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If you can only buy one drone, you buy the DJI Mavic Pro. It’s our favorite drone and the one that we use most often. It’s a tiny, yet hugely capable drone. It folds up so small that you can fit it into the font pocket of a sweatshirt, which is just bananas. Even more, it’s really easy to setup, learn to fly, and get amazing footage with. And the camera aboard the Mavic is pretty darn awesome to boot. It shoots 4k up to 24 frames per second and 1080p at 60 frames per second. The footage turns out great, but it does have a tendency to over saturate, but for most consumers this shouldn’t be an issue. Additionally, the camera is stabilized with a 3-axis mechanical gimbal, which works stupendously. You can expect up to 20 minutes of flight time. DJI claims up to 27 minutes, but you won’t get kind of battery life—you’ll end up purchasing a second battery. Bottom line: all things considered, the Mavic Pro does it all. It has great video quality and stabilization, achieves pretty good battery life, has a compact design, has a few neat video features, and is really, really easy to use.
For the price, the Phantom 4 has the best video quality (4k up to 30fps) of any drone out there. To be clear, the Phantom 4 Pro is a better drone, however, it’s more expensive and probably above the budget of most consumers. With this in mind, the Phantom 4 is your best bet if you want really great video quality. Like, the Mavic, the Phantom 4 is easy to fly, has a stabilization gimbal, incorporates a GPS Return-to-Home feature, and has obstacle avoidance technology. Battery life is quoted at up to 28 minutes, however, you should expect about 22 minutes of flight time. Overall, a really good drone. This was the gold standard consumer-level quadcopter until the Mavic Pro was announced.
The 3DR Solo is a really neat drone considering the price. Generally you can find it below $400. While you have to bring your own GoPro, the 3DR Drone has a 3-axis stabilizer gimbal and an awesome video game-style remote, which makes flying it simple. The 3DR is compatible with GoPro HERO3+ and HERO4 action cameras. It also has a Follow Me feature where the drone follows you (based on your phone), which is a neat feature for such an affordable drone. And it also has Return-to-Home so you can get your drone back quickly even when it’s way out there. At the end of the day, the 3DR isn’t the best drone out there, however, it’s affordable and pretty good. It is a solid option for a beginner, especially if you already have a GoPro!
Despite what you’ve read on other blogs, the Karma drone is actually pretty awesome, though obviously it does have a few big downsides with the biggest one being that battery life is lackluster at about 15 minutes (max). It also isn’t quite as responsive or compact as the Mavic Pro, however, the video quality (especially if you’re using a HERO5 Black) is better with the Karma. And it’s actually pretty compact compared to the Phantom series of drones. Karma folds up and fits into a backpack alongside its remote, which as an FYI is our favorite remote for a drone because it incorporates a screen and makes flying Karma like playing a video game. There’s two other big-time features with Karma. Firstly, it’s actually two products in one. You obviously get the drone, but you can also detach the gimbal and it turns into the Karma grip, which is a killer stabilizer for your GoPro camera. We actually use the Karma Grip all of the time. The second big feature is that you have a few presets on Karma for getting amazing footage. You have Orbit (drone rotates a subject of your choosing), Cable-Cam (traveling side profile of your moving subject), Reveal (camera pans up to reveal horizon), and Dronie (camera focuses on subject by flies backward). We really like these preset shots. Bottom line with Karma is that it’s a better drone than a lot of folks admit. We use the Mavic Pro more often, but quite regularly incorporate Karma too.