Drones are fun and can take your videography to the next level. Despite the awe you might feel when you see gorgeous aerial footage and shots produced by drones, you might feel a little apprehensive about buying one due to a number of reasons. Are they worth splashing out on? Are they hard to fly? We’ve got some encouraging news for you! Some drones are so easy to pilot, you’ll feel like a pro in no time!
Everyone has to start somewhere and some drones make it a lot easier than others. And with the increase of popularity in drones, they’re becoming more affordable so the price points are realistic for budding videographers and beginners. To help you along with selecting your first drone, we’ve put together a list of our top four drone recommendations, sorted from the cheapest drone to most expensive!
Things to Consider When Choosing a Drone
Before diving into our top recommendations, we thought we'd share some key considerations. This will help you decide which drone is ultimately the best for you and will work for your needs. Be sure to check out the frequently asked questions at the bottom of this article too!
Camera Quality: Look for drones with high-resolution cameras (unless you're just flying one for fun). If you're serious about aerial photography or videography, a drone with a 4K camera is recommended. Some drones even come with advanced camera features such as raw shooting and customisable ISO and shutter speed. If you wish to capture smooth, stable and professional footage, look for a drone with a gimbal stabiliser.
Flight Time: Consumer drones typically have a battery life that allows 10 to 30 minutes of flight time. Some high-end models may offer slightly more. If you want to fly longer, invest in several spare batteries.
Range: The range of the drone determines how far it can fly from the controller. While many consumer drones can travel up to 8km or so away, remember that regulations in some countries require the drone to be within the line of sight of the operator.
Autonomous Features: Advanced drones offer features like obstacle detection and avoidance, follow-me modes, GPS-based return-to-home functionality, and pre-programmed flight paths. Such features can enhance safety, ease of operation, and the overall experience.
Size and Portability: Drones come in various sizes. Smaller, foldable models are easier to carry and can be more suitable for travel. However, they may compromise on certain features. For that reason, it will be worth weighing in where and how frequently you plan to use it.
Price: Determine your budget beforehand. High-end drones with advanced features cost more. However, there are also budget-friendly options available with basic features suitable for beginners.
Regulations: Regulations for flying drones vary by country and sometimes even by region or city within a country. Check the legal requirements, including registration, permitted flight areas, and privacy constraints in your area before purchasing a drone. We've covered more in this in the FAQs at the bottom of this article.
Ease of Use: If you're a beginner, look for a drone with user-friendly features like headless mode, automatic takeoff and landing, and easy-to-use controllers or app interfaces. The good news is, the drones on this list all have features that make flying them easier, even for novices.
1. DJI Mini 2 SE or Mini 2 Drone
If you're new to drones and want to dip your toes in the water first, we recommend the DJI Mini 2 SE - the latest entry-level drone from DJI that is easy and intuitive to fly. The Mini 2 SE is not only the most affordable choice, but it's also incredibly lightweight and has safety features built-in that make learning to fly a drone much easier for beginners. It can be nerve wracking the first few times you fly a drone, especially if you plan to fly it over kilometres of forest or vast open water; if it goes down, that's it - bye bye drone! Luckily, the DJI Mini SE is easy to use so you can get good fast. It supports one-tap takeoff and landing, Return to Home (RTH), stable hovering, and much more.
The DJI Fly app also offers a simple and intuitive user experience, enabling you to create cinematic shots with just a few taps. It also includes Flight Tutorial, a feature to help you get started with DJI Mini 2 SE quickly and safely. The DJI Mini 2 SE also comes equipped with a 360° Propeller Guard that fully protects the propellers and improves flight safety; along with advanced sensors so it can hover precisely.
The DJI Mini 2 SE is super lightweight at less than 249g - that's almost as light as the average smartphone! This makes it exceptionally portable and places it in the lowest and safest weight class of drones, which may exempt it from certain regulations in many countries. Its weight also allows it to stay in the air longer than similar consumer FlyCams on the market. You can enjoy up to 30 minutes of flight time with a fully-charged battery. The Mini 2 SE has a fairly short video transmission distance, so you'll want to make sure you're not flying it more than 4km away from you and that you're keeping it in sight. Speaking of, we're guessing you're most interested in the video quality...
The DJI Mini 2 SE is capable of snapping 12MP shots along with 2.7K Quad HD video. Don't expect super crisp, cinematic footage but it's pretty good! It also features a 3-axis motorised gimbal which provides superior camera stability and ultra-smooth footage which will certainly make an impact on the quality of your shots. With just a few taps, you can also use DJI's various QuickShot modes to record complex shots that look like they came from Hollywood. Additionally, the DJI Fly app offers a variety of Creator Templates that generate awesome videos with just a tap. Even beginners with no editing experience can turn any moment into a social media hit.
Just like the DJI Mini 2 SE Drone, the Mini 2 Drone is ultra-light at less than 250g and flies for up to 31 minutes with a fully-charged battery. Where it differs however is that has an extended flight range (16m/s instead of 13m/s) and a higher video resolution (4K instead of 2.7k). This makes it a better choice for those who want a bit more out of their entry-level drone.
2. DJI Mini 3 or Mini 3 Pro Drone
Without sacrificing the benefits of a lightweight and easy-to-fly drone, the DJI Mini 3 brings a little more to the table. It sports a completely new look from previous Minis - a look that is actually optimised to get the most out of every flight. Larger propellers, aerodynamically redesigned body tilt and a powerful obstacle sending system allows you to keep this drone in the air safely for longer. The reimagined gimbal offers more range of movement allowing for low-angle shots and True Vertical Shooting, opening up your creative options massively! DJI has done more than just a facelift with the Mini 3, they've taken it to new heights - literally.
If you plan on using your drone to create content, you'll appreciate the greater video quality too. The Mini 3 records in dazzling 4K HDR with true-to-life colors both day and night. The camera is equipped with a 1/1.3-inch CMOS sensor with dual native ISO and chip-level HDR technology, as well as f/1.7 aperture and larger 2.4µm 4-in-1 pixels that'll record clear details and present exceptional imagery even in low-light scenarios. And with 4x zoom, you can explore further and scout locations before you shoot.
With DJI Mini 3, flying has never been easier. It includes countless easy-to-use intelligent features let you get started right away, including Auto Takeoff, RTH (Return to Home), and Precise Hovering. Thanks to the foldable design, and weight of sub 249g, it's feasible to chuck this drone in your pocket for a quick day trip, hike, or weekend away. No more worrying about finding space, professional-looking shots have never been this easy! You no longer have to choose between lugging a few extra kg, or being able to create the moment inspiration strikes. Especially with 38 minutes of flight time thanks to the Mini 3's Intelligent Flight Battery.
If you're wanting more professional shots, but still want a lightweight drone, the DJI Mini 3 Pro drone is a fantastic option. It is quite similar to the DJI Mini 3 but has better capabilities in many areas such as: a wider ISO range, a larger image sensor (48MP vs 13MP), higher max video bitrate, a better sensing system, greater transmission distance and reduced latency, and video recording capabilities up to 4K @ 60fps while the Mini 3 maxes out at 4K @ 30fps.
3. DJI Mavic 3 Drones
As DJI's flagship camera drone, the Mavic 3 comes at a premium price, but the iconic full-sized DJI Mavic 3 totally deserves a spot here due to the fact that it is such an easy drone to fly and capture with! The larger size means it offers great flight time too, along with long-range remote control that feeds live video to your smartphone, while capturing fantastic 4K video footage in a brilliantly portable and easy-to-use package. This powerful drone allows you to turn the sky into your creative canvas easily and without worry!
The first thing you’ll likely notice about the Mavic 3 is its still quite small (considering the expectations you’d have for a drone at this level). It’s small enough to throw into a pocket on your backpack or even your satchel. With its small size and level of portability, you might be wondering if it lacks in other areas such as image quality and flight stability… Let’s get onto that (spoiler alert: it doesn’t!).
Despite the size, the Mavic 3 has high-quality camera capabilities that let even beginner pilots capture professional-grade shots with ease! The Mavic 3 can capture stills in JPEG or DNG RAW format and video in 4K, outputting ultra-sharp and clean footage. It is stabilized by a 3-axis mechanical gimbal for super-smooth aerial shots. Although image and video capture is likely your biggest point of interest, you should be pleased to know that this drone comes with a host of sensors onboard that aid in-flight stability and safety so you can fly with confidence, while keeping most of your focus on the perfect shot. The additional cameras help to keep the drone from drifting in areas of poor GPS coverage and to prevent collision with obstacles, so the chances of your drone crashing into a wall or a tree reduce significantly (though the great build quality and durability of the drone provides extra insurance against that too).
The Mavic provides fantastic flight performance with effortless, agile, and very fast flight in sport mode. It has incredible responsiveness and acts instantly to your control inputs – an important factor for when you need quality and precise footage efficiently (and while using the least amount of battery power possible). It comes packed with a bunch of different features and flight modes to make flying a breeze! The Mavic 3 sports the same features as you’d find in the Mavic Air series (albeit more advanced), but here are some other features that will come in super handy:
Beginner Mode – Since this article is about drones for beginners, we thought this feature is worth mentioning. Beginner mode is designed specifically for novice pilots and places restrictions on how high and far you can fly, meaning you don’t have to worry about losing sight or control of your drone.
Tripod Mode – If you’ve become comfortable in beginner mode, you can graduate to Tripod mode. This mode is designed to reduce flight sensitivity to create the most stable video capture possible. In this mode, every move the Mavic makes becomes slow and precise.
Terrain Follow – This feature uses a Downward Vision System to maintain a consistent level distance from the group. That means you don’t have to worry about flying too low as the system will keep you at just the right height – even over uneven terrain.
The DJI Mavic 3 is one hell of a drone packed with awesome features and excellent quality image and video capture. If you're a beginner who wants to start getting those professional-grade shots right now, and you have a little bit of extra cash to spend, consider the Mavic 3 series.
4. DJI Avata FPV Drone
The final drone on this list offers a unique experience. The DJI Avata FPV drone is is a fantastic piece of kit that focuses on close-up filming thanks to its propeller guards, small size, and first-person perspective when flying. Though the Avata makes for a pretty expensive option for a beginner, it really is a fantastic way of entering the hobby. The propeller guards, alongside all of DJI's safety and obstacle avoidance technology, make for a relatively risk-free experience. The Avata is just as rugged as it looks, also including a cage around the camera and gimbal for those moments where a crash is unavoidable. This drone is capable of taking some pretty hefty knocks while still staying in the air, giving you the freedom to film to really push it in order to get your shots. If you push things a bit too hard and manage to knock the Avata on its back, it can easily right itself thanks to Turtle mode. Once you activate it, with just a few taps, the Avata will pick itself up and allow you to continue your shoot.
The Avata also comes with DJI's motion controller which is very intuitive and great for newbies to drone flight! If you don't feel confident flying your brand new, expensive drone, there is also an app that allows you to come to terms with the controls and the FPV goggles without the Avata leaving the ground! If you really want to take things to the next level and immerse yourself in the flight, you can pair your Avata drone with DJI Goggles 2. Now smaller, lighter, and equipped with Micro-OLED screens, so you experience outstanding clarity as you navigate the during the flight .
So there you have it, a selection of awesome drones to get started with! All are really great camera drone picks for beginners. Look out for these ones alongside the rest of the range in the Cameras & Drones today.
Frequently Asked Questions
What drone should I buy for the first time?
While all of the drones on this list are easy to fly and fit for beginners, our first recommendation for first-time drone buyers, is the DJI Mini 2 (or otherwise the Mini 2 SE). It's beginner-friendly, lightweight, easy to fly, and reasonably priced. It also features a 4K camera for high-quality photos and videos, and a solid flight time of up to 31 minutes. The DJI Fly app provides simplified controls and tutorials, making it easy for new pilots to learn the basics of drone operation.
Are drones hard to fly?
Drones, especially beginner models, are generally easy to fly thanks to user-friendly controls and built-in safety features such as GPS, altitude hold, and obstacle detection. Most drones are designed with beginners in mind, including pre-programmed flight modes, automatic takeoff and landing, and intuitive remote controls or smartphone app interfaces. However, mastering precise maneuvers and aerial photography techniques may take practice. To make the learning process smooth, start by flying in open areas with no obstacles and follow all safety guidelines and local regulations.
How much should a beginner spend on a drone?
Ultimately, it comes down to the size of your pockets. Generally speaking however, if you're looking a good quality camera drone, a beginner should spend around $800-$1000. This price range offers a balance between user-friendly features, good camera quality, and reliable performance. As a beginner, it might not be the wisest to invest in a super expensive drone before gaining confidence and experience in flying to reduce the risk of potential crashes or damage. More budget-friendly drones within this range can still provide a satisfying and enjoyable flying experience.
What is the 120m rule for drones?
The 120m rule for drones is a safety guideline that states drones should not be flown higher than 120 meters (approximately 400 feet) above ground level. This regulation helps ensure safe flying altitude and minimizes the risk of potential conflicts with manned aircraft or obstacles. Always remember to check and follow your local aviation regulations, as specific rules and restrictions may vary based on the country or region.
Can you fly drones in New Zealand?
You can fly drones in New Zealand, but you must adhere to the rules set by the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). Key regulations include keeping your drone within your visual line of sight, not flying higher than 120 meters above ground level, and obtaining permission before flying over private land or people. Additionally, you should avoid flying within 4 kilometers of any aerodrome (airport, helipad, or airfield), and only fly during daylight hours and in good weather conditions. If you are flying for commercial purposes or beyond the visual line of sight, obtain the necessary certifications and approvals. It's essential to check specific airspace restrictions, local council bylaws, and other regulations before flying any drone in New Zealand. For more information, visit the CAA website or the AirShare platform that provides guidance on safe and legal drone operations.