When the first drones hit the retail market, they were best flown outdoors, the higher and faster the better. As cameras got better, and the drones began to hover with amazing precision, close up photography became possible.
Quadcopters were then built smaller and smarter, to the point they could be stored in your pocket, flown indoors without worry of a crash and are getting their selfie game on. That is, they’re allowing you to get your selfie game on. Here are some of the best selfie drones on the market today.
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Let’s get a few things out of the way first, primarily, I am about to share my thoughts on camera capabilities. I just want to reaffirm that there are many small drones with cameras that can allow you to take a selfie. It is merely my opinion that the difference between a toy and a tool is dramatic.
As fun as it is to use a flying camera to take shots, I wholeheartedly believe it is important to consider what your purpose is for a drone. Fun toys are one thing, a serious camera is another; these two things rarely cross paths in a single product.
Phone or drone?
This is where I draw the line between toy and tool, folks, and if you have been using smartphones over the years, what I am about to say should make perfect sense. The best drone cameras on drones under ~$1000 are on par with the cameras in better phones on the market today. In some cases, we’re talking about the same internal sensors, actually.
Glad to announce: The DJI Mavic 2 Pro packs a 1-inch Hasselblad camera, a marked upgrade from most phone sensors around.
If you think of a $1000 drone like a flagship smartphone, you can appreciate that a $500 drone is still going to be good, but not the best. A $100 drone is going to be, likely, not a great camera experience. Not trying to up-sell you on anything. I just thought it fair to point out that drones are a young and hot market, that manufacturers are still learning how to make better products – many are throwing their hat in the ring without much experience.
My point is simple, we are about to lay out some of the best selfie drones, but none are going to be better than a smartphone of the same price. If you are looking to have fun flying, please be prepared to spend a little more if you also want great shots.
New idea: DJI Osmo Pocket
As I write this, you can order this new pocket-sized, 3-axis stabilized, hand-held camera and gimbal, but it’s still a few days before it starts shipping to consumers. Regardless, if you are happy with the camera output of drones like the DJI Mavic Air and newer DJI Mavic 2 Zoom, the new Osmo Pocket may appeal to you. Check out our review below and stay tuned for more coverage as we go.
Important consideration: image stabilization
The absolute most important thing you are going to want on your selfie drone is image stabilization. Once airborne, even the absolute best drones wobble in the air. Image stabilization is the tool that makes for great photos and video.
If you are not sure what image stabilization is, I won’t explain it all, but a combination of hardware and software is used to keep your image steady. Flexible parts and motorized leveling arms work on the outside, while software uses cropping or other techniques to compensate for the jolt of rapid movements.
Bottom line, a fixed camera will never produce the same quality as a camera affixed to a Gimbal. However, you may not need the very best, check out the options, there might just be a lower cost unit that does exactly what you need.
Drone legal and safety
Final thoughts before we begin
I want to express a thought before you dive into the camera drones below, well, that was sort of it, actually. Many of the top quadcopters on the market today are highly skilled at hovering in place and offering up great photos, so what makes a selfie drone so special? Truth is, we’ve been sitting on this article for a while, some of the cute and highly-portable drones you are about to see have some serious compromises as far as flight goes.
Larger drones offer many flight assist features, including larger batteries, redundant flight controllers and a multitude of positioning and collision prevention sensors. Most of the drones on our list today lack in these departments mostly just to limit the size of the unit. The DJI Mavic Pro, which originally started off our list, is one of the smallest drones to include the best flight features DJI could muster at the time.
This is not a written rule, it is entirely possible that smaller drones pack just as many safety and flight features as the Mavic Pro. At this stage in the game, we doubt it. Which is why we will simply say that the best selfie drone is going to be the best camera drone with the form factor you can handle.
Let’s get into the list.
If you are flying for pay, or any other form of compensation, you must operate under a different set of rules and possess a commercial drone license. We call it the Part 107, it’s not too hard to get, but it will take some time to learn all the rules. We want to help you learn the rules and get your commercial license, check out our drone pilot training material.
DJI Mavic 2 Zoom
Introduced in August 2018, the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom is a powerful update to the Mavic line, offering a higher bitrate for video capture and a nifty trick, zoom. The 1/2.3-inch sensor has a 24mm lens in front, that can zoom out to 48mm. Add on to that a 2x digital zoom and you’ll enjoy some of the best close-ups from a drone camera in-flight, all without risking a propeller haircut. If you are not into the zoom thing, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro has a 1-inch camera sensor, for even better overall image quality.
Check out the DJI Mavic 2 Zoom for $1,187 today. Initial retail price of $1249.
DJI Mavic Air
Announced in January of 2018, the DJI Mavic Air combines all of the best features from the DJI Spark and DJI Mavic Pro, crams them into an impressively compact machine and takes things to the next level. Can you tell we are impressed with this machine? In the air, the Mavic Air is larger than the Spark and smaller than the Mavic Pro, but when folded, it is the smallest of the batch.
Enjoy an update to the same 1/2.3-inch camera sensor as the other drones, now with a 100 Mbps data rate that really makes a difference. Also, the new Quickshot flight modes, Boomerang and Asteroid, add some new life to your selfie game.
DJI Mavic Pro
Update: DJI has announced the new DJI Mavic Pro Platinum, an updated version of the drone that is quieter and remains airborne longer. Stay tuned for more coverage on that.
Perhaps the DJI Mavic Pro is overkill for basic selfie needs, but it may just be one of the most capable. The overall flight stability of the Mavic Pro makes it a superb option for your selfie needs, whether indoor our out you can expect this folding drone to hover in place with great accuracy. The 4K camera with 12MP still shots excels at large images of landscapes, and is not exactly designed for low-light shooting, but it’s one of the best out there nonetheless.
One of the original players in the selfie drone game, the Hover Passport offers extremely simple controls. Just toss it into the air and it should remain hovering in place. Use the mobile application to control the unit. Folding, strong, well protected, small enough to not need FAA registration and a few autonomous flight modes make the Hover Passport an intriguing option.
Hover Passport is $219 and packs a 4K camera with 13MP stills.
JJRC H37 Elfie
JJRC is best known for low cost toy class drones, and we’d be wrong to suggest that the H37 class Elfie is any different. However, features like altitude and position hold, along with a decent 0.3MP shooter may just be the right option on a budget. Don’t mistake this for a drone that would make it on our best camera drones list, but if you are looking for a folding drone and have less than $50 to spend, well, this is a solid offering..
Check out the JJRC H37 Elfie for $40 on Amazon today.
DJI has announced and started pre-sales, but have not yet started shipping the new DJI Spark. We went to New York to enjoy the launch event for this tiny drone with a unique control method, your hands. The Spark is not the first drone to accept hand gestures for certain actions, but it’s the first we know of that can be flown entirely, from take off to landing, from the palm of your hand. The new Quickshot camera modes add a level of ease for any pilot, even first time fliers, as the drone handles the hard stuff, you just have to smile and wave.
The DJI Spark is up for sale from $299 with no controller, so we recommend the Fly More bundle with extra battery, the remote control and more from $459. Regular price of $499 and $699.
Let’s make it clear, I have not yet flown the GDU O2, but I have had it in hand and watched it fly at the official unveiling at InterDrone 2017. I am excited about this drone and I think you will be too. It packs itself away when you dock it to the remote, making portability close to the best we’ve seen for any drone. It flies very well, at least indoors with no wind, and the battery offers enough life to get your selfie and more.
Of course, GDU had selfies in mind when they were designing flight modes and functions. Along with many great options, there are a few flight modes to best capture selfies, and there is gesture detection to trigger a selfie photo.
Placing the drone in a competitive spot, you’ll need $732 for the GDU O2. Stick around to learn more about an updated version coming soon with a few more features yet.
Please do remember that the best selfie drone, in terms of image quality, is not going to be one of the compact flying machines that can fit in your pocket. Check out our Best camera drones for a solid camera experience. However, because these little machines can fit in your pocket, or close to, they do offer a unique experience and may just be the best machine for your needs.
If nothing else, one of the pocket portable drones on our list today should perform about as well as your smartphone, and is a bit easier to have in place than your selfie stick.
What is your favorite drone for taking selfies? Rather, do you bother taking selfies using a drone, or do you just ask strangers to hold your phone?