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Best Drones for Wildlife Photography

Hello, and welcome to the ultimate list of the best drones that can be used for wildlife photography.

best drones for wildlife photography
Image: Depositphotos

With a background as a professional photographer, I’ve had my fair share of deals with wildlife photography. But back then, when I was running from country to country, events, and less explored areas to capture the unimaginable, drones available for use were limited in number and not with the features we have today.

I wish I had something better than my Mavic 2 Zoom when I was focusing on wildlife photography, as, on average, 4x is not enough.

I would guess that if you’re looking for a professional drone for wildlife photography, you may already know the approach to this niche.

Two of the most crucial features for using such drones in wildlife photography are zoom capabilities and the quietness of the drone.

And some of today’s drones are able to meet these requirements.

I may not have been featured on National Geographic, but still, overall, my photographs have reached many popular magazines worldwide and have been viewed tens of millions of times, so I can safely say that I know what tools you need for the job.

So here we are, sharing a very short list where only a handful of consumer drones can even be used in wildlife photography.

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Overview

If you’re in a rush and want to skip straight to the practical answer, here’s a quick overview of the best drones that excel in wildlife photography.

  • DJI Mavic 3 Pro – Best consumer drone for wildlife photography
  • DJI Air 3 – Newest drone technology suitable for wildlife photography
  • Autel EVO 2 Pro – Hybrid drone good for wildlife photography and other applications.

DJI Mavic 3 Pro

Photo: Dan Bayne

Key Features

  • Size & Weight:  231.1×98×95.4 mm folded and 958 grams
  • Flight Time: Max 43 minutes
  • Max Range: 9.3 miles or 15 km in the USA (FCC) and 5 miles or 8 km in EU, China, and Japan (CE, SRRC, and MIC)
  • Camera & Zoom:
    • Hasselblad: 4/3 inch CMOS capable of filming in 5.1k at 50 frames per second and photographing at 20 megapixels resolution. The Hasselblad camera can zoom up to 3x under normal circumstances.
    • Medium Tele: A 1/1.3 inch CMOS camera that can film in 4k at 60 frames per second or photograph at 12 Megapixels and an enhanced resolution at 48 Megapixels. This medium tele camera can zoom about 3 to 7 times under normal circumstances.
    • Tele Camera: 1/2 inch CMOS capable of filming in 4k at 60 frames per second and photographing at 12MP resolution. This camera can zoom (hybrid) up to 28x.
  • Other Features:  Omnidirectional obstacle avoidance sensors, Active Track and APAS 5.0, Waypoints and Intelligent Flight Modes, 3-axis mechanical gimbal, and advanced return-to-home feature.

» MORE: DJI Mavic 3 Pro Review (I have NEVER flown a drone that I enjoyed so much)

✅ Pros

  • By far, it is the best consumer drone for wildlife photography, unmatched with the 28 times zoom, which proves crucial for such shots.
  • It has plenty of safety features that will help with the flights, from omnidirectional obstacle avoidance sensors to APAS 5.0 and the possibility for the drone to find its way to the takeoff point by itself. 
  • The Mavic 3 Pro can be used on a handful of different applications as well due to the largest CMOS found in a consumer drone, 4/3-inch Hasselblad. 
  • Considering its size, the drone is relatively more silent than many others, with a lower pitch noise when flying. Also, it can withstand some natural forces with good wind stability and broader operating temperature.

❌ Cons

  • The drone’s starting point is quite expensive, and it gets even more so if you’re aiming for the Cine version and/or DJI RC Pro for the best experience.
  • Considering its size, it could be more challenging to travel with, especially if you’re planning to get into a remote area for some wildlife shots.

» MORE: DJI Mavic 3 Pro vs. Mavic 3 Pro Cine (Here’s My Choice) 

Product Overview

Jumping straight to one of the best consumer drones in the world currently, we have the DJI Mavic 3 Pro, which is also one of the best drones you can ever use in wildlife photography.

When I got my hand on this drone, the first time I flew it, I couldn’t quite believe what I was experiencing. The drone flies extremely smoothly, relatively fast, and is very stable. 

On top of that, it is not as noisy as many other drones, and with the zoom capabilities, this changes everything.

There is no other consumer drone capable of zooming that far with little to no image quality loss.

And if you’re looking into wildlife photography, this drone is definitely the pinnacle of the current drone technology.

The downside here is that you won’t be able to take much advantage of the Hasselblad 4/3 super CMOS. The Hasselblad zoom capabilities are too small to take any good wildlife photos; 

At the same time, the medium tele camera is more than decent. With a maximum of 7x zoom, you can still approach natural habitats and grab some decent photos without disturbing much of the wildlife.

But the crown jewel would be the tele camera with 28x hybrid zoom.

Maybe you don’t realize how much 28x zoom is in real terms. A good binocular has 8 to 10x and usually a telescope for deep-sky observations around 25x zoom. This drone has 28x. 

With no stress, you can stay far from natural nests and animals and photograph them with this camera while you have zero impact on their behavior. 

But we have to remember this camera CMOS is only half an inch, which is a bit below today’s standard in terms of drone photography.

However, at this zoom level, you won’t find anything better unless you’re ready to invest tens of thousands of dollars in a special drone and attach cinema-quality cameras with better zoom capabilities.

That’s out of range for most pilots unless you’re one step from being featured on the National Geographic magazine cover.

» MORE: What’s the Difference Between DJI Mavic 3, Classic, Pro & Cine? (Answered)

Why Mavic 3 Pro for Wildlife Photography?

There are so many reasons to choose this drone for wildlife. And as we explained above, there’s nothing currently better.

Note: The reason we handpicked the Mavic 3 Pro as the king drone for wildlife photography and not the “CINE” version is that the Mavic 3 Pro Cine would benefit greatly videographers (or wildlife filmmakers to create documentaries, etc.) and has little to no benefit for strict wildlife photography, other than a significant price increase.

So, once more, why Mavic 3 Pro?

  • With 1x to 28x zoom across three cameras, there’s nothing better you can get at this time for wildlife photography in terms of consumer drones.
  • If safety features are crucial when you fly your drone in more challenging conditions, the omnidirectional anti-collision sensors and APAS 5.0 come to your aid.
  • Quietness is the forte point for the Mavic 3 Pro as compared to many other drones. 
  • With a long battery life and excellent transmission range, you don’t have to step into the swamps or reach impossible places to launch your drone. Stay afar and photograph everything from a longer distance.

» MORE: DJI Mavic 3 Classic vs. Mavic 3 Pro (Here’s My Choice)

So, what are the drawbacks of this drone for wildlife photography? 

Although this drone is a top one, we don’t like the fact (as we mentioned above) that the tele camera has a very small CMOS, 1/2 inch, which can impact your image’s dynamic range. But we have what we have for this price.

Also, as a wildlife photographer, you will find it difficult to carry this drone around in your backpack for miles. I mean, it’s not too bad, but indeed, you will feel its weight.

Our Pick
DJI Mavic 3 Pro (Fly More Combo)
$2,999.00

Flagship Triple-Camera Drone with 4/3 CMOS Hasselblad Camera, 15km Video Transmission, three Batteries, Charging Hub, and more.

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03/07/2024 03:12 am GMT

DJI Air 3

Best Camera Settings for DJI Air 3 (Photo & Video)
Photo: Dan Bayne

Key Features

  • Size & Weight: 207×100×91mm folded without propellers and 720g 
  • Flight Time: 46 minutes
  • Max Range: 12.4 miles or 20km in the USA (FCC) and 6.2 miles or 10km in Europe, China, and Japan (CE, SRRC, and MIC)
  • Camera & Zoom: 
    • Wide Angle Camera: 1-3x zoom with 1/1.3 inch CMOS capable of filming in 4k up to 100fps and photographing at 12MP resolution or 48 MP enhanced.
    • Medium Tele Camera: 3-9x zoom with the same 1/1.3 inch CMOS that can film in 4k at 100fps and have the same still photography at 12 or 48 Megapixels.
  • Other Features:  Active Track and APAS 5.0, Omnidirectional obstacle avoidance sensors, newest DJI O4 transmission system

» MORE: DJI Air 3 Review – Is this the Drone for You?

✅ Pros

  • Yet another unique drone for wildlife photography that can zoom up to 9x with the medium tele camera.
  • It’s a drone of next-generation technology with the latest O4 transmission system for very long-range flights and comes with a new type of controller.
  • It has omnidirectional anti-collision sensors, which are very practical to avoid unwanted crashes when you fly in hard-to-get-to-places, featuring APAS 5.0
  • This drone can stay in the air for a very long time, for up to 46 minutes, with its intelligent battery.
  • You can shoot in vertical mode.
  • The price is more than decent for such a drone.

❌ Cons

  • It’s a new drone and may come with some unsolved bugs or issues; for instance, the 48 MP enhanced resolution may have a lot of chromatic aberration, affecting the image quality. DJI has to solve this issue via firmware updates.
  • Even with a decent 9x zoom that will definitely make the difference in wildlife photography, it can’t compare with the Mavic 3 Pro’s 28x zoom.

» MORE: DJI Air 3 Beginners Guide (Step-by-Step Guide)

Product Overview

We all at Droneblog were eager to get our hands on this drone. It was the first one to feature new technology from the OcuSync 4.0 hemisphere, and it’s the first air drone to feature total coverage for anti-collision sensors.

And what makes this drone a sweet deal, even for wildlife photography, is the lower price, which is less than half of what the Mavic 3 Pro costs. 

The drone is also quieter compared to many older drones, so this has to be a plus, right?

So, if you’re an amateur looking to get into wildlife photography and don’t have lots of money to invest, then the Air 3 is more than a good deal.

Besides, this drone is future-proof, so it will support firmware updates for many years ahead. 

The DJI RC 2 and DJI RC-N2 are two new controllers that come with this drone, with a technological improvement over the older versions, DJI RC and RC-N1.

But the sad part is to see (at least at this time) the Air 3 not being compatible with the DJI RC Pro, which could’ve come with significant advantages in wildlife photography.

» MORE: How to Fly DJI Air 3 Drone (With DJI RC 2)

Why Air 3 for Wildlife Photography?

With the good and the bad, the Air 3 is a welcome drone that shall make a difference in the long run.

For now, strictly referring to wildlife photography, why would you choose this drone?

  • It’s a fantastic drone to start with and is much lower priced than the Mavic 3 Pro, making it more affordable than anything else on this list.
  • The 9x max zoom is advantageous for wildlife photography. It is, on average, the same magnification you see through a pair of binoculars. 
  • This is a drone, as we mentioned before, that will not get outdated for many years to come, especially since it’s the first one from a new technological era of drones.
  • With all of its technologies, you can fly this drone far away to capture the required images, especially since it can stay in the air for close to 40 minutes in a realistic scenario.

» MORE: DJI Air 3 Waypoints (All You Need to Know)

Not everything is perfect with this drone. So, if these drawbacks are not an issue for you, then by all means, this would be my go-to wildlife drone if the Mavic 3 Pro is out of the price range.

Remember the chromatic aberration and camera issues at 48 Megapixels? Don’t despair; DJI will solve it through firmware updates. But this, and probably other unexpected problems, may pop up as it’s a very new drone to break the barrier with this recent technology.

In order to avoid disturbing wildlife, in many cases, we may need more than 9x zoom. Again, the Mavic 3 Pro would be more than ideal in these scenarios.

Editor's Choice
DJI Air 3 RC 2 (Fly More Combo)
$1,549.00

DJI Air 3 Fly More Combo with DJI RC 2 (screen remote controller), Drone with Medium Tele & Wide-Angle Dual Primary Cameras for Adults 4K HDR, 46-Min Max Flight Time, 48MP, Two Extra Batteries.

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03/06/2024 03:46 pm GMT

Autel EVO 2 Pro

Image: phantomrain.org

Key Features

  • Weight: 1.2kg at takeoff
  • Flight Time: 45 minutes
  • Max Range: 9.3 miles or 15 km in the USA (FCC) and 5 miles or 8 km in the EU.
  • Camera & Zoom: 1-inch CMOS capable of filming in 6k at 30 frames per second with 20MP density for photography. It can zoom up to 8x with 3x lossless zoom.
  • Other Features: Moonlight Algorithm 2.0, omnidirectional anti-collision sensors, Dynamic Track 2.0 and Autel SkyLink 2.0 transmission system

» MORE: Autel EVO 2 Pro vs. DJI Air 3 (Which One Is Better?)

✅ Pros

  • It’s a fantastic professional drone with a large CMOS that excels in low-light photography, including wildlife at dawn or dusk for some unique shots.
  • Can zoom up to 8 times, which, in my professional opinion, is the borderline for decent wildlife photography.
  • It shares many safety features, including the anti-collision sensors that will protect your drone from colliding from any angle.
  • This drone can fly for a decent amount of time and has a great transmission range.
  • Moreover, the EVO 2 Pro V3 comes in a bundle-rich pack with the Autel Smart Controller SE and a 6.4-inch OLED screen.

❌ Cons

  • The price comes close to the DJI Mavic 3 Pro, which outperforms the EVO 2 Pro for wildlife photography. (At times, this drone has significant discounts, so it is worth keeping an eye on those as it may save you some money.)
  • The 8x zoom is good but far from ideal for professional wildlife photography and looking for the best images you can ever get in this case, especially since only 3x is lossless zoom.

» MORE: 3 Most-Common Problems with Autel EVO 2 Pro (With Solutions)

Product Overview

Taking a step away from DJI drones, we have this top-notch Autel drone, the EVO 2 Pro, the 3rd version.

It’s a significant upgrade over the previous versions, and it’s a drone that excels in low-light or night photography and filming. 

We have tested this drone extensively at Droneblog, and we love how well it flies, the performance behind it, the transmission range, and the quality of the images and video.

It’s simply exceptional.

But I always felt this drone could have an improved zoom or additional tele camera like the Mavic 3 line. Even as it is, it should be more than sufficient, especially if you get a chance to buy it at a discounted price.

Another thing I love about this drone is its bundle, making it ready to fly with everything you need and transport it even through the most daunting terrain and weather conditions.

» MORE: Autel EVO 2 Pro vs. DJI Mavic 3 Classic (Here’s My Favorite)

Why Autel EVO 2 Pro for Wildlife Photography?

The 1-inch large CMOS is exceptionally good for photography and filming. It’s one of the top consumer CMOS found in a drone that fights closely with the 4/3 inch Hasselblad from Mavic 3 Pro in terms of quality.

  • The Autel EVO 2 Pro 8x zoom, even as it is, is more than sufficient to capture the unbelievable.
  • The dynamic range and Moonlight algorithm make this drone stand out for its photography capabilities.
  • It can fly for a long time and certainly can fly long-range without issues.
  • The drone is not noisy as compared to smaller but high-pitch drones that can disturb wildlife.
  • If you plan to fly in areas with many obstacles around, the total anti-collision sensor coverage can save your drone if you’re too focused on photographing something special.

» MORE: Autel vs. DJI – Which Drones Are Better?

But with the good, there have to come a few downsides. And especially for wildlife photography, here’s what could make you think twice before investing in this drone.

As mentioned, the price is a bit hefty and not far from the Mavic 3 Pro, which would be our top recommendation for wildlife photography. Sure enough, though, if you want to avoid buying a DJI drone, you can’t go wrong with this one.

In some circumstances, the 8x zoom may not be enough unless you fly your drone closer to the wildlife with the risk of scaring it away.

Autel Robotics EVO 2 PRO V3
$2,099.00

Autel EVO II Pro V3 is upgraded with Autel drone's all new SkyLink 2.0 video transmission technology, allows video transmission from up to 15 km.

Buy from Amazon
We earn a commission if you make a purchase, at no additional cost to you.
03/06/2024 06:17 pm GMT

Choosing a Drone and Steps into Wildlife Photography

Credit: Gabriel Mihalcea

Sorry. I simply love wildlife photography and had to share one of my photos with you, taken with my DSLR. It just stirs up my memories.

So, why did we recommend these drones, and why only three?

Of course, I could add to the list the Mini 3 Pro, Air 2S, Autel EVO Lite+, and many other smaller and even more affordable drones. But they don’t excel in wildlife photography; in fact, most drones won’t find a place on this list.

There are a few drones that are even better for wildlife photography, but we’re talking about drones that cannot be transported by backpack and will require two or more people to carry; they cost tens of thousands of dollars and are noisy like a helicopter.

Unless you’re in a wildlife film production with a high budget and ways of transportation, I would stay away from those – that’s not what we recommend here at Droneblog.

Our list has the best three drones you can ever buy at this time for wildlife photography in descending order.

If you can afford it, the DJI Mavic 3 Pro is definitely the only drone you should focus on. But Air 3 is not a bad choice either; it only underperforms for such types of photography.

Remember, when you’re doing wildlife photography, you need to keep your distance from animals and their habitats. Don’t disturb them; that’s why zoom is the number one crucial element for this type of photography.

And there’s yet another crucial part: How legal is flying a drone on natural reservations, national parks, or places where wildlife flourishes?

In the United States and most parts of the world, you may have trouble with the law if you fly such drones there. Animals are protected, and that’s why wildlife photography with a drone is difficult, not because of the limited technology but for conservation reasons to protect the wildlife.

But this doesn’t mean the wildlife is out of reach. You just need to find places that are not restricted where you can pursue this type of activity.

Always check your country’s drone laws and a map of where you are or are not allowed to fly.

And remember, everything we recommend here is based on choosing the perfect drone for wildlife photography. If you’re looking for wildlife filming, there would be better choices.

To give you a peek at my recommendations, the Mavic 3 Pro Cine would be the perfect drone for filming wildlife, and I would also consider FPV drones for the most unique shots in a safari-like experience.

» MORE: FPV Drones vs. Regular Drones (Explained for Beginners)

Conclusion

Once more, remember to respect the drone laws and be aware of the implications of flying a drone close to wildlife.

Then, pick your perfect drone.

  • The Mavic 3 Pro has no match. It’s simply the best, and I would recommend nothing else over it.
  • The Air 3 comes in second place, and the EVO 2 Pro would be my recommendation if you want to step away from DJI or you’re looking for some low-light wildlife shots. However, it wouldn’t be my first choice.

At this time, I recommend nothing else for wildlife photography. These drones are simply the best, with the Mavic 3 Pro holding the crown until something better appears.

» MORE: Best Drones for Night Time Use (Photography & Video)