The DJI Mavic Pro is a miniaturized folding ($1,000 US) camera drone with specifications that beat most other models under $2K. The Mavic Pro started shipping to consumer in the middle of October and has quickly become the best selling consumer camera drone ever. In this post we will take a first look at this miracle machine and advise our readers as to where it fits into the current consumer drone landscape. This first look will contain information regarding the basics of Mavic Pro and address the subject who should consider buying this drone. Future articles will contain more typical review information such as flight manners, features, operation, links and more.
Nothing Like it in the World
With the introduction of the Mavic Pro, DJI has created an entirely new class of machine. Comparisons such as “Mavic vs. Phantom 4” or “Mavic vs. Yuneec” hold absolutely no weight since the Mavic is unique in most every way.
Size and weight are, of course, the first obvious differences. To illustrate how vast the difference is, here are the square inches (total cubic size) of 4 well known drone models in their box or backpack:
Mavic Pro – 340 cubic inches (box size) -machine =1.62 lbs
GoPro Karma – 1587 (backpack) – machine = 4.3 lbs
Phantom 4 – 1645 cubic inches (included case size) – 3 lbs
Yuneec H – 3588 cubic inches (included foam packing size) – machine = 4.3 lbs
The Mavic Pro is a mind blowing 10% of the volume of the Yuneec H – yet it outpaces the Typhoon H in specifications such as range, obstacle avoidance, flight time and overall number of features. Of the models listed above it is the only one that is truly portable. If portability and stealth is your #1 concern, you may not have to read any further – the Mavic Pro may be calling your name. However, the purpose of this article is to educate consumers on why they may want – or not want – the Mavic Pro…so read on for more.
First Impressions – Engineering and Build
The Mavic Pro is small – but built solidly. It gives the impression of being a “fine instrument” as opposed to an R/C aircraft or piece of mid-priced consumer electronics. The gimbal is the most delicate part of the system and comes protected with a clear bubble as well as a plastic gimbal clip. The eye is immediately drawn to the small size of the motors and the camera/gimbal. A mans fingers looks massive in comparison to the camera – which is about the same diameter as a penny.
The Remote is also very small – and can be even smaller! There are three ways of controlling the Mavic Pro:
1. Using the Remote with a smartphone (running DJI Go App) inserted into it.
2. Using the Remote folded – no smartphone needed. You lose FPV (camera view) in this case, but it is great for a quick picture or for just flying around.
2. Using only your smartphone and the DJI Go App- this would be for close-in “selfies” and other quick flights.
Our first “test it in the wind” video was done using the Remote only (no smartphone). You can view it below:
Features, Specifications and Capabilities
The Mavic Pro has the other features DJI consumer camera drones are known for – and more! The OA and VPS (computer vision and sonar) have been improved, especially underneath the machine. This means Mavic is better at avoiding obstacles, sensing the ground, and recognizing common objects (ActiveTrack “sees” people, pets, cars, etc.). It has range equal to or better than other DJI craft – and a 4K camera which seems up to par with their former P3 and P4 offerings.
The typical shopper might look at these features and wonder why they should buy ANY other machine, even those made by DJI. Rather than just gush on about Mavic Pro, we will tackle this question…since that is really what most buyers want to know!
Pros and Cons vs. other DJI Machines
Given that DJI is the only company currently making “working” advanced camera drones (1-2+ years ahead), we’ll skip a comparison against other brands.
Those who already have – and enjoy – a Phantom 3 (P and A) or a Phantom 4 are not going to get a leap ahead in terms of image quality or flight dynamics. This hasn’t stopped many from putting their P3’s or P4’s up for sale and ordering Mavic Pro – but these are “gotta have the newest tech” buyers. For those customers – as well as others who need the portability (travelers, urban dwellers, hikers, etc.), the Mavic Pro definitely adds something. It could be said that portability is the #1 selling point for this class of users and for the Mavic Pro.
The Mavic may be more as an addition than a replacement to the existing DJI line – existing DJI pilots who are gadget freaks may want to buy a Mavic to add to their stable of drones
Advantages can also be Disadvantages
With its tiny gimbal and small overall size and weight, the Mavic Pro is likely to be affected by high winds and other such forces more than a heavier craft such as the Phantom 4. Our initial flights in brisk winds indicated some “shudders” in the video during various maneuvers. Future adjustments and firmware updates may tune some of this out, however it makes sense that heavier machines such as the Phantom 4 and Inspire will have less vibration in similar conditions. The Mavic Pro also cannot shoot video well at higher (60fps) frame rates – a limitation of the sensor used in the camera…which is highly tuned for use with the upcoming DJI FPV Goggles.
The portability also means less ground clearance. You’ll probably want to limit your landing area to pavement, concrete or other flat surfaces. With no large landing gear, the Mavic Pro will be more difficult to “hand catch” than the Phantom series.
Some people don’t get along well with smaller and more fragile instruments. The unibody on the Phantoms and the heavier duty gimbals and camera and taller landing gear may be able to take more abuse than the Mavic Pro.
The Mavic Pro is designed to use a smartphone as the FPV (first person view) flight monitor. These smaller screens may not suit some pilots – especially the pros and prosumers who need to carefully adjust camera settings and see every detail of what they are shooting. More specifically, many drone pilots prefer the iPad mini (sized) devices as a monitor. The Phantom and Inspire quadcopters give the option of using these – and even larger – tablets for flight control and monitoring.
Our Initial Experience and Flights
Having just received our Mavic, we only have about an hour of flight time on it. Setup was quite easy and we had good luck with our first flights. We even tried flying “bare” with just the remove and no smartphone…everything worked perfectly. Below are two videos – one which explains what to do AFTER unboxing and the other a couple of clips of our first flights.
After Unboxing Video:
Some Sample Flight Clips:
Here are a couple still pictures – click to enlarge:
Buying Advice – Pros and Cons and Target Market
The Mavic Pro, as noted earlier, is an engineering marvel. DJI packed an unheard of amount of technology into this aircraft, including “24 cores” of processing power. It is certainly the most advanced aerial robot of its type ever built.
In addition it has also become the biggest selling Camera Drone ever…with projections of holiday sales (Oct-Jan) being as high as 500,ooo units or more!
Whether or not YOU should buy one depends on many factors. At Droneflyers we suggest that Camera Drone shoppers make up a list detailing exactly what they want to use their purchase to do as well as what their budget is. The total cost of a Camera Drone is higher than the advertised basic price because you have to figure on extra batteries, a case and perhaps other accessories. All told, a Mavic Pro budget might look like this:
Mavic Pro Starter Bundle (Mavic with extra battery) – $1079
DJI Care Refresh (extended replacement warranty for crashes, etc. ) – $99
Total $1178 (assumes customer has smart device).
I think any newbie (and many other pilots) who goes with a Mavic (and maybe others too) should go for the DJI Care Refresh extended warranty.
Note that our usual advice is that it is ALWAYS best to wait a month of two after the initial release of any new machine before purchasing. We sometimes buy very early – but that is to review, not to “be the first” owners. It is more prudent – assuming your main desire is flying and taking pictures – to buy a quad which is time-tested (90 days+ after launch is ideal). Some buyers feel more confident with DJI being as they have proven they can release “almost perfect” hardware and fix small problems in the software and firmware. Even these buyers should probably give a new model 30-60 days.
We’ll be writing a lot more about the Mavic Pro. Customers should keep in mind that supplies are tight during this holiday season (due to high demand) – those wanting one under the tree should place their orders.
To better help those customers who are “on the fence”, we’ve written a article comparing ALL the popular 2016 Camera Drones – and giving our recommendations as to the best units.
If you are just getting started…and not really ready for a full blown 1K Camera Drone yet, here are some suggestions:
1. Read our free ebooks – including our “Beginner’s Guide to Hobby Quadcopters and Drones” – at this link.
2. Check our list of the Best Drones of all types and price ranges.
Here are some Mavic Pro Buying Links:
DJI Store to order Direct – Click Here.
If you have questions or comments, leave them below or send a contact form – We also have a small forum that you can sign up for – here is a thread which acts as a continuation of this article.