Mavic Pro Review – My First Impressions of the New DJI Aircraft

Blockhouse Lighthouse - Prince Edward Island Aerial Photography

Blockhouse Lighthouse, Entrance to Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island

The Mavic is a new product recently announced from DJI and has generated a fair bit of excitement around it’s size. That excitement goes head-to-head against the companies struggles with inventory and shipping delays. Since I pre-ordered it on day 1, I received one of the first and now after 2 weeks of flying, here are some quick first impressions of it.

The Phantom is really fun to fly, but it’s big and cumbersome to travel with. The Mavic comes with the promise to be similar in performance at a fraction of the size. It’s no bigger than a camera lens.

Canon 70-200 Lens and Mavic Pro Aircraft Drone

Canon 70-200 Lens and Mavic Pro Aircraft

Everything about it is compact. The packaging is so well done, that the box it came in has been my main mode of carry. I put it into a Lowepro Flipside backpack for convenience but the box is perfect.

Why did I buy it? I love aerial photography so this review is not about video. Having a remote controlled aircraft camera has many advantages to a traditional plane. They can fly lower, they fly slower, they need less planning for weather, they are easier to organize, you can drive to the destination cheaper, and it’s much less expensive to operate. The disadvantage is a smaller resolution camera, I can’t fly as high or have super longer continuous flight paths. Neither is perfect. It’s convenience vs maximum quality.

Prince Edward Island's Coastline

Prince Edward Island’s Coastline

The Camera

  • The Mavic’s field of view is not as wide as the Phantom. For the big picture landscape view, I feel like I’ll be stitching a few frames together more often.
  • I’m still not comfortable with the focus system. It seems to work best with larger closer subjects. Great for video. The shallow f2.2 depth of field shows. I might also need to start focus stacking.
  • Image corners are definitely soft. Partially do to focus. Partially do to f2.2. Partially do to lens quality. It particular, the bottom right corner is considerably softer than the rest so maybe a defect.
  • No lens distortion is very nice. I really dislike the barrel fish eye effect of other wide angle cameras.
  • Minor inconvenience but I wish I could get the sd card out of the aircraft without unfolding one of the wing legs.
Prince Edward Island Aerial

Upton Farm Dog Park and Trail, Prince Edward Island.

Handling

  • Compared to my limited Phantom experience, my first impressions of the Mavic feels more like a sports car in comparison. The movements and tilting in air feel much more aggressive in normal modes. I have not tried sport mode yet for faster speeds.
  • It’s sensitive, so despite all the hype and sections in the manual about flying indoors, I would suggest not trying it. It can make a real mess of the walls. Reason 1 to buy extra propellers.
Wall Damage from Drone Crash

Wall Damage From Crash Reminds of Dangers.

  • It handles wind pretty good. Prince Edward Island is windy and the Mavic compensated for those ocean wind gusts with confidence. It will lean itself into the wind making it more difficult to get a level horizon image but hey, it stays in the air. Landing in the wind is a bit more tricky. The low profile landing gear in combination of how it compensates against the wind is a receipt for making prop contact with the ground. Reason 2 to buy extra propellers.
  • The low profile also makes it more difficult to catch and land in your hands compared to the Phantom.
  • The props are well exposed. I do feel like they could be damaged when folded up and in storage if not handled with care. The back props make contact with the back landing feet and feels like it could chip with the right pressure in a camera bag. Reason 3 to buy extra propellers.

Not specific to the Mavic but I’m absolutely in love with what DJI offers for flight logs. Super interesting to replay everything.

Point Prim Lighthouse

Protective Construction Around Point Prim Continues.

The Remote

  • I like it more than the Phantom. It’s small, compact and feels well built. It’s nice that the built in display offers much of the information about the flight and does not rely on a different device. You’re phone is dedicated to settings, the first person view and the map.
  • So far I’ve only tried older Apple devices. It works with an iPhone 5s, the original iPad mini, but not the full size iPad 3 with pre-lightning cable – although it will install the DJI Go app.
Cape Bear Lighthouse

The Newly Relocated Cape Bear Lighthouse, Prince Edward Island

Batteries.

  • The Mavic is rated for 27 minutes which is more than enough time for the basics. And it’s quick to charge so I can have a full battery again in a short amount of time. However, my iPhone seems to be the weak link. The 5s has been inconsistent and not offering much in the form of confidence. Some flights have drained the battery at 5% per minute rate losing almost 40% in 7 minutes. It would be scary if my eyes in the sky powered down mid flight.
Prince Edward Island Aerial Photography

Prince Edward Island

More flying to come.

Published in Aerial on November 2016

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