DJI MAVIC PRO – REVIEW IN 2018
This article is part of a DJI drones review series.
What you need to know about DJI Mavic Pro before you buy it!
There is no question that Mavic Pro has been the most popular drone in the last decade. I confess that from the very moment DJI released it, I dreamed to own such an amazing piece of technology.
Mavic Pro is one of those technology machines that changed the world. First generation from DJI Mavic series, it literally changed the UAV industry when was released in 2016.
DJI Engineers overcome themselves by coming with such an impressive design. Mavic Pro was first foldable drone than could last more than 20 minutes in the air, shoot stabilized 4K and weight less than 1 Kg.
Mavic Pro is a quad-copter that can fly up to 7 km distance, carries a 3-axis gimbal and shoot 4K up to 30fps. This beast is powered by 4 powerful brush-less motors offering a smooth flight and incredible low noise.
Selling packages and combos
Unlike DJI Spark, Mavic Pro has more selling bundles:
- Single – the cheapest and the simplest. RC is included but you’ll have to play with only one intelligent battery
- Fly More Combo – 2 spare batteries, hub charger, leather bag and many more – the complete package that will make you happy
- Single Goggles – you get the goggles beside the single bundle content
- Fly More Combo Goggles – you get the fly more combo and the goggles – pretty much the dream of everyone
- Fly More Combo “Above The World” – created as anniversary package – contains a nice 200 pages book dedicated to drone photography beside the regular fly more combo
Unlike Spark and Tello, all Mavic Pro bundles come with remote controller (RC), spare propellers and a micro SD card included. In addition, the Fly More Combo package has:
- 2 spare intelligent batteries
- more propellers
- 4 slots charging hub (can charge sequentially 1 battery at the time)
- battery to power bank adapter
- car charger (unavailable at Spark or Mavic Air)
- a leather shoulder bag – too small to fit all accessories inside
- gimbal covers – glass and rubber
- many wires (micro USB, lightning, converters)
Unfortunately Mavic Pro does not come with a nice foam box like Sparkdoes, and once unboxed, you really need to find a better way to transport everything.
Luckily, there are so many aftermarket nice transporting cases which can fit in all the Mavic Pro gear and additional accessories.
Dimensions and weights
With battery, propellers and gimbal cover included, Mavic Pro weights only 743 g. Thanks to the small weight and innovative design, Mavic Pro can stand up to 25 minutes in the air and keep the noise at lowest possible.
Having all arms foldable, this amazing aircraft turns into a very light and easy to transport drone. While folded, Mavic Pro has H=83mm, W=83mm, L=198mm, acceptable sizes for fitting in most gear bags (except the DJI one …).
With arms extended and no propellers, this drone measures 335 mm in diagonal.
With this size, Mavic Pro is not a toy in the sky anymore, but rather a very visible UAV, which can harm you seriously if falls from the sky.
Sensing and collision avoidance systems
There are so many things to say at this chapter, Mavic Pro being the first consumer drone that came with such a complex sensing hardware.
Vision system, now available on all consumer DJI drones, was first introduced on Mavic Pro. This system handles both obstacle avoiding and aircraft leveling as well as active assistance during takeoff and landing.
4 vision cameras, dual band satellite positioning system and 2 ultrasonic range finder sensor work continuous while Mavic Pro is in the air. Together with the main camera, the frontal vision sensors create live 3D map offering a very accurate collision awareness.
All this data is processed in real time by up to 24 computing cores.
Frontal sensors can scan up to 15 meters away in bright light. During night only ultrasonic sensors can work.
Downward camera continuously take pictures in order to keep the aircraft perfectly steady even in high wind.
With this system Mavic Pro can fly indoors and still be super stable.
Return To Home (RTH) function is also assisted by Vision system. While automatically returning to home, Mavic Pro can detect and prevent any possible collision, by adjusting speed and altitude.
Mavic Pro is powered by a LiPo3s proprietary intelligent battery rated at 3830 mAh@11.4v, a pretty heavy unit that weights 240g itself. With that much juice, Mavic Pro manage to stay in the air up to 27 minutes in ideal conditions. Off course, like all LiPo units, discharging time is influenced by temperature, and if you fly in cold zones (bellow 5 Celsius) you need to preheat before the flight.
Comparing with DJI Spark and DJI Mavic Air, Pro’s intelligent battery is bigger and mounts on the top of the aircraft, excluding the possibility to fall of during flight.
In real life, I never made to get more than 23 minutes out of a single charge. Recording in 4K does not affect battery life in any way. Surprisingly I found that one of the three batteries had already usage history right out of the box. I contacted DJI support and they told me that randomly they test units in order to see if batch was calibrated correctly and there is nothing to worry about.
In conclusion, If you are in a normal temperature environment (15-30 Celsius), I believe you can get somewhere between 20 and 24 minutes of flight time. Flight time can dramatically decrease if you make brutal maneuvers like full throttle altitude gain or full throttle drifts. Remember that DJI official numbers are tested in normal mode while flying forward (flying forward gives the aircraft a boosted air bearing).
With all three batteries included in the Fly More Combo package, Mavic Pro offers a bit over one hour of flight time, which is absolutely acceptable and satisfying.
When it comes to distances, Mavic Pro easily outstands most of its competitors thanks to a DJI proprietary radio transmission system called OcuSync.
What is OcuSync?
Most of consumer level drones are driven by common WiFi at 2.4/5.8 Ghz. Because almost all appliances and mobile devices nowadays use WiFi to communicate each other, flying experience can be dramatically affected by high radio interference.
To overcome this, DJI came with a new transmission system that starts by scanning for local interference and decide which channel and bandwidth can have a higher priority.
OcuSync can operate at three low frequencies:
- 20 Mhz
- 10 Mhz
- 1.4 Mhz
During flight, OcuSync can automatically switch between this three frequencies, the 1.4 MHz having the lowest priority.
One of the biggest problems with radio transmissions is latency. DJI made a great job with OcuSync and managed to achieve up to:
- 5 ms for remote controller commands
- 10 ms for video data
- 130 ms for videos
In real life conditions the lag between drone camera and your phone screen is about 170 ms.
I can honestly tell you that in my flights with Mavic Pro I was very impressed with how smooth is the video feedback.
There is no other drone in this price range to offer such a pleasant video feedback, even in city flights between buildings and over industrial areas.
Depending on the active bandwidth mode, the Mavic Pro has a range up to 4.3 miles (7 km) in FCC mode and 2.5 miles (4 km) in CE mode.
Yes, Mavic Pro too has a radio bottleneck for specific continents or areas in order to respect limits by legislation.
However, being related to position on globe set by GPS, it can always be tricked.
If you are an Android user:
The simplest way is to use a fake GPS application (Ex.: Floater) and mock a location from USA. Start your Mavic while having the fake GPS setup and you will see that it automatically change to FCC mode. You need to do this only once. After that, every time Mavic Pro will boot, a popup will appear in application asking you to switch back to CE mode. Just close the popup and continue in FCC.
If you are an Apple user:
Find an Android phone, do the procedure described above, and then keep canceling the popup on your Iphone every time it appears.
Mavic Pro features a three axis mechanical stabilized camera capable to shoot C4K, UHD and 1080p up to 96fps. Inside, there is a CMOS 1/2.3” sensor with a effective 12.35 mega pixels.
Light hits the sensor trough a 26 mm (35 mm format equivalent) f/2.2 with a distortion less than 1.5%. Unlike Spark and Air, this lens can be manually focused from 0.5 m to infinite.
ISO can be set between 100-3200 on video mode and 100-1600 on photography mode. Because of the sensor size, noise becomes visible once you go above ISO 100, which makes this little camera pretty unusable for night shooting.
The electronic shutter speed ranges between 8 s – 1/8000 s in photo mode and no less than 1/30 s in video mode. Camera operating temperature is between 32° to 104° F ( 0° to 40° C).
For recording in 4K a Class 10 or UHS-1 rating micro SD card is required.
Stabilization is mechanically covered on all 3-axis (pitch, roll, yaw) with pitch limits between -90° to +30° and roll between 0° or 90° (Horizontally and vertically).
Gimbal design is extremely poor, main reason why 90% of Mavic Pro frontal and not only collisions end with a broken gimbal or camera.
One major issue with the gimbal is that DJI engineers let it so exposed. It is so unprotected that even regular handling like folding, unfolding make it difficult to avoid damaging it.
Another issue is that all materials and aggregates are so fragile. My first impression after unboxing was that the gimbal is absolutely broken. Comparing with DJI Spark and specially with Mavic Air, Mavic Pro gimbal really looks like is hanging there ready to fall off at any time.
My guess is that they figured this in the end and came with a gimbal protection cover made from a transparent plastic. Even some people say that this transparent cover can be used during flights to avoid wind damaging the gimbal, I found that its good only for transporting.
Using this cover in flight made my Mavic Pro temperature to go very high and finally get a temperature warning on the app. Also video shoot with cover on is pretty unusable due to allot of reflections from sun hitting the curved glass.
Mavic Pro camera can shoot PAL or NTSC in the following resolutions:
- C4K (cinematic 4K – wider than regular UHD): 4096×2160 24p
- 4K UHD: 3840×2160 24/25/30p
- 2.7K: 2720×1530 24/25/30p
- FHD: 1920×1080 24/25/30/48/50/60/96p
- HD: 1280×720 24/25/30/48/50/60/120p
The video format is MP4, MOV (MPEG-4 AVC/H.264) with no possibility to save raw files.
-> The bad
A major issue that made me to sell the Mavic Pro, is the low processing power which allows a maxim bitrate of 60 Mbps. This limitation can ruin your footage specially when doing faster gimbal movements or panning. Because processing power is not enough to handle so much data, high noise/grain zones can appear during faster maneuvers.
Another big problem is the compression codec (GOP) which is old and has a primitive algorithm requiring 7 intermediate frames to build a complete one. Because of this, the rolling shutter effect on the Mavic Pro camera is very visible and disturbing.
Combining with the limited bitrate, shooting decent usable 4K with Mavic Pro becomes a very hard job.
Camera does not have a dedicated screwable lens cover, making ND filter installation hard and unsure every time. Also there is not enough space between camera bezel and gimbal arms, some times gimbal calibration failing because camera stucks.
-> The good
Comparing with Spark and Air, Mavic Pro has a slightly larger aperture of f/2.2 (Spark has f/2.6), letting more light into the sensor. This is an advantage when shooting in low light environments, and also when taking photos of close subjects.
While Mavic Air video is more soft and warm, the Pro’s footage is very sharp and clear, sometimes too sharp. This is nice when you shoot still images but can be dangerous when shooting detailed videos because mosaic effect may appear.
Mavic Pro camera has many video and photo settings, like color profiles (D-Cinelike, D-Log) and advanced color styling, allowing you to shoot flat videos that can be easily post-processed.
Thanks to the 3-axis stabilization, Mavic Pro can shoot quite nice still images in both compressed (JPEG) and RAW format at a size of 4000×3000. In photo mode, you can choose between the following scenes:
- Single shoot
- Burst shooting: 3/5/7 frames
- Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB): 3/5 bracketed frames at 0.7 EV Bias
Unfortunately there are no options for any panoramas modes like Air or Spark have, most probably because of the larger size making Mavic Pro impossible to move fast enough.
Larger aperture allow Mavic Pro to capture steady longer exposure photos, even with shutter speed over 5 s
One of the coolest Mavic Pro feature comes on the remote controller. Unlike Air or Spark, Mavic Pro RC features a nice LCD screen which shows real time information related to aircraft telemetry live data. While for most people this screen is most of the time useless, it can be a life saver if you loose video feed signal on your mobile device.
Information available on RC screen:
- GPS signal strength
- Flight speed and flight mode
- Flight distance
- Exposure compensation camera status
- Ascending/descending status and speed
- Motor speed rotation and battery level
- Aircraft battery level and RC signal strength
This data is available in all modes, RTH and most important when you loose video signal.
Another nice feature is coming thanks to OcuSync transmission system which allow the DJI Go App to display 1080@30fps live video feed when using the RC. DJI Goggles get also FHD video feed making an incredible flying experience.
DJI is selling a premium version of Mavic Pro, called Mavic Pro Platinum which has improved motors and better propellers making the aircraft very quite. Thanks to better motors, Platinum also has a better battery life, with a declared flight time of 30 minutes.
With the latest firmware, DJI Mavic Pro can now support some Gestures mode, together with Active tracking, Tap to Fly and some QuickShots like Circle or Dronie.
What I don’t like at Mavic Pro
- Poor gimbal design – extremely unstable, fragile and exposed – can easily be damaged even by strong winds.
- Low bitrate – can easily ruin 4K footage due to camera low processing power
- Bad compression codec – results visible annoying rolling shutter effect
- Low quality cables – absolutely crap connection cables – unstable data connection between RC and phone/tablet
- Lack of ND screwing head – makes ND filters installation a matter of luck
None of the above cons can’t degrade 5 years of Mavic Pro being in the top 3 best consumer drones. This piece of technology simply changed the photographers mindset and in this moment low price makes it even more wanted.
With such a long battery life and over 7 km range, Mavic Pro is not only a drone with camera, but an incredible aircraft impressing even passionate hobbyists. If this is coming as an upgrade from DJI Spark you will really be impressed by its incredible power and features.
If you decide to buy this drone, click on the image below
I wish you safe flights and stunning shooting!