multi-function FPV remote controller. It has two antennas – the antenna for the controller is outside and it has an extra FPV panel antenna. It has a 3.7 inch matte-finished LCD display with a removable sun-shade.
A quick glance at the spec of the Hubsan H501S X4 Professional (View on Amazon):
- GPS-based Navigation System – the built-in GPS allows the quad to ‘automatic return home’ when there’s a loss of communication. Using the built-in GPS and sensor, it also allows ‘follow me’ function that will focus on your target object in capturing the video shoot.
- 5.8G FPV with 1080P HD camera.
- Headless mode, altitude mode, automatic return, follow me function.
- Brushless motors – like the material used in more expensive drones.
- Self-tightening propellers.
- Flight time about 20 minutes.
- Flight range about 300 meters (1.5 miles)
We like the Hubsan H501S Professional version with the upgraded FPV Transmitter and extra antennas. You get better range with this version. The Hubsan H501S Professional camera drone is an excellent choice for a beginner who would read the different functions on the controller prior to taking the first flight. With the automatic return home feature, it will return home if there is a loss of signals – a good safety feature. The Hubsan H501S Professional is also a great ‘selfie’ drone.
Quick Tips for the Hubsan H501S X4 Professional :
- When you are screwing in the FPV antenna, make sure the wording ‘Hubsan’ is facing out to the quadcopter when you are flying.
- If you need to re-install the firmware, make sure you are installing the correct version of firmware.
6. Zerotech Dobby Mini Selfie Pocket Drone
- ZEROTECH Dobby Pocket Selfie Drone FPV With 4K HD Camera + Full USA Warranties...
- Ritz Gear Camera Bag, Cleaning Cloth
- Easily control with your phone's swipe function or use phone as a motion controller,...
- Innovative camera offers facial recognition, target tracking and 10s auto follow...
If you are into selfies and portability, you want to consider Zerotech Dobby Mini Selfie Pocket Drone (View on Amazon) – a smart pocket-sized foldable drone camera that fits into your pocket. We consider the Dobby Mini a camera drone and a pocket drone. It has 13MP HD camera and it has impressive photo shooting modes that include single shot, timer, burst; and HD video shoot with video resolution of 4K @ 30fps after image stabilization 1080p @ 30fps. For those of you who are into film shooting, Dobby can do orbit, target tracking, auto pull-away and facial recognition.
We find Dobby easy to fly both indoors and outdoors – it has dual satellite positioning. All motions are controlled via the swipe function on your iPhone or Android, after you installed the Dobby app (called Do.Fun) on your mobile device. This camera drone held up pretty well when we flew it in wind speed of 15 miles/hour last month (note: Dobby was flying just under 20 feet as wind shear in the higher altitude might be significantly higher speed).
7. 3DR Solo Aerial Drone (no Gimbal)
- Solo’s video game-style controller will feel familiar the second you pick it up,...
- In case you missed it in the picture…that’s a high-quality HDMI port directly...
- Full-featured app for iOS and Android puts total craft control at your fingertips.
We still remember – back in 2015 when Solo was first launched, we were amazed by how its linear ability to stay on the flight route (created by us drawing a line on our iPhone then) while recording the video. Read our review of 3DR Solo. Solo was over a thousand dollars then…
If you own a GoPro Hero 3+ or Hero4 and you still appreciate Solo’s Orbit, Selfie and linear tracking modes, and, you are not worried about support issues, you want to consider the 3DR Solo (View on Amazon). It still takes incredible cinematic imagery with minimum effort. It streams live HD video from your GoPro directly to your iOS or Android devices. It has 800 meter flight range, max speed of 55 mph and 25 minutes flight time. 3DR drone camera is a well-designed and well-made quadcopter especially at this affordable price point.
Quick tip: you want to stock up some spare parts if you decide to own a Solo now.
Camera Drone Buying Tips
What should you look for when buying a camera drone? Are you looking for a professional-grade camera drone for your project? Or, are you looking for a fun way to record a sporting event or a family outing? In general, you get what you pay for. The key features you want to look for are: a stable platform for videography, great image stabilization, drone modes with good maneuvering features, good quality camera of 1080p to 4K, and easy to setup flight plan and ‘Return to home’ features.
Here are the key features you will want to evaluate in a camera drone:
- Image quality can be affected by other factors.
- Evaluate the toolkit available for controlling the aircraft.
- Flight time is also important.
- Decide on a budget.
Stability impacts the image quality. You want stable platform. All camera drones have gyroscopes that provide information about the drone’s movement in 6 ways, commonly referred to as 6-axis stabilization. In the best camera drones the gimbal is stabilized too. The gimbal stabilization compensates for micro bursts of wind for which the drone was unable to correct in time. The combination provides the smooth professional look to the videos made from their platforms.
You should get a gimbal mounted camera instead of a forward looking camera. Higher resolution cameras will produce sharper looking videos.
Almost all quadcopters and RC craft come with some standard manual controls. If you intend to use the quadcopter for professional work, you will probably need some ability to pre-program a flight path. The ease to program the flight path, can determine how much of your time it will take to execute a project.
The time that your drone can stay airborne can often determine whether or not a task can be done on one battery.
For a high-performance drone like one in the Phantom 4 plus series, you will want to budget for $2000+. But if you are opened to emerging brands or previous year’s models with upgraded camera, you can find some great performance 4K camera drones starting in $700+. If you are a hobbyist getting a quadcopter for occasional videography of a game event or a celebration event, you can find a good HD 1080P or 4K camera drone between $300-$500.
Best Value Camera Drone in the $300 range
If you are looking to fly an app-controlled drone, or using avatar flight control, and you want a 4k camera, UPair One Plus Drone 4K Camera 5.8G Mobile App Version is the best value camera drone in the $300 range. It is easy to fly and its look has a resemblance of a DJI Phantom.
“The benefit of summer for us, drone enthusiasts, is that each day we have more light to fly our quadcopters under the beautiful blue sky!” quote by The Drone Buying Advisor.