5 Best mini drones with Camera for pilots of any skill level

When I first stepped into the drone industry 5 years ago, drones were everything but affordable and portable, even the cheapest one would cost you hundreds of dollars. Thanks to the fast developing technology, no matter you are looking for an expensive drone for aerial photography, or just a budget mini drone with camera for fun, you can now easily find a suitable one.

Mini drones are considered to be a good start for those who want to gain more flying experience before putting your hands on a much more expensive one. It’s also a great toy for both adults and kids who love the enjoyment of flying. 

After spending a week’s time doing research on more than 30 mini drones that top the sales online by reading reviews from other websites, studying customer feedback, collecting information from forums and social media, and watching massive YouTube videos. We have come out with a list of the top 5 mini drones for you.

Before we get to the detailed review, let’s first take a quick look at what makes a good mini drone.

What you should consider before buying a mini drone?

When it comes to choosing the best mini drone, there are so many aspects to consider such as your budget, your skill level, and usage, which vary from people to people. After our research, we have concluded the following factors that you should mainly pay attention to.

  • Longer Flight time. The longer a drone can fly, the more enjoyment you will get. 5 minutes is a must otherwise you will find yourself ending up with frequent takeoff and landing.
  • Good crash-resistance. No matter you are a novice or an expert, it’s inevitable that you may crash many times on walls or in trees. A durable one would save you a lot of trouble and money.
  • Easy to use. As most users of mini drones are beginner pilots or even young children, easy-to-use plays a critical part, functions like auto takeoff and landing, return to home will greatly smoother your flying.
  • Fun to fly. Drones that packed with features like flipping, FPV (first person view), bouncing or programming are so much fun.
  • Prompt Customer Service. Although you may have done everything you have to, read the manual several times, watched the videos on how to fly, chances are you might still encounter issues during your first flight. Good and prompt customer service will greatly remove the blue and frustration this may cause.
  • Control range. This is something that determines how far your drone could go. It can reach a distance as long as 2 kilometers or as short as 30 meters.
  • Budget. The price of mini drones ranges from $30+ to $300+ depending on brands and capabilities. The huge difference means you may easily get lost trying to find the right one. A clear budget plan will help you only focus on a small list.

The Ryze Tello

Our rating: 4.5 out of 5

Suitable for: Beginner pilots, kids, and teenagers.

Key Specs

  • Max Flight Distance: 100m (300+ feet)
  • Max Flight Height: 30m
  • Max Flight time: 13 minutes
  • Max Speed: 8m/s
  • Photos: 5MP
  • Videos: 720p
  • Stabilization: EIS (Electronic Image Stabilization)

This drone really packs a decent amount of features into a fairly small body. Many people think highly about its durability and reliability, saying that you may or will crash it many times, but it would work just fine. I personally crashed it more than 10 times but nothing goes wrong.

Another thing that users like the most is the flight performance, claiming that this one does what it does very well while cheap drones are always a challenge to fly. It’s pretty stable in light wind, and very easy to control, plus the picture and video quality are good enough.

Different people seem to find all that they need from it. Beginner pilots said it’s perfect for practicing their flying skills, kids love it for the cool features like 8D flips and bounce mode. Every time I fly it, my two-year-old girl always asked me to make the drone stunt. Teens use it to program and hobbyists experience FPV flying with VR headset.

People do have small problems like controlling with phones, not like a controller, operating via the App on your phone may cause slow and sluggish controls, many suggest to get a 3-party controller. Most users would also get at least an extra battery for longer flight time.

It’s neither the cheapest nor the most expensive among all that reviewed, but just like many people commented, it’s a great drone to start out with. The flight performance of this drone is much better than those have a lower or similar price.

Pros

  • Precise hovering. The altitude and position hold work quite well.
  • Good Reliability, you may crash many times and it will survive just fine
  • Up to 13 mins flight time
  • 100m flight distance
  • 5MP photos & 720P Videos with Electronic Image Stabilization that ensures the quality
  • Record coordinated short videos with Circle, 360, and Up & Away
  • Auto Takeoff/Landing
  • Low Battery Protection
  • 720P HD Live View
  • VR headset compatibility. Fly with a breathtaking FPV(first-person view).
  • 2 Antennas with smart switching
  • Extensive accessories supported
  • Programmable with Scratch
  • 8D Flip allows you to perform cool aerial stunts
  • Bounce Mode makes the drone up and down automatically
  • Powered by DJI and Intel, excellent flight performance

Cons

  • One battery, need to pay for extra ones
  • No controller included
  • Control through the phone is just not that easy to do
  • No compatible 3-party Bluetooth controller for Android
  • Drift in more dimly lit rooms
  • Max speed is not fast enough

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The Holy Stone F181C

Our rating: 4.4 out of 5

Suitable for: 14 years and up. Supervision needed for kids

Key Specs

  • Max Flight Distance: 100m (300 feet)
  • Max Flight time: 9 minutes
  • Max Speed: 14 m/s
  • Videos: 720p

Most people like this drone for its easy-to-fly, saying that it’s a good choice not only entry-levels but also intermediate flyers. You can get a lot of fun flying it. It also performs pretty well when flying indoor. Some parents bought this for their child and really enjoyed the time flying together.

Responsive customer service is one of the few things people commented too. If you encounter any problem with the drone, the customer support team would walk you through, if it’s something that can’t be solved, you can get a replacement very quickly.

Another thing that impressed users is that the drone comes with a lot of extra accessories like a spare battery, SD card, blades which you may need to pay if choosing another brand.

People also commented that the camera is very shaky, so don’t expect too much on quality videos and photos. It’s too susceptible to wind or any slight breezes when flying outdoor, and could be easily blown away. The real flight time of one battery is around 6 minutes, which is also not satisfactory.

Pros

  • One-Key Return & Landing
  • Headless mode for easy flying
  • Altitude Hold for stable hovering
  • Up to 9 minutes of flight time
  • 50 – 100 meters flight distance
  • 3D Flips & Rolls
  • 4 Speed Control Modes
  • Left/Right Hand Operation Mode
  • Durable and solid
  • Cool looking, particularly the LED lights
  • Remote included, the controls work very well, pretty clear and easy to use
  • Comes with two batteries, offers longer flight time.
  • Easy to attach the camera
  • Great customer service

Cons

  • No FPV (First Person View)
  • Altitude hold is not as good as advertised.
  • Shaky videos & photos
  • Poor performance outdoor, drift even in light breezes
  • Descending speed is too slow
  • Motors will heat up with high-speed spinning. You will need to cool the motor down for 10 minutes between each flight.

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The Syma X21W

Our rating: 4.3 out of 5

Suitable for: 8 years and up, especially beginner pilots

Key Specs

  • Max Flight Distance: 70m (230 feet)
  • Flight time: 6 – 8 minutes
  • Videos: 720p


People commented that as a starter drone, this model is excellent and a lot of fun when used indoors, but outside use is a little bit challenging since this model has no GPS or optical image stabilization to keep it in place in windy days. This is common for most of the models in this category because the GPS and vision positioning system are likely to be seen only in advanced drones.

One of the things that impressed the users most is the durability. Some said that they crashed it a couple of times – banged in the wall, ceiling, floor, and even themselves and the drone survived all of it.

The real flight time is 5 – 8 minutes depending on how you use it. Many say this is a little bit disappointing but pretty standard for the size, the good thing is it comes with 2 batteries which offer you longer flight time.

You can either control it via your phone (use wifi connection) or the remote comes with it, when controlling with your phone you will be able to experience the FPV mode though the transmission is a bit laggy.

As a starter drone, this model is excellent and a lot of fun when used indoors, but outside use is a little bit challenging since this model has no GPS or optical image stabilization to keep it in place in windy conditions which also means it’s not capable of taking decent photos or videos.

Pros

  • Altitude hold function
  • Headless mode
  • One-key backward, take off and landing
  • Control with Smartphone App or Remote
  • Built-in 6 axis gyro stability
  • 3D Flips & Roll
  • 2-speed modes from low to high are suitable for both beginners and experienced pilots
  • 2 batteries included
  • FPV Mode
  • Great durability
  • Well-designed transmitter with ease of use and has many options that are found in expensive drones

Cons

  • Battery life doesn’t last long, and charging takes over 90 minutes
  • WiFi transmission for FPV is laggy
  • Poor camera quality
  • Too small for far-flying, not very suitable for outdoor use
  • Motors will heat up with high-speed spinning. You will need to cool the motor down for 10 minutes between each flight.

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The Drocon U31W Navigator

Our rating: 4.2 out of 5

Suitable for: 14 years and up. Supervision needed for kids

Key Specs

  • Max Flight Distance: 30m with phones, 70m with a controller
  • Max Flight time: 7 minutes
  • Max Speed: 8m/s
  • Photos: 2MP
  • Videos: 720p

Most people commented that the drone is easy and fun to fly and good to get started with. it is lightweight and well constructed. The one-touch takeoff and landing function makes it easy to regain control.

The video quality is good among this category, but don’t expect it to be as good as your smartphone. On the other hand, the photo quality is great. There is no image stabilization software, so you have to have a steady hand if you want to film.

One thing most people commented is the quality customer service, you can get immediate assistance and quick replacement for non-solvable problems.

Users usually like the fact that the FPV mode makes you feel like you’re flying, but the max range of this drone is only 30m, and live feed will break up and lag.

One common problem is that it won’t fly well in wind, but that can be avoided by using the easy trim feature. The different speed modes are nice too, they offer easy flying for indoor use.

Compared to most of the drones in this category, it lacks the feature of flipping which users think is cool and fun, especially for kids.

The flight time is no surprise too short which seems a common problem for a drone in this size, so most people recommend buying extra batteries for longer flights.

Pros

  • 720P HD camera
  • 2MP photos
  • Altitude hold mode enables the drone hover at a fixed height
  • One-key takeoff and landing
  • Headless mode ensures easy control
  • Out of range alarm
  • Low battery alarm
  • FPV mode and VR headset compatibility
  • Remote included and is easy to use
  • Easy Setup

Cons

  • No stabilization for videos and photos
  • Battery life is not satisfactory
  • Can’t hold steady in the light wind
  • No 360-degree flipping
  • Motors will heat up with high-speed spinning. You will need to cool the motor down for 10 minutes between each flight.

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The DJI Spark 

Our rating: 4.4 out of 5

Suitable for: Beginner pilots who also want to get into aerial photography. Not suitable for kids.

Key Specs

  • Max Flight Distance: 2 km (1.2 miles)
  • Max Flight time: 16 minutes
  • Max Speed: 31 mph (50 kph)
  • Photos: 12MP
  • Videos: 1080p

DJI Spark is the most expensive one in the reviewed list yet the most powerful one in terms of camera, flight time, control range and flight performance and so on. Many people liked the small size and lightweight and impressed with it’s easy-to-fly.

I’ve searched hundreds of feedbacks of the users and hardly saw any complaint on this drone’s hovering and the capability of resisting strong wind which is a common issue for others, but beginners are not recommended to fly indoors until you get familiar with the controls.

The real flight time can reach up to 13 minutes which is not bad but users also needed to buy extra batteries. Some of the users who like flying commented on the FPV immersive experience, saying that the 720P real time live view is pretty stable and has no laggy when using with FPV goggles. 

One thing that impressed users is the high-performance camera. Not only can it shoot 1080P 30fps videos and 12 MP photos but the 2-Axis mechanical gimbal also ensures them shake-free.

As an experienced pilot, I have flown Spark for many times, it’s kind of in an awkward position, for novices or those who are not ready to spend a few hundred on a hobby, the value/price ratio is not that good, for experts all the cool features are not good enough though they can beat those in this category easily.

Pros

  • High-performance camera, 12 MP photo, and 1080P video
  • Intelligent flight modes for easy use and fun flying
  • Auto return to home
  • Precise hovering, fly steady in strong winds
  • 16 minutes of flight time
  • Up to 12mi (2km) flight distance
  • 50 KM/H flight speed
  • 2-Axis gimbal ensures shake-free shots
  • 720 HD live view with no laggy
  • Unique Gesture Modes for easy control
  • Palm Landing/Take Off
  • Well Designed and Durable
  • Dedicated DJI GO App for easy to fly control

Cons

  • The price is too high
  • Comes with only one battery
  • Essential accessories like extra battery are not cheap
  • Gesture mode is not as good as it says
  • Set up is somehow difficult for beginners
  • The non-foldable arms make it harder to store.

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Conclusion

Overall users thought these drones are doing a great job for what they do, allowing them to experience the fun of flying, advancing their flying skills. Of the five mini drones reviewed in this article, The Ryze Tello is the best in terms of durability, price, flight performance, camera, and safety. People do have technical problems with Android phones, and the price is no the most competitive, you need to pay for extra batteries and remote.

Due to limited resources, we are unable to test and research every single on in the market, we would like you to share your experience with us. If you have any questions, please leave your comment below.

What is a mini drone?

A mini drone sometimes called a micro or nano drone is small in size and light in weight with excellent portability. Most of them are equipped with a built-in camera that allows you to take videos or photos when flying. Generally, it can fit in an adult’s palm, and can be controlled either with a dedicated remote or simply just your phone. It usually comes with a flight time of 5 – 10 minutes, and a control range of 50 – 100 meters, while an advanced one may reach 16 minutes’ flight and 2 KM for transmission.

Compared to normally sized drones, most mini drones are limited in many aspects such as shorter flight time and control range, interior imaging system and flight control system, which make it much more affordable with the price starting from $30.

Tips for flying a mini drone

Many people may think that cheap and small drones are easier to fly, but the truth is the more expensive a drone is the simpler it is when it comes to operation. After doing research of a few hundred cases of accidents with customer feedbacks, below are what can help you significantly reduce the risk of crashing or flyaway.

  • Read the manual carefully until you fully understand how to operate, and know all the limitations and don’t try to do anything that beyond your new drone’s capabilities.
  • If you are a pilot with zero flying experience, practice it indoor before you take it out.
  • Give some basic training to anyone who wants to try, especially kids, and be ready to take back control any minute.
  • Avoid trees, bushes, lakes, rivers, and buildings if you are fresh.
  • Don’t fly in strong winds and make sure the battery is always fully charged before taking off.
  • Check the battery life regularly so that you can get it back before falling to the ground
  • Always keep an eye on your drone if you don’t feel positive flying it blindly.

For more flying tips, check this website for more details.

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