The Best Flying Cameras on the Market: 2016 Consumer Drone Round-Up

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If just saying the word “drone” makes your eyes light up and your lips involuntarily whisper, “I want one,” you’re living in the right times.

These small, unmanned aircraft systems (UAS), as the Federal Aviation Administration calls them, are undoubtedly the latest in must-have tech. But holy kid-in-a-candy-store, Batman, why did the market saturate itself so quickly with such a plethora of options?

Figuring out what to buy is not easy. There are a ton of things to consider: manufacturer, size and shape, the number of propellers, if it has brushless motors, GPS or a camera (and its specs), what type of transmitter it has, and so on.

Most advanced operators will tell you to start off with something relatively cheap in order to build confidence while having fun. This way, when you do crash, which you will, you’re not breaking an expensive investment. There’s no shame in starting out with a toy drone in the $80-150 range, like the Blade Nano QX, Syma X8C or Hubsan H107D. They’ve been out for a few years now and can be found online for cheap.

Here are some of the key things you should consider as you launch your next life as a drone-wielding moviemaker.

4K is the loneliest number

When purchasing a drone, realize that it’s almost like buying a new car—it’s going to immediately depreciate in value, and the next week they will introduce a better one that you will wish you had. So when considering the right drone, you have to think long term. You’re investing in something that you want to last. If something costs $1,000 but lasts 10 years, that’s only $100 per year, or less than $9 a month. All the drones in this list have a minimum 4K Ultra High-Definition 3840x2160p mounted camera. For many, that’s a no-brainer long-term feature that should be invested in.

Gimbals (not gumballs!)

A gimbal is essential to an object’s rotation and support. Each gimbal is a single axis that allows for movement—in this case, the movement is a mounted camera positioned underneath the drone. The more gimbals present, the more control you have during operation. We made sure each of the following drones had at least two gimbals of camera support.

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