Serious drone pilots end up sinking hundreds, if not thousands of dollars into their rigs, building their own from parts or just picking up a ready to fly quadcopter. We may look at building a custom rig one day ourselves, but for now, we want ready-to-fly devices, and we want to keep the budget fairly low while we get the hang of things.
best mid priced drones
1.Mavic Mini – DJI Domination Continues
“Simply the Best – No need to consider another drone in this review until the competition catches up”
It’s here…it’s finally here! DJI just launched the biggest gamechanger in the drone industry, bringing a foldable, under 250 g drone, that’s the size of your palm, and doesn’t require FAA registration.
But that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
I’m sure you have already heard, seen or even flown a DJI Mavic drone. It is one of the most recent products by the famous brand DJI. Well right now the Mavic Mini, brings the high quality video resolution and stabilty, plus class leading flight range and duration from the Mavic series to the under $500 price range.
Shipping started on the 11th of November 2019. And moving forward to 2020, this remains the best drone for the money.
Extremely easy to carry around in a backpack, it’s one of the best for holidays, filming outdoor events, vlogging, or pretty much anything.
Very compact and lightweight, not only it can be carried anywhere, it’s also the most accurate and stable drone under $500.
It has GPS Assisted Hover, Obstacle Detection and is planned to come out in a future software update. Everything you need to truly experience an out of this world performance. From beginners to experts, the Mini is a wonder in any hands. Even a baby can fly this thing.
The Mavic Mini also presents some amazing specs, such as the 4km (2.4 miles) max control range. Flight time is also quite impressive if we take into consideration how small the drone is. Per battery, the Mini has a max flight time of 30 minutes.
Housed on the drone’s front is a camera supported by a three-axis motorized gimbal, and fitted with a 1/2.3-inch sensor.
The DJI Mavic Mini camera’s video-capturing capabilities cap out at a 2.7K Quad HD resolution, with a 30fps frame rate. The alternative here is a 1080p video at 60fps. Moreover, it’s capable of capturing 12MP images, as well.
The drone of course, can also transmit Live Video in high-quality, real-time with 0 latency. The best FPV experience you can get from a drone within this budget.
Another thing it doesn’t lack is safety-oriented features:
For instance, the integrated altitude limit prevents you from getting carried away, and a return home function kicks in automatically when the battery gets critically low – and ensures that your drone comes home safely.
I had my doubts about its mid-air performance, considering its lightweight frame. However, I couldn’t have been more wrong:
It felt stable and precise at all times, partially due to the downward vision sensors that allow it to detect the ground for safer landings, as well as more stable flights and hovering.
Not to mention its foldable too!
Are there any downsides, though?
The one trade-off that I should mention is that it doesn’t come with object tracking. I wouldn’t be too surprised to see this feature added as a part of a future update, though.
If you’re not convinced yet, see our in-depth DJI Mavic Mini review here.
- Very Easy to Fly
- Foldable and Easy to Carry
- 12MP Built-in Camera, 2.7K Video
- Class Leading Specs and Performace
- Amazing Set of Autonomous Features
- This package doesn’t include spare battery
2. Holy Stone HS720 – A top budget option under 500$
Holy Stone has been one of the most interesting companies in 2018. Some of their products have started to really stand out from the rest, as the company proves itself and to its customers, to deserve a share of the drone market. One of their better drones is the recently released Holy Stone HS720, also featured in our recent buyer’s guide (drones currently for sale).
I must admit I was very surprised at HS720’s performance, it really feels as I’m controlling a high-end drone. Very responsive, very maneuverable, it’s even capable of flying in windy conditions. I must say, if you are a fan of aerial photography and videography, but do not have a high budget, the HS720 is one of the most viable alternatives. At well under 350 dollars, it won’t disappoint you.
Holy Stone HS720 has specifications that rival even DJI Phantom 3. First of all, the drone is capable of flying as far as 1600 meters. If like me, you are a fan of long-distance drones, you will love HS720, as it will fly way past your eyesight, and still safely return thanks to auto-return feature.
Regarding flight time, each battery allows up to 26 minutes of flight time. Something I was very excited about.
Holy Stone tried to do what Syma and DJI did. The brand manufactured its own action camera instead of requiring its customers to buy a SJCam or GoPro, or other. And they absolutely nailed it. The HS700 had a good quality camera with 12MP, capable of shooting 1080p video and transmitting live video, the HS720 upgrades that into a 2K FHD 5G Camera.
The drone also transmits Live Video via Wifi directly to a smartphone device through a free to download app (Android and iOS). The camera can be placed on a phone holder attached to the 5G remote controller.
HS720 packs great features, as expected of a drone within its price range. The highlight surely is the GPS system with Follow Me Mode and Custom Flight Path. Simply draw a route on the App screen and the HS720 will move in that direction or in a circle and send back real time landscape to you.
On top of this, it also features auto-return and 5GHz Live Video transmission. It lacks some basic features such as automatic takeoff and landing. But considering it packs a good GPS and waypoints path system, we can’t say it lacks a good set of features.
If you need any more info on this drone, be sure to check out our Holy Stone HS720 in depth review.
- Travel-friendly casing
- Easy controls
- Return home mode
- 2K camera drone for under $300
- Long charging time
See our #2 Pick on Amazon
3. DJI Mavic Air 2 – Our Upgrade Pick
“The next step up if you have more than $500 to spend”
Ok, we are cheating a bit, this is not quite under $500, but the Mavic Air 2 is just too good value for money not to include in this review. It is a significant upgrade to its predecessors, the Mavic Air as well as the Mavic Pro, which has been discontinued.
The Mavic Air 2 features a better camera and sensors, and has extra control range.
When it comes to performance, Mavic Air 2 is a definite upgrade over the Mavic Air. Both have astonishing performance, being able to steadily hover in place without any pilot’s input on the remote controller.
This drone is a very forgiving flyer, ideal for beginners. Feel free to fly it even windy days, with caution of course. The Air can reach a max speed of nearly 70km/h, which makes it a great beginner Drone Racer.
Since we are talking about a more expensive drone, you would expect the Mavic Air 2 to outclass every drone in this review specification wise.
And…it does so handily.
This being said, Air has a flight time of 34 minutes and a maximum control range of 10km!
One of the main selling points of Mavic Air 2 is without a doubt its camera. The camera can shoot 4K video at 30fps, 2.7K at 60fps and Full HD video at 120fps. If you love aerial photography and videography you will want to take this baby everywhere.
The Air comes with a 1/2 CMOS image sensor able to capture 12MP still photos with HDR and create 48MP spherical panorama shots. And of course it transmits Live Video too.
As expected Mavic Air 2 comes with all the bells and whistles a high-end DJI drone is known for. These features are:
- Vision-Based Protection
- VIO Technology
- Smart Obstacle Avoidance
- One-Key Takeoff and Landing
- Automatic Return
As you can see most of the features are focused on enhancing the photography and videography experience.
- Very Easy to Fly
- 2.7K or 4K Camera
- Great Set of Semi-Autonomous Features
- Amazing Performance
- Sells well above 500 dollars
4. Altair Outlaw SE – Ultra-Budget Pick
“Ideal for: Beginner and Intermediate Pilots”
If you haven’t heard of Altair Aerial, then you’ve been missing out on some great drones. Their Outlaw SE is a high-quality drone that is loaded with cool features. This drone comes with almost anything that a drone pilot is going to want and that’s why we have it as our Best Budget Pick
Not only is this drone feature packed, it also is easy to use, someone with little experience is going to enjoy it too. Yes, there are a lot of bells and whistles on this drone, but with features like 1-button take-off and landing, someone new to this hobby will also be able to get the Outlaw SE up and running in no time.
Not only are Altair one of the few drone companies that are US-based, they also have tons of helpful how-to videos and tutorials online to help you get started. If you spend any time reading their reviews, you’ll also notice that they offer some of the best customer service that you can find in this hobby. That’s one of the reasons why we recommend Altair’s drones.
To start off, the range on this drone is up to 600m. And while there are drones in this price point that can go further, we were pretty impressed that they included a 20-minute battery in the product. That’s a good amount of flight time and makes up for a bit less range.
You also get a wide range of high-quality features on this GPS drone. As we mentioned before, you get 1-button take-off and landing as well as altitude hold and some really cool Return to Home functions that can get the drone back safely at the touch of a button.
These features all make this drone accessible for beginners. Even if you’ve never flown before, it will only take a little time to get the hang of this drone. For experienced fliers, these features all make it easier to get the drone to work with you.
The camera is where the Outlaw SE drone really shines, and the shots it takes are gorgeous. The camera shoots in 1080p HD and returns some absolutely beautiful shots. Whether you’re filming live video or taking pictures, you’ll be impressed with the quality of the photos.
It’s also important to mention the ease of use of the camera. The drone comes built in with GPS and altitude hold (among other things) that make using the camera a breeze. You’ll spend less time fighting the drone and getting it to fly right and more time actually using the camera while in the air.
We’ve only scratched the surface on this drone’s features, here’s a more complete list:
●One Touch Takeoff and Landing
●Point of Interest Mode
●Follow Me Mode
●Fail Safe Return Home
●GPS Return Home Functionality
- 20 Minutes of Battery Life
- Fantastic Camera
- Beginner Friendly
- GPS Integration
- Great Price
- 600m Range is a Bit Low
5. Hubsan Zino 4K Drone – 2020 Newcomer
“Ideal For: Beginner to Experienced Pilots”
Out with the old and in with the new, and placing straight into the top 5 is the Hubsan Zino 4k foldable Quadcopter.
This is the latest offering from Hubsan, and priced at just over $300, it serves a great budget pickup in our top drones under $500 dollar review.
One of the best things about the Zino 4K is that, despite it’s price, it barely compromises, if at all, in terms of quality.
From build quality to features and technical specifications, it is outperforming many of it’s competitors in this class.
The Control distance for the Zino 4K goes up to an astonishing 2.5km! It’s highly unlikely that you’ll need nor find a drone with a better control distance in this price range.
The flight time at ideal conditions is 23 minutes, which means it’s fair to say that, for the average user, the flight time drops down to around 20 minutes.
The Hubsan Zino 4K is the perfect choice for Aerial Photography. The camera is a 5G enabled camera that can shoot or stream Full HD Videos at 30 fps and has 4K capabilities and an FPV option.
The Zino takes the edge with it’s 3-axis gimbal stabilizer onwhich the 4K UHD Camera rests. It’s what allows the camera to produce clearer images in comparison.
The Hubsan Zino 4K is packed with features that are at least on par or better than the rest of it’s competitors, considering the price of this drone is only slightly above the under $300 category.
The only real issue for this drone is that it has no obstacle avoidance sensors and a transmitter which doesn’t notify low battery states.
Hubsan compensated for this with multiple intelligent flight modes, as well as other safety features which you can read about in our in-depth Hubsan Zino review.
- Return home feature
- 3-axis gimbal image stabilizer
- 2.5km Control Distnace
- 5G transmission and 1km FPV live streaming
- Low quality transmitter
- No obstacle avoidance
6.UPair One 4K – Budget 4K Quad
“Ideal For: Everyone!”
UPair is actually on of our top drones for less than 300 dollars, so why is it here also? Well, this UPair package features a 4K camera, thus providing it with a top quality camera but also considerably increasing the drone’s price tag. A complete FPV package with all you need to start flying FPV right out of the box (FPV screen included).
UPair One is one of the best, if not the best, alternative to a Phantom quadcopter. It’s very easy to control, even if you are a beginner and this is your first time flying a drone. Hovers steadily without pilot’s controller input, so you haven’t trouble to maneuver it.
It will avoid many beginner crashes. The GPS assists the flight, enhancing the whole experience. It feels like you are flying a high-end drone like the Phantom 3 (we wouldn’t compare it with Phantom 4 however).
UPair One has a great flight time of 15 to 19 minutes, powered by a 11.1V 10C 5400mAh battery, Drone’s maximum control range is 1km, while the Live Video image transmission only goes as far as 600 meters.
Capture outstanding aerial video and take beautiful photos with the 4K Camera. The 4K camera is placed on a brushless gimbal that can be adjusted for different angles of view. It transmits Live Video to the 7” monitor screen placed on the remote controller.
Real-time video is great quality and has no latency! Love videography and photography but don’t have a lot of money to invest in a GoPro + drone? UPair One is your unexpansive solution for aerial photography and videography.
UPair One comes with all the fun and useful features you will need to get the most out of your quad. First of all, it has full GPS lock (able to search and lock on 8 satellites), Position Hold, MicroSD card support (up to 32GB) and Automatic Return. Not the best set of features, but definitely has all you need.
- Ease of Use
- Live Video
- 12MP 4K Camera
- Nice Specifications
- Complete Package with 7” FPV LCD Screen
- No Flight Plan feature
7. 3DR Solo – Fastest Drone in Test
“Ideal For: Beginners, Intermediate and Experts”
One of the oldest drones on our list, 3DR Solo remains to this day one of the best drones under 500 in the market, despite not being a newly released. Perfect for using together with a GoPro, widely used for semi-professional aerial video and photos among GoPro fans.
One of the reasons why 3DR Solo remains to this day one of the most recommend drones for GoPro usage is due to its accurate performance.
Equipped with an On-board 1 GHZ computer with Pixhawk flight controller, Solo is very responsive and stable. Definitely the type of drone you want to buy for your GoPro camera. Solo can reach an amazing top speed of 88km/h (55mp/h); not recommend to beginners.
3DR Solo specifications still remain impressive to this day. Base max control distance is around 2km although with a range extension kit it can fly longer than 4km! The flight time, when carrying a camera, is 20 minutes, and without is 25 minutes.
For the sake of price we are referring to the package that doesn’t include a camera. Otherwise it would be too expensive to fit this under $500 list. As we have already stated it’s a great purchase to anyone who already owns or is considering buying an action camera such as the GoPro.
The 3DR Solo obviously doesn’t come with the most recent technology and features, however it does feature autonomous flight modes, such as Selfie, Cable Cam, Orbit, and Follow. These functions are extremely useful for filming as you will surely find out. The drone’s software can also be upgraded, although 3D Robotics hasn’t released new updates in a while.
- GPS and Custom Flight Path
- Great Performance at under $400
- 1km Control Range
- 20 minutes flight time
- On Board Camera not as good as GoPro
- Lacks a good stabilized gimbal