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I’ve given you my first impression and now it is time for the full review. The DJI Mavic Air is a ultra-portable powerhouse of a drone packed with useful features while remaining very easy to use.
…ok yes you could technically stop reading there but feel free to read on!
First, some video footage of the maiden flights, mixed in with some hot and steamy b-roll:
I purchased the Fly More combo, which came with a few extra batteries (which are necessary). The drone came in a little handy carrying case.
When you open the case you’re almost taken aback, because there’s no way that can be the whole drone.
The arms of the drone fold in nicely next to the body, no need to remove the propellors.
Unfolding the arms (and the landing “gear”) takes seconds, and you’re ready to fly.
Now let’s talk about some opinions I have about the new drone.
This thing is so small! I know it’s not the best comparison out there but compared to my Phantom 4 Pro it’s almost comical how small it is. Despite the size it is capable in the skies and dealt with moderate winds very well during my product test yesterday over White Rock Lake in Dallas.
It flies really well, although it’s not as powerful as my existing drone, which is to be expected. It can still fly fast and has 3-way obstacle avoidance, which I accidentally tested out trying to get the air-to-air shot in the above video (eek).
I also love the intelligent flight modes. The clip of me running in the video above really sums it up: tap your subject on your phone screen and the drone will do whatever it can to keep that subject in the middle of the screen without any input from you. I love this because I’m still not great with smooth pans using the controller. Using the intelligent flight modes will help me tell a story better because I do not need to worry about paying attention to framing, it’s simply a screen-tap and I’m on my way.
The panorama mode was rolled out to other DJI drones recently and I expect it to work the same with the Mavic Air. This mode allows you to specify which kind of pano you would like (vertical, horizontal, 180 degrees, or 360 degrees) and then you click the shutter and the drone will take I think up to 16 shots to give you a nice panorama. The Mavic Air has a smaller image sensor (only 12MP versus the 20MP of the Phantom 4 Pro) so while I’ve been able to get 54MP panoramas from my Phantom 4 Pro the Mavic Air “only” produces 32MP files, which is still incredibly impressive. Here’s an example of the panorama mode using my Phantom 4 Pro in Austin, Texas, a week or two ago, at full size it’s 54 million pixels!
What Could Be Better
I know what you’re thinking, “Andy, you’re too kind to these products you review, why don’t you ever really go off on something?” Well honestly it’s tough to find things I don’t like about the Mavic Air. There are, however, things I’m not crazy about but are fine. The remote control has some arms that will comfortably hold an iPhone but they block the Face ID sensor on my iPhone X, which is annoying but workable.
I wish the image sensor was bigger, but let’s be realistic here: this drone is tiny. The amount of power it would take to cart around a bigger image sensor would make the portability impossible. What I think will happen is we will see a Mavic Pro 2 that has the size of the current Mavic Pro with a bigger image sensor, but that’s just speculation.
The battery life is acceptable but not great. The official specs say 21 minutes of battery life but in real world conditions I’d expect 10-15 minutes of use before the low battery warnings kick in. You need to have multiple batteries for this drone, there’s no way around it (the Fly More combo takes care of this).
The remote control is fine but is missing the LCD screen that the Mavic Pro has where you can see altitude and distance information on the controller itself. This is hugely important because if you lose your phone connection to the drone it’s nice to be able to fly it “blind” back to you. Then again, my Phantom 4 Pro doesn’t have this either so I guess I’m used to it but count that as a nice feature for the Mavic Pro.
If you’re a drone enthusiast and you want a portable video drone you need to take a long look at the DJI Mavic Air. The price point is excellent, all things considered, and the features are simply head and shoulders above the rest. From an image perspective the bigger drones might be worth it but you’ll have to concede the luggage space to take them places versus the backpackable nature of the Mavic Air.
I’m thrilled, enamored, in love, whatever you want to call it, with the Mavic Air. I cannot wait to get it out on the round and show you some new perspectives!