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DJI Mavic Pro Review – Latest DJI Drone with 4K UHD camera

by on November 23, 2016
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Overview

DJI has really outdone itself with the Mavic Pro. We’ve got to say that right off the bat. While the company’s previous UAV drones and especially the more recent Phantom 4 have all been mostly decent to great models, the new Mavic possibly outdoes them all and at the same time manages to do so with a simplified, more compact and streamlined design that will cause a lot of people to take extra interest the little foldable UAV. Instead of the standard image of a big, scary, boxy quadracopter like the Phantom drones, the Mavic takes a whole new design route which focuses on a much lighter, more minimalist drone design that many portability conscious users will definitely love, even if the new UAV does look at least slightly insectile and utilitarian in its build.

In essence, DJI has created their smallest, fastest, smartest and most long-flying drone to-date and done so right in time as more or less competitive models from both Yuneec and GoPro come out. However, we’d say that the Mavic is the definite winner among these three competitors, at least for now, and we’ll go much further into the details of why we think this to be the case as this review progresses (while also of course covering some of this drone’s defects, since no piece of consumer electronics technology is without at least a couple of them).

The Good

It’s hard to know where to start enumerating the stuff we like about the Mavic Pro. This is definitely DJI’s best drone yet and as far as we’re concerned, it might just be one of the best drones of its kind (higher-end, mass market consumer models) yet created among all models from all brands on today’s market. The Mavic certainly isn’t cheap and it looks particularly pricey when compared to most drones this small but neither is it too expensive when you take into account everything it has to offer in terms of specs, features, ease-of-use and most of all flight and recording performance. Let’s start with what we like about its design.

Quite simply, despite looking a bit more utilitarian and sharp-edged than fans of previous DJI drones might be used to seeing, the Mavic Pro is wonderfully designed. The little drone is genuinely small even when fully unfolded for flight and its compact body becomes downright tiny by high-end consumer quadracopter standards when it’s folded into itself. At this point, it takes on the size of a water bottle and can comfortably fit inside a fully extended hand. Needless to say, transporting such a compressed drone is a piece of cake and its weight is very small. In comparison, GoPro’s Karma drone model claims compactness but still offers a fair bit of bulk and a weight of more than a kilogram, or 2 lbs, making it decidedly heftier than the Mavic.

Thus, given the Mavic Pro’s tiny size, carrying it around becomes amazingly easy under pretty much any circumstances and this is the first DJI drone we’ve reviewed which can easily be slipped into a small backpack or even a purse instead of the also compact hard case it’s sold with.

What’s best of all about the Mavic Pro is the fact that despite this compact size, the drone doesn’t lack for any of the features found in DJI’s bigger, seemingly badder Phantom models, not even the most recent Phantom 4 UAV. Thus the Mavic comes with the same built-in 4K UHD video recording capacity, the same or better ability to shoot still photos and the same or better range of other video resolutions and frame rates. Furthermore, it comes equipped with all the good Phantom 4 features like front and bottom-mounted sensors, integrated obstacle avoidance, subject tracking skills, several autonomous flight modes which include self-directed return and landing at base and it even comes with geofencing capability for staying out of restricted air zones where its accidental (wink) presence could get you in trouble anyhow.

Moving along, DJI has even improved on Phantom drone quality with the Mavic by making the drone into their longest flying machine yet, with an amazing range to boot. The UAV can fly at speeds of up to 41 miles per hour, manages a flight time of 27 minutes even at high speeds and offers a range of 4.3 miles, or 7 km. What’s even more impressive is that despite its very small size and light weight of just 745 grams (about 1.63 lbs) the Mavic Pro is remarkably stable under the pressure of windy weather. We were able to see this little UAV handle perfectly steady flight even with 25mph wind gusts and this is indeed quite a bit to boast about for such a small and light quadracopter. The streamlined, narrow design definitely helps in this regard.

Finally, we need to mention the built-in 4K UHD camera of the Mavic Pro and its own cool chops. Since the Phantom 3, DJI has been building UAV drones with the option of including a native 4K UHD camera and with the Phantom 4 the company integrated such a recording device by default. The same trend has been followed in the Mavic and thus the drone comes with a forward-facing integrated 4K UHD video camera on a 2-axis gimbal mount. This compact recording setup allows for 4K ultra HD video at 30 frames per second, 1080p footage at 96 fps and the ability to live stream that 1080p video right to social media or a smart device as desired. Additionally, users can take advantage of the Mavic’s 12 megapixel still photo shooting capacity for some great and very clear images of scenery the UAV hovers or zips over. The Mavic Pro’s camera can also of course be tilted by a fairly wide margin of 90 degrees up and down for capturing video or a series of still shots of taller structures and horizons.

Check the Price of the DJI Mavic Pro on Amazon:

4.4 - 11 Reviews

The Bad

All things considered, the Mavic Pro drone is one serious powerhouse of a UAV for its size and price. However, it’s also not free of minor defects, none of which, at least in our view, are deal breakers. Let’s take a look.

For starters, the Mavic doesn’t come with a removable camera. This may not be a problem with most casual users but if you’re someone who wants a bit more flexibility in what sort of rig you mount to your drone, we’d recommend the GoPro Karma more since it can take four different Hero 4K action cameras into its gimbal. That said, the Mavic’s camera is quite good but if you need some sort of special capability that it doesn’t have, no dice.

Additionally, this same single unchangeable camera works at a lower 60Mbps bitrate and dynamic range than some users might like. This has been the case in previous DJI native cameras like that of the Phantom 4 and it means lower recording quality that you’re stuck with if 4K or HD video bitrate or HDR is a key factor in the kind of video you want to shoot.

Moving along but sticking to the Mavic’s camera, we also don’t like the precision of the tap auto focus that the Mavic comes with, again, just like DJI’s Osmo hand-held gimbals, Inspire One drones and the Phantom 4. It’s great that the company built this into these drones and shooting devices but in the case of the Mavic, just like in all the others, the technology isn’t quite as precise as it should be and it can fail sometimes due to a simple lack of precision in how it operates.

Finally, the controller of the Mavic Pro is a great and functional piece of technology but we definitely like the clamshell device that GoPro built for their Karma drone much more. It’s tougher, more solidly built and it comes with its own 720p LCD screen of 5 inches instead of requiring hook up of an external smartphone for a live feed and touch control of the drone. This is a more practical and generally superior drone design in our view. That said, the Mavic does allow for purely smartphone based navigation and control through DJI’s Android/iOS app and this is something GoPro lacks.

Final Opinion

The Mavic Pro from DJI is possibly the best consumer model 4K UHD-capable quadracopter we’ve yet reviewed. It’s very small size may give an impression of weak performance but this is deeply deceptive. Quite the contrary is the case, the Mavic is superbly designed, offers great performance and in many ways outdoes most competitor drones that have come out at around the same time. In some ways it’s even better than its own cousin the Phantom 4 and Inspire from DJI itself. For this reason, the seemingly high price of the tiny Mavic Pro is actually fairly reasonable.

Specs

• Max Ascent/Descent speed: 16.4 feet per second/ 9.8 feet per second
• Vertical/ Horizontal Hover accuracy: + or – 0.1 meters/ + or – 0.3 meters
• Max altitude: 16,404 feet
• Flight time: 27 minutes but variable depending on conditions
• Flight control: downloadable DJI Pilot app for smartphone with touchscreen camera controls and a physical GPS/GLONASS 50Hz controller with Lightbridge support
• Transmitter Frequency: 2.400 to 2.483 GHz
• Connectivity: 1 x microUSB type A female slot for mobile device interface, 1 x Lightning port for iOS devices, 1 x microSD port, 1 x charge port, 2,4G/5G WiFI with 80 meter range
• Camera: Gimbal mounted 12 megapixel 4K UHD video/photo camera with ½.3” CMOS sensor
• Photo Resolution/formats: 12 megapixels/ JPEG, DNG
• Video formats/resolutions: MP4, MOV (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264)
C4K: 4096×2160 24p
4K: 3840×2160 24/25/30p
2.7K: 2704×1520 24/25/30p
FHD: 1920×1080 24/25/30/48/50/60/96p
HD: 1280×720 24/25/30/48/50/60/120p
• ISO Range: video: 100-3200, Photo: 100-1600
• Recording Media: microSD/SDXC card up to 64 GB
• Gimbal: 3-axis (pitch, roll, yaw)
• Weight: 1.6 lbs (with battery and propellers)
• Dimensions: 3.7 inch x 7.8 inch x 3.7 inch

Design

As we’ve indicated above repeatedly, the Mavic Pro is one very small drone and DJI itself is itself proud of this aspect of its design. As the company says right in its sales page for the Mavic, the folded up drone is the size of a water bottle and these compact dimensions are about right. Measuring out at just 3.27 x 7.8 x 3.7 inches when folded up, the Mavic is one of the few drones on the market today which can easily be crammed into almost any small backpack or even into a woman’s purse just like that if you want to take it with you and it’s weight matches the drone’s dimensions in smallness seeing as it sits at just 1.64 lbs or 745 grams.

With this small size comes a cool new folding design by which the two front arms can be made to swing back into the drone’s body and the rear rotor arms made to flip down and inwards towards the copter’s body. Thus, the rotor arms are articulating devices but despite this design, the whole Mavic Pro and its limbs feel quite solid when fully extended and locked into place. This can be felt even when one is folding in or folding out the arms. There’s a definite stiffness to the process and this is a nice thing to feel since it indicates solidity while also being something that can be done in just a minute or less for the sake of making the drone ready to fly very quickly. The rotors themselves also fold back into the underside of the drone when the arms are folded down and will spread back out to their proper position for flight when you activate the drone’s flight motor.

As for the Mavic’s over all body design, its completely different from what we’ve seen in the Phantom UAVs inn that it has a more elongated and squat look that vaguely resembles the designs of the Yuneec Typhoon Q500 drone and the new GoPro Karma drone, only smaller and more insectile and utilitarian looking, with sharper lines and few rounded curves. If anything, the Mavic resembles a toy maker’s idea of a military weapons drone from some future sci-fi movie. Like its new rival compact elongated drones such as GoPro’s Karma and the Yuneec Breeze, the Mavic Pro comes with a front-facing camera/gimbal instead of having this recording apparatus hanging beneath its body and while we consider this design to be more effective for faster flight, some users might find the older Phantom drone camera setup to be more practical. In any case, the camera assembly and gimbal are both protected by a bubbled clear plastic wind screen-like casing which gives the little drone an oddly 50’s sci-fi movie flair and stays in place while the Mavic Pro is flying. However, the protective bubble casing can also be removed and replaced if it should ever get scratched or damaged. Replacements cost about $10. There’s also a smaller inner plastic gimbal protector attached to the back of the Mavic’s camera, which keeps the gimbal from moving around too much when the drone is in storage and this inner plastic piece has to be removed during flight. The outer bubble casing can also be discarded during flight and doing so might also even improve photo and video quality.

As for the controller, it’s look follows that of the Mavic itself and instead of the smooth curvy Phantom controllers many users might be used to, you get a sort of angular device with two extending arms along its bottom for attachment of a smartphone or tablet for use as a live feed and secondary control mechanism through DJI’s downloadable drone flight app. If anything, the new controller looks and feels something like a PlayStation controller and is also more compact than its predecessors.

Most flight is controlled via the controller’s joysticks and more sophisticated camera and flight manipulation settings can be played with via DJI’s app on the screen of your attached smartphone. Users can also buy the Mavic Pro without a controller for a lower price and the drone can in fact be flown entirely via smartphone through DJI’s flight app though we think this method is definitely clumsier and more prone to flight mistakes. The Mavic controller also comes with a basic LCD display for basic flight telemetry data and information about battery charge and so forth. Additionally, it comes with a microSD slot and a switch for jumping between controller-guided flight and smartphone only navigation.

Check the Price of the DJI Mavic Pro on Amazon:

4.4 - 11 Reviews

Setup

Setting up the Mavic is extremely simple. Assuming you’ve already charged the Mavic Pro’s flight battery and the controller’s battery as well, getting the drone ready for lift-off consists of whipping it out, unfolding the rotor arms and activating the drone’s motor through the controller. This will cause the folded back propellers to also spread out into flight-readiness and you’re good to go, navigating wither via controller or DJI flight app or a combination of both. Drone activation can be done with the double push of a single power button on the front of the controller and the fold-out arms can be extended for slotting in a smartphone and connecting it either via included microUSB cables for Android devices or Lightning cables for iPhones. Most flight can be done through the drone’s joysticks but along the shoulders of the controller there are also shoulder buttons for starting or stopping video recording and taking photos during flight. A little jog wheel along the right top corner of the controller can also be used to control exposure and ISO along with other image settings.

Camera Specs & Highlights

The Mavic’s integrated camera is fixed into place and while it works quite nicely for most users, one drawback of this drone is that you can’t swap the shooter out for something possibly more robust like a GoPro Hero 5 camera.

That said, the Mavic’s recording capacity is considerable, with a 28mm Zenmuse lens which balances nicely between wide shooting angles and avoiding too much of a fish-eye effect. ISO, white balance can be changed in—flight and shooting still shots in JPEG format or RAW is something that can be decided simply by tapping the DJI app’s screen under the camera controls.

The 4K video quality that the Mavic Pro is capable of left us fairly impressed and most users will find it to be more than good enough for their aerial surveying and filming needs. Low light performance is quite decent in this drone and the color quality and sharpness of recorded footage are essentially good. As for the 12 megapixel photo shooting capability of the Mavic, it’s great, photos are colorful and sharp and the camera ISO of up to 1600 is good enough for recording under fairly low lighting conditions.

You can check out this drone’s specific photo and video recording specs in our “Specs” Section above.

In-Flight

During flight, the Mavic really comes into its own and this is where its absolutely superb quality is best shown off. This little drone can really move and it does so with a level of agility which we consider to be superior to those of the DJI Phantom 4 or many other drones from lesser-known brands like 3DR. In Sport Mode, which can be activated through a switch along the side of the controller, the little drone kicks up the manual flight responsiveness to the max and it can move around like some sort of giant insect through the sky. Furthermore, did we say that the Mavic is fast? Well it is with a top speed of 41mph which combines with its maneuverability to create a fantastic feeling of aerial agility. What we also love about the Mavic Pro is just how long it can stay in the air, at 27 minutes, it offers a respectably long flight time and if you happen to have two fully charged batteries at hand with your Mavic, you can play around in the friendly skies for just under and hours’ worth of photo and video recording.

The drone is also extremely stable despite its lightness and small size. Taking your hands off the controls will cause the Mavic Pro to remain perfectly still in the sky as it hovers and waits for further instructions (unless it’s in one of its autonomous flight modes) and even flight during windy conditions doesn’t seem to affect the UAV’s balance or stability for shooting video at all.

The auto controls for getting the drone into the air are clearly market and very easy to use and the same applies for having the drone fly back to base. Furthermore, there are all of DJI’s autonomous flight patterns for the Mavic Pro. These include a follow-me mode, orbit mode, and a cool new DJI ActiveTrack feature which lets the drone follow a select target such as a car, person or other moving object either from behind or in front, or from a profile perspective which is called “Profile” under the ActiveTrack Menu. There is also a Spotlight setting for having the drone keep its camera trained on a subject regardless of where the UAV itself is moving.

DJI has also introduced a DJI Goggles VR headset for use with the Mavic Pro and other DJI drones. This rig is sold separately but putting it on will give you a stunningly immersive 85-degree camera-eye view of the drone’s flight through a built-in 1080p display that’s excellent for really exploring places and things more intimately through the Mavic or its cousins. Also, specifically for the Mavic itself, there is a rather limited but possibly useful gesture mode available for controlling the little drone directly, without a controller via hand gestures alone. Waving your hands will get the Mavic’s attention, forming your arms into a Y will tell the UAV to focus on you and imitating a photo frame with your fingers will cause the Mavic to take a photo of you as a sort of airborne selfie. The gesture mode for the Mavic can also be used to get the drone to fly away from you in a certain direction simply by pointing that way. Conversely, you can also gesture for the Mavic to focus on you and then simply let the drone follow along at a safe distance as you walk around, with its camera trained on you the whole time.

Finally, the Mavic Pro also comes with a remarkably robust (though not completely foolproof) obstacle avoidance feature by which it will very effectively stay away from trees, walls, people and other objects it could hit. Even efforts to trick the drone into flying into something will be blocked with the Mavic getting no closer than a few meters away from a large tree or the side of a building.

Price

DJI is selling the Mavic Pro drone with controller included for what we consider to be a farily great price of $999.99. This may seem steep considering the drone’s small size but like we said above, the compact form factor of the Mavic is deceptive. This is easily one of the best drones we’ve yet reviewed for the consumer hobby UAV market. There is also a Mavic drone model being sold without controller, which can be flown purely through the DJI flight app downloaded to your smartphone. This drone-only version retails for $799. DJI sells a hard case for the Mavic Pro 4K UAV separately.

Check the Price of the DJI Mavic Pro on Amazon:

4.4 - 11 Reviews

Positives

• Excellent flight speed
• Great flight time
• Superbly maneuverable and easy to fly
• Awesome tracking and following features
• Very decent video and photo recording
• Very compact folding design
• Easy to set up

Negatives

• 4K camera can’t be removed or swapped
• 4K video quality and bitrate could be better
• Tap autofocus buggy

Editor Rating
 
Features
A

 
Flight Time/Power
A-

 
Video Quality
A

 
Camera
A

 
Design Quality
A

 
Pricing
B+

Total Score
A-

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User Rating
 
Features
B+

 
Flight Time/Power
B+

 
Video Quality
B+

 
Camera
B

 
Design Quality
B+

 
Pricing
B-

User Score
28 ratings
B+

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Bottom Line
 

All things considered, we consider the Mavic Pro to be one of the best consumer hobby drones with 4K video recording that we’ve yet reviewed. We absolutely recommend this drone for users who want a powerful UAV for playing around with. However, if you’re into more serious video recording during drone flights, the GoPro Karma might be a better option since it allows for different types of admittedly superior GoPro Hero cameras to be attached.

Check the Price of the DJI Mavic Pro on Amazon:

4.4 - 11 Reviews

 
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