Choosing the best DJI drone deal isn't the easiest decision. As the market leader they not only have an extensive selection of drones but a number of recently discontinued but still very tempting choices for your shortlist too. But never fear, we're here to help. In this definitive list of the best DJI drones, we'll reveal exactly what you'll get for you money, including which available older model might represent a great deal.
It's no surprise DJI drones top our list of the best drones around. From a bit of high-flying fun, through to the ultimate selfie-drone; from a photographer’s favorite through to industrial and educational quadcopters, DJI have at least one offering in every area. There’s even a drone for crop spraying! The range has been extended with two remarkable drones just in 2021, with the arrival of the racing DJI FPV, the foldable DJI Air 2S, and the Mini SE (depending where you live).
It’s also important to be mindful of the latest drone rules on registration, which in many places means that there is more paperwork involved with drones weighing more than 250g.
Here are 12 of the best DJI drones, for every skill level and all budgets. After weight (because of regulation), we’d suggest that portability is a significant factor, so decide whether you want a folding air frame or not. After that, the choice must be about photographic capability, which is why we’ve shared as many camera specs as possible. Larger sensors are great for aerial landscape photography in dawn and dusk, while in some cases the maximum frame rate will be more of an issue.
The best DJI drones in 2021
The April 2021 arrival of the Air 2S pushes the Mavic 2 Pro from top spot in this list by offering the same or better specification in nearly every category. There is no adjustable aperture, or exploitation of the Hasselblad brand, but in the context of aerial photography these are pretty thin legs to support the ‘Pro’ as any better than the Air 2S. The drone does feature easily swapped lens filters, and matching ND filters are even included in DJI’s Fly More pack, which largely solves that.
On the other hand, the latest hardware and software developments have equipped the Air 2S with the best collision and tracking system on any similar drone – finally a drone you might trust to follow you through some trees and keep the camera on you. The recording itself is also of exceptional quality, with D-Log M and HDR video at up to 5.4K 30fps and a full choice for filmmakers (4K 60fps and 1080p at 120fps amongst them), at up to 150mbps – again higher quality than many pricier models in DJI’s range.
The Mini 2 is a reimaging of the Mavic Mini (see below); it takes a well-engineered ultra-light airframe (the weight is non-negotiable) and addresses the areas which drone geeks complained about. Well, the ones who usually flew much more expensive drones mentioned, anyway. Principally these were: the radio range, the response to cross wind, and an assortment of camera features.
Now the Mini 2 has essentially the same fantastic new OcuSync 2.0 controller from the Mavic Air II, with automatic frequency hopping. Together with more powerful motors and improved software this drone can handle Force 5 (not too bad for such a light craft). Photographers have been rewarded with Raw, Exposure Bracketing (though only 3 stops), and DJI’s spectacular automated panorama features, while video enthusiasts finally have 4K under 250g (and a shiny logo near the lens to prove it), topped off with digital zoom (useful to have, not essential to use).
The new drone also sports some improvements to file transferring making it easier to go from drone to phone, and an extra hue-changing light for, er… well, it’s fun to change the color using the remote. Perhaps the next update will bring a better reason?
What makes the standard Mavic 3 such a brilliant device is that, while still being bigger than some telephoto lenses, the entire thing can be stuffed into a kit bag and taken travelling. It doesn’t look noticeably bigger than the older Mavic 2, but it sits more proudly from the ground, helping protect the lenses of the dual-camera gimbal; the system has a large sensor (4/3rds) camera which more than exceeds the old Pro version, and bolstered by a 12-megapixel zoom camera for closer views (albeit of less exceptional quality).
The drone has also matured in terms of flight time, hovering for an exceptional 40 minutes (or ploughing forward for 46), and vision sensors (collision avoidance) which use up to 200m “sight” to plot the best return to home route. Sadly not all the software was quite there in time for launch; DJI has promised much in terms of tracking subjects while avoiding, for example, trees, (like a Skydio) but we won’t know for sure until January.
All that said, in terms of still and D-log video (we’ll cover the Cine edition separately in this list,) this really amounts to a big compact drone.
We noted at the beginning of the Mavic 3’s mention (above) that its size made it an exceptional device for a 4/3-sensor camera. That compact nature is just as important in the Cine edition which has the same camera but rebuilds the internals to find space for a 1TB SSD and the throughput to handle ProRes 422 HQ video. If you need this format, you’re likely to understand that (and its price), though we did think it a little odd that DJI didn’t even offer the choice of going without the Pro remote, but it is one fewer thing to set up.
The new video transmission system, O3+, brings a notable improvement in live view to both Mavic 3s – 60fps rather than 30fps for the 1080P stream which makes on-screen composition greatly more fluid and natural. The drone shares the same faster, more powerful and more capable airframe too (and the same late firmware features). We see this as nipping at the heels of the Inspire 2 as much as it provides a necessary update for Mavic 2 videographers (though if you don’t need ProRes, it’s a lot to pay for bragging rights).
This is the kind of tech so gorgeous and exciting a Luddite would rethink their life goals on first sight. Apparently eschewing their usual creative goals, DJI have put everything into making this a speedy stunt-capable drone which can more than hold its own in the world of FPV racing; it has a top speed of 140kph and the first 100 of that can be reached in a blinding 2 seconds.
Not forgetting their photography customers (and perhaps understanding that an ordinary racer costs somewhat less), this drone has also been equipped with a much more capable camera system than usually seen on similar drones. The standard practice is to strap a GoPro to the top and recover the footage later, but here a single axis gimbal (still one more than most FPV racers) has been paired with software to achieve a system capable of capturing excellent 4K video at 60fps, meaning this drone might be for more than just racers.
Right from launch, in terms of bank-for-buck the Mavic Mini is (or was) a great drone. (It’s hard to say which because in some places DJI have taken the Mavic Mini innards and put them into the pretty similar Mini 2 airframe and re-christened it the ‘Mini SE’. In other places (e.g. UK, Europe) if you’re looking for a cheaper drone than the 4K Mini 2, you just need to find an Mavic Mini.
Even before the newer Mini 2 arrived and pushed this into a few bargain sections, the Mavic Mini was a bargain. It includes a proper camera with gimbal, altitude control, GPS, a remote controller, and subject-tracking QuickShots. Oh, and it cost less than a pair of batteries for the Inspire 2. Sure, the camera has smaller optics, but it can remain aloft longer than the Inspire too, needs only one battery to do so, and (without feeling cheap) can actually serve as its own charger with nothing more than a USB socket.
The 2.7K video matches an above average phone, though the dynamic range could be better. Compared to some competitors in this price range DJI’s technology is ahead of the pack. Manual exposure is an option too, making it at least interesting for people wanting to experiment with quality drones while keeping the budget reasonable. In essence, though, this is as easy to use as a flying phone camera, which works well so long as you’re in low wind and don’t stray too far.
The Mavic 2 Pro took advantage of DJI’s acquisition of iconic camera manufacturer Hasselblad back in 2017 – incorporating Hasselblad's processing algorithms into the best camera found on any compact drone.
Although now overshadowed by the recent launch of the Mavic 3 and Mavic 3 Cine, cinematographers will appreciate the support for 10-bit Dlog-M and HDR video (allowing post-processing), while photographers will be equally excited by the high ISO shooting and rich quality provided by the large image sensor.
While many pros might not mind carrying bigger equipment, the ability to be able to sneak this into a spare lens bay in a camera bag provides multi-tasking pro photographers with a whole new dimension. DJI’s Occusync technology means the Mavic 2s can be paired with the company’s stunning FPV Goggles, making this truly one of the best DJI drones around.
The Mavic 2 Zoom is built on the same folding body as the Mavic 2 Pro, but the camera takes a different approach. The lower resolution sensor is still perfectly capable of 4k video, but taps out at 4000 x 3000 pixel stills. Sure, pros will say it misses a little of the nuance, and with normal 8-bit rather than 10 there is less room for color grading, if that’s your thing, but in exchange it’s not only cheaper but features a 2x optical zoom lens (no loss of resolution). That’s great because it ties so well with DJI’s software to create the dollyzoom “horror movie” effect and a cunning panoramic stitching system. The only slight issue in flight is that constantly adjusting the zoom can lead to a little confusion if you’re treating the screen as your pilot’s window (why you should always watch the drone).
In October 2021 it is worth noting that there are digital zooms on the Air and Air 2S models, which are certainly cheaper, and (aside from the omnidirectional sensors) the Mavic 2 series are starting to look a little old in many respects (and are now essentially being replaced by the Mavic 3 and Mavic 3 Cine).
• See DJI Mavic 2 Pro vs Zoom
The Mavic Air 2 is the predecessor to the new top of this list (the Air 2S). It replaced one of DJI’s most flawed drones, the Air 1 (one to avoid), and the Air 2 lingers on with varying price differentials; it’s still worth having if you find a good bargain price on the older model. It was the Air 2 introduced the basic airframe, it does not have quite such advanced tracking features (it lacks the upward facing collision sensors which really help when the drone leans into speedy flight). It can stay aloft for up to 34 minutes thanks to the lighter camera, but what DJI like to call 48 megapixels is a quad-Bayer design that many purists see as 12 megapixels.
The big appeal to photographers and videographers is 4K at 60fps, and half-inch the quad-Bayer filter makes for pretty good looking video and stills even in lower light. Not only that, but you also get the excellent controller that can also keep your phone charge topped up as you fly, useful if you’re planning more stops on your outing, just as with the new Air 2S, so if sensor size and collision avoidance is less important to than any saving you can find, this drone is worthy of serious consideration. In truth, though, it’s probably worth getting the Air 2S if you can.
The Phantom’s chunky body isn’t as portable as the Mavic, but it’s stable and the system comes with a big, pro-feel controller. Back-packs are available for this size craft, too. That extra heft brings a camera that largely outperforms the Mavic 2 Pro, even without “Hasselblad” written on it. The main improvement is a mechanical shutter and generous buffer (it can manage a 14fps burst at 20 megapixels). Videographers may bemoan the 8-bit limit, but on the plus side the Phantom can capture 4K video ay 60fps, making for flawless slow-mo. The props now sport low-noise winglets and collision sensors that can be used by the AI to plot swooping flights. The chunky pro-sized controller has room for an iPad as monitor, so – while you can opt for a 5.5” built-in 1000-nit screen, you’re better off with a monitor hood and an iPad Mini.
If the Mavic 2 Pro is a “creative compact,” this is a high-end DSLR. Unlike an SLR, though, the entire camera assembly is removable, so you can choose between the X45S 4K camera unit, or one of two interchangeable lens systems: Zenmuse X5S and X7. This means you can opt to fit, and remotely control, a Micro Four Thirds zoom lens over the X5S’s stunning sensor; Olympus do a great one, by the way.
The large aircraft is powered by two (expensive) batteries, and features other backup systems. It can also capture CinemaDNG or Apple ProRes video onto SSD-based memory cards (backing up to Micro SD at the same time). All of this is aided by 360-degree unobstructed camera rotation, lending itself to dual-operator flights, or fly-bys with automated object tracking. The pilot can choose from a forward-facing FPV camera or the main camera, which might be pointed anywhere! The only real worry is that the Inspire 2 airframe hasn’t seen an update for a while, and we certainly wouldn’t recommend buying this for the cheaper Zenmuse X4S camera since the Phantom 4 Pro 2 is cheaper and flies longer, but if you can see the case for an interchangeable lens and have (or can pass on) the budget the Inspire 2 is still tough to beat. Just plan your battery time.
Found in DJI’s store, but not strictly their lineup (it’s under the Ryze brand), this compact drone nonetheless has much in common with its bigger brothers; it can hold position using downward visual sensors rather than GPS. It can also do stuff a Mavic Mini won’t: perform “8D” Stunts (flips in a number of directions), for example. The camera is built-in, so impressive software stabilization keeps the 720p video fairly stable; the signal is recoded on your phone (subject to signal errors) rather than an SD card, and there are a selection of social-friendly EZ Shots (a bit like QuickShots on DJI’s pricier drones). This isn’t a photographer’s drone though, it’s for fun – where it excels. It’ll also brighten up learning, with Scratch, a visual programming language, and a complete SDK. Also check out the cool-looking Marvel Iron Man version of this drone, that looks like it has come out of Tony Stark's labs.
The Tello EDU is the same aircraft – with a cool partially transparent shell – but sold with a more sophisticated SDK (software development kit) that offers the chance to do more with the 14-core processor, chief among which is swarm flying. Swift Playgrounds allows control of up to four aircraft at once – be your own wing commander! You’ll also find, in the box, mission pads which the drones can fly over & respond to via the optical flow sensor.
The Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced (ME2A) drone is targeted at those business needing a flying thermal camera, a useful tool in inspecting buildings for energy efficiency (warmth leaks), for finding failing components on the power lines themselves, or of course to help emergency services in a hunt. DJI’s pilot software allows switching between visible or IR images, or viewing them side-by-side, and the 16x zoom (32x digital) is ideal for looking closely at areas identified by the thermal camera. The high price is in part explained by the 30fps thermal camera – very useful on a drone – when so many have a lower frame rate, but the device can be adapted further with accessories like spotlights, a loudspeaker and a RTK module. RTK, or Real-Time Kinetics is a centimeter-level GPS system which helps any kind of mapping, inspection or surveying, anything where you need to get close, but can also be useful in any scenario when you need to make repeats of the same shot, so there are even cinematographic reasons why it can be desirable.
Developed from the bird-of-prey like Inspire 2, this less beautiful but more practical series of drones serves as a more flexible platform onto which customers could add not only DJI’s range of Zenmuse cameras (including a few the Inspire 2 can’t handle) and other first-party accessories like searchlights, but developers are welcome to create third-party payloads too. (Programmers have even adapted the Matrice to detect illegally parked vehicles.) This is, in every sense, a stable platform in the sky. It also has sensors in all directions.
We suspect that if you need the technology here, you know it. There are some circumstances now where the Mavic 2 Enterprise Advanced, below, might be an adequate (and more portable) alternative, but the weather protection and flexibility means this aircraft will always be able to do more.