Drone Cinematography can be a great way for filmmakers to get unforgettable aerial shots. Cinematographers work with drones to get interesting shots that help tell a compelling visual story, contributing to memorable scenes in major feature films such as We Are Blood (2015), Skyfall (2015), and many more.
5 Great Camera Drones for Aerial Drone Cinematography
Film-grade camera drones have never been more accessible. Price points for high-definition aerial filming rigs are becoming affordable, making it easier to learn about drone Cinematography. With a wide array of options to choose from, we’ll be taking a look at some of the best beginner filmmaking drones on the market. All prices are approximate at the time of writing—be sure to hit the HD settings on each YouTube player to see the demo footage at its best. Please note that some drones may no longer be in production, but may still be sold online.
DJI Inspire 1
Drone Specs: 18 minutes maximum flight time, 48mph top speed, 4500m altitude, 5m/s ascent speed
Camera Specs: 4k video at 24 FPS, 12.4 megapixels, 100-3200 ISO range for video
It’s easy to see why the DJI Inspire 1 has become the go-to, professional-grade drone for 4K aerial filmmaking. As well as packing an impressive set of specs, the gimbal-mounted, super-high-resolution camera allows for a fine degree of control over the shooting angle.
For those who are a little divided over the price, it’s worth noting that the Inspire 1’s design is modular, so it can be easily upgraded further down the road without having to buy a whole new drone.
DJI Phantom 3 Advanced
Drone Specs: 23 minutes of flight time, 35mph, 6000m altitude, 5 m/s ascent speed
Camera Specs: 2.7k at 30FPS, 12.4 megapixles, 100-3200 ISO range for video
The Phantom range of aerial drone cameras have become something of an industry standard, and the third iteration strikes a good balance between cost and quality. The Phantom 3 comes in two flavors—the “advanced” and the “professional” below, which ups the specs at a higher price point.
DJI Phantom 3 Professional
Drone Specs: As above
Camera Specs: 4k at 25FPS / 2160p at 30FPS / 1080p at 60FPS
For an extra $259, the Professional version of the Phantom 3 will give you greater resolution and framerates without sacrificing any of the maneuverability.
Drone Specs: 22 minutes of flight time, 29mph, 6m/s ascent speed, 200m altitude
Camera Specs: 1080p recording with a 14 megapixel fisheye camera
Lightweight and extremely zippy, the Parrot Bebop is a smart choice for those who want HD stabilized video without having to spend a king’s ransom—there are cheaper drones out there (and even some lesser-priced models in the Parrot range)—but the Bebop gets the balance right and is one of the best drones you’ll find for $500 or under…if you can live with the slightly limited operating range.
Phantom Flex 4k Drone
Price: $110,000 and up
Weight: About 13 kilograms
Drone Specs: Unknown, but it can lift a cinema camera.
Camera Specs: 1,000 FPS at 4k and up to 3,000 FPS at 720p (in five second bursts). Stores 2TB of RAW data.
We’ve covered the more budget-end of the drone filmmaking spectrum, so now let’s look at what is currently the most expensive (and impressive). Clocking in at over 30lbs once the camera and lenses are installed, the Phantom Flex 4K is less of a drone and more of an aircraft. The price tag is eye-watering, but the footage speaks for itself.
Learn How To Use Cinematography Tools and Tech
From one time courses to immersive non-degree programs to an MFA track, NYFA offers a variety of options for prospective cinematographers eager to learn the fundamentals of composition, lighting, and more. Visit our Cinematography Programs page or read our introductory guide to Cinematography to learn more.