Drone’s popularity is rising every single day. It went from the hobbyist fanatics “play toy” to the photographer’s best travel buddy. More and more content creators are buying drones to get those exclusive shots. And why not? Drones are absolutely amazing if you ask me. Leaving the question, which drone should you buy?
It comes at no surprise that the best drones at this moment are from DJI. I’m sure that this will change in the future. It reminds me of those early iPhone days. If you don’t remember, or haven’t lived through this age (man I feel old). The iPhone 3GS all the way to the iPhone 4s (and subjectively even further till the iPhone 5s) outclassed every competitor in every way.
This is very similar. DJI is outclassing all competitors in hardware, software and camera department! The knock-offs and competition is very slowly catching up. But if you want to invest in your next best travel companion for the next few years, I would stick with DJI.
This is the first drone I owned. I absolutely loved it! The quality of this drone is absolutely amazing. The camera is great, the picture quality is amazing and it is the cheapest one on the list. If you are just getting into drones, are more of a hobbyist, and have a limited budget, then this drone is for you! I have seen some of the most incredible pictures that were shot with this drone!
However, there are a few limitations and downsides to this drone. The camera can only shoot 1080p video and has a 2-axis gimbal. If you are into video, then this might be a bit limiting. Don’t get me wrong 1080p is still a valuable option in 2019 if you know what you are doing. But having the extra pixels in 4k video and letting you crop the video while keeping an amazing quality has a lot of benefits. The spark cannot shoot 4k video because the software is limiting it and DJI’s marketing strategy wants to up-sell you to their bigger drones.
The second limitation is more hardware-wise. The range of the drone isn’t that impressive! It can limit you a lot if you want a shot from far away, like my picture of Kelingking beach below. I don’t really think that the spark can get this far. Lastly, the drone doesn’t fold up, like the other drones in this list. So it might be a bit bulkier for travel.
Range: 2 KM
Camera: 12 MP 2-axis gimbal
HDR: 3 AEB mode
Flight time: 16 min
Speed: 50 KPH
DJI Mavic Air
This is the drone that I currently own. I have been traveling with this puppy since June 2018! It’s an absolute masterpiece and a well worth upgrade from the Spark. While the spark is a really great drone to start with. If you are a bit more serious about content creation, this one is the one you are looking for!
I would call this the perfect budget drone for content creators. And “budget” is a big word here, because for me and many others this is an expensive piece of equipment! There is just nothing on the market that can beat this at this price point or even a lower price.
This drone has just everything right what a content creator would wish for. The camera is outstanding, it can shoot 4k video and has a 3-axis gimbal. The range is also a big step up from the spark. The drone is bigger, faster and the battery is better. The drone is foldable and very portable. It’s easy to travel with, DJI got this one right.
The only downside is the battery. Yes, it is a big upgrade over the Spark, but it’s not enough! I want this to be better. The range is very okay, although I would be happy with a bigger range! The range is very great when you just using a drone. But the more you use it, the further you can fly safely and then you hit a barrier!
Range: 4 KM
Camera: 12 MP 3-axis gimbal
HDR: Manual 5 AEB mode
Video: 4K 100Mbps
Flight time: 21 min
Speed: 68 KPH
DJI Mavic Pro
This is the bigger brother of the Mavic air. Or should I say that the Mavic Air is the smaller brother? The Mavic Pro was released before the Mavic Air and it recently got replaced by the Mavic 2. DJI tried to implement as many features of this one into the cheaper and smaller Mavic Air. Basically, the Mavic Air became the Mavic Pro and the Mavic Pro became the Mavic 2 if that makes sense? 🤔
There are only 2 reasons to choose this drone over the Mavic Air: battery and range! The flight time of this drone is absolutely phenomenal. It can stay up for as long as 30 minutes! It’s also at this point that DJI switches to their OcuSync technology.
OcuSync is the name for how the controller communicates to the controller. All the drones above use a WiFi connection between the controller and drone. OcuSync is a lot better and is custom designed for drones. The connection is stronger and therefore the range is slightly better. On paper, both have the same theoretical range, but I fail to believe that the Air has the same connection quality.
Range: 4 KM (OcuSync)
Camera: 12.7 MP 3-axis gimbal
HDR: Auto and 5 AEB mode
Video: 4K 60Mbps
Flight time: 30 min
Speed: 65 KPH
This is the absolute killer travel drone! The best of the best foldable drone. It doesn’t get any better than this at this point in time! Not until DJI releases an upgrade to their Mavic Air. This drone doesn’t come cheap and it is the most expensive drone on this list.
This drone is made for the absolute pro travel content creator. DJI made an upgrade to their OcuSync technology and made OcuSync 2.0! The range of this drone is a whopping 8km! The battery lasts 31 minutes, it has a Hasselblad camera for god sake! Full 4K HDR video, 14 EV HDR photos and the new intelligent remote! What the flipping hell! DJI killed it with this one. There is just no competition.
The biggest downside? They made 2 versions and the paradox of choice kicks in. They have one version with a flipping Hasselblad camera! This camera has a crazy 1″ CMOS sensor with variable aperture (f/2.8-f/11). Or the cheaper zoom version, which has optical zoom from 24-48mm. This makes it hard to choose from. The Hasselblad is the best image sensor and camera. But depending on the content you create, you might just want to stick with the zoom lens.
Range: 8 KM (OcuSync 2.0)
◦ 12 MP 3-axis gimbal Zoom lens (24-48 mm)
◦ 40 MP 3-axis gimbal Hasselblad lens (f/2.8-f/11)
HDR: Auto and 7 AEB mode (5 AEB on Hasselblad)
Video: 4K HDR 100Mbps
Flight time: 31 min
Speed: 72 KPH
Price: $1,499 (Hasselblad), $1,249 (Zoom)
So what can we conclude out of all this? If you are on a tight budget, the Spark is a great drone. You can get a lot of crazy shots with this. Just like the saying “the best camera is the one you have with you”, this counts for the drone too. It’s a great starter drone.
The Mavic Air is the best budget option. Anyone more serious into content creation would love the step up to this drone. It’s the perfect in-between and a very popular drone. It’s just perfect for travel.
The Mavic pro is as good as dead. DJI sells these refurbished at the same price at the Mavic Air. It might be worth it, but I cannot recommend buying a new one over the Air.
Now the baller travel drone is the Mavic 2. This comes as no surprise. Long lasting battery, amazing range, and a stunning camera. The only drawback is the price and the choice between the zoom version and the Hasselblad. I wish they made a Hasselblad zoom version.