Last year we picked up up a DJI Phantom 3 Standard for some aerial shooting (you can read about that here).
At that time we dismissed the Phantom 4 and the Mavic Pro due to cost and the fact that we weren't shooting anything in 4K. Now that we've moved on and are shooting 4K and above, we've been on the lookout for a handly drone to fit the bill and also allow us to be far more spontaneous about shooting aerial video.
Why the Mavic Air?
We've been in love with DJI products for a number of years now, our trusty old TBS Discovery was built with the DJI Naza v2 and DJI Flamewheel F450 parts and the Phantom 3 Standard really impressed us so sticking with DJI was an easy decision.
We looked at the Inspire 1 RAW, the Phantom 4 and the Mavic Pro but dismissed the first two due to complexity and size which left the Mavic Pro and the Mavic Air.
we figured that the Air was probably a cut-down Pro repackaged into a smaller drone...
Our initial thought was to dismiss the Mavic Air and go for the Mavic Pro or the Mavic Pro Platinum as we figured that the Air was probably a cut-down Pro repackaged into a smaller drone similar to the DJI Spark.
Reading a little about the Mavic range it was immediately clear that the Mavic Air is no cut-down Mavic Pro at all.
This one is obvious, the Pro and Pro Platinum are small but the Air is positively tiny.
We had assumed that the "Pro" would have a better camera but quickly understood that that's not necessarily the case when we compared the specifications...
|DJI Mavic Pro||DJI Mavic Air|
|C4K 4096×2160||24 p|
|UHD 3840×2160||24/25/30 p||24/25/30 p|
|2.7K 2720×1530||24/25/30 p||24/25/30/48/50/60p|
|FHD 1920x1080||24/25/30/48/50/60/96 p||24/25/30/48/50/60/120 p|
|HD 1280×720||24/25/30/48/50/60/120 p||24/25/30/48/50/60/120 p|
|Max Bitrate||60 mbps||100 mbps|
|Max Photo Resolution||12 MP||12 MP|
These are just a few of the many specifications - be sure to compare the models yourself on the DJI website.
the Mavic Air bests or matches the Mavic Pro...
As you can see from the table above, the Mavic Air bests or matches the Mavic Pro in every aspect apart from the lack of C4K support which the Mavic Pro supports at 24 p.
For slow motion footage, the Air records 1080p at 120 fps whilst the Pro models can only record this framerate at 720p and 2.7K is 60 fps when the Pro can only manage 30 fps.
The Mavic Air has certainly recieved an upgrade rather than just carrying over the camera from the Pro.
Reviews have also shown that the video is visually better on the Air than the Pro.
The Pro does have almost twice the range, better flight time and far better remote video capabilities than the Air - as well as simply having a much better controller.
Flight time is a little subjective though as if you choose to buy the Fly More Combo options; the Air includes three batteries whereas the Pro only includes two batteries which makes your overall flight time roughly about the same.
The sensing systems are also interesting as in some cases the Air is better than the Pro and vice-versa, especially with the Pro Platinum but the Air does include backward sensors where neither Pro variant does.
At time of writing the Air was £769 and the Air Fly More Combo was discounted from £1,048 to £949.
The Pro was £899 (Platinum £1,199) and the Pro Fly More Combo was £1,149 (Platinum £1,459).
As you can see; the Air is much cheaper than the Pro models.
With all of this in mind, it's hard to see exactly what the Pro and Pro Platinum offer that the Air doesn't unless you really need the range and/or the extended flight time per battery.
All of the Mavic range are at a pretty high price point, so if you're thinking of buying then be sure to do your own research and make your own comparisons based on your own requirements.
For us though, the camera is key so we chose the Mavic Air (with the Fly More Combo deal) but we also chose it because it's just so incredibly convenient due to it's miniscule size.
The case that's included with the Mavic Air is great but the additional case you get in the Fly More Combo is fantasic as it carries everything you need, it's very well made and is still incredibly small and light.
We were also lucky enough to be able to make use of a private discount scheme so we picked this up for only £852 at the Apple store.
As we need this UAV for filmmaking and we plan to use it alongside our other cameras we need to get the most cinematic footage we can.
Having already done this with our Phantom 3 and after reading a few reviews and doing some test footage, we found that the following settings were best for what we need.
We made the following changes through the DJI Go 4 app on the iPhone X.
In the camera settings we changed color to D-Cinelike.
We then adjusted the Style by switching to Custom and leaving sharpness at 0, changing contrast to -3 and saturation to -2.
Fast gimbal movements also reduce the cinematic qualities and overall feel of the footage so the gimbal needs to be slowed down a little to give us nicer shots.
We adjusted the Yaw Movement Limit to 35.
This is found under Main Controller Settings > Advanced Settings > Sensitivity.
Then we adjusted the Gimbal Pitch Smoothness to 19.
This is found under Gimbal Settings > Advanced Settings.
Obviously; smooth flying is also key to capturing great footage but these settings certainly help.
We'll be out capturing some footage as soon as the weather clears and will update the blog when we've got something to show you.