One of the best features of modern drones is the way they’ve revolutionized the field of aerial photography. Small drones can take footage of places that traditional aerial photography – which required a helicopter or airplane – can’t reach.
And because quadcopters are lightweight and usually equipped with 6-axis gyros, they’re also extremely stable – far moreso than a cameraman hanging out of some manned aerial vehicle can be, even a professional.
This – combined with the fact that renting a drone is a lot cheaper than the alternative – is why drones with cameras have been used in a number of major motion pictures, including Skyfall, Jurassic World, and Captain America: Civil War.
But how can you get this superpower for yourself? Most of the drones used in those kinds of movies are prohibitively expensive, running you easily more than $1000. But don’t lose hope yet – the consumer drone market has exploded in the past three years, and it’s become very easy to find a cheap drone with a camera for sale.
Too easy, in fact – it can be hard for newcomers to navigate the oversaturated market and find the best affordable camera drone for them. That’s why we’ve compiled this handy list of the top five best cheap RC drones with cameras.
We’ve flown all of the camera drones on here and have rated them not just by number of features, but by overall usability and purpose. Our top drone, the AA108, isn’t necessarily the most advanced of the quadcopters on this list, but it is the one we think will be the most enjoyable for the most people. We also looked at considerations such as pricing and how beginner-friendly each vehicle was, since many people looking for cheap drones with cameras will also be first-time fliers.
What are drones?
A drone is any aerial vehicle that is not flown by an onboard pilot. A lot of drones are also quadcopters, a specific type of aerial vehicle which (as the name implies) is kept in the air by four propellers – two turning clockwise, two turning counterclockwise. All quadcopters are drones, but not all drones are quadcopters. Drones are usually controlled with a radio transmitter (similar to an RC car) or with a mobile device.
Do I need to register my drone?
It depends where you’re located. If you’re in England, yes. In America (as of 2017) you usually only have to register your drone if you’re using it commercially – that is, if you’re using it in some capacity that makes money. You also have to meet specific pilot and aircraft requirements. It’s best to look up your local laws and regulations and make sure to comply with them.
What is aerial photography?
Exactly what it sounds like – photos or videos that are taken from up in the air. Aerial photography was historically achieved with helicopters, but is now usually done with quadcopters, making it much more accessible.
What sort of features should I look for in a camera drone?
An FPV setup is crucial for lining up shots. Otherwise, you should look for the quality of the camera, the flight range, and what kind of stabilization the drone has.
What does FPV mean?
FPV is a term that comes up a lot when talking about drones and especially when talking about camera drones. It stands for “First Person Video” or “First Person View” and means that you can see what the drone is seeing, usually on a mobile device but sometimes on a screen built directly into the drone controller.
|Product Name||Our Rating||Check Price|
|Altair Aerial AA108||VIEW ON AMAZON|
|Holy-Stone-F181||VIEW ON AMAZON|
|Altair 818 Hornet||VIEW ON AMAZON|
This article is for people who want to get into the field of aerial photography at a time when it’s more accessible than ever, but who aren’t yet ready or just don’t want to get involved with expensive commercial drones. You won’t find professional grade cameras here, but you will find excellent and easy-to-fly drones at a price that won’t break the bank.
The AA108 provides everything the budding aerial photographer could ask for – a drone that’s easy to use, fun to fly, and takes great photos and videos with minimal assembly. If you’re a first-time flier this camera drone is incredibly beginner-friendly, with a consistent hover pattern and a wide range of features that should make it very easy to use. These include a one-touch takeoff and landing, a headless mode that makes it a lot easier to steer, and a low speed setting specifically designed for beginners. It’s also incredibly durable, especially when you consider how small it is.
But if you’re a more advanced flier, the AA108 is a great drone for you, too. It has a very quick yaw and smooth controls that make it fun and fast for everyone to fly. And as far as the camera goes, the AA108’s equipped with a 720p HD camera that plays video at 30 FPS and which streams FPV video straight to any mobile device for free, making it easy to line up the perfect shot. Don’t take our word for it – you can see video taken from the AA108 for yourself here and here.
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The F181 doesn’t have a lot of the flying features of the AA108, but that’s because it’s focused on something that’s especially important for cheap drones with cameras: stability. 6-axis gyro stabilization means that the copter stays steady even in strong wind and allows the drone to perform 360 degree flips, turns, and stunts in midair – all of which you can capture to make dynamic, exciting videos with your drone. It also has an altitude hold function that will keep it hovering at the same height in the air, making it easy to get long-form, stable video.
It’s worth noting that the F1818 isn’t exactly a powerhouse. Though it comes with two batteries, each battery only lasts about 7-9 minutes, which means your videos are going to be fairly short (though that time should be perfect for photography.) It also only has a range of 50-100 meters, meaning that you can’t get that high in the air or that far away from the controller. But at a price of only $100, this is an excellent all-ages drone that’s great for amateur aerial photography.
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The Altair 818 is another of the best cheap RC drones with cameras. It has a lot of the features that other drones on this list have. The three difficulty settings make it great for beginners and advanced fliers alike, the Headless mode makes it very easy to fly, and the altitude hold mode is great for getting the perfect photography or videography shot. But this drone is also designed to have a slightly more stable and durable shape than some of its competition, with thicker prop guards and a modular, easy-to-repair design.
It has a shorter battery life, but includes three batteries, so if you charge them all at once you’ll actually fly for longer. It also has a return home function – by pressing a single button, the drone will automatically fly back to wherever it took off from before landing, which is a very useful feature for beginners who may have difficulty keeping the drone close.
If you’re a first-time pilot or your primary concern with a drone is how well it’s going to perform in a crash, then the U818A is the right choice for you.
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This is the cheapest drone on this list, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth your time and attention. For $50 you’re still getting a 720p HD camera and a 6-axis gyro for stability. What it doesn’t have is a whole lot else – the drone only weighs about 4 ounces, so if you fly it in the wind you’ll lose all control. It’s also not particularly beginner-friendly and it’s also not as durable as the other drones on this list, as you can probably tell from its cheap plastic frame.
BUT do keep in mind that only a few years ago, the idea of being able to take HD aerial photos or videos at all for only $50 was unthinkable. And for the price, this really is a great affordable drone with a camera. So if you’re willing to forego a few features in favor of frugality, the X5C is a fine choice.
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The U818 Plus is another excellent drone for all skill levels. It comes with a whole host of beginner-friendly features, like multiple flight modes, altitude hold, and a headless mode that makes it much easier to keep on course. It’s a little less durable, but designed primarily for stability, with a great hover that’s ideal for taking pictures. Most impressively of all, the 818 Plus can get 15 minutes of flight time off of a single charge, which is almost unheard-of at this price range.
The 818 Plus also has a 150 meter range (much better than the F181) and can stream FPV video to your phone at 60 meters. And finally, the drone comes with everything you need to start taking pictures and video right out of the box, with the TF card that the AA108 annoyingly lacks. These features make it a great choice for anyone who’s interested in amateur photography at the $150 level.
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Thanks for reading our ultimate guide to the best affordable drones with cameras. Hopefully you’ve not only learned more about this great and expanding hobby, but you’ve also been able to make a good selection that suits your needs and wants. If you’ve got any questions or have another drone you think should be on the list, please let us know in the comments!