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EXO Drones vs. DJI (Which Drones Are Best?)

Every drone brand wants to expand the boundaries of what’s possible, producing increasingly better consumer drones that captivate the public’s attention.

That’s always been DJI’s mission, and it’s a quest EXO is also on.

That gave me the idea – why not compare these two drone brands to see which is truly pushing the envelope? After all, there can only be one king of drones.

I’ve loved DJI for as long as I can remember, a trait I’m sure I have in common with many of you reading this. However, EXO grabbed my attention too and has held it with its simplified yet exciting-to-use drones.

As EXO says itself, they’re selling an experience.

So, which one wins out?

Join me as I put EXO and DJI drones head-to-head, examining the best models, comparing the most important features, and helping you decide which drone manufacturer is worth spending your hard-earned money on.

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EXO vs. DJI – Which is better? The quick answer

EXO is a promising up-and-comer in the drone world. I anticipate it will do big things.

DJI is the long-established reigning leader of consumer drones. It’s a crown no one can take away.

Ultimately, which brand you believe is better will be a matter of personal choice. My recommendation is based on trying many drone models from both brands and flying them for dozens of hours each.

DJI drones continue to be the reigning, defending champion of the drone world. Although EXO drones have comparable battery lives and obstacle avoidance, the newer drone brand can’t touch DJI in terms of image and video quality, transmission distance, and smart features.

EXO is competing for DJI’s share of the market interested in lower-cost consumer drones, and while it certainly has a promising future if it continues on its current path, it’s still not quite there yet.

It’s somewhere between Holy Stone and Autel in quality, with prices nearer what you’d see from Autel but including budget models with pricing on par with Holy Stone.

In the meantime, DJI is in a class all its own.

What are EXO drones?

EXO produces what it calls “the drones of tomorrow.” It likens its history to a David vs. Goliath situation, with EXO being David and heavyweights like DJI being Goliath.

This up-and-coming brand has always sought to innovate to the same extent DJI has and continues to broaden the parameters of what consumer drones are capable of.

Its team began small upon its founding but expanded as the company experienced rapid growth.

The pillars of the EXO brand are affordability and top technology, with a mantra of “no pilot left behind.”

Its products cater to young beginners seeking a low-cost first drone, to experienced commercial pilots seeking automated features and innovative video.

EXO has partnered with brands like T-Mobile, further growing its clout.

The brand prides itself on its tutorials, customer support, and drone quality. EXO has only existed for two years, so its roster of drones is small but mighty.

There’s the EXO Mini, an obvious response to the DJI Mini series, the EXO Cinemaster 3 with a high-end camera, the EXO Blackhawk series for everyday flights, and the EXO X7 Ranger PLUS, a wind-resistant, FAA-compliant model.

» MORE: EXO Mini vs. DJI Mini 3 (Which One is Right for You?)

What are DJI drones?

DJI is one of those brands that needs no introduction. Every drone pilot is familiar with them, from newbies flying for the first time to the most experienced pros.

However, even though DJI doesn’t need an introduction, I’m going to give it one anyway, as it’s only fair.

DJI is a Chinese drone manufacturing company founded in 2006. At the time, consumer drones existed, but technology was in its infancy compared to where it is today.

They were also so much more expensive and less accessible than they’d later become.

Frank Wang, real name Wang Tao, created the brand, designing the first prototypes for DJI drones in his college dorm room.

The first official DJI drone, the Phantom, was a massive success, and the brand grew steadily from there.

DJI partnered with Hasselblad in 2015, a Swedish camera manufacturer. The union grew, and by 2019, DJI took a majority stake in the camera brand. Many of DJI’s flagship drones feature Hasselblad cameras.

The brand has received awards, and its drones have been used to film major television shows like Game of Thrones and Better Call Saul. Its drones account for more than 70 percent of the market worldwide.

DJI sells many types of drones at various price points for all skill levels. Its handheld drones include the DJI FPV, Inspire, Avata, Mini series, Air, and Mavic.

Its enterprise drones are used in the oil and gas industries, public safety, electricity, and aerial surveying. DJI also produces agricultural drones.  

» MORE: How Do I Find My DJI Remote ID? (A Complete Guide)

The top EXO drones

I encourage you to make your own choice on which drone brand you prefer between EXO and DJI.

To help you do that, next, I’ll share my favorite models from each drone brand.

1. EXO Blackhawk 3 Pro

The Blackhawk 3 Pro is the new and improved edition of the Blackhawk 2 Series, which was already a popular EXO drone.

If you’re seeking the highest-quality drone under the EXO umbrella, this is it. The Blackhawk has features that make it comparable to any DJI drone you might have had on your wish list.

Let’s talk turkey, shall we?

The Blackhawk 3 Pro has an ultra-high-quality camera with a 1/1.3-inch CMOS that shoots in 48 MP image quality and 4K HDR video quality at 200 Mbps.

Sure, it’s no Hasselblad camera, but you know what? It’s pretty darn close. 

The amount of image information this camera retains is comparable to Swedish engineering. 

Noise? Nope, not here. Color range? It’s exquisite, so your videos and images pop, making them a sought-after addition to your portfolio.

The dynamic range is excellent, and oh, the zooming! I don’t know how EXO did it, but the zoom on this camera doesn’t get crusty and blurry, even when you use it to the full extent. Safer drone photography and videography, here you come.

The battery life of the Blackhawk 3 Pro is legendary. EXO says it flies for 53 minutes, while my testing found a battery life of just under 50 minutes. Still, that’s amazing, exceeding even Autel standards, and certainly DJI.

The three-way collision avoidance sensors are pre-installed for sensing downward, rear, and frontal obstacles. It’s perhaps not the most innovative obstacle avoidance system on the market, but it gets the job done.

Now, how about those smart features? The Blackhawk 3 Pro can shoot in Night Mode, and it has Waypoints for drawing a custom flight map.

Line Fly is one of many autonomous flight features, including Return Home and GPS-driven tracking.

This EXO drone also has several modes, including Normal and Sport Mode, another answer to DJI’s continuing drone innovation. 

» MORE: When Should You Upgrade Your Drone? (Read This First)

2. EXO X7 Ranger PLUS

Change the game by flying the EXO X7 Ranger PLUS.

This drone is more straightforward than the Blackhawk 3 Pro, with a price I think many newer drone pilots will find more agreeable.

While it’s not boundary-breaking, it’s a solid drone all around. Its 1/3-inch sensor and three-axis gimbal support 2K video quality and 4K images.

That’s 9 MP quality, which is less than great if you’re a stickler for image clarity.

That said, you would be surprised how clear the shots taken on the X7 come out if you’re willing to give this drone a try. I’m not saying they’re the world’s greatest, but perfectly fine for a new drone pilot.

It also helps that the camera is adjustable and has 50x zoom within EXO’s app. Just keep in mind that the already low image quality doesn’t get much better when you use the zoom function.

My favorite feature of this drone is its 360-degree obstacle avoidance, putting the X7 on par with any Autel drone.

Its smart features are more numerous than the Blackhawk 3 Pro, with RTH, Follow, Circle, and a mode called Pin-Fly.

Here’s how it works. Mark a pin on a map, and the X7 uses GPS to get there. It’s drone technology at its finest!

» MORE: Best Budget Drones with 3-Axis Gimbal

3. EXO Cinemaster 2

It’s in the name – the EXO Cinemaster 2 is designed for cinematics. Its camera has a three-axis gimbal and 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor for shooting 4K UHD video and 10 MP images.

While I wish the Cinemaster 2 had higher-quality image resolution, it’s not the worst I’ve seen, and its video quality is exceptional through and through.

Part of what makes the image res better than you might assume out of the box is that the images retain more detail and data. 

These aren’t RAW image files but close, in that you get more color (90 million of them, to be precise), less noise, and an awesome dynamic range.

You can also tinker with the aperture settings and exposure, which can help you configure the camera how you like to overcome its lower quality. 

I wouldn’t recommend this drone so much for experienced commercial pilots, but for newer pilots building a portfolio from scratch or influencers trying to get into drones, it ain’t half bad.

The foldable Cinemaster operates at two speeds: 13 or 27 miles per hour depending on whether you use Cinematic or Sport mode. 

You can toggle between the two to catch the athlete crossing the finish line or slow down to take leisurely shots of the surrounding landscape.

The beginner-friendly hands-free modes are great for focusing more on cinematics, especially for social media stars and influencers learning drones.

The available modes are follow me, Circle Me, Route Fly (like Waypoints, in that you set up pins on a map), and a night spotlight.

Here’s another cool feature: the Cinemaster 2 doesn’t need Wi-Fi to fly, an EXO trademark.

» MORE: Best Affordable Drones for Beginners (2023)

4. EXO Mini

How did EXO respond to the growing DJI Mini line? With a Mini drone of its own called the EXO Mini.

EXO pulled out all the stops here, imbuing the drone with 48 MP image quality and 4K video at 200 Mbps due to the 1/1.3-inch CMOS sensor.

How does a generous dynamic range, retained colors, exposure balance, and high-level detail sound?

This is undoubtedly one of EXO’s best camera sensors, and it performs with the right balance of light and shadow to reduce the time you spend editing your work.

The 6x zoom is impeccable, eliminating a severe quality reduction when you reach in closer to your target. You can stand safely feet away taking shots, expanding your ability to shoot within the legal limit.

Its flight time is between 40 and 45 minutes. You have to change out the batteries to get that full time, and you should expect a few minutes less time than advertised.

» MORE: DJI Mini 3 Pro vs. EXO Mini Pro (Which One is Right for You?)

The three-way collision avoidance is noteworthy, as DJI Mini drones don’t always have obstacle sensing and avoidance. Granted, it’s an add-on feature in the EXO Mini, but that it’s even available is important.

The EXO Mini also has some coveted smart features, from trusted modes like Dronie and Comet to an auto-follow, Auto Drifting, and Fly to Sky.

These hands-free, automated modes will make any first-time pilot look like a seasoned professional!

EXO Mini
$589.00

40 Minute Battery Life, 4K Camera, 5 Mile Range, 12MP Photo, Follow-Me, Return to Home, +15 more, Ready to Fly & Case Included (2 Batteries).

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03/06/2024 06:46 pm GMT

The top DJI drones

Now, it’s time to turn the tide and compare DJI. Based on what EXO has available, I pulled four comparable drone models from the leading drone manufacturer to make this comparison fairer.

1. DJI Mini 3 Pro

Is the Mini 3 Pro my favorite DJI drone? Guilty as charged. Actually, I think it might be my favorite drone, period.

I can’t help it, and I know many of you reading this feel the same way. I love how lightweight the Mini 3 Pro is, truly living up to its name.

It’s under 250 grams, so if you’re a hobbyist like me and enjoy flying your drone for fun, you can dodge the FAA’s registration requirements.

The 1/1.3-inch CMOS sensor shoots in 4K HDR video and takes 48 MP photos, making it the pioneer. EXO merely followed in its footsteps. 

That’s why it has such an incredible range of shadows and light, with an aperture ratio perfectly configured to capture the best of your world no matter what’s behind the lens.

Since it supports night photography and videography, the Mini 3 Pro is excellent at reducing noise. You won’t miss the fact that you can’t adjust the aperture.

DJI’s D-Cinelike Color is unparalleled. Even compared to the EXO Mini, I couldn’t help but fall back on my old favorite, the Mini 3 Pro. The depth of color in videos and photos is warmer and more enticing.

» MORE: DJI Mini 3 vs. Mini 3 Pro (Which Drone Is Better?)

As mentioned, many Mini drones suffer from a lack of obstacle avoidance.

The Mini 3 Pro has APAS 4.0, an older but still adequate safety system from DJI. It’s supported by multidirectional obstacle sensing that’s like a one-two punch of safety.

The Intelligent Flight Modes prove how DJI is incomparable, especially with the excellent features roster the Mini 3 Pro has. It offers True Vertical Shooting, 4x Digital Zoom, Panorama, Hyperlapse, FocusTrack, and MasterShots.

Everything you need to automate your drone flights and create the kind of footage clients are eager to see is available in this drone.  

DJI Mini 3 Pro (DJI RC)
$909.00 $799.95

Lightweight and Foldable Camera Drone

  • 4K/60fps Video
  • 48MP Photo
  • 34-min Flight Time
  • Tri-Directional Obstacle Sensing, Integrated RC and screen
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03/06/2024 03:36 pm GMT

2. DJI Mavic 3 Pro

I talked about DJI’s partnership with Hasselblad earlier, and one of my favorite usages of the Swedish camera technology is in the Mavic 3 Pro.

As great as EXO is, it doesn’t have any drone to match the Mavic 3 Pro’s triple-camera system. 

You get a 4/3 CMOS Hasselblad camera in 20 MP quality, a 1/1.3-inch CMOS medium tele camera in 48 MP quality with 3x Optical Zoom, and a ½-inch CMOS tele camera in 12 MP quality with 28x Hybrid Zoom and 7x Optical Zoom.

The flight time of nearly 40 minutes (advertised) is high for DJI. You can do so much with this drone that it’s unreal.

Wildlife, architecture, nature: the Mavic 3 Pro can capture it all with aplomb.

If you want to talk about building your drone portfolio, I’m hard-pressed to think of a drone better suited for the task than this one. It rises to every occasion.

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

Further bolstering the immensity of the triple-camera system are nighttime shooting capabilities, the color-rich 10-bit D-Log, HLG, and Hyperlapses.

Oh, and did I mention 4K video at 120 fps and 5.1K video at 50 fps? Yes, indeed.

However, the Mavic 3 Pro is still a drone, at the end of the day, so it needs drone features.

DJI left no holds barred, equipping it with top-of-the-line APAS 5.0, multidirectional vision assistance, and omnidirectional obstacle sensing.

The wealth of Intelligent Flight Modes will provide every type of shot you’re interested in, such as setting the Mavic 3 Pro’s path with Waypoints, using Advanced RTH for automatic retrieval, or choosing Cruise Control so you can focus on cinematics.

I’m not even done! The Mavic 3 Pro also boasts Panorama, MasterShots, QuickShots, and FocusTrack.

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

3. DJI Air 2S

The Air 2S is a great companion drone to have as you explore this big, wide, glittering world. Its video capabilities nose past even the Mavic 3 Pro, with a one-inch sensor that captures 4K video at 60 fps and 5.4K at 30 fps.

While the 20 MP image quality might not seem like anything to write home about initially, don’t be so hasty. 

The Air 2S has some of the best color retention ever seen in a DJI drone. Its 10-bit D-Log M can generate one billion colors, and each is rich, immersive, and sure to brighten up your drone photographs and videos.

You can’t get this degree of color retention in an EXO drone, giving you a clear advantage.

You know what else is great about this drone? RAW files!

So yes, the image quality isn’t the greatest compared to some other DJI drones, but with the greater detail and dynamic range in every photo, you’re not going to miss out on much.

» MORE: DJI Air 2S – A Complete Real-World Review

The Air 2S will even reduce time in post-production by stitching together a shot with its HDR feature, seeking the best dynamic range, shadows, highlights, and details without you having to do it.

If you’re a YouTube star, you know the behind-the-scenes is time-consuming and arduous. Any time you can reduce in post will help you upload more frequently.

This DJI drone has a different collection of Intelligent Flight Modes, from Hyperlapse to Panorama, Sphere, 180 Degrees, and Wide-Angle automated videography. 

MasterShots offers three shooting modes, while Point of Interest 3.0, ActiveTrack 4.0, and Spotlight 2.0 assist in tracking and automated cinematics.

DJI Air 2S Fly More Combo
$1,249.00

Drone with 3-Axis Gimbal Camera, 5.4K Video, 1-Inch CMOS Sensor, 4 Directions of Obstacle Sensing, 31-Min Flight Time, Max 7.5-Mile Video Transmission, MasterShots, Gray

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03/07/2024 05:16 pm GMT

4. DJI Mini 2 SE

Let’s also look at the entry-level DJI Mini 2 SE, a more inexpensive drone in the same vein as an EXO.

Even though it’s an earlier Mini, it still has many features newer pilots seek when buying one of their first drones, from a low weight (under 249 grams) to beginner-friendly features, a decent flight time of over 30 minutes, and Intelligent Flight Modes.

Launching and landing your drone happens with a tap. The Mini 2 SE will take to the sky and come back down automatically, so you don’t have to worry about jerky landings as a new pilot. 

The infrared sensing, downward vision, and GNSS enable the Mini 2 SE to hover reliably, further increasing your confidence with each use. 

The auto-RTH triggers when the battery drains and in other risky situations, acting as a failsafe and further preserving the life of your drone.

» MORE: Holy Stone HS720G vs. DJI Mini 2 SE (Here’s My Favorite)

Boasting Intelligent Flight Modes galore, the Mini 2 SE includes five QuickShots modes and three Panorama modes.

Oh, and let me talk about photography and videography. The drone’s stabilized three-axis mechanical gimbal, and 1/2.3-inch CMOS produce 2.7K video and 12 MP photos. 

Sure, it’s not the greatest in a DJI drone, but considering the Mini 2 SE’s age, price, and audience, I think it’s fine.

Our Pick
DJI Mini 2 SE (Fly More Combo)
$449.00

Lightweight Drone with QHD Video, 10km Video Transmission, 3 Batteries for Total of 93 Mins Flight Time, Under 249 g, Automatic Pro Shots, Camera Drone for Beginners.

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03/07/2024 06:56 am GMT

EXO vs. DJI – Which drone brand wins?

You’ve seen the best of what DJI and EXO have to offer, so now we’re ready for the most exciting part: the head-to-head comparison!

This section will examine the most important qualities pilots go for when shopping for a drone, pitting EXO against DJI to see which excels and where.

Image and video quality

Winner: DJI

Overall, DJI wins here.

While DJI has some drones, like the Mini 2 SE, with lower video and image quality, most DJI drones stand out above the crowd in terms of image and video quality.

EXO drones have lower image and video quality in some models to keep them cost-effective.

Image and video quality comes down to more than resolution. It’s also about the quality of the camera sensor, aperture settings, color profiles, low-light support, dynamic range, and gimbal stability.

While EXO builds drones in DJI’s likeness, improving along the way, DJI largely excels in the above areas more.

» MORE: Camera Technology in Drones (Explained)

Smart features

Winner: DJI

Many drone manufacturers try to make smart features akin to DJI, from Holy Stone and Autel to now EXO. However, none do it quite as well.

DJI’s Intelligent Flight Modes are more numerous and expansive than anything EXO offers. That’s not a knock on them, as no other drone manufacturer has reached the pinnacle like DJI. 

If anything, I would say Autel has gotten the closest to matching DJI in this arena, but I feel like EXO could do the same given time.

» MORE: Smart Features in Drones (Explained for Beginners)

Battery life

Winner: Toss-up

This is another area where it depends on the drone.

DJI excels in many areas, but battery life isn’t necessarily one of them. Its average battery life is around 34 minutes, and remember, you always get less flight time than advertised.

While sure, DJI’s battery life is about the average limit of what you’d expect a drone to fly today, since when has this brand been okay with being average? 

Of course, some of its drones can fly longer, around 40 minutes, but not enough of them, if you ask me.

EXO has more drones that can fly longer, with some promising more than 50 minutes of flight!

» MORE: Drone Batteries (In-Depth Information)

Transmission range

Winner: DJI

EXO tries to match and exceed DJI’s transmission range in some models, but it’s tough to beat DJI technology.

Its O3+ transmission system is one of the best on the market, and its older transmission systems that facilitated the O3+ system aren’t half-bad either.

The transmission range of the Blackhawk 3 at over nine miles is EXO’s most impressive, proving this is a brand worth paying attention to.

» MORE: DJI Transmission System (Everything You Need to Know)

Safety features

Winner: DJI

DJI’s safety features are some of the best around.

Whether it’s built-in propellers, obstacle sensing, or sensor-driven multidirectional obstacle avoidance, you can rely on these drones to safely pilot the drone away from danger.

Not every DJI drone has obstacle avoidance, such as some entries in the Mini series, but as a whole, you can expect a DJI drone to keep you safe in the skies.

EXO drones include obstacle avoidance and detection across the board. Their technology is quite good, even comparable to DJI, but I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s better.

» MORE: Drone Safety Features (All You Need to Know)

Accessories

Winner: EXO

DJI is notoriously stingy about accessories with its drones.

You can buy a Fly More Combo with a remote controller, but you rarely get more than that without spending extra.

EXO drones don’t all come with accessories, but some offer a carrying case and a landing pad.

It’s no Autel, but it’s something.

» MORE: 27 Best Drone Accessories (I Can’t Live Without)

Pricing

Winner: EXO

EXO prides itself on its cost-effective drones, a sentiment DJI doesn’t share. The DJI Mini drones are cheaper, but most drones from this brand will cost you a pretty penny.

However, just because EXO tries to be affordable doesn’t always mean it is.

The Blackhawk 3 is quite costly, more like DJI levels. Most of its drones are what many would consider reasonable.

» MORE: Best Drones Under $1,000

Ease of use

Winner: DJI

Here is another area where DJI can’t be beat.

EXO has beginner-friendly drones just the same, with tutorials and flight instructions, but DJI drones facilitate easier starts for beginners, especially a model like the Mini 2 SE.

You’ll recall that it has auto-launching and landing. Access to the helpful DJI Fly app and tutorials makes picking up this drone easy.

Even other DJI drones outside the Mini line support ease of use.

» MORE: How to Fly a Drone: Ultimate Beginner Guide (with Drawings)

Conclusion

DJI remains the king of drones, but EXO is proving all the time that it’s a worthy contender to try and push DJI out of that spot.

Whether it happens remains to be seen, but when drones innovate to earn our loyalty (and money), we win because we get the best features on the market!

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