Hello, and thank you for checking this ultimate list of the best and largest camera sensor drones.
A camera sensor in a drone is the most crucial part of any type of photography and video making.
What good is it to have an outstanding drone with all the features available to your fingertips but a lousy camera sensor?
This article focuses only on consumer drone cameras with the best and largest sensors, making them excellent for good dynamic range photographs and videos, low-light or night photography, and superb image quality that will allow video or photo editing to yet another level.
Yes, that is a thing. For the best photo and video editing, you need a large camera sensor. We will make the connection a bit later in the article.
In the meantime, let’s quickly have a look at the overview.
To help, we’ve identified and reviewed the best drone courses for beginners and professionals.
If you’re in a rush and you’re looking to skip to a specific camera drone, you can use the anchor links on the list below:
- DJI Mavic 3 Pro – Best consumer drone ever created with the largest CMOS (Hasselblad, 4/3-inch)
- Autel 2 EVO Pro V3 – Best non-DJI drone with the largest camera sensor (1-inch)
- DJI Air 2S – The most affordable drone with 1-inch CMOS
- Other Drones: DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2.0 and DJI Mavic 2 Pro – Uniquely diversified and older generation drones with 1-inch CMOS.
If you’re wondering why I haven’t added DJI Matrice, Inspire, or any of the Enterprise edition drones to the list, they may have better and larger camera sensors than what we have listed here, right?
That’s simply because we don’t want to focus on drones that are NOT accessible to most drone pilots or jump straight to the best drones on the market that cost tens of thousands of dollars and are out of reach for many people.
That’s not what we do.
I’ll go into detail with everything you need to know about the above-mentioned drones and why they are the best in their class.
DJI Mavic 3 Pro
|DJI Mavic 3 Pro
|Hasselblad: 4/3″ CMOS. The camera can zoom 1-3x
Medium Tele: 1/1.3″ CMOS. The medium tele camera can zoom 3-7x
Tele Camera: 1/2″ CMOS. The tele camera can zoom between 7 and 28x
|Hasselblad: 20MP resolution with adjustable aperture between f/2.8-f/11
Medium Tele: 12 or 48 Megapixels resolution with a fixed aperture of f/2.8
Tele Camera: 12 MP resolution with an aperture of f/3.4.
|Hasselblad: Can record in 5.1k at 50 frames per second or 4k at 120 fps. At full HD, it can record up to 200 frames per second.
Medium Tele: The video max resolution and framerate is 4k at 60fps
Tele Camera: Can film up to 4k at 60fps
|Max 43 minutes
|Omnidirectional obstacle avoidance sensors
|APAS & Active Track 5.0, Advanced Return-to-Home, Waypoints, Point of Interest, Quickshots.
- The Hasselblad 4/3 inch CMOS is currently the biggest sensor found in any consumer drone.
- On top of the main camera, the Mavic 3 Pro also has two additional ones: A medium tele and a tele camera.
- It’s an intelligent drone with many safety features, such as omnidirectional anti-collision sensors and intelligent flight modes.
- It’s compatible with the professional-level RC, the DJI RC Pro.
- It can fly for a long time and perform long-range flights.
- A fantastic drone for low-light and night photographs. The image results are simply fabulous.
- This drone can get pricey, especially if you’re opting for a fly-more combo and/or with the DJI RC Pro.
- Just after its release, a new transmission technology (OcuSync 4) came out with the DJI Air 3 and Mini 4 Pro, including two new remote controllers.
Why Mavic 3 Pro?
What a drone. From beginners to professional photographers and commercial drone pilots, the DJI Mavic 3 Pro is the main drone you should opt for.
No drone excels more than the Mavic 3 Pro, especially regarding camera quality, thanks to the Swedish Hasselblad camera technology.
And on top of having the largest CMOS found in a consumer drone, the Mavic 3 Pro surprises us with two extra cameras capable of zooming up to 28x.
I mean, let’s be real. What drone is possibly better in these scenarios than this one?
I got my hand on it for a while and had the chance to fly it. I was super excited, but was really nervous too because it was so expensive.
The camera quality- and here we’re talking strictly about the Hasselblad 4/3″ CMOS- is at the top of the tier, and it allows you to film or photograph in low-light or night scenarios like no other drone.
There is some competition between the DJI Mavic 3 Pro and Autel EVO 2 Pro V3’s 1″ CMOS for night use, especially since the Autel drone has an improved de-noising software called “Moonlight Algorithm.” Still, in terms of dynamic range, the Mavic 3 Pro wins with the Hasselblad.
But on top of the camera quality, the DJI Mavic 3 Pro still has more to offer, including total coverage protection preventing the drone from colliding with objects thanks to omnidirectional anti-collision sensors, to the “Advanced Active Track 5.0”.
We know it’s an expensive drone compared to many others, and not many pilots can afford it. Still, we have tested all the well-known drones from DJI, Autel, Holy Stone, etc. There’s currently nothing better than the Mavic 3 Pro in terms of camera quality, especially when we consider the Hasselblad technology.
I know I’ve talked strictly about the Mavic 3 Pro version. Keep in mind that the Mavic 3 and Mavic 3 Classic host the same CMOS 4/3-inch in size, and there are the advanced “Cine” versions of the Mavic 3 and Mavic 3 Pro.
Those “Cine” cameras support ApplePro Res for unmatched video quality, but the price of that drone version skyrockets as compared to the original Mavic 3 Pro.
- Hasselblad Main Camera 4/3 inch CMOS 24mm equivalent
- Medium Tele Camera 1/1.3 inch CMOS 70mm equivalent
- Tele Camera 166mm equivalent up to 28x hybrid zoom
- 43 minutes flight time, DJI O3+
- DJI RC Pro
Autel EVO 2 Pro V3
|Autel EVO 2 Pro V3
|1187 grams at takeoff
|1-inch CMOS with 20 Million effective pixels that can zoom for up to 16x, but only max 3x is lossless zoom.
|The maximum photo size relates to the equivalent of 20 Megapixels resolution.
|Can film for up to 6k resolution at 30 frames per second and 60 fps if we drop down to 4k.
|Max 40 minutes
|Omnidirectional sensing system
|Dynamic Track 2.0 with follow-me mode and several shot modes.
Also, it has the Moonlight Algorithm for improved night photographs and videos.
- Autel SkyLink v2.0 for improved range and live transmission
- 1-inch large CMOS for great photographs with a fantastic dynamic range
- Moonlight Algorithm, a special de-noising software for low-light or night photographs and videos
- Omnidirectional obstacle avoidance sensors
- Can fly for a long time and long-range without issues
- The drone (almost) always comes with a great bundle, including the Autel Smart Controller, a dozen accessories, two extra batteries, and a hard carrying case.
- 12-bit DNG, allowing better image editing
- Adjustable aperture between f/2.8 and f/11.
- No GeoFencing System
- The drone is quite heavy, weighing over 1.1 kilograms.
- The price is similar to the Mavic 3 Pro with a larger camera sensor (the simple version, not the fly-more combo with DJI RC Pro).
Why Autel EVO 2 Pro V3?
Autel did a fantastic job with its EVO Pro, Lite, and Nano series. I love how these drones fly and perform different functions, but I also love that they almost always give you more than you need to get straight into the air, including extra batteries.
DJI never does that unless you’re willing to pay more.
Now, regarding the photo and video capabilities of the 1-inch large CMOS found behind the EVO 2 Pro V3, this is one of the top ones.
While it competes directly with the Mavic 3 Pro’s Hasselblad 4/3-inch CMOS, Autel states that this drone camera is leading in picture quality.
Now, that can be a controversial topic as, in reality, both the Hasselblad and 1-inch CMOS from EVO 2 Pro are uniquely fantastic and able to deliver exceptional pictures.
But can’t say for sure that the EVO 2 Pro camera is better than the Hasselblad. In technological terms, it is not, but they have done a fantastic job with their stronger noise suppression, so there is that.
In reality, I can confirm from some of our tests that the Mavic 3 Pro’s Hasselblad camera takes a bit of “soft” images during the night as compared with the Autel EVO 2 Pro, where the photos appear more crisp than ever.
Now, taking a step further beyond the camera quality, this drone has a lot more to offer.
I mean, the transmission system is perfect. It has a SkyLink 2.0 image transmission, but that’s not all.
The live feed video you see on the Autel Smart Controller is up to 2.7k at 60 frames per second. No other DJI drone can match this.
In simple terms, the Autel Smart Controller allows you to see better details and clearer live transmission than any other drone.
And Autel Robotics, as a company, is well known for creating drones without forcing any GeoFencing software that will block you from taking off in restricted airspaces.
Although not recommended to do so, there could be some well-founded reasons why some drone pilots do not prefer GeoFencing.
DJI Air 2S
|DJI Air 2S
|1-inch CMOS mounted on a 3-axis gimbal with 20MP effective pixels
|20 Megapixels that can shoot in JPEG/DNG
|Can film for up to 5.4k at 30 frames per second or 4k at 60fps with a max video bitrate of 150Mbps
|Frontal, backward, downwards, and upward anti-collision sensors.
|APAS & Active Track 4.0 with follow-me mode
- One of the drones that has debuted with an extraordinary camera sensor (1-inch) made for professional photography.
- It’s the cheapest drone at this time to offer such a large camera sensor. No other drones under $1,000 offer 1-inch CMOS.
- An excellent video resolution for professional filming.
- With a history behind it, the DJI Air 2S has proved to be a very reliable drone ever since its release and has a good track record of firmware updates for improved stability and function.
- The 4-way anti-collision sensors are sufficient to help beginners navigate obstacles.
- Compatible with DJI RC Pro.
- The flight time is below average.
- This drone is becoming slightly old as technology goes.
- No full anti-collision coverage, which has become a thing nowadays in new drones.
Why DJI Air 2S?
I remember well when I got my hands on the DJI Air 2S for the first time. It was the drone to make a real change in terms of aerial photography and video making.
Very few could compete with this drone’s camera sensor and its capabilities at its release.
But nowadays, even if we have the complex Mavic 3 line, the new V3 of the Autel EVO 2 Pro, and some other drones with the same camera sensor or larger, the DJI Air 2S is still an extremely good drone.
This is because the drone is very cheap compared to others, and if you’re looking to get into drone photography or filming on a lower budget, this could be the answer.
Moreover, it still stands out even with the new DJI Air 3’s release and the new drone’s two cameras. But both of those cameras are smaller than the one found in Air 2S.
In the past three years since the Air 2S was released, one technological advancement that makes us take a step back from rash decisions is the excellent development of increased battery life.
The DJI Air 2S battery is able to keep the drone in the air for 31 minutes, but in reality, it needs a max of 25 minutes in order to land it safely. As things have progressed, this is very low compared to more modern drones.
For instance, the Air 3 can fly for up to 46 minutes, which is a whopping 50% flight time increase. I hope my math is right.
However, few drone pilots seek drones with the longest flight time. I mean, that’s something you can work around (extra batteries, power bank, etc.); however, for better camera quality, you’ll have to change the entire drone.
So, once more. The 1-inch CMOS in the Air 2S has done wonders over the past three years, populating the internet with extremely good and professional-level photographs and videos.
Even better, this drone is the perfect choice to avoid spending too much.
DJI Air 2S has the ability to perceive its environment in four directions: up, down, forward, and backward, allowing it to actively avoid obstacles, even in complex scenarios and at high speeds.
What I have covered above are literally the best drones with the largest camera sensors in descending order.
On the other hand, these are not the only drones in the running. Here we have two more drones worth mentioning, but I did not want to create a special mention because their age may make them fall behind with technological advancement while their prices remain relatively high.
So, unless you get a good deal on these drones, getting them second-hand (in good working order) or receiving them at a very high discounted price, I don’t recommend buying them, as the same money can help you focus on buying newer and better-performing drones, such as the ones I’ve mentioned in the first place.
DJI Phantom 4 Pro V2
As a successor to the first DJI Phantom 4 Pro, the v2 version was announced and released in May 2018, but it also had a relaunch in 2020.
Still, as we write this article in 2024, the drone is already 6 years old since the original v2 was released. And age in drones goes by faster than age in humans. More even than dog years.
Some of us at Droneblog had almost every model in the Phantom series, from the very first versions as commercial drones, including the 4 Pro V2.
The Phantom line concluded with this as a consumer drone and entirely with Phantom 4 Multispectral.
As DJI ended support for most of the Phantom drones back in 2023, we’re surprised to see this one still standing. Firmware updates became so rare on this drone that it was a surprise for everyone when support for Remote ID was added to this Pro V2 version.
Now, looking at this drone, we find the same big ol’ 1-inch CMOS capable of superb photography and filming. Still, it “was” competent, as the technology is rapidly falling behind even with such a large camera sensor.
The Phantom 4 Pro V2 can film in 4k at 60 frames per second and photograph at a 20 MP resolution; this camera is mounted on a 3-axis mechanical gimbal.
The drone can still be found on some 3rd party marketplaces such as Amazon, but its price as new is similar to the Mavic 3 Pro, which we totally recommend over this one at all costs if you can afford to purchase it.
As we have mentioned, unless you get a really excellent deal, stay away from getting the Phantom 4 Pro V2 as new.
DJI Mavic 2 Pro
I did not personally have the Mavic 2 Pro, but I owned the Mavic 2 Zoom version for quite some time. Back then, it was a good deal for me, but lately, I regret not getting the “Pro” version, as the 1-inch CMOS was extremely good.
Sadly, the Zoom version only had 1/2.3 inch CMOS.
The Mavic 2 Pro was released in August 2018 together with the Zoom version. At the time of writing this article, it is getting close to its sixth birthday, which in the drone world is considered ancient technology.
This drone can also be found on 3rd party marketplaces, but it maintains a really high price of close to $2,000. If you’re looking to buy a drone (especially with the largest camera sensor), I promised to share the best ones with you as they exist now in 2024.
And the Mavic 2 Pro did not make the cut.
This drone has the same 1-inch CMOS as the other ones we talked about in this article. But it falls behind in video framerate where at 4k you only get 30fps.
As for photography, it has the same 20-megapixel resolution capabilities, with the possibility of shooting in RAW.
Weighing “only” 907 grams (I say “only” because most of the drones here are heavier than this one), the Mavic 2 Pro can fly for about 31 minutes.
It was a good drone, but now technological advancement has made this drone obsolete, and unless you find a really good deal to justify the purchase, we recommend aiming for the newer 1-inch CMOS drone models.
» MORE: DJI Mavic 2 Pro Review
Camera sensor on a drone – Everything you need to know
I created this article with the purpose of recommending drones with large camera sensors – basically, the largest ones you can find in consumer drones at decent prices.
But why large camera sensors? Why are all of my recommendations 1-inch CMOS and larger?
The basic camera sensor found in most drones is 1/1.3 inch. That’s still excellent for photography and filming, but with 1-inch CMOS or higher, you’ll make the most difference.
Better image quality
The main reason we should always aim for a larger camera sensor is that wherever we’re talking about drone photography or DSLR, we’re looking at better overall image quality.
The pixel density can be higher, and pixels can also be larger, resulting in images and videos having better details and color accuracy and the photo or video captures being clearer than capturing with a smaller CMOS.
Better for low-light or night photography and filming
Similar to having higher image details and color accuracy, drones with larger camera sensors will have lower image noise observable in images and videos, which can result in better photographs and captures taken at night.
Night photography and filmmaking depend a lot on a large camera sensor. That’s why the Mavic 3 Pro and Autel EVO 2 Pro V3 excel in these functions.
Lower noise, higher brightness and contrast, and sharper images during the night are the result of the 1-inch and 4/3-inch CMOS in these drones.
Other drones will perform worse or fail to capture fantastic images during the night.
But keep in mind that CMOS technology plays an important role, so don’t assume all 1-inch CMOS drones can perform well; only the new generations do.
Increased dynamic range
The Dynamic Range is the difference between the highest brightness and the darkest shadows captured in the same image.
When a camera sensor is larger, it preserves better information in the depth of shadows as well as on the extreme highlights, allowing post-processing of these photos for clear images and vivid HDR photographs.
The same goes for using drones with large CMOS for filming. It allows better video editing flexibility and recovers details that are lost in the dynamic range.
Enhanced flexibility (editing)
There’s always a misunderstanding that if you shoot with a drone in RAW, you can edit these photographs as the imagination takes, for instance, in Lightroom.
You will be limited in editing these photos (and even videos) as per the number of details the CMOS stores in these RAW image formats.
With a larger camera sensor, more details are being stored, hence, better capabilities of editing photos and videos to the extreme and making them stand out.
Some images may have a shallow depth of field
In photographic terms, if you have a large camera sensor and a wide aperture lens and you photograph a subject up-close, the background becomes blurry, also known as BOKEH.
This is rare to achieve with a drone, but a wide aperture camera with a large camera sensor mounted on a drone, if you capture subjects up-close (e.g., the bell of a tower), the background can become slightly blurry, enhancing this effect of having a shallow depth of field.
I thought it was something worth mentioning anyway.
Having a drone with a large camera sensor will enhance your ability to create professional-level photographs or videos, and these drones are also excellent for use in commercial activities.
The camera in a drone is one of the most important aspects and the reason we’re willing to spend even thousands to buy a drone.
We can live with or without limited obstacle avoidance sensors, without follow-me mode or Active Track and other intelligent functions. But having an excellent drone from all perspectives and with a poor camera sensor – it’s a deal breaker.
Now, it all comes down to personal choice. Drones such as the DJI Mini 4 Pro and DJI Air 3 with the 1/1.3 inch CMOS still do a fantastic job even if the sensor is smaller in dimensions than our recommendations; they are of newer technologies and can perform nearly as well as these 1-inch CMOS, if not even better than older 1-inch CMOS technology.
All with the bonus intelligent features they present in a new generation type of drone.
We expect this list to change with the long-awaited Mavic 4 series, which may (or may not) be released now in 2024.