Consumer drones have taken off in a big way, but it's not just because they're fun to play with. Advances in drone and digital camera technology have paved the way for a whole new perspective on photography and cinematography. And as we see more and more features like BBC's Planet Earth series delivering truly stunning footage, it's easy to get caught up in the fascination of the new and exciting possibilities that we, as consumers, now have at our fingertips.

But before we go into our favorites, it's important to note that the onus is on you, the drone operator, to make sure that you follow any laws and regulations that apply to the area you plan to fly in. That might even mean registering the drone you just bought with the FAA. At the time of this writing, any drone over 0.55lbs must be registered, with commercial use further regulated and requiring an operator to have a Remote Pilot Airman Certificate and pass TSA vetting.

Lastly, while these are some of the best consumer camera drones on the market today, it isn't a cheap hobby. You'll also find, as you get into it, that you'll want to accessorize, making many of the bundles offered with these drones advantaged buys. And with some smart online comparison shopping and a little patience, you can find a good deal on anything these days.

DJI's Phantom line of camera drones has dominated the consumer camera drone market, and the Phantom 3 is still regarded as one of the best buys in the market, but the Phantom 4 takes it's capabilities a step further. With speeds of up to 44 mph, a range of just over three miles, and 28 minutes of flight time, the drone can simply do more than its predecessor, but with advanced obstacle avoidance and machine learning algorithms to visually track and follow a subject, it can also do it better. These are great additions, particularly for new pilots who are worried about crashing the camera drone they just bought. But coupled with added redundant sensors and stabilizers, it also provides easier flight and smoother cinematic 4K video capture and crisp 12MP photos.

Parrot has updated their bestselling drone with the Bebop 2. With an enhanced flight time of around 25 minutes and a 14MP fisheye lens, the drone offers 1080p video recording that you can control by way of a smartphone app (they also offer a dedicated controller for a more professional experience.) Designed for ease-of-use, piloting is a breeze, and the drone will shut itself off in the event of a collision to protect itself and the pilot. Integrated 3 - axis stabilization delivers quality video at a lower price than typically seen with the more feature-heavy DJI camera drones.

The Yuneec Q500 offers a middle-ground between ultra-professional photo and video offered by the Phantom line and the more modest Bebop drone. This drone trades speed and range for superior video and imaging, topping out just under 18mph out to a distance of 1900 feet. The drone features 4K UHD resolution with the ability to capture slow motion in 1080p and 12MP static images. A 3-axis gimbal camera ensures stability at nearly any shooting angle, and the drone can watch or follow independently, or be controlled manually, through a flexible, easy-to-use Android app.

After all the videos we've seen of GoPro cameras being dropped from the sky, it was only a matter of time before they designed something to stay there. The Karma drone is designed to work with their Hero 4 or Hero 5 cameras, already well-known for their rugged dependability in delivering high-definition images and video. Including the purchase of the Hero camera, this is certainly one of the more expensive options, but with capabilities like a 35 mph top speed, an operating range of two miles (and a maximum altitude to match), and a 20 minute flight time, GoPro has produced an excellent drone. With standard accessories like a stabilized hand-grip included, it's clear that GoPro has the right mentality -- that the drone is an extension of your camera, not the other way around.