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A 4K drone has the ability to produce impressively stunning aerial footage, and we will be looking at all of that in this review of the 12 best 4K drones that you can get on the market. We will also examine 4k camera technology, and how shooting with a 4k drone camera makes your filmed footages come out better.
4k drones come with ultra-high definition video cameras and are capable of recording crystal-clear, crisp and stunning videos. All the 4k drones featured in this article have outstanding and advanced features like precision stabilization, autonomous flight mode features like active tracking, waypoints, orbit and follow me which all help make filing during flights easier. Some 4K drones also have additional features like collision avoidance and obstacle detection. For the best professional aerial filming results, using drones with 4K video recording cameras attached is becoming the minimum standard. As of 2016, it was a relatively new technology, but now, it has become widely accepted, and virtually all filmmakers have drones with 4K cameras.
4K Drone Video Technology
A video camera that as a 4K ultra high-definition resolution has a display with a minimum of 8 million pixels and a lower resolution of at least 2840 x 2160. What these means is that a 4k drone will deliver four times of detail and quality that a 1080p full HD camera will deliver. A 1080p resolution has two million active pixels while a 4k resolution has 8 million active pixels. There are different variants of 4K digital cameras ranging from 3840 x 2160 to 4096 x 3112 but the 3840 x 2160 is the most consistent recording mode that most drone manufacturers use in their products such as Yuneec, DJI, Walkera, and Hubsan. This recording mode is also the most common in Ultra High-Definition/4K HD TVs and monitors.
The 3840 x 2160 resolution offers double of what the 1920 x 1080 resolution offers and the 1920 x 1080 is currently the standard for high-definition recording.
4k Video Recording Drones
Let's get right to the business of reviewing the best 4K video recording drones that captured our attention. These drones have quite a lot of features in common, and these features are currently the most sought-after features in aerial filming and photography drone cameras. Some of these features include flight modes like points of interest, waypoint navigation, orbit, watch me, tracking and follow me modes. They also have the best in fail-safe flying systems. These drones are some of the best 4K drones available in the market, and you are guaranteed to have the most fun with them.
The Best 4k Drones Comparison Table
DJI Mavic Air
DJI 2 Mavic PRO
DJI 2 Mavic Zoom
DJI Mavic Pro
DJI Phantom 4
DJI Inspire 2
CMOS 12MP 4K
21MP 4K HDR
12 MP 1080P FULL HD
CMOS 12MP 4K Ultra HD
5.2K X4S Camera
6.5 x 7 x 2.5 inches
12.6 x 9.5 x 3.3 inches
12.6 x 9.5 x 3.3 inches
6.9 x 9.4 x 2.56 inches
5.62 x 5.62 x 2.16 inches
17 x 19 x 3.5 inches
13.8 x 13.8 x 10 inches
23.8 x 23.8 x 18 inches
*Scroll right on mobile device to see every item
The Best 4k Drones Reviews
This is a small and light pocket rocket that delivers the best performance that you can get from a 4K drone. The Mavic Air features a 3-axis robust camera system, and it delivers detailed 12mp pictures with excellent contrast. The DJI MAVIC AIR can take for panorama image styles without any human control or interference. Once you select the panorama function, the drone hovers in a spot and captures images from different angles and puts the images together. You can control the Mavic Air using a mobile phone or palm gestures. So, if you are unable to find the hand controller, you can start flying using your mobile phone as a controller. However, using the controller is more enjoyable and satisfying as you can fly for up to a distance of 4km (2.48 miles) and back to the starting point. The battery also delivers a flying time of 21 minutes. The controller does not have an LCD screen so you will have to use the picture feed on your smartphone; therefore, you have to ensure your smartphone has enough juice.
The inclusion of obstacle avoidance sensor around the sensor is by far our most loved feature in this aircraft. This enables a more confident flight experience and is a good reason why anyone will choose the Mavic Air. Despite its size, the Mavic Air performs excellently well in strong winds with speeds of 22mph or more. It has a high speed when put in sport mode and can go as high as 42 mph. It makes a lot of noise, and not many people would love that about it, but for its price and features, we do not see why anybody would not enjoy this 4K drone.
The Mavic Air delivers an outstanding flight time of 21 minutes and has a Wi-Fi Range and transmitter range of 80 meters and 2.48 miles respectively. It has a maximum video resolution of 3840 x 2160 at 3o fps and a maximum photo resolution of 4056 x 3040. It comes with a CMOS sensor with a FOV of 85 degrees. its effective pixels is 21 megapixels, and it has a bit rate of 100mbps.
- It is portable and can survive fast winds in spite of its size
- It delivers 4K videos and 12-megapixel photos excellently
- It is quite affordable and flying this 4K drone is satisfying and enjoyable
- We could not identify any reasons why you should not buy this 4K drone
The DJI Mavic 2 looks a lot similar to the model before it except that the Mavic 2 Pro is heavier, wider and longer. The extra weight is so obvious when holding the drone to the point that you would be wondering if it will be able to hold up in the air. But not to worry, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro holds up quite well, and you do not have to be scared about it falling to the ground and shattering into a million pieces because of its weight. With its ten obstacle sensors in every direction of the drones, the chances of this 4K drone crashing are very slim. To test these sensors, put on one of the features of the autonomous mode on, the "Active Track" follow me mode on the DJI Go 4 app and walk around a couple of obstacles. You would as well be surprised at the results of the drone's movements. The drone will avoid all the obstacles in its way and ensure that it does not come in contact with any of them. It also will not jerk in the process of avoiding these obstacles. It would seem like the footages it recorded were recorded by a stable camera. So, there is your first reason to consider buying this 4K drone.
Another outstanding feature of the MAVIC 2 Pro that performed excellently is the camera on which a 3-axis gimbal is mounted on it. This camera comes with a 1-inch CMOS sensor similar to what is obtainable in the Sony RX100 camera series which its aperture can be adjusted from f/28 to f/11. This camera is not only capable of shooting in 4K resolution; it can also shoot in different resolutions at up to 30 frames per second for 4K, 60 frames per second for 2.7K resolution and 120 frames per second for 1080p. It is also capable of taking RAW stills at 20 megapixels. This camera supports the 10-bit HDR video for striking hyper-real footage and the 10-bit Dlog-M color profile for pro-style post-production.
In terms of flight performance, the Mavic 2 Pro performs excellently in the air beyond expectations or imaginations. The Pro 2 has larger motors attached to its arms so it can deliver increased flight speeds of 44mph in sports mode. The battery has been increased too, giving the Mavic 2 Pro 31 minutes of flight time. Its level of noise is reduced than the older DJI drones as even from a distance of 30 meters; you may not hear its sound.
It features the Occusync 2.0 transmission which can deliver l080p live streaming for a five-mile range. With this 4K drone, you get 8GB of storage and a MicroSD card slot where you can get additional storage. The head controller comes with an additional 3-way speed switch used to alternate from normal to sports or tripod. In the DJI Go 4 app, you can get various intelligent flight modes as well as the new hyper-lapse function that shoots stop-frame visuals in a wide area before joining them all together in the app. The only intelligent flight mode that the DJI Mavic 2 Pro does not have is the gimmicky gesture hand control.
The DJI Mavic 2 Pro has a transmitter range of 5 miles, and its battery delivers a flight time of 31 minutes. The camera also offers a maximum resolution of 4K and a lens of 20 megapixels.
- It comes with an impressive Hasselblad camera capable of shooting in 4K resolution
- It is portable, and its flight is solid. Even in obstacle avoidance, it maintains a high level of stability
- It is heavy
The Mavic 2 Zoom is in the same category with the Mavic 2 Pro. They look similar; they have the same size, they have similar weight except that the Pro 2 is heavier by 2 g. They both feature the omnidirectional obstacle avoidance sensors, and their internal system is pretty much the same. The only difference between them is the camera that comes with them. The Pro comes with a Hasselblad camera that has a 1-inch sensor for high-quality photography; the Mavic 2 Zoom comes with a camera that features 2 x optical zoom. The Zoom sacrifices image resolution for 2 x optical zoom, 35mm format and focal length of 24 – 48 mm. The two cameras have 4K resolution recording capability as well as different frames per seconds for different resolutions similar to that of the Mavic 2 Pro.
The Zoom feature in the Mavic 2 Zoom may not get much use, but for shoots that involve close-up shots of animals without scaring them off, this feature might come in handy. It is especially useful in capturing an interesting subject without moving close or encroaching into private airspace or illegal territories. The price of the Mavic 2 Zoom is the best thing about it as it costs less when compared to the Pro and they both offer the exact same features. If you are looking for a 4K drone that offers a 4K resolution, 30 minutes of flying time and all the other features they share, either of the two options will fit in; but if you would like to shoot some RAW high-resolution aerial footages, the Mavic 2 Pro will be the more suitable option.
The Mavic 2 Zoom has a transmitter range of 5 miles and can stay in the air for 31 minutes while shooting at a 4K resolution with its 12-megapixel lens.
- The 2x optical zoom is a useful tool for recording aerial footages of hard-to-reach subjects or subjects in territories that you are not authorized to fly
- It delivers a lush video in 4K resolution
- It features multi-directional sensors which give the drone an efficient obstacle avoidance
- The zoom feature may not be used regularly and as a result, might end up being useless
The ANAFI is a foldable 4K drone is the first drone that withstood DJI's squadron of camera drones without getting shot down. It costs less than the Mavic air and is foldable just like the Mavic Air. It has a length of 244mm when folded which makes it difficult to fold in the pocket, but it still remains a portable, easy-to-carry 4K drone when moving from one place to another. It also comes in a transport case which you can easily throw in a shoulder bag. It weighs 320 grams which is 110 grams lighter than the Mavic Air and with its build, it will likely not get damaged if it crashes during a flight.
This 4K drone works with a Parrot Free Flight 6 app for Android and iOS which is quite easy to operate. Although it does not have enough features needed to control the flight, gimbal, and camera like in the G0 4 app, it is suitable for first-time users. The Parrot ANAFI delivers quality HD streaming image quality from the drone to your smartphone. The only issue with the streaming may be an occasional lag and some visual glitches.
Flight performance for the Parrot ANAFI is not so great, and it does not have the obstacle avoidance feature. The good thing about it is its ease of control and ability to remain stable in the face of intense winds. They have updated the firmware which has made the Wi-Fi and GPS better, so they perform more stably. It has a range of 2.4 miles though you have to always remember that no drone should ever fly out of your sight. One of the excellent perks that this drone offers is that the battery delivers 25 minutes of flight time, but you may have to get a spare battery if you do not want to always wait for the long time it takes to charge fully.
During its field test, the photo and video quality are of similar quality to the Mavic Air, and this drone performs excellently well when shooting in low light. It only offers 30fps in 4K resolution unlike the Mavic Air that offers 60fps in 2.7K resolution, but with its 21-megapixel camera lens and its 1/2.4-inch Sony CMOS Sensor, the images it produces are fully-detailed, sharp and with just the right contrast. It also supports high-density range shooting and is compatible with Adobe DNG/RAW formats for post-production editing.
The Parrot ANAFI delivers a flight time of 25 minutes, and its transmitter has a range of 2.4 miles. The maximum resolution of its camera is 4k, and the lens has 21 megapixels.
- It produces videos in 4K resolution and high-quality picture with its 21-megapixel camera lens
- It is portable and is stable during flights
- The zoom function works excellently
- The battery takes a while to charge
- It does not come with the obstacle avoidance feature; therefore, you have to fly the drone carefully and within your sight
This little 4K drone offering from DJI is lighter and smaller than the Mavic Air which is the closest 4K drone made by DJI. Although it does not fold and it cannot fit into your pocket, it still remains a portable drone that you can take along with you anywhere. It is one of the currently trending selfie drones in the market, and it is available in five colors for you to pick from.
The spark has an obstacle avoidance sensor at its front, and whether you are flying it indoors or outdoors, it is steady and stable when flying. This drone is capable of recording in 1080p, and its camera has a lens of 12 megapixels. To deliver stable video footage, it features a two-axis mechanical stabilizer. Its battery lasts for 16 minutes which is quite decent for a drone of its size. The Spark works in three ways – through a mobile device, using hand gestures or with a hand controller that can deliver up to 1.2 miles. The drone shoots decent videos even though it is not designed to handle videography of high quality.
The DJI Spark is tough as it was tested at an event organized by DJI where it flew into a tree at 50kmph. Only the prop got damaged while every other thing including the camera continued to work well.
The DJI Spark has a Wi-Fi range of 100 meters and a flying time of 16 minutes. the transmitter has a range of 1.2 miles, and the maximum camera resolution is 1080p, and it has a lens of 12 megapixels.
- It is a smart selfie drone
- It is affordable when compared to other drones
- Its flight is superb
- Its propeller arms are not foldable
- It only shoots videos in 1080p
- The gesture mode is not guaranteed
This 4K drone is a predecessor for the Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom models, and despite its low price, it still remains a brilliant option. This drone is foldable and has a flight time of 27 minutes with a transmitter range of 4 miles. It is a stable camera capable of shooting videos in 4K resolution. It has the size of a thimble and has the feature to return to where it took off from.
Compared to other phantom stablemates, it does not make too much noise especially when you use DJI's low noise props with it. Similar to the DJI Mavic Air, you can use this drone with a smartphone running on Android or iOS platforms through Wi-Fi connection, but this is only for short transmission ranges. If you will be flying the drone for a distance of up to four miles, it is better to use the pocket-sized dedicated controller with it. the controller also comes with a smartphone holder into which you will plug in your phone and launch the DJI Go 4 app and watch live videos transmitted from the drone. With the gesture control feature, you can take selfies or wave at the Mavic Pro drone to follow you.
The DJI Mavic Pro features OcuSync transmission which makes the drone perform more steadily in flight that the Mavic Air and it delivers 27 minutes of flight time.
It has a battery life of 27 minutes; the DJI Mavic Pro can travel a distance of up to 4.2 miles. Its maximum video resolution is 4096 x 2160 at 24 frames per second. Its camera has a 12-megapixel lens with a 1/2.3 CMOS sensor. Its bitrate is around 60mbps.
- It is incredibly portable
- It has the obstacle avoidance feature
- It shoots in 4K resolution
- It is relatively expensive
The Phantom 4 Pro features obstacle avoidance sensors on three sides around it. it delivers a flight time of 30 minutes and can fly over a 4.2-mile range at a maximum speed of 45mph. With the ActiveTrack feature, the drone can track you anywhere you go, and if you do not want to use the remote controller, you can send the drone to any direction of your choice using the TapFly button. It will also avoid any obstacles in the process. The remote controller comes with a 5.5-inch screen.
Similar to the Mavic 2 Pro, the camera on the Phantom Pro can record footage in 4K resolution at 30fps with its one-inch CMOS sensor. It can also record in 2.7K resolution at 60 frames per second and 1080p at 120fps. This makes the Phantom 4 Pro an excellent 4K drone candidate for capturing fast moments in slow motion.
Its battery life lasts for 30 minutes, so you get 30 minutes to yourself to enjoy the drone. It has a transmission range of 4.2 miles and a maximum video resolution of 4096 x 2160 at 30 frames per second. The camera has a lens of 20 megapixels with a 1-inch CMOS sensor. The FOV is 840, and its bitrate is somewhere around 100mbps.
- It comes with an excellent camera
- It comes with the obstacle avoidance feature with sensors on four of its sides
- The battery life is excellent
- It is not as portable as the other drone in its series
This is another 4K drone offering from DJI that produces cinema-quality aerial footage. The DJI Inspire 2 is simply untouchable, and the only reason why it does not rank high like other 4K drones is that it is expensive and large. It weighs about 4.25kg. So you might want to reconsider stuffing it in your travel suitcase.
It is made from magnesium and carbon fiber. Its dual battery system delivers 27 minutes of flying time with the help of its 13-inch and four large motors. It can attain a maximum speed of 58 mph.
It features a retractable landing gear which allows you, the pilot or someone else operating the camera, to shoot panoramic 360-degree footage. It has obstacle avoidance sensors on top and under it to survive tricky locations. It's image processing system; the Pro-Spec CineCore 2.0 is placed in the drone's nose standing alone. The camera lens and sensors are attached to the gimbal. This makes it easy to swap cameras and reduce the overall weight of this drone.
There are five different models of the DJI Inspire 2 for you to choose from and all deliver a variety of resolutions and image quality.
The DJI Inspire 2 delivers a flight time of 27 minutes and can record footage in a resolution of 6016 x 3200 at 30 frames per second. The active pixels in its camera is 24 megapixels, and the camera comes with a one-inch CMOS. It has a variable FOV and a bitrate of 100mbps.
- This 4K drone has two controller options for you to choose from
- Its maximum attainable speed is remarkably high - 58 mph
- It is too heavy to carry while trekking
- It costs a lot of money
What Makes 4K Video Cameras Great
A photographer who checks his or her work on a high definition screen does not see all there is to see in their image when they view them on a 2160p display. By using a 4K resolution display, more nuanced and detail will be revealed.
4K Drone Video – Get a better resolution and faster frame rates
4K Ultra HD is not about getting quadruple the number of pixels obtainable in a Full HD resolution; it also delivers faster frame rates, extended colors and outstanding contrast dynamics. According to research, resolutions that have high frame rates capture the attention of users more because images in these resolutions appear more detailed and naturalistic.
If you record with a 4K camera drone, it only makes sense that you have a 4K display so you can get all the elements of the film when viewing. Most people do not get the most out of their 4K images and videos because they view them on a high-definition TV or even less. Watching the video of your vacation or drone adventure on a screen lesser than the 4K monitor that matches the 4K footage recorded is a huge disservice to yourself. A 4K screen will display four times more details and quality of a typical full HD display. A 4K display also has a higher density which brings you closer to the image without revealing the grid-like structure of the image. This means you can be in the same position at the same distance from your FHD screen and watch a much bigger screen.
WHICH VIDEO RESOLUTIONS ARE THE MOST POPULAR NOWADAYS?
Before getting into the topic of video resolutions, we have to first understand all there is about standard aspect ratio. Most big-screen movies are made with 21:9 aspect ratio while animated series and sitcoms are made in 16:9 aspect ratios. YouTube videos also work in 16:9 while only selected videos are rendered in
21:9 aspect ratio.
The meaning of this to the end user is that sitcoms, YouTube videos and general internet videos which are rendered in 16:9 aspect ratio take up the entire screen since most devices these days come with 16:9 display by default. However, big-screen movies usually have a black bar at the top and another at the bottom. It is the same principle when you play 4:3 videos on a 16:9 display screen, except that the black bars are on both sides of the screen.
Now, we have to agree on the fact that there are lots of displays with 16:9 video resolutions these days. Let's check out some of the most common ones that we have in their order of recommendation.
- 1080p Full HD displays
- 4k Ultra HD displays
- Retina 5K displays
- 8K Super Hi-Vision displays
The Full HD displays and 4K Ultra HD displays are more highly recommended than the other two, the Retina 5K display and 8K Super Hi-Vision displays; therefore, we will not be focusing on them. Continue reading to know why this preference is so.
Is 4K UHD Resolution double the resolution of 1080P FHD?
In the drone world, the two most popular resolutions are 4K and Full HD so we will be looking at the details of these two.
First off, many people believe that 4K resolution has double the number of pixels in a Full HD Resolution. This is so wrong and looking at the numbers at first may look like this is true but in reality, it is not. Below is the real picture;
- Full HD Resolution – 1920 x 1080 pixels
- 4K Resolution – 3840 x 2160 pixels
By looking at the above figure, it would seem like 3840 is the double of 1920 and thus many people will conclude that 4K Resolution is only double of the Full HD Resolution. But this is wrong. If you go through with the multiplication, you will find out that 4K Resolution has four times the number of pixels that Full HD has.
Full HD Resolution – 1920 multiplied by 1080 is equal to 2,073,600 pixels.
4K Resolution – 3840 multiplied by 2160 pixels is equal to 8,294, 400 pixels.
2,073,600 multiplied by 4 is equal to 8,294,400.
What this translates to is that one 4K display will accommodate four Full HD displays in a grid alignment using pixels as the parameters. The bottom line is if a clear, sharp and more detailed image is what you want to produce, your best bet is to go for 4K Resolution.
Is Video Resolution the Most important Property to look out for in a Camera?
When many people are looking to buy or choose a camera, the only thing they look at is the camera's resolution. While camera resolution is important, it is equally important to consider other factors because, in reality, other camera properties work alongside the camera resolution to produce excellent image quality. Let's look at two other camera characteristics that you must know about.
This is the number of video bits processed in a specific unit of time. For instance, if a video runs at 2 megabytes per second, then that video has a bitrate of 16mbps (8 bits make up 1 byte). What this means is that the higher the bitrate is, the better the quality of the video will be. You should also not forget to consider codec in the equation. A video that has a 6mbs bitrate in an H.264 codec will be of better quality than a video with the same codec in an H.263 codec. This is because the H.263 codec is an older version than H.264.
FPS, which means Frames per Second is used to measure how fluid a video is. It refers to the number of frames a video shows within a specific unit of time usually in seconds. With this formula, this means that a video with 60fps has 60frames per second and will ultimately be more fluid and smoother than a video that has 30fps.
IMAGE STABILIZATION – IMPORTANCE IN DRONE FOOTAGE?
When it comes to the quality of video and image that a drone delivers, video resolution, FPS and bitrate are all important factors that determine this quality. Apart from the quality of images produced, there is also the problem of difficult weather, and this affects the quality of the image severely. Bad weather leads to shakiness and vibrations which are somewhat problems when trying to capture impressive shots of videos. However, there is a simple solution.
This solution, although costly, is the way out of getting shaky images and it is the use of mechanical gimbals on your 4K drone to achieve an unparalleled image stabilization. Gimbals come with many brushless motors and a built-in gyro which lets them move freely without hindrance through 3-axis and put an end to shakiness and vibrations. There are also 1-axis and 2-axis gimbals too which perform the same function, but the most effective of all is the 3-axis model which also allows users to move the camera as they like with their transmitter.
CAMERA SENSORS TYPES
In drones, two types of camera sensors are obtainable – the CCD sensors and the CMOS sensors. The size of these sensors is an entirely different topic, and the 1-inch CMOS sensor in the DJI Phantom 4 Pro is a game changer. However, we will not be discussing the size of camera sensors in this article. Our focus is to get introduced to the two types of sensors and how they are used.
CCD means Charged Coupled Device, and it is the more expensive option to produce out of the two. This is why most devices make use of the CMOS sensors these days because having a CCD sensor would make the price go over the top. CCD sensors perform better in low-light conditions and do not have rolling shutter problem. They also have a good dynamic range which makes them excellent for activities like FPV racing.
CMOS stands for Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor. They are the much cheaper alternative to CCD sensors which is why many camera electronics come with them. From digital cameras, smartphones, laptops to drones, all of these devices come with CMOS sensors. CMOS sensors have higher power efficiency, and they come with amplifiers in each pixel which gives the drone the property of extra circuitry.
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