Popularity of drones and aerial photography has revolutionized the camera industry and made it harder to pick the best one. There are some key specifications to keep in mind in order to pick the best camera for drone.
What to look for?
First of all the most important part is the weight of the camera. If it’s too heavy then you can’t lift it so make sure you know your drone. Find out the maximum payload capability and make sure your camera doesn’t exceed that weight. The lighter the better because any extra weight shortens the flight time.
Second is the mounting. Cameras are usually attached to drones with gimbals that reduce vibration and stabilize the image. They also allow you to turn the camera to where ever you want. Now sadly most gimbals are made for certain kind of cameras, such as GoPro, which is also the most popular. Sony makes amazing action cameras but I have yet to see a gimbal designed for them. There are bigger universal ones but they are more expensive and weigh more which again sets a restriction.
And finally the price. Are you willing to attach an expensive camera to a drone or would you rather play it safe in case anything happened?
I have put together a short list of action cameras that fit all these criterias and have been tested before on drones.
GoPro (Hero3+ & 4) $300-500 (Best quality)
All GoPro Hero3+ and 4 cameras are the best when it comes to aerial videography. The main advantage of them is their popularity due to which there are hundreds of gimbals made for them, from cheap to expensive. Also the GoPro is known for amazing video and build quality.
Perhaps the only disadvantage is the price and the 170 degree lens which creates a fisheye effect. This is removable in the GoPro Studio program with some loss of video quality. But still, if you want the best quality camera then GoPro is the way to go.
Xiaomi Yi $86 (Best bang for buck)
Xiaomi Yi is a clever and capable action camera from China. The video quality (1080p 60fps) you can get for only $86 is amazing and best bang for buck by far. Thanks to its similar specs to the GoPro it can also be mounted to the more cheaper GoPro gimbals.
Xiamo Yi’s only downside is that it is around 1.4mm bigger than the GoPro which means that some Gimbals might require minor modifications. Such as filing off the extra dimension in order for it to fit a slot (DJI Zenmuse).
Xiaomi Yi review can be found here.
Mobius Action Camera $85 (Best FPV)
Mobius action camera is known as the go to for serious FPV flyers thanks to its super light weight, 40g. I have even seen a gimbal made for it so technically it can be used in aerial photography. Sadly the quality (1080p 30fps) isn’t that good to be used for high quality Full HD videos. However if you are looking for a camera for FPV flying then Mobius is the best.
SJCAM SJ5000 $120
Basically the same camera as Xiamo Yi, except with some differences in video quality etc. The main price difference comes from that SJ5000 has an LCD screen which can be quite helpful on ground. So if LCD screen is a must for you then SJ5000 is a great alternative to Xiaomi Yi.