Cheapest 4K Video
- Eachine E520S
- DJI Mavic 2
- DJI Air 2S
Drones are a hot tech gadget that can be fun and can even enable you to earn some extra money if you’re a little entrepreneurial. The best drones that you can get generally come in at more than $1000 which is a little steep if you’re not professionally committed or are prepared to throw a fair amount of money around. You can get budget drones for less than $100, but these lack a lot of features as you get what you pay for. Three main areas you’ll suffer in the budget class are flight duration, camera quality, and collision avoidance.
The mid-market price bracket is generally the perfect balance between a strong feature set and a reasonable price. For drones that price range is roughly between $100 and $1000. This is also the price range in which you will start needing to be aware of local regulations. In the US for example, if you pilot a drone over 250g you must register with the FAA, a process that costs a few dollars. This is intended to ensure that you have read and understood the laws that cover where you are legally prevented from flying. Be aware that breaching these laws can incur a very hefty fine as well as a prison sentence, so familiarise yourself with the legal requirements in your area.
- 4K30 Videos
- 12MP Photos
- Folds to easily fit in bags
- Flight time: 31 minutes
- Maximum range: 10km
- Weight: 249g
The DJI Mini 2 is a great mid-market drone, that specifically squeaks under the FAA registration weight limit requirement by a single gram. To keep to this weight restriction, obstacle detection sensors haven’t been fitted, which prevents the drone from being able to track moving subjects. This means you can’t set it to follow you while you mountain bike down a scenic trail. It does include a number of preprogrammed flight paths, though you’ll need to be careful to avoid obstacles.
The Mini 2 has almost all other bases covered. It folds down to easily fit in a backpack or even a modestly sized pocket. It can stream 1080p video at a range of up to 10km and record video at 4K30. The find my drone feature is a great feature if you can’t land your drone nearby, it tells you the drone’s last known position, and you can make it flash its lights and make sounds assuming it has enough battery left to do so.
- Long flight time
- 4K60 video
- Front and back collision avoidance sensors
- Flight time: 34 minutes
- Maximum range: 10km
- Weight: 590g
The mid-range DJI Mavic 2 is very similar to the Mini 2 but ditches the 250g weight limit. In fact, more than doubling the weight means it requires FAA registration but also means it can have more features and a slightly improved flight time. The included camera can now record 4K60 video. It’s even possible to record Hyperlapse videos in 8K.
The live video resolution and maximum range remain the same, however, flight time is increased to 34 minutes, despite the weight gain. The Mavic 2 also features front, rear, and downward collision avoidance sensors, that allow the drone to automatically steer around obstacles such as trees without any extra input. You should be careful relying on it too much though, as there are no side- or upward-facing sensors. In some camera modes, objects or people can be tracked, enabling some great action shots.
- Upward facing collision avoidance sensors
- 4K30 and 4K60 video
- 1 inch sensor
- Flight time: 31 minutes
- Maximum range: 12km
- Weight: 590g
The DJI Air 2S is an upgrade to the Mavic Air 2, it features an upgraded camera and upward facing collision avoidance sensors. These sensors are forward leaning so they won’t help avoid obstacles above and behind. The upgraded communication system means you can control and receive live 1080p video at distances of up to 12km.
The camera upgrade is noticeable for those looking to work at ultra-high resolution. 5.4K video is however, limited to 30fps, it would also require a greater than 4K monitor to properly appreciate, a market that is relatively limited. Further to that some of the features such as target tracking don’t work at 5.4K or at 60fps. While this is a great drone, the price increase is difficult to justify unless you will really make use of the upgraded camera.
- 4K30 and 1080p60 video
- Up to 2.8x lossless digital zoom
- USB Type-C charging
- Flight time: 25 minutes
- Maximum range: 4km
- Weight: 320g
The Parrot Anafi is comparable to the DJI Mini 2 in terms of performance but has been around a lot longer. The tech was impressive when it was released but has generally been surpassed now. To allow for this the price has come down a fair bit, but it still costs a little more than the DJI Mini 2. A comparison the Anafi also loses because it’s, got a worse flight time, maximum range and is heavier. This means you need to register with the FAA to be able to fly it in the US.
The Anafi was designed to fold away easily to make it easier to transport. Flight assistance features are limited to automatic take-off and landing, and a return to home feature. No obstacle detection sensors are included so you’ll have to be more careful when flying or using any of the preprogrammed manoeuvres.
- 4K video
- Very cheap
- Waypoint flying system
- Flight time: 16 minutes
- Maximum range: 300m
- Weight: 248g
The Eachine E520S is a very cheap Chinese drone offering 4K video for just over $100. The designers went all out on the camera and so little of the weight and cost budget is left for other parts. There are no collision-avoidance sensors, battery life is limited to 16 minutes, and the maximum range is 300m. While the drone can be controlled to a range of 300m live video can only be transmitted at a range of 250m.
Despite the low price, it does offer some neat features including a waypoint system and a “follow me” tracking system, allowing the drone to fly hands-free. You will have to be careful that when following an automatic flight path there are no objects in its way as it will not try to avoid them. If you want to try out 4K drone footage but don’t want to spend hundreds of dollars this is a pretty decent starting point.
Those were our picks for the best mid-market drones in 2021. Have you recently bought any of them or any other mid-market drones? Let us know what model you went for and what sold you on it down below.