Going into the 2015 holiday season, we decided to put together our list of the best beginner quadcopter and video drones for 2015. This will hopefully make it easier for everyone to find that perfect beginner quadcopter or drone this holiday season!
BEST VIDEO DRONE
Below is a list of our favorite drones that are designed for shooting video and taking pictures. Most of these have built in cameras and gimbal systems and have FPV (first person view) onboard. These drones range in price from $400 to well over $4,000. Whether you are a brand new pilot, or seasoned expert, there is a drone for you in this list.
Once you start perfecting your flying skills, check out our post “Top 10 Drone Footage Tips” to expand your skills!
Are you new to drones? Visit our “How Drones Work” article to learn more.
The Phantom 3 Professional is perhaps the most popular drone in the world. The Pro model adds in 4K video and intelligent batteries all while maintaining 20 minute flight times. Its ease to use and beautiful UHD video makes this one of our favorite drones.
The Phantom 3 Professional just seems to do everything perfectly, and that’s what we want in a drone. There’s a good reason that there are so many of these flying around. The 4K video is gorgeous, FPV distance is extremely good (over 1 mile), and the gimbal is buttery smooth and stable.
The only additional features you would need or want out of this is dual operator and retractable landing gear, but that is exactly why DJI made the Inspire 1. So if you are looking for a drone that shoots amazing video and has incredible FPV, look no farther than the DJI Phantom 3 Professional.
The Phantom 3 Advanced shares many of the same features as the Professional model, but lacks 4K video and intelligent batteries. For most these are subtle differences, especially the consumers not requiring 4K video.
The Advanced model showcases most of the same features that make the Professional such an amazing drone. It has the FPV distance, DJI Go App capability, and is incredibly easy to fly. The only real downside is 2.7K video instead of 4K. However, for most people this isn’t an issue and is a good reason to save a few hundred bucks.
The Phantom 3 Standard is a step down from the Advanced version, still capable of shooting 2.7k video, but with a major decrease in FPV distance. It also lacks the bottom position sensors. For many consumers that fly recreationally, this is the best bang for their buck.
The Standard model fills the gap for pilots who want that buttery smooth gimbal, FPV, and video capabilities, but are okay with sacrificing FPV distance and video resolution. Think of the Professional and Advanced models being for pilots trying to operate commercially, and the Standard is for hobbyists flying around for fun. The Standard has all the features that make the Phantom 3 lineup truly amazing, and a price point that appeals to most anyone.
The Q500 has many good qualities on paper, but many don’t perform as well as expected. The 4K video suffers in comparison to similarly priced drones, and the handheld mount runs through batteries like crazy.
The Yuneec comes with many features, but none of them seem to work overly well. The video is a little blurry towards the edges of the frame, and the handheld video mount doesn’t perform overly well. For this price point, we would recommend the Phantom 3 Professional or Advanced.
The DJI Inspire 1 Pro is the cream of the crop, and has the price tag to prove it. The major difference between the Inspire 1 and the Inspire 1 Pro is the new micro 4/3s camera, coined the Zenmuse X5 and X5R. Both of these are micro 4/3’s with interchangeable lenses, but the X5R offers 4K RAW with built-in solid state drive.
This is the ultimate set up before going to a heavy lift platform for REDS and Alexas. The price may seem a little high, but has every feature we want. The larger micro 4/3s sensor handles low light much better than the previous X3 and finally offers interchangeable lenses for creative shots.
If you’re looking for the most professional platform out there, this is for you.
Our in-depth review here.
The DJI Inspire 1 was DJI’s first RTF platform that offered both 4K video and dual operator FPV. The camera shares the same sensor as the Phantom 3 Pro, but the dual operator capability with retractable landing gear makes it one of a kind.
The platform is nearly the same as the Inspire 1 Pro, except with the smaller X3 camera instead of the X5. However, the X3 does amazing for 90% of the shots you would ever need. The real noticeable difference between the two is when lighting gets low. We have found that the original Inspire fits such a perfect niche that it is hard to say no to. It is significantly cheaper than the Inspire 1 Pro, and has all the high end features like dual operator and a 360 degree gimbal.
The Solo is a solid flying platform and has future potential. But being in the same price class as the Phantom series, it hardly competes. The FPV is inferior to the Phantoms, as well as not having any sort of gimbal or camera system built in. For this price range, we’d recommend a Phantom 3 Advanced or Professional.
The saving grace with the Solo is its attached accessory bay. 3DR is pushing for third party suppliers to start creating accessories for this. I’m guessing items like flashlights and FPV equipment will be the standard.
BEST BEGINNER QUADCOPTER
Our list of best beginner quadcopter and drones showcases platforms smaller in size and less featured driven than the “Video Drones” shown above. What beginner drones do offer are price points that make them extremely affordable, fun to fly, and small enough to be flown in the house. These are the perfect stocking stuffers.
Beginner drones are much more difficult to fly. This is because they lack the automation and stability systems that larger drones have. This makes them incredibly fun to fly. Since the inevitable crash will occur, they tolerate the occasional drywall or carpet just fine and have cheap replacement parts.
The rating and ranking values below are not relative or comparable to the ranking scale in “Best Video Drones” above. They are only relative to this category.
The Blade Nano QX is our favorite “in-the-house” quad. It fits in the palm of your hand and is surprisingly easy to fly. Since it is so small, it doesn’t handle strong winds very well. The Nano comes with prop guards and does a great job handling the inevitable crash.
Flying it around the house is so much fun. Although your spouse or cat will definitely think otherwise. The batteries are cheap and quick to charge, so don’t be too disappointed with the lower flight times.
No matter what we say about the Syma X5 and X5C, it is hard to beat it’s price at $28 and $48, respectively. The good news is that the Syma is AWESOME! It is larger than the Blade Nano QX, so indoor flying is a little more of a challenge.
Flight time is between 6-8 minutes. This is fairly short in comparison to the video drones reviewed above, but pretty average for beginner drones. The X5C comes equipped with a little camera and included 2gb SD card. This camera won’t be putting any footage on the big screen, but adds a nice “fun factor” to flying where you can review your flight and footage later.
The Husban X4 is another quad on the smaller side that can fit in the palm of your hand. It doesn’t fly near as stable as the Blade Nano, but for half the price, it is well worth the investment. For the price, I bought 3 of them and have a blast flying around the house not being quite as concerned as crashing as I would with other models.
For beginner drones, the UDI U818A-1 Discovery has it all. This is definitely larger than the Nano and Husban, but features a 720p camera and larger frame to be used outdoors. It is still on the lighter side, so be cautious with wind. The HD camera won’t blow your mind like the Video Drones above, but is still very impressive for an item just under $100.
Alright, now this thing is fun! Yep, this is the same Blade Nano QX we were praising just above. But now it has FPV (first person view). FPV is flying the drone through the drones point of view via a headset. It is just like virtual reality video games in a sense.
Flying FPV is an absolute blast. If you have never tried it, you need to! The Blade Nano QX FPV comes with Fatshark headsets, which are usually $250ish alone. The resolution is 320×240, so nothing overly great and doesn’t perform any onboard video recording.
The only reason we put the overall score slightly lower is because of the price. $420 isn’t terrible, but is significantly higher than other drones in its category
The Lumenier QAV250 has developed quite a following in the drone world. It is offered in a RTF (ready to fly) package or just the frame itself. Since this is a beginners guide, we are review the RTF version only.
This drone lies somewhere between beginners and DIY’ers. It is ready to fly, but requires a transmitter to be programmed, which might be a little confusing to someone with zero RC experience. However, it is perfect for the beginner who wants to progress to building their own drones later in the future.
This model is fully customizable. The motors, props, electronics, etc. can all be modified and upgraded. This little guy is a speed demon and is constructed very well (carbon fiber). If your goal is to eventually use it for video purposes and are looking in this price range, then the DJI Phantom 3 Standard is much more appropriate. If you’d like something customizable, then this is abslutely perfect.