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DJI Mavic Pro Review

Both photography and videography have come a long way when it comes to consumer products. We used to only rely on DSLRs when we talk about serious imaging, but today capable shooters made their way to phones and could fit in your pockets. To further stretch that out, these cameras are now mounted on remote-controlled drones and have been helping both enthusiasts and professionals capture breathtaking images.

DJI has made its mark in the aerial imaging scene with their products like the Phantom and Inspire series. The Mavic Pro, so far, is the most portable of them all but it doesn’t mean it skimped on important features.

The video review above shows more sample shots taken with the Mavic Pro.

Design and Construction

The Mavic Pro, when folded up, is so small that one could easily grab it using one hand. The body is made of plastic to make things light but has a high-quality feel to it and a solid, reinforced sound when you tap it.

Its arms fold out to get ready for flight. Same is the case for its remote controller that demands users to first pull out the mount for the phone as well as the antennas.

Checking out the drone itself, its power button is seen up top (under the light bulb sticker). There are four LED lights that indicate the battery level of the device so you don’t always need to check the remote or the app.

Speaking of power, its battery is actually where the power button and LED lights are. Press the two buttons on the side and the pack ejects itself for charging. DJI calls this the Intelligent Flight Battery with 3,830mAh capacity.

Up front is the camera (1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor) that’s mounted on a gimbal to ensure stable and smooth footage. Also seen here are two front-facing sensors just above the camera for its obstacle avoidance feature.

At the rear is where the company’s logo is printed just above the status indicator. It flashes different colors (green, yellow, and red) that should tell you when the drone is ready to fly, when you need to double check a setting, or when something is preventing it to take-off, among other things.

On its right side is a flap that reveals the microSD card slot as well as the toggle to tell the drone whether you’ll control it via the app or with its dedicated remote control.

Meanwhile, underneath, we have another set of visual sensors located almost at the edge of its metal chassis and, in the midst of those, are two bigger ultrasonic rangefinders for recognizing altitude which basically helps in taking off and landing of the drone.

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Jumping to the controls, it looks like your typical controller for consoles with its dual joysticks and trigger buttons up top. There’s the mount for attaching smartphones that fold out and can accommodate handsets of different sizes. It’s actually pretty flexible since we could use it for small devices like an iPhone 5S or even a 5.7-inch LG V10 and make it still fit like a glove. We’ve actually seen some users attach an iPad Mini to the controller and they say it still holds firmly.

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It has a built-in display that shows important details like altitude, distance, drone status, battery, and more. On the upper left corner is the Return to Home button while the opposite end is where the power button solely for the controller is. There is a Flight Pause button at the bottom of the display for emergency braking and a 5D button that users could assign functions to.

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The joysticks don’t feel cheap and have good resistance to them.

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Up front, there are trigger buttons on both sides as mentioned earlier. One is a shutter button while the other has the video record button. There are also rotating wheels situated on the right and left buttons for exposure and camera tilt, respectively.

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The package includes three microUSB cables with different ends. There’s microUSB to microUSB, microUSB to Lightning, and microUSB to USB Type-C to accommodate connections for different devices as a way to see what the camera sees and play with shooting modes. These individually attach to the left side and go straight to the mount for instant connectivity.

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There’s a USB port at the rear of the RC which is also used for connecting devices for live preview. While there’s already one on the side, this is for bigger displays like tablets — making it possible to have a separate viewfinder standing on a table while controlling the drone.

Additionally, there are two extra buttons at the underbelly of the remote control called the C1 and C2. Users could assign specific functions to them like Center Focus, Camera Settings, Look Down, etc. for quick, one-press actions while flying.

Apart from the charging cables, the Basic Mavic Pro package consists of the drone, remote control, three cables with different tips, and two extra pieces of spare propellers in case you damage or break one. The propellers are made of plastic and could be easily attached and removed with a simple twist.

For a couple of weeks, I had this drone secured in a small bag and kept it inside my backpack when I walked around going to different places. Compared to the Phantom drones which have their own huge backpacks, the compact size makes this quadcopter a friend to any traveler.

Features

The Mavic Pro is packed with intelligent features and flying modes to make it easier to use. Below are some of the useful functions it can do. It basically has the special features of the Phantom 4 plus a few extras.

  • Follow Me – Locks on to the phone’s GPS to follow the user.
  • Active Track – Uses imaging to memorize a subject and follow it.
  • Obstacle Avoidance – Front sensors detect and avoid obstacles.
  • Terrain Follow – Maintains the same distance to the ground while going uphill/downhill.
  • Gesture – Make a gesture to command the drone and take a photo of you without the controller.
  • Tripod Mode – Keeps the drone as stable as possible.
  • Tap to Fly – Just tap anywhere on the screen and the drone goes to that location.
  • Return to Home – Returns to the recorded place where it took off.

From those, what we used most of the time are the Follow Me and Active Track when we decide to go for automatic flying. We also experienced its obstacle avoidance feature a couple of times when we fly the drone low and a person walks in front of its sensor.

Do take note that the Mavic Pro’s sensor is only up front and under which leaves the sides and rear blind as a bat. This means that when using certain flight modes like Active Track, make sure you’re in a wide area so the drone can freely move with you and not hit obstacles as it backs up or flies sideways.

Terrain Follow is actually useful when you shoot on slopes and you want the quadcopter to roam. With it on, users can just make the drone move without having to worry about maintaining a safe distance to the ground. Gesture Mode is pretty useless to us since it only recognizes our gestures about half of the time. You’d be better off with using the controller and just holding it on your side when you take photos. Meanwhile, Tap to Fly is useful for when you want to go far without having to push the stick forward for a long time. Apart from that, we barely used it.

Of course, one of the most important feature during our entire time with it is the Fly to Home capability. Sure, you can always make the drone fly back to you manually, but there were instances that we made the Mavic fly so far that we can no longer remember which direction it went. A simple push and hold on its button and the copter finds its way back to us — very handy!

Performance

The first thing you do when you fly any drone is you set it up. I’ve had friends who own a couple of quadcopters before and they would usually take about 5-10 minutes to prepare since they still need to screw on the propellers, hook up the tablet to the remote control, and so on. With the Mavic Pro, these are basically the steps you need to do before it’s ready to take off:

  1. Unfold the arms and remove protective dome.
  2. Turn on the drone.
  3. Attach remote controller to smartphone using a cable.
  4. Power the RC on.
  5. Launch DJI GO app on smartphone.

After those steps which you can do in under a minute or two, just wait a few seconds to establish a connection and the drone will be ready to fly.

As we’ve mentioned earlier, this piece of machine is stuffed with the latest tech magic to make flying really, really easy. The company’s been boasting of what they call the FlightAutonomy technology. It basically keeps the drone steady and provides precision control even in different environments and that’s what’s always at play when you fly the Mavic Pro.

During an afternoon with strong gusts of wind, it was evident that it was heavily swayed and slightly moving around but it still keeps itself in its place thanks to its GPS.

A recurring issue that happened to us was that the DJI GO app occasionally crashed on some Android devices even when they have the latest software version installed. On the other hand, flying the drone on an iPhone showed no signs of hiccups and crashes.

Crashing the Drone

I tried flying the Mavic at night and since I took off around a dimly-lit area, my best bet would be that the vision sensors at its belly didn’t get any visual images and didn’t ‘see’ the ground, which made it plummet straight down while attempting to land it. After hitting the surface (which was all covered in sand), the impact made the drone flip over with the propellers still rotating against the ground at full speed. It still took a couple of seconds for me to get to it and pick it up before I could finally power it down.

Physically, it took some pretty heavy scratches on its battery and the propellers have all been damaged — scraped, torn, and chipped off as seen in the photos.

Long story short, I tested it the following day after removing all the sand that was sucked inside its body and I got a ‘Gimbal Overloaded’ error which prevented me in controlling the movement (tilt up and down) of the camera. I got it working again when I manually rotated the camera as it seemed stuck, then placed it back to its correct orientation. After that’s done and I’ve replaced the propellers, everything went back to normal as if nothing happened. My Mavic now has battle scars, though.

(Note: Originally, I wouldn’t have touched and tried to fix it myself. I would rather send it back to DJI and have them do a professional check up to make sure everything’s working fine. It’s just that I was out of the country at the moment and not using the drone for the rest of the trip means missing great shot opportunities.

Also, I am not disclosing that the Mavic Pro can withstand crashes. I might just have been lucky and I still am not sure if the crash caused some internal damage that might make itself known later on. In an instance like this, it would be wiser to contact DJI and have it serviced.)

Video Quality

With all those out of the way, let’s talk about the Mavic Pro’s video quality. In terms of paper, it can shoot up to 4K resolution (3840 x 2160) at 30fps which is a good combination to use since you get the abundance in resolution to go with a fairly smooth frame rate. If I wanted a more fluid movement I could settle for Full HD at 60fps.

Among its many settings, the Mavic Pro has a list of available presets in terms of general color of the image. On Normal settings, we found that colors are well-saturated in comparison to the discontinued Phantom 4 when compared side-by-side. However, I would say that video quality on the Phantom 4 is a little bit more detailed when you zoom in on an image. This could be due to the little advantage the P4 has over Mavic in terms of the sensor’s effective pixel count (12.4M vs 12.35M).

Video stabilization is done using a 3-axis gimbal like the one used for steady cams as well as DJI’s Osmo. This worked nicely with the Mavic as it was able to produce buttery smooth footage even when there’s wind present.

Here are some raw and unedited clips shot with the Mavic Pro:

Battery Life

DJI has equipped this quadcopter with an Intelligent Flight Battery with a 3,830mAh capacity. The company boasts that it could last a flight time of 27 minutes which is actually pretty impressive for a drone but this test was done in a lab under a controlled environment and optimum conditions. In real-life usage, the Mavic Pro was able to record 21 minutes and 52 seconds of 4K video while flying around/hovering before its battery was reduced to only 12% and the drone automatically returned home and landed.

If you add the extra 12% of juice on top of that 21 minutes then the result might be close to the advertised duration. Although, even if we had been able to make it last a full 27 minutes of flight time, it sometimes still wouldn’t be enough and you’d end up wanting to fly it longer. We highly recommend getting a second (or even third) battery pack so you can shoot for extended periods of time.

Conclusion

Having used the Mavic for a whole month of almost flying every day, its portability is what makes it a really attractive option for interested consumers. Setting up takes about 2 minutes and you’re all ready to fly. This, in addition to its folding design, makes the drone ultra portable and a delight to bring during trips.

Usually, when a device is built with portability in mind, its features suffer but that’s far from the case of the Mavic Pro.

Image output is vibrant, movement is generally fluid, and despite its size, it could take on strong winds without dramatically affecting video quality. Meanwhile, battery life is satisfactory, but 20 minutes of flight time (at least for me) is always not enough so it’s better to have an extra pack or two.

DJI hit a sweet spot with the Mavic Pro by packing it with the most advanced technologies while keeping it small and easy to bring around. This simply makes it the perfect consumer drone for a user that wants an easy-to-fly quadcopter with broadcast quality image output and safety features.

Of course, this advanced piece of technology is not without room for improvement. There have been a lot of reports of Mavics crashing into obstacles since it has no sensors on its sides and at its rear unlike the more advanced Phantom 4 Pro. This is what you’ll give up if you prefer portability over smart features.

We also came across numerous app crashes while running DJI GO on Android. This could simply be targetted by a patch from the company so we’re hoping that it gets fixed real soon.

I bought my DJI Mavic Pro from Henry’s Professional for Php53,700 for the standard package. The Fly More Combo has more accessories included like two spare Intelligent Batteries, four sets of extra propellers, a battery charging hub, car charger, and a small carry pouch. It is priced locally for around Php73K.

DJI Mavic Pro specs and key features:
1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor
12MP stills
Up to 4K video recording @ 30fps
GPS, GLONASS
734 grams (battery + propellers)
13km max flight distance
65kph max speed
27mins max flight time
24 computing cores
Ultrasonic range finders
Redundant sensors
Obstacle avoid
Follow subject
Return to home
3,830mAh battery

Pros:

  • Really easy to fly
  • Very portable
  • Quick setup
  • Strong signal reception
  • Able to withstand strong winds despite size
  • Metal chassis acts as heat sink to dissipate warm temp

Cons:

  • No rear and side sensors
  • DJI GO app crashes on some Android smartphones


Kevin Bruce Francisco is the Senior Editor and Video Producer for YugaTech. He's a Digital Filmmaking graduate who's always either daydreaming of traveling or actually going places on his bike. Follow him on Twitter for more tech updates @kevincofrancis.

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4 Responses

  1. Lee Martin says:

    Does this mean one no longer needs a pilot license to use a drone in the Philippines?

  2. Lee Martin says:

    Possible to equip this drone for safe night flight?

  3. I called Henry’s Quiapo and they said the price is 79,9++.

  4. Andrew says:

    Overprice na masyado sa Henry’s Php 82,000 yung Mavic pro nila hindi na ako bibili ulit doon date doon ako bumili ng Canon DSLR Php 60,000 bili ko hindi na ma uulit yun masyao na silang Gahaman mag presyo ngayon

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