The Best Mini Drones of 2023

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In 2013, the world of mini drone cinematography and photography was in its infancy. I bought my first drone that year: the DJI Phantom 2. I had to add a GoPro to it if I wanted to capture video or photos. Flash forward a few years and drones capable of recording 4K video, omnidirectional obstacle avoidance, auto-tracking, high resolution stills, and extended battery life started to appear on the market. Today, drones that fit in the palm of your hand can deliver high-end cinematic imagery and photos for a fraction of the cost of full-sized, advanced models. I whittled down my list to areas in which each mini drone excels so you don’t have to. From photographers to fishers, there is something for everyone. 

Best Mini Drone Overall: DJI Mini 3 Pro   

DJI Mini 3 Pro
DJI Mini 3 Pro

What I Like: f/1.7 aperture for low-light capture, "Plus" battery option for extended flight times

What I Don’t Like: Controller sold separately, priced higher than previous models 

Sensor Size: 48 MP 1/1.3" CMOS 

Video Resolution: 4K up to 60p 

Obstacle Avoidance: Tri-Directional Obstacle Avoidance 

Battery Life: Up to 34 Minutes (Up to 47 minutes with Plus battery) 

Weight: 8.8 oz 

If you’re looking for a drone that excels in just about every category, then look no further than the DJI Mini 3 Pro. Building on the success of the Mini 2, the Mini 3 packs many of the high-end features of the Mavic line into a drone that can literally fit in the palm of your hand.  

 

This drone features a larger sensor size than its predecessor, the addition of obstacle avoidance in three directions, a boost in video and photo quality, and even a Plus battery option that extends its standard 34 minutes of flight time up to an impressive 47 minutes. 

You’ll be able to spend more time capturing 4K video at 60 fps or 48MP stills while utilizing its camera’s fast f/1.7 lens. Due to the drone’s low weight and small size, it doesn’t have to be registered for flight in most locations like some of its bigger counterparts. The Mini Pro 3 is a fantastic choice if you’re looking for a prosumer solution to capturing a wide range of photos and video. 

Best Non-DJI Mini Drone: Autel Evo Nano+  

Autel Robotics EVO Nano+ Drone (Premium, Autel Orange)
Autel Robotics EVO Nano+ Drone (Premium, Autel Orange)

What I Like: f/1.9 aperture for low-light capture, high-res Skylink video transmission

What I Don’t Like: Sub 30-minute flight time, no 60p in 4K 

Sensor Size: 50MP 1/1.28" CMOS 

Video Resolution: 4K up to 30p 

Obstacle Avoidance: Three-way Binocular Obstacle Avoidance Cameras 

Battery Life: Up to 28 Minutes 

Weight: 8.8 oz 

Released in early 2022, the Autel Evo Nano+ took the wind out of the DJI Mini Pro 2’s sails. It wasn’t until DJI dropped the Mini Pro 3 that the Nano+ had some serious competition.

The Nano+ shares many features with the Mini Pro 3. It weighs 8.8 oz and is palm-sized, so it is exempt from registration requirements. It has a 1/1.28" CMOS sensor with an effective sensor resolution of 50MP and a fast f/1.9 lens for low-light environments.

The Nano+ comes with four automatic shooting modes onboard to ease capture, as well as three-way binocular obstacle avoidance cameras for safety. It’s a fantastic drone and a great alternative to the Mini Pro 3.   

Best Mini Drone for Cinema: DJI Mavic 3

DJI Mavic 3
DJI Mavic 3

What I Like: Best cinematic quality in a foldable drone, Standard or Cine models 

What I Don’t Like: Pro level price tag on a mini drone 

Sensor Size: 20MP 4/3" CMOS and 12MP 1/2" CMOS 

Video Resolution: 5.1K up to 50p / DCI 4K up to 120p 

Obstacle Avoidance: Three-way Binocular Obstacle Avoidance Cameras 

Battery Life: Up to 46 minutes 

Weight: 31.7 oz (Cine model) 

When the DJI Mavic 3 was first released, it lacked some features that left users scratching their heads. I remember—I tested and reviewed the Mavic 3 when it was first announced. Since then, DJI has rectified the situation with multiple firmware updates, unlocking the drone’s true potential. The Mavic 3 is now a powerhouse in the mini drone category, capable of recording breathtaking imagery. 

The feature that really sets the Mavic 3 apart is its unique dual-camera setup, from legendary camera maker Hasselblad. All in one housing you get a 20MP 4/3" CMOS sensor with a variable f/2.8 to f/11 aperture lens and a 12MP 1/2" CMOS sensor with a 28x hybrid zoom lens. This opens a world of possibility for cinematic capture. Coupled with a 10-bit D-Log Color Profile, you get superior control over your image in the edit. 

And if that weren’t enough, the Mavic 3 comes equipped with omnidirectional obstacle avoidance and a much longer battery life than most drones at this size so you can spend more time focusing on getting the shot you want and less time on battery life and obstacles.   

Best Beginner Mini Drone: Snaptain H823H

Snaptain H823H Mini Drone for Kids (Blue)
Snaptain H823H Mini Drone for Kids (Blue)

What I Like: Propeller guards, 3 speed modes, one-key return to home 

What I Don’t Like: Even a basic camera would be nice  

Sensor Size: N/A 

Video Resolution: N/A 

Obstacle Avoidance: None 

Battery Life: Up to 21 minutes 

Weight: 8.5 oz 

If you’re not looking for all the latest bells and whistles, then you may want to consider the Snaptain H823H, which is not only fun to fly but priced so low you can buy a back-up for your back-up for when you fly it directly into a tree.

You may not be capturing cinematic imagery with the H823H (it has no camera), but you will be able to let kids get a feel for operating a drone for the first time without the fear of them hurting themselves or anyone around them. It will also let you get some hands-on experience with a drone before you shell out more money for a high-end model.

Used primarily for indoor flying, the propellers are encased with protective guards. If the weather is calm, you can use it outdoors, as well. If you’re able to, I would urge using the drone outdoors and switching into its highest speed mode so beginners can get a real feel for flying fast and making big maneuvers around objects. This drone is an excellent holiday gift for beginners.

Best FPV Mini Drone: DJI Avata

DJI Avata FPV Drone
DJI Avata FPV Drone

What I Like: Propeller guards, normal and manual modes, advanced cinema features

What I Don’t Like: Short battery life, on the heavier side for its size, no RAW stills 

Sensor Size: 48MP 1/1.7" CMOS 

Video Resolution: 4K up to 50p / 2.7K up to 100p  

Obstacle Avoidance: Downward Binocular and ToF Depth Sensor

Battery Life: Up to 18 Minutes 

Weight: 14.5 oz 

By now you’re probably starting to notice a pattern. DJI is featured heavily in this list and for good reason. The brand provides a vast range of solutions to a wide range of customers and does it exceptionally well.  

 

The DJI Avata dropped in August of 2022 and immediately caught the attention of First-Person-View (FPV) pilots as an alternative to DJI’s FPV drone launched in 2021. And even though they are both FPV drones, they have vast differences. The FPV is built for speed, maneuverability, and withstanding high velocity impacts. The Avata, on the other hand, focuses on stability and cinematic filmmaking with a larger sensor and higher frame rate options.      

For those not familiar with the world of FPV drones, it is uncommon that they come ready to fly out of the box. FPV drones tend to be built from scratch and customized to suit their pilot’s needs. Often, they don’t have great cameras. However, with DJI’s foray into FPV mini drones, pilots can now get the best of both worlds.   

Best Value Mini Drone: FIMI X8 SE V2 

Fimi X8SE 2022 V2 Drone with 1 Battery
Fimi X8SE 2022 V2 Drone with 1 Battery

What I Like: Solid build quality, HDR option, nice controller 

What I Don’t Like: Lower-resolution sensor, No obstacle avoidance 

Sensor Size: 12MP 1/2.6" CMOS 

Video Resolution: 4K up to 30p / 1080p up to 100p 

Obstacle Avoidance: None 

Battery Life: Up to 35 Minutes 

Weight: 27.8 oz 

As an alternative to the options mentioned above, the brand new FIMI X8 SE V2 packs a handful of features into a slightly more budget-friendly package. It features a robust and well-made build quality, giving it the feel of a reliable, high-end drone. 

Just like other high-end mini drones, the X8 comes with a wide range of automated flight modes to help capture fun cinematic shots. The video resolution and recording capabilities are also quite impressive for a budget-friendly drone. It can record 4K up to 30 fps and up to 100 fps in 1080p. There is also a slow-motion record option and a range of recording modes.

Where the X8 falls short is in the obstacle avoidance area. It has none. So if you’re a beginner, or even an experienced pilot, you’ll want to take extra care when flying close to objects. But the X8 is still one of the most affordable mini drones that can shoot in 4K resolution. And it’s built well, to match. I would recommend researching the X8 if you’re looking to save a little cash. 

Best Drone for Fishing: SwellPro Fisherman FD1 Fishing Drone 

SwellPro Fisherman FD1 Fishing Drone
SwellPro Fisherman FD1 Fishing Drone

What I Like: It helps you fish, wind resistance and seawater safe, controller has a display 

What I Don’t Like: On the heavier side, camera sold separately 

Sensor Size: 1/2.7" Sensor (Sold separately) 

Video Resolution: HD 

Obstacle Avoidance: None 

Battery Life: Up to 33 minutes (without bait) 

Weight: 4.5 lb

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention two more interesting drones that caught my eye. The first is the SwellPro Fisherman FD1 Fishing Drone. Yes, you read that correctly. There is a drone that can help you fish.

This specialized drone can help you locate more varieties of fish, larger fish, and troll without the need for a boat. It can support up to 4.4 pounds of bait and cast up to a mile away. You can send out 10 baited hooks and lure, or a piece of larger bait for shark or tuna. I’m no fisherman but that sounds like a game changer to me.

The FD1 features industrial-grade ABS construction and is 100% water-sealed. It can also withstand stronger winds than your average drone. The FD1 does not come equipped with a camera. However, you can purchase one as an accessory along with FPV goggles to get a view of your bait being cast.   

Most Unusual Mini Drone: Zero Zero V-Coptr Falcon Bi-Copter Drone

Zero Zero Robotics V-Coptr Falcon Bi-Copter Drone
Zero Zero Robotics V-Coptr Falcon Bi-Copter Drone

What I Like: Unique design, long battery life, lower noise 

What I Don’t Like: No backward-facing collision sensors, average video quality 

Sensor Size: 12MP 1/2.3" CMOS 

Video Resolution: 4K up to 30p / 2.7K up to 60p / 1080p up to 120p  

Obstacle Avoidance: Vision-based obstacle avoidance  

Battery Life: Up to 50 minutes 

Weight: 26.8 oz

The final drone on this list is one of the weirdest I have ever seen: the Zero Zero V-Coptr Falcon Bi-Copter Drone. Zero Zero claims the bi-copter marks the end of an era for quadcopters. Bold, to say the least. The proof will live in the Falcon’s handling and image quality. 

Seeing the Falcon fly does conjure up imagery of a bird flying. So maybe there is something to this design after all. The Falcon boasts the longest battery flight time of any drone on this list coming in at 50 minutes, a feat accomplished by the battery not having to power two additional rotors.

Since this is the first version of the Falcon, there is room for improvement. I would like to see some advances in the transmission system and camera quality. Perhaps in version 2 of the Falcon we’ll really see a game-changing contender swoop in and give the big drone companies a run for their money.

So, what did I miss? There are plenty more drones out there with impressive features. This is where the little details make all the difference. Personally, as a drone pilot, I look at cinematic features above all else. Does this mean I’m going with a Mavic 3? Not necessarily. While the Mavic 3 does have the best cinema features, I could get two Mavic Mini Pro 3 drones instead and have myself a backup. It all comes down to the needs and priorities of the pilot. This is why it’s so exciting to live in a time when you can be choosy about your drone purchases.

What drones are you most excited about from the list above? Let me know in the Comments section, below!    

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