DJI’s latest Zenmuse cam, the X5S, is a mirrorless Micro Four Thirds camera made specifically for aerial photography and cinematography. It shoots in 5.2K at 30 frames per second (or 4K at 60), takes 20.4 megapixel stills, and boasts a ridiculously wide ISO range of 100 – 25,600. As an added bonus, this rig is cradled inside a vibration dampened 3-axis gimbal, so your footage comes out silky smooth no matter how crazily you fly.
The included 3.7V 650 when fully charged, offers about 9 minutes of flying time, and you only need about an hour to refuel. If you wish to have the drone in action for an extended period, simply purchase additional batteries. With the controller, you have up to 120m of control range, but reduced to just 50m when you activate the FPV mode. Even with this, you can still conveniently take videos at reasonable distances.
The most recent variant, the cx10c, is another small improvement over the other two. Again, it only adds one feature, but this time its a little bit more substantial, this time, they’ve added a camera. With a micro sd card you can watch videos of your flights from the perspective of the drone. It may not be a great camera, its not even a good camera, the footage is mediocre and would never compare even slightly to a high end multirotor, but for the price ($25) and the size (roughly the same as before) its amazing that it includes one.
There is such a wealth of options in this rapidly growing field that we wanted to share a couple more drones that we like. The first is the Holy Stone HS170 Predator Mini RC Quadcopter. This UAV offers a great feature set at an economical price, and its fast charge time (under an hour) will have you back in the air in a hurry. The Force1 U45WF Quadcopter offers features rarely seen at this price point, such as a custom route mode that allows you to trace out a path on the screen that the drone then follows. We also love that this drone ships with three batteries to greatly extend your flying time.
Want to keep your budget below $300, we suggest you choose one of the Altair drones we recommend. Altair is a great company (learn about Altair) out of Nebraska and provides top notch customer service! Shop the Altair Outlaw which goes 1000+ meters and costs $279. Altair also offers the AA108 as a budget option at $129 and the 818 Hornet is a great mid range for ages 10-14 and $169.
Lead camera analyst for the PCMag consumer electronics reviews team, Jim Fisher is a graduate of the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, where he concentrated on documentary video production. Jim's interest in photography really took off when he borrowed his father's Hasselblad 500C and light meter in 2007. He honed his writing skills at retailer B&H... See Full Bio
It is important to understand the warning about wind because wind is the most likely cause of serious problems with these drones. The drones in this category do not fly well in the wind because their motors are not strong enough. It is easy to lose them in the wind, so do yourself a favor and do not attempt to fly them, especially up high, if there is even the slightest wind outside. It would be better to fly them indoors if it is a windy day.
After we’ve taken the drone out to play for a while and jotted down a few notes about how long the battery lasts, we put it on the charger and grab a stopwatch to determine recharge time. Then we take it back out and do a hover test. By flying the drone in the least demanding conditions, we can get a sense of what the maximum flight time is. And finally, we take it out a few more good, hard flights to find out how long the battery lasts (on average) under normal conditions.
The Altair AA108 is durably built and will not break easily. You can count on a solid flight time of around 10 minutes, a bit less when you’re running it FPV. However the 720p camera really works well and connects to your phone through WiFi. It’s easy to fly because it has 3 flight modes, 1 beginner, 2 intermediate and 3 advanced mode. It also has Altitude Hold which allows you to take your thumb off the control and the drone holds it’s own altitude, making it very stable because it’s not bouncing up and down as you try to maintain altitude!