DJI Mini 2 flying angle bushes

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 drone. We may look at building a custom rig one day ourselves, but for now, we’ll focus on off-the-shelf devices, the kind that keep the budget fairly low while you get the hang of things.

We have smaller budget lists as well, but let’s bump it up to half a grand today: This is our list of the best drones under $500.

Jonathan Feist, Drone PilotJonathan Feist

Why trust Drone Rush?

I’ve been a fan of flight since a young age; while I’ve had few opportunities at the helm of manned aircraft, the hours on my fleet of drones continue to grow. I enjoy putting cameras into the sky, silky smooth aerial imagery makes me happy. My goal is to help all pilots enjoy flight legally and safely.

 

Drone Laws – That’s right, no matter what you fly, you have to follow the rules of the sky.

1. DJI Mini 2: Best camera drone under $500

DJI Mini 2: Best camera drone under $500

DJI Mini 2 front straight

Drone Rush RecommendsThe DJI Mini 2 is the drone we most want in our arsenal, never mind that it’s the best drone under $500, and the only viable 4K camera drone in the price bracket, it’s also one of the most portable machines to haul with you on the go. There are better camera drones out there, and there are more affordable basic airframes for learning the how to fly, but as a simple craft for some hobby camera work, it’s hard to beat the Mini 2.

Under the hood, the Mini 2 packs a 4K camera on a 3-axis gimbal, it has up to half hour of flight time, great range, and is reasonably fast.

Should I buy the DJI Mini 2?

If you are content the photos and video that your phone can produce, but want wings, the Mini 2 is a superb option. The ease of flight, compact size, and portability make the Mini 2 our first choice for a drone to throw in the backpack and hit the trail.

Pros

  • 4K camera
  • Fun and easy to fly
  • Under 250 grams
  • Very portable
  • Best GPS and camera for under $500
Cons

  • Not a big camera drone

DJI Mini 2

(9.4)
  • 31 - Minutes
  • 4K - 12MP
  • 36 - MPH

November 2020

Release Date

2. DJI Mavic Mini: Value GPS drone

DJI Mavic Mini: Value GPS drone

DJI Mavic Mini review case open

The DJI Mavic Mini was the first DJI drone to rock a good camera and weigh less than 250 grams, meaning it does not need to be registered with the FAA before you fly. It may not be the first DJI drone in this price bracket, but it’s almost laughable to compare the old Spark to the capabilities of the later Mavic series drones. The Mavic Mini has a solid 2.7K camera, and only about 1 mile of connectivity, making it one of the least capable DJI drones still on store shelves, but the value is there.

Should I buy the DJI Mavic Mini?

We really enjoy the Mavic Mini. It’s not the best drone around, but it’s certainly the best drone at this price point, making it a fun, safe, and reliable option for new pilots, and for those that risk carelessly tossing the drone intoa backpack.

Pros

  • Fun and easy to fly
  • Very portable
  • Good 2.7K camera
  • Under 250 grams
Cons

  • Limited range
  • Only 2.7K camera

DJI Mavic Mini

(9.0)
  • 30 - Minutes
  • 2.7K - 12MP
  • 29 - MPH

3. Hubsan Zino Pro: When a toy-maker goes pro

Hubsan Zino Pro: When a toy-maker goes pro

Hubsan Zino Pro folding drone featured

The Hubsan Zino Pro appears to be inspired by the Mavic series of drones. It offers a similar overall shape and folding design, while hanging a decent camera from the nose. The result is something comparable to an older Mavic drone, or the new Mini drones. Hubsan makes fun toys, it’s great to see them produce a competitor in the GPS-enabled camera drone segment.

Should I buy the Hubsan Zino Pro?

We respect Hubsan and the Zino Pro, we think it’s a solid drone that’s perfectly capable for the price. We hesitate to purchase it for ourselves with the DJI Minis on the market, but Zino is still worth it, if you go that route.

Pros

  • Competitive small camera drone
  • Interchangeable lens filters
  • Easy to fly
  • 4K camera
Cons

  • Low quality camera

Hubsan Zino Pro

(7.6)
  • 23 - Minutes
  • 4K - 30 FPS
  • 22 - MPH

September 2019

Release Date

4. Ryze Tello: Great beginner drone, fun and educational

Ryze Tello: Great beginner drone, fun and educational

Ryze Tello Iron Man Edition

The Ryze Tello is the kind of drone that most people should expect to get as their first drone. It’s a simple craft that has more fun features than you might expect. Fly by phone, grab the optional remote, or code your own navigation. That’s right, Tello is a great choice for the educational space, as a safe indoor drone with tools to help you learn about flight and flight controls.

Should I buy the Rye Tello?

Make no mistake, the Ryze Tello is not a camera drone, nor will it keep up on the race track, but as a simple beginner’s drone, it’s fun to fly, safe for indoor flight, and educational.

Pros

  • Easy to fly
  • Lots of flight options
  • Safe for indoor
  • Educational
Cons

  • Limited range
  • Simple camera
  • Remote is optional add-on

Ryze Tello

(8.4)
  • 13 - Minutes
  • 720p - 30FPS
  • 18 - MPH

5. Hubsan H501S: Powerful GPS-enabled toy drone

Hubsan H501S: Powerful GPS-enabled toy drone

Hubsan X4 H501S table

The Hubsan H501S is an older drone, but is one of the best GPS drones from Hubsan. It’s powerful, reliable, and easy to fly. The camera is not amazing, but can give you a nice view from the sky at least. This is a great option for newer pilots that want to just bounce around the park.

Should I buy the Hubsan H501S?

As a simple drone for park flying, this is a solid option, but please don’t expect the H501S to produce amazing aerial imagery. Still fun and fast.

Pros

  • Easy to fly
  • Great toy-class drone
Cons

  • Older drone
  • Limited range
  • Limited battery life

Hubsan H501S

(7.6)
  • 20 - Minutes