DJI Mavic Pro: Review After 6 Month of Usage

Hello there, this is Andrew and this is the DJI Mavic Pro review. I’ve been using it for about six month now and I’m going to review this drone in details.

Size (LxWxH) 7,8″ × 3,2″ × 3,2″ (folded)
Diagonal Distance 13,1 inches
Maximum Speed 40mph in Sport mode
Ascent Speed 16.4 feet per second
Descent Speed 9.8 feet per second
Weight 1.62lbs
Gimbal 3-axis
Global Position Systems GPS, GLONASS
Camera 1/2.3” CMOS; 12 MP; f/2.2, 4K video (4096×2160 24p)
Video Bit Rate 60Mbps
Live Feed 720@30fps
Internal Storage none
Supported SD cards Micro SD up to 128gb, Class 10 or UHS-1
Battery LiPo 3S, 3830 mAh, 11.4 V
Range 5 miles
Hover Time 22-24 minutes
Price $999 (Discount on Amazon.com)
Release Date October, 2016

ATTENTION: DJI has released DJI Mavic 2 Pro.

At the end of September 2016 leading drone and multicopter manufacturer DJI Innovations, presented a particularly compact and versatile quadcopter the DJI Mavic Pro. A bunch of flight functions, integrated 4K camera, an improved image transmission system and numerous safety features characterize the DJI Mavic Pro. What features the Mavic Pro and what it has in the box we review in this article.

Design And Specs

The DJI Mavic Pro is the most compact quadcopter of the Chinese manufacturer DJI Innovations. The drone is versatile and easy to use thanks to its hinged outriggers and foldable propellers – especially when compared to the DJI Phantom 4 Pro, the Mavic Pro has significantly smaller dimensions as it measures 7,8″ × 3,2″ × 3,2″ when folded. The weight of the quadcopter is just 1.62 pounds (including battery, propellers and “gimbal cover”), which makes it one of the most lightweight drones, considering its wide range of functions. The design of the DJI Mavic Pro is completely new and has little in common with the appearance of the DJI Phantom models.

Under laboratory conditions the DJI Mavic Pro achieves a flight time of around 27 minutes – in reality, it takes around 20 to 25 minutes, depending on the weather conditions and selected flight modes. The 3,830 mAh lithium-powered 3S rechargeable battery (11,4V) is part of the standard DJI package and has an LED bar to indicate the current energy level. An additional battery is available in DJI Mavic Pro accessories.

With the recent release of the Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom models the price on the DJI Mavic Pro has dropped. Now you can but the drone only for $839 for starer bundle and Fly More Combo which includes 3 batteries and accessories for less than $1300.

The DJI Mavic Pro comes with a black, consistently professional and high-quality-looking housing, which makes the entry-level quadcopter a consistently attractive drone even among professional models. When folded, the DJI Mavic Pro measures only 3,2 inches in height and width and 7,8 inches in length – dimensions that allow the DJI Mavic Pro to fit in a jacket pocket, trouser pocket or purse. Especially when travelling, at leisure activities or at the open-air party, the pocket sized quadcopter can be used quickly and conveniently thanks to its small dimensions. And 8.3-inch propellers do not even have to be disassembled. That is a true “ready-to-fly” drone!

The DJI Mavic Pro also equipped with 2 sensors: one at the bottom and one at the front which prevent the drone from hitting objects when flying.

Remote Controller

The DJI Mavic Pro can either be controlled exclusively by smartphone (“Fly by Phone”), by smartphone and controller or with a remote controller ultimately. The ability to fly the DJI Mavic Pro with a smartphone is a noteworthy innovation in the DJI world. Similar to toy and hobby drones à la Parrot Bebop 2, the DJI GO App now offers virtual control sticks, so that the drone can also be controlled by tapping your fingers, as long as the actual controller is not available. When controlling by smartphone the usual flight modes (TapFly, Trace, Spotlight, Profile, Circle) are also available. Of course, photos and videos can also be recorded only with a smartphone.

The controller was also redesigned and now gives the impression of a game pad. The controller is now foldable and can be transported very comfortably. In the unfolded state, the smart mechanism makes it possible to use a smartphone below the controller. While the controller displays important telemetry data thanks to the integrated LCD display, the smartphone is used to display the FPV image (live feed from drone’s camera in real time). Overall, DJI now offers a control solution that outshines even Yuneec controllers, Phantom controllers or controllers from the professional sector in terms of user-friendly design, flexibility and portability.

Flight Modes Worth Mentioning

Sport Mode

As with the DJI Phantom 4 Pro, the Mavic Pro also offers a sport mode that can be activated by a switch on the controller. In Sport mode, the DJI Mavic Pro reaches top speeds of up to 40 miles per hour, which makes the compact quadcopter almost a racer drone.

Tripod Mode

The Tripod mode is a new intelligent flight mode that is available when flying the DJI Mavic Pro. In the mode the maximum speed is reduced to only 1.8 miles per hour and the sensitivity of the remote control is the highest. Thanks to the intelligent sensor technology, the DJI Mavic Pro hovers extremely accurately in this mode, which makes the Tripod mode particularly suitable for taking landscape shots and when flying indoors.

Active Track Mode

At the same time, the Active Track mode has also been improved: it now recognizes even more objects such as animals, land and water vehicles, cyclists or pedestrians. It also offers new ways to automatically film a moving object with the Active Track Trace, Profile and Spotlight modes. In trace mode, the DJI Mavic Pro tracks the moving subject from behind or front, while the subject is filmed in profile mode from the side. In Spotlight mode, no trajectory is given – the DJI Mavic Pro’s camera is always focused on the object and the trajectory can be selected as desired by a pilot.

DJI Mavic Pro Camera

The DJI Mavic Pro is not only small and compact, but also crammed with all kinds of features and technology. This of course includes a 3-axis stabilization system including 4K camera. The latter recording ultra-high-resolution 4K videos at 30 frames per second or 1080p videos at up to 120 frames per second. The 12-megapixels camera can take 4000×3000 photo, which can be saved on request in either the typical JPEG format or alternatively in the DNG raw format that contain much more image data.

Of course, DJI’s new DJI Mavic Pro can take “Dronies” as well. So-called “dronies” are more popular than ever and show people from a spectacular perspective – perfect for souvenir photos or an Instagram post. The new gesture control of the DJI Mavic Pro is helpful here as well: if drone’s camera is aimed at one person, it is easy to indicate the arm thanks to gesture control so that the quadcopter shoots a selfie.

DJI OcuSync 1.0 – The Game Changer

Most entry-level quadcopters operate by conventional WiFi connection to transmit the camera images to a ground station (e.g., a smartphone). Manufacturers usually specify connection ranges of at least half a mile or mile, but in practice this is usually only possible using antennas. However, this also impose a restriction on the drone manoeuvring in a flight, because the remote control and the aircraft must be optimally aligned with one another in order to be able to achieve the long distances in the signal and image transmission. At the same time, it was difficult to restore a broken connection in the shortest possible time in order to fly the aircraft safely home.

On the one hand, conventional WiFi connections were not designed for long-distance distances and, in particular, have a high latency in the terms of image transmission. That’s why DJI decided to use a digital transmission system called DJI Lightbridge instead of a traditional WiFi transmission technology for their Inspire 1 for a first time.

The DJI Mavic Pro also uses digital transmission system and has a significantly improved Lightbridge system that is called DJI OcuSync. It is able to deliver high-resolution 1080p videos (FullHD) at a distance of a whopping 4.3 miles compared to conventional analogue connections thanks to improved signal compression and channel transmission – almost no latency, no static interference, no noticeable flickering or transmission problems. In fact, the DJI OcuSync has extremely low latencies – signal data from the remote control is transmitted with only 5 ms delay and video data or image data with a latency of 10 ms or 130 ms respectively.

Flying the Drone and Image Quality

Probably, the most important thing is the image quality. The Mavic Pro shoots video at 4k and 2.7 K and at 25 frames per second. But I prefer to shoot it in 2.7K and the reason for this is to do with bitrate (that’s the speed with which the image data is moved from the camera and onto the card). If you shoot at 4k the bitrate is 16 megabytes per second but if you shoot at 2.7 K the bitrate is a little bit less at 45 megabytes per second but it’s actually faster because 2.7K has a less resolution and it’s actually faster per pixel so it’s getting that information quicker on to the car and if you set the frame rate at 25 frames per second you’re giving the camera the best opportunity to get the highest quality of image to transfer to you.

The most important thing about is the sharpening setting means that if you have the sharpening setting on zero or lower – 1 – 2 – 3 then the DJI software starts to implement noise reduction which gives you a kind of smearing look which is particularly noticeable in the shadows where you start to lose detail so you need to put the sharpening setting at plus 1 and then you can put the saturation at zero or lower the contrast. At zero light I currently have the contrast on zero point on one. But the most important thing is to have the sharpening on +1 because what that will do is make sure that you don’t get this mirror look in the shadows and you’ll get out the absolute maximum detail that you can from the image file.

However, downside of that is that in certain parts of the image particularly in shadows in high-contrast scenes you’ll start to notice that you’re getting noise. So what you’re gonna need to do is to apply a noise reduction. That really enables you to get rid of the noise that you’ve created by having the sharpening set at +1. So for me this gives me the best image quality that I can get and the camera since I’ve been using those settings I’ve been much, much happier with the kind of image quality that I’m getting in videos particularly when I’m shooting in high contrast scenes like sunrise or sunset in the shadow areas.

Another thing that I found helps with general quality is neutral density filters. So these are the set that I’m using as these seems to be the one that most people recommend and they fit really easily onto the front the camera just need to make sure that you put them on before you turn the drone on. You don’t want to turn it on and go through a gimbal calibration and then try to push it on always do it while the drones turned off it’s much easier that way is much better for the camera.

What a neutral density filters do is they cut down the amount of light that’s coming into the camera which allows you to use a slower shutter speed and this gives you less flicker. For example, if you are shooting 25 frames per second and you’re shooting at a shutter speed of one in 1000 that means for most of that second your shutter speed is so fast that there’s a lot of period within that second when you’re not actually shooting and the camera is actually open so by using a slower shutter speed you’ll get a time in a little bit of movement but at 25 frames per second it’s really not noticeable. What it does mean that for each one of those seconds the camera is actually recording which gives you a much smoother footage and makes it look less jittery and feel a lot more cinematic. In the end the results are certainly there and the basic rule is you always want to be shooting at kind of double your frame rate so if you’re shooting at 25 frames per second you want to have a shutter speed of 1/150 so you put on a neutral density filter and they have different thicknesses to try to get as close to that as possible and give you much smoother cinematic footage.

I’ve actually been really quite impressed with the quality of the raw files on the Mavic Pro. The JPEG is nasty it’s got all kinds of noise reduction things going on but forget it don’t shoot JPEG with Mavic, shoot in raw and then use a raw converter like Camera Raw or Lightroom or something like that to get the absolute best quality that you can find out. I’ve been really quite impressed now as long as you’re not shooting it particularly really low light so sort of an hour after the sun’s gone down. When you’re past the blue hour you can actually get some really high detail good looking files that you certainly capable of printing up to about 40 centimeters.

It’s one of the things about such a small camera is that the actual pixels on the sensor are much smaller so what that has the effect of is reducing the dynamic range. In fact, the dynamic range is the range between the highlights – the brightest part of the image and the shadows – the darkest part of the image and what that means if you’re shooting really high contrast scenes the shadows are going to go to black and they’ll be no detail there or worse while the highlights will go to bright white and blow out and look old burn and there’s no detail in the end. So the best way to do with Mavic Pro is to shoot with the auto exposure bracketing images: it’s shot at the base exposure which is the exposure that you’re shot (mainly because you should always be setting your exposure manually) but it also gives you a shot that’s underexposed by one stop and a shot that’s over expose which gives you a much wider dynamic range by about two stops wider. So those are three images and merge them together in the Lightroom and you’re good to go.

DJI has been making drones for a long time so they’ve had a lot of time to refine and get their software really robustly, quite resilient so there’s not a lot that I think goes wrong with it, certainly not in my experience.

The Mavic Pro has a forward-facing sensor. In my experience it works very well as it stopped me from flying forward into stuff. But of course, I spend a lot of time flying sideways, flying backwards, doing a real shot. So one of the things that I would love on the Mavic Pro the next generation is the thing that their Phantom 4 Pro got is sideways facing sensors, but in particular rearward facing sensors. I do spend a lot of time flying the drone backwards because I think it’s a much more interesting angle and there is just some cases they may be useful. Particularly if you’re flying over the ocean when you can’t fly forwards and invert the footage you actually have to physically fly backwards and when the drone is a long way away you can’t see it very well and you’ve got limited depth perception. It’s sometimes quite hard to judge how high you are, how far away you are from objects so rearward-facing sensors would be great as the forward-facing sensors which work extremely well. In the next Mavic Pro generation that would be thing that I would really, really like.

In addition to that there are a whole host of additional feature things like the active track and stuff like that. I actually haven’t used them all as I look at some of them and know what I do but I basically can’t find the need of them. I can’t find any use for them in the kind of footage that I want to shoot although I’m sure some people will put them to use. For example, I think extremely good is the tripod mode. It slows the drone during flying and it makes the input and the control is very, very slow. So if you push the controller hard over to the right it slowly starts moving the direction that you’re pushing the stick which gives you an incredible amount of control. This is really good if you’re flying in very confined spaces like for example I am in shooting in these trees here.

Your movements that you’re inputting into the controller aren’t going to make the drone jerk around a lot so it really gives you an incredible amount of control. Another one of the features is the active track mode. You can select an object you kind of draw like a green circle around it and then the Mavic can actually track that or follow that subject. On my own experience it works quite well, you can identify a person, you can identify a car or follow a car, but you have to be relatively close. I found myself quite often when I’m quite a long way away wanted to do really long tracking shots and unfortunately the Mavic just gives me a message saying that it’s too far away for its tracking that subject. I found out that within something like about ten meters of the subject these feature works which is really quite close so it doesn’t work very well if you’ve got the drone a long way away.

The active truck has three different varieties there’s the trace there’s a profile and there’s a spotlight. The one that I tend to use the most is Trace when the Mavic Pro will keep the subject centered and follow them wherever they go and what it also means is if you use the left and right on your sticks you can circle around the subject which means you can get these lovely circular movements as a subjects walking because the Mavic will compensate and keep a fixed distance which means they can’t walk out.

I do one thing that’s really impressed me is the gimbal stabilization on the Mavic Pro. It’s very windy sometimes and I also took the journey to Iceland where again we got a lot of lot of wind and there are quite a few times when I was flying when I was getting warnings that the velocity the wind is too high and that I should bring the drone to land but basically the footage that I was filming there didn’t look like it was windy at all because first of all the Mavic Pro is extremely good at compensating against the wind and then because the gimbal works incredibly well keeping the footage and the camera steady. It’s something that I didn’t expect from such a small drone and it is very impressive.

As I said a lot of time when I’m using the drone at some of my hiking and it’s not necessarily easy to find a place to take off. The Mavic Pro is very flat to the ground, but between the gimbal and the ground the clearance is incredibly low. I know, you can get landing gear which helps a little bit and I’ve got and they are good as they do give it like it about that much extra clearance and help make it easier to take off and generally it is easy to find some way that you can take it off even if it’s at an angle or something like that.

As long as the propellers aren’t hitting the ground you’re gonna be able to get it in the air but landing is much more complex. It’s much harder to flight if you’ve got a tiny, tiny landing and it’s much harder to learn how to perform landing. The easiest way to do this is to fly and select a couple until it’s about two two and a half meters above the ground so you can reach up and catch it. Keep your hands underneath, it makes sure you don’t touch your propellers. As soon as you get hold of it the downward facing sensor is going to sense you and it’s going to try to pull away so you’ll hear the propellants powering up so you have to cling on and then just slowly power down with the left stick pulling it down, pulling it toward you and after a few seconds propellers start spinning and you’ve landed.

You could pretty much launch and fly the drone from boats, from incredibly rocky places and you don’t have to worry because you’re always going to be able to get it down safely. I think if you become familiar with flying the drone while you’re inside a car you can basically do tracking shots while you’re driving and it saves you from having to stand outside.

In Iceland we’ve spent a lot of time driving in a Jeep and we really wanted to capture some dramatic footage of the Jeep driving across the desert plains. Sitting in the back of the Jeep it is quite tricky because obviously there’s a roof that so you can’t see the drone physically and you’re dependent in time what you can see on the screen and of course while you’re concentrating on the screen you can’t see where the jeeps going. Obviously I was a passenger but the jeeps going to be making movements which you can’t anticipate so basically it’s an extra level of control learning how to do these shots while you’re inside a moving vehicle.

Tracking does look nice but all that’s going to be able to do is to follow you or to keep the vehicle in view all the time if you want to be doing these kind of diagonal passing shots tracking doesn’t tend to work as well. For that there’s a degree of anticipation, sort of predicting where the drone and the vehicle that you aim is going to cross, but it’s a lot of fun something that I spent a lot of time playing around with and had a lot of fun doing.

Conclusion

Now Mavic Pro is not the best run on the market. There are the Phantom 4 Pro which will give you much better image quality, the DJI Inspire 2 will give you much better image quality and the DJI Mavic Air which is newer model in the Mavic series. But what you have to think about is a compromise that you’re making as a lot of the time when I go traveling I want to travel as light as possible. And the simple fact is that if I’d had a Phantom 4 Pro or an Inspire these would have given me much better image quality but the reality is I probably wouldn’t have had them with me in the first place. When I was in Iceland I was camping, we spent a lot of time backpacking and there was just no way that I have been able to carry all of my equipment plus a heavier drone but the Mavic Pro so small and light so it takes up no space and it’s easy to have it on a journey or backpacking.

Considering its versatility, transportability and proven DJI technologies, I would say yes – the DJI Mavic Pro is worth the money! In particular, the high material quality, the diverse security systems and sensors, the extremely stable signal and image transmission, the high-resolution 4K camera with three-axis stabilization system and the numerous flight modes make the DJI Mavic Pro the absolute killer drone of 2016.