Best drones with cameras: compact quadcopter showdown

Hey, I’m Chris. I wrote this article and I’m also the founder and Editor of DailyTekk. Lets connect on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube. Check back daily!

A new generation of drones with cameras has hit the market and I’m really excited. While the DJI Phantom 4 (and older Phantom models, for that matter) are some of the best drones Amazon offers, it’s clear that highly-capable ultra-compact drones are the future. If you want a small quadcopter that shoots pro-level video (Ultra-High Definition 4K) then you’re going to be interested in either the DJI Mavic Pro or the GoPro Karma.

What makes these drones special is just how compact they are — or, more accurately, just how compact they can get. Both of these quadcopters fold up for easy storage making them far more portable than the aforementioned DJI Phantom lineup. And while they are both pretty small, one of these drones is actually capable of fitting in the pocket of your pants!

In this article I’m going to make the buying decision between these two drones as easy as possible for you. I’ll discuss the pros and cons of each devices, compare the specs and even make some recommendations to help you pick the best drone for your adventures. But first let’s answer an important question: drone with camera or drone without?

Thanks to drones like the DJI Mavic Pro and GoPro Karma (and the next wave of consumer drones with cameras that follows which will likely be even tinier) there’s a pretty good chance that drones might actually become one of the next must-have products after the smart phone. It’s pretty easy to see the benefits of a flying camera that’s always with you.

Dronies (aka drone selfies — and yes that’s a thing) are going to be big. Forget selfie sticks — a drone that hovers around either in front or behind or above can get a far cooler angle. It’s not hard to imagine a future where vloggers livestream their entire day from tiny drones that autonomously follow them around wherever they go. Until then, though, the next best thing are the Mavic Pro and Karma.

If you’re already pretty savvy when it comes to video cameras you can skip this next bit, but for people who are wondering what they need to be looking for in terms of quality and specs when it comes to a drone with a camera: read on.

The drones I’ve rounded up in this article both shoot 4K video. That’s Ultra-High Definition video that is four times more pixel-dense than “regular” 1080p HD. In other words: these drones shoot very high-quality video footage.

There are definitely smaller drones with cameras available (that also happen to be cheaper than these) but I can’t in good conscience actually recommend them to anyone who wants to capture elements of their life in high-quality. If you’re looking for a toy that’s one thing, but if you want to future-proof the aerial video you are going to shoot from your drone then 4K is certainly the way to go. And if you’re wanting near professional-grade video from a compact drone don’t skimp!

Alright — I think that about sums things up. Let’s take a closer look at these two drones.

Which drone has better specs?

The DJI Mavic Pro wins in just about every way in the specs department — but that doesn’t tell the whole story. The Karma is designed to work completely different; in short it isn’t just a flying camera.

  • Price: the Mavic Pro is slightly cheaper than the Karma.
  • Weight: the Mavic Pro just over half a pound lighter than the Karma.
  • Folded size: the Mavic Pro is significantly smaller when folded than the Karma.
  • Speed: the Mavic Pro can fly 5 mph faster than the Karma.
  • Flight time: the Mavic Pro can fly 7 minutes longer than the Karma.
  • Distance: the Mavic Pro can fly 2.44 miles further than the Karma.

DJI Mavic Pro

dji-mavic-pro-camera-drone

Pros:

  • Smaller than the GoPro Karma (small enough to be held in the palm of your hand).
  • It’s not just the arms that are foldable: even the propellers fold in half.
  • Sensors for obstacle avoidance.
  • Lots of advanced controls for pros.
  • Much better flight time than Karma.
  • A bit faster than the Karma.
  • Considerably better range than the Karma.
  • Can auto-track moving objects.
  • Great design.

Cons:

  • Remote doesn’t have a built-in screen.
  • Hard-to-use menu system for beginners.
  • Camera lacks sharpness and colors can be washed out.
  • In some instances condensation can fog up the lens.
  • Smart flight features can be tough to figure out.
  • Follow mode works inconsistently.
  • Built-in camera can only be used on/with the drone.
  • Requires a tap to focus — this threw several reviewers off (making them think the camera was far worse than it really was since other DJI products used auto-focus by default).

GoPro Karma

gopro-karma-camera-drone

Pros:

  • Comes with a padded backpack.
  • Extremely versatile: works as drone or steadicam (via included Karma grip).
  • Better image quality than the Mavic Pro.
  • Compatible with: Hero4 and Hero 5 action cameras.
  • Remote includes bright, built-in touchscreen.
  • Simple, minimalistic controls make it easy for beginners.
  • Includes “dronie” (drone selfie) mode.
  • Also includes orbit,  reveal shot and cable cam modes.
  • Upgradable camera (as new GoPro models are released).

Cons:

  • About twice the size and weight of the Mavic Pro.
  • Bulkier remote than the Mavic Pro.
  • Simple, minimalistic controls may be disappointing for pros.
  • Much worse flight time than Mavic Pro.
  • A bit slower than the Mavic Pro.
  • Considerably worse range than the Mavic Pro.
  • Can’t auto-track moving objects.
  • No obstacle avoidance.
  • One reviewer claimed the Karma suffered from a long list of cons including: drifting, being very loud, inability to keep the horizon straight and instability among other things.

My recommendations

Despite both of these drones being nice products with great cameras, I’d recommend the DJI Mavic Pro to most people. Ironically I believe it does more in the departments that most people are going to care about (I’m thinking particularly about the automation features) and it’s just more portable. The GoPro Karma does have an amazing camera, however, being that it’s just a GoPro bolted to a quadcopter and some aspiring indie filmmakers might really like the transformer-like qualities it possesses.

Sources: Wired, PetaPixel, iPhonedo,

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