DJI is the king of drones, and offers a number of models in its range, including pro models like the Inspire along with more entry-level models like the Spark or the Phantom series.Somewhere in the middle lies the Mavic Pro, a foldable drone with impressive spec that has become incredibly popular with photographers and indie filmmakers.
Also available though is the Mavic Air, a drone that is very similar in design to the Mavic Pro, but offers a degree of variation in features, specs and price. This throws prospective buyers into somewhat of a conumdrum. So, which drone should you spend your money on? Let’s take a closer look at the spec sheets…
Build & Design:
In terms of design, the Mavic Air and the Mavic Pro feature a clever folding design that makes both models easy to transport. This will appeal to photographers and videographers who are perhaps travelling or are short on space. The design means the drones have a much smaller footprint than the Phantom series and can be slipped into a more compact bag. The Mavic Pro is slightly larger, measuring 198x83x83mm (folded) and 305x244x85mm (unfolded) compared to the 169x93x49mm (folded)/ 168x184x64mm (unfolded) of the Mavic Air. What’s more, this extra girth of the Mavic Pro also results in it being heavier – tipping the scales at 734g – considerably heavier than the Air, which weighs 430g.
Both drones feature a 12-megapixel 1 /2.3-inch image sensor, though there is a slight difference in the camera set-up. While the Mavic Air features a wider focal length lens (24mm v 28mm), the Mavic Pro offers the faster aperture (f/2.2 v f/2.8). Both drones feature a three-axis mechanical gimbal to move the camera around and keep it steady and each model shoots JPEGs and DNG RAW files.
More differences between the Air and Pro models can be found in the storage department – while both models feature a Micro SD card slot, the Mavic Air also has 8GB of internal memory. This is a highly desirable feature for any drone user who has either run out of space on their card or, in rare cases, left the SD card at home by accident. What’s more, when it comes to obstacle sensors, the Mavic Air features forward and rear sensors, while the Pro only has the forward sensor.
Features & Performance:
The great news for videographers is that both the Mavic Pro and the Mavic Air shoot ultra high-quality 4K footage, which is a compelling reason for professional videographers to think carefully about purchasing either drone. However, there are slight differences in the video specs of the two drones. The max 4K frame rate of both cameras is 30FPS, although the Mavic Pro also shoots Cinema 4K at 24FPS. The Mavic Air also offers a 2.7K mode that can shoot a frame rates up to 60p. Both drones also shoot Full HD up to 60FPS and there’s also a fast frame rate for creating slow motion sequences, with the Mavic Pro offering 96p and the Mavic Air 120p. What’s more, while the Mavic Air boasts a faster bit rate – 60Mbps v 100Mbps, both drones offer the MP4/MOV (H.264/MPEG-4AVC) formats.
When capturing stills, both cameras can shoot bursts of up to 7 frames, and can Auto Exposure Bracket (AEB) for either three or five frames at a 0.7 EV bias. The Air and Pro include an Interval mode ranging from 2 seconds to 60 and the Mavic Air even features an HDR mode.
In terms of performance, the larger Mavic Pro pulls ahead from the Mavic Air, beating the lighter drone in one of the most contentious elements – how long you can fly the drone in between battery changes. While the Pro can fly for 27 minutes on a single battery charge, the Air trails behind at 21 minutes. However, the Mavic Air, strikes back when it comes to maximum speed as it can travel up to 68.4kph (in Sport mode), compared to the Mavic Pros max speed of 65kph (in Sport mode).
Both drones share the same maximum operating height of 5000m, yet there is a difference in the maximum transmission distance when used with the remote control, where the Mavic Air manages 4km compared to the Mavic Pro’s 7km.
Although many of the specifications are similar, how the drones are controlled does differ. While both can be controlled using a mobile device or a DJI’s remote controller, the Mavic Air also boasts the Gesture control that was first seen in the DJI Spark. With this feature, users can literally move the drone with a gesture of the hand, although many believe the remote controller is still the best method for the most accurate flying precision.
The selection of Intelligent Flight Modes differs slightly between the Mavic Air and Mavic Pro, with the Pro including more options. That said, the Air does have a couple of cool party pieces; including a mode that captures 32-megapixel sphere panoramas by stitching 25 photos together in just eight seconds. Also, the Air includes the ‘Asteroid’ and ‘Boomerang’ Quickshot modes that add energy and movement to the footage.
There’s plenty to love about each of these drones and both models are excellent buys for both enthusiast and working videographers. Because the models are actually very closely matched in terms of both size and specification, the choice on which one you purchase is likely to come down to personal preference. The Mavic Air is cheaper, faster, has internal 8GB memory and a number of new and exciting Quickshot modes, along with that cool 32-megapixel sphere panorama option.
Alternatively, the Mavic Pro can fly for longer – which in itself may be a primary reason for people to opt for the Pro over the Air – and has a greater transmission distance. Both drones feature a beefy 12-megapixel camera, shoot 4K video and are both compatible with DJI’s excellent GO 4 app, which works with iOS and Android devices.
|Mavic Air||Mavic Pro|
|Shop||$ 889.00||$ 1,099.00|
|Sensor||12-megapixel CMOS||12-Megapixel CMOS|
|Flight time||21 minutes||27 minutes|
|Max photo resolution||12-MP||12-MP|
|Max video resolution||4K @ 40FPS||4K @ 30FPS|
|Max ceiling height||5000m||5000m|