Facebook Pixel Gear: DJI Mavic Air Drone Review - Better than the Mavic Pro?

Gear: DJI Mavic Air Drone Review – Better than the Mavic Pro?

1 - Gear: DJI Mavic Air Drone Review - Better than the Mavic Pro?

Slowly but surely I’ve begun to set my sights higher when it comes to my photography. Literally. I got my first real taste of aerial photography/videography a few months ago when I used the DJI Mavic Pro drone for the first time. A whole new world opened up with a brilliant “aha” moment when I realized that a bird’s eye perspective can lend itself to an incredible expansion of creative ideas.

So when the good folks at DJI asked me to have a go at their Mavic Air drone…it was difficult to say no.

Being primarily a landscape and wilderness photographer, the super-small size of the Mavic Air made it immediately appealing, as did the fact that the imaging performance was rumored to be on par with that of its larger cousin, the Mavic Pro and Mavic 2 Pro.

Sit back, relax, and let’s have a look at the incredibly capable, incredibly small Mavic Air drone from DJI.

Out of the box

Opening up the package for the DJI Mavic Air Drone proved to be an exercise true to the drone’s namesake. The Air is surprisingly small and most of all, lightweight. I was honestly taken aback at just how minute of a profile the aircraft presented; easily fitting in the palm of my hand.

2 - Gear: DJI Mavic Air Drone Review - Better than the Mavic Pro?

In fact, the AIR isn’t much larger than the provided radio controller.

3 - Gear: DJI Mavic Air Drone Review - Better than the Mavic Pro?

Visually, the drone is beautiful. My test model came in “Alpine White” color but red and black flavors are also available.

4 - Gear: DJI Mavic Air Drone Review - Better than the Mavic Pro?

The Mavic Air is simply a great looking drone in this color scheme. Of course, form should always follow function.

Here’s a list of the key aircraft specifications for the Mavic Air:

  • Folded Dimensions(L×W×H): 6.6″x 3.3″x1.9″(168×83×49mm)
  • UnfoldedmDimensions(L×W×H): 6.6″x 7.2″x 2.5″(168×184×64mm)
  • Flight Vision Senors: Downward, Forward, Backward
  • Controllable Gimbal Range: Tilt: -90° to 0° (default setting),-90° to +17° (extended)

Build quality

Even though the Mavic AIR is admittedly small, the build quality is extremely sturdy. The drone does not feel flimsy at all. Throughout my tests and a couple of crashes (sorry DJI), this little drone sustained little more than a few scrapes and scratches.

5 - Gear: DJI Mavic Air Drone Review - Better than the Mavic Pro?

6 - Gear: DJI Mavic Air Drone Review - Better than the Mavic Pro?

In terms of build quality, the Mavic Air feels less substantial than it’s big brother, the Mavic Pro (and 2 Pro). The overall quality is apparent. I would not worry about the Mavic Air being capable of surviving extended (and turbulent) fly time.

Flight performance and handling

If you’re like me, anything that has a “Sport Mode” function makes you extremely excited. More on that fun little feature in just minute, but first let’s discuss how the Mavic Air handles…well…in the air.

The DJI Mavic Air Drone has a maximum horizontal flight speed of 17.9mph (28.8kph) which is just a tad slower than the DJI’s new Mavic 2 Pro, which clocks a blistering 44.7mph (72kph) and is even more sluggish than the 31mph (50kph) speed of the DJI Spark. These numbers, however, are slightly deceptive as the relatively sloth-like horizontal speeds of the Air are all in “P-Mode”, which could be considered the mode best for general flight.

Where the Mavic Air really earns it’s wings (haha drone humor) is when it’s Sport Mode is engaged. This kicks the Mavic Air’s top horizontal speed up to a hearty 42.5mph (68.4kph). Here’s a quick video of the Mavic Air in Sport Mode. To be honest, the acceleration when in Sport Mode would make the Millennium Falcon a little bit jealous.

I absolutely love the Sport Mode of the Air because it allowed me to use P-Mode for the majority of my flying time to conserve battery life. At the same time, I knew that I could really stomp the gas to fly into or out of trouble extremely quickly.

Overall, the handling of the Air was responsive and accurate during radio control although not as snappy as the Mavic Pro.

Speaking of radio control, I want to take a moment to give the remote control of the Mavic Air a little bit of love. Not only does the controller feel great both with and without my mobile device mounted but it also features removal joysticks. This makes the controller even more packable.

A small feature but one that speaks volumes to the amount of thought DJI put into making the Mavic Air truly user-friendly.

7 - Gear: DJI Mavic Air Drone Review - Better than the Mavic Pro?

8 - Gear: DJI Mavic Air Drone Review - Better than the Mavic Pro?

The ascent speed of 9.84fts (3ms) was actually more comfortable and controllable for my personal tastes when compared to the meteoric 16.4fts (5ms) of the Mavic Pro.

Here are a few more important performance specifications for the Mavic Air:

  • Maximum Descent Speed: 6.56 ft/s / 2 m/s
  • Maximum Wind Resistance: 23.61 mph / 38 km/h
  • Flight Ceiling: 16,404′ / 5000 m
  • Maximum Flight Time: 21 Minutes
  • Maximum Hover Time: 20 Minutes

Camera performance

The proof is in the pudding as they say and the Mavic Air produced some beautiful video and stills with its 12MP camera. Some useful specs of the Mavic Air camera are as follows (provided by DJI):

  • Sensor: 1/2.3” CMOS
  • Lens FOV: 85°
  • 35 mm Format Equivalent: 24 mm
  • Aperture: f/2.8
  • Shooting Range: 0.5m to infinity
  • ISO Range Video: 100 – 3200 (auto),100 – 3200 (manual)
  • Photo ISO Range: 100 – 1600 (auto),100 – 3200 (manual)
  • Shutter Speed Electronic Shutter: 8 – 1/8000s
  • Still Image Size: 4:3(4056×3040),16:9:(4056×2280)
  • Burst shooting: 3/5/7 frames
  • Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB): 3/5 bracketed frames at 0.7EV Bias

 

  • Video Resolution 4K Ultra HD: 3840×2160 24/25/30p
  • 2.7K: 2720×1530 24/25/30/48/50/60p
  • FHD: 1920×1080 24/25/30/48/50/60/120p
  • HD: 1280×720 24/25/30/48/50/60/120p
  • Max Video Bitrate 100Mbps
  • Supported File System FAT32
  • Photo Format JPEG/DNG (RAW)
  • Video Format MP4/MOV (H.264/MPEG-4 AVC)

9 - Gear: DJI Mavic Air Drone Review - Better than the Mavic Pro?

10 - Gear: DJI Mavic Air Drone Review - Better than the Mavic Pro?

Here’s a quick video short made using the Mavic Air. Shot in 1080P at 30fps:

Another extremely convenient feature that bears mentioning about the Mavic Air is the inclusion of an 8GB internal “last ditch” memory storage. This bit of built-in memory is an incredibly practical way to ensure that you aren’t completely immobilized by either a forgotten or full memory card. During one of my flights, I managed to fill up my micro SD card, and the 8GB of internal storage really saved the day. Especially if it had been crucial that I finished shooting the scene at the time.

Final thoughts on the DJI Mavic Air

How to best characterize the Mavic Air?

I will admit that before I received the Air I was under the impression that it was going to be a step down from the Mavic Pro I had tested previously.

This is simply not the case.

In fact, I can confidently say that I prefer the Mavic Air to the Mavic Pro based on my testing.

The Mavic Air is extremely compact while still packing in the imaging power of it’s larger cousins. It looks great and can hold its own while in flight.

And that Sport Mode….sheesh.

If you’re looking for an extremely portable yet powerful drone for your aerial photography and videography needs that won’t break the bank, I strongly suggest you have a look at the DJI Mavic Air Drone. It seems great things truly can come in small packages.

Have you used the DJI Mavic Air Drone? If so, share with us your thoughts in the comments below.

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Adam Welch

Adam Welch is a full-time photomaker, author, adventurer, educator, and self-professed bacon addict. You can usually find him on some distant trail making photographs or at his computer writing about all the elegant madness that is photography. Follow his blog over at aphotographist.com and check out his brand new video eCourse on Adobe Lightroom Classic!