We’ve been talking about DJI a lot lately, and for good reason, their latest drones are some of the best we’ve ever seen. In terms of high-end cameras that take to the sky, DJI is leading the pack. One of their more advanced offerings at the moment is the Mavic Pro, a folding quadcopter that is extremely easy to fly and produces some amazing aerial shots.
We recently spent some time with DJI for some hands-on flight training with the Mavic Pro, now we’ve got ours in hand and we’ve been taking to the skies. We are un-apologetically in love with this drone, but it’s not perfect. Let’s explore more in this DJI Mavic Pro review.
While an older update to the DJI GO 4 app added some reliability and better camera control on the go, another update since has added offline maps, and we can now talk about the added dual pilot option and fixed wing flying mode. All in all, this is a drone who’s value continues to grow.
From the moment you receive your Mavic Pro, the box alone will have you wondering where DJI is hiding the drone. Unlike most high-end quadcopters on the market today, the Mavic Pro is very small. Able to easily slip into a larger purse, a smaller pocket on your backpack or even into most water bottle holders, this collapsing drone is one of the most portable flying units we’ve ever seen.
Where the small size may invite the expectation of low quality, we think you’ll be pleasantly surprised, this is a metal drone with impressive fit and finish. It is also a very thoughtfully engineered unit, look for quick release propellers, no tools required, and a slender controller with options beyond what you might expect.
Available in just one color, this slate grey drone arrives folded and requires just a few quick maneuvers to prepare for first flight. Fold out the front arms from the sides, then fold the rear arms from underneath.
The landing gear lives at the base of the front arms and on the fuselage near the rear. Clearances are minimal all the way around, including the landing gear, you’ll want to find flat and solid surfaces to take off and land on.
The battery is easily removed, simply pinch together the buttons on either side of the battery itself and pull up.
The front of the drone houses the 3-axis gimbal with 12MP, 4K camera. The optional plastic dome will keep things dry and safe, but go ahead and remove it if you find it to distort your images. Just above the camera is a pair of sensors, these help prevent damage to your drone, providing obstacle identification and avoidance.
As best we can tell, the Mavic Pro is a tiny super computer packed into an aircraft. Downward facing sensors compliment the front mounted sensors, combined with the camera, this drone is packed with intelligent, autonomous flight modes, self landing capabilities, dual-GPS radios for redundancy and absolute location precision and more.
Not only does the Mavic Pro have its own internal cooling fan to keep the computing electronics at optimal temperature, but the remote control does as well. This is no toy.
Finally, you’ll find red LED lights just below the front propellers, and a single large light at the very rear of the fuselage. This rear LED flashes different colors to let you know the status of the craft, just remember, green is good.
The key to the Mavic Pro, the shining mark by which DJI should be proud, this drone is one of the most user friendly quadcopters around. The small size, quick fold setup and easy pairing remote and smartphone app will get you from your backpack to the sky very quickly.
Beyond the basic setup, flying this drone is downright child’s play. Perhaps that was a poor choice of words, this really isn’t the drone you want for children, but we’ll talk about that later. My point is, the Mavic Pro almost flies itself, you do little more than tell it where to go.
With the drone itself setup in just seconds, the remote control may take a few more, by itself, simply flip out the antenna and get ready to fly. The optional connection of your smartphone can add a bit of time, but the FPV is well worth the hassle.
As the Mavic Pro is easily considered more of a flying camera than it is a drone that has a camera, we must judge the photo and video features and capabilities as well. They’re good.
There are dedicated buttons on the remote control to quickly take either a photo or start/stop recording video. Photos are taken at 12MP of resolution and there is a 2X zoom to accompany full manual camera controls. In auto mode, simply tap the smartphone display to choose your desired focus and exposure points, or hit the left rear button on the remote to center focus, hit the right top trigger and enjoy your photo.
The right top spinning wheel control allows for quick exposure level changes. The top left spinning wheel tilts the camera up and down to help capture your target.
Video recording controls are a little more complicated, in one regard, otherwise offer the same one click operation with on-screen tap to choose focus. Changing between the video capture modes takes a moment to configure, select from 1080P, 2.7K or 4K recording at various framerate settings. I must remember to take the camera out of 1080P at 90FPS before I head back up. Slow-mo is great, but I like the 2.7K recording the best, just a preference.
Update: I have changed my opinion on video resolution, I shoot everything in 4K now. It is a little bit more intensive to edit and I find the need to do just a tad more color grading, but it’s 4K. Future-proofing my footage just makes sense.
I keep mentioning that the Mavic Pro nearly flies itself, this is a huge advantage over many other drones. The primary feature that makes the most impact on a successful flight is the ability for the Mavic Pro to remain at a stable hover. If you accidentally drop the remote, the drone will halt and hover in place, and with extreme accuracy. While DJI claims a hover within 10cm vertically and 30cm horizontally, my experience says more like 5cm and 10 cm, it’s pretty impressive.
Before you fly
In light of the recent legal situation regarding registering your drone with the FAA, DJI has enacted their own registration requirements. From here on, new owners of most DJI Drones will be required to register with the company to activate their flying machine before first flight. This can be annoying, and to many a huge invasion of anonymity, but if you are already signed in and registered, it’s nothing really new.
There are four main flight characteristics that make the Mavic Pro an excellent drone for many users, and make for fantastic photography from the sky.
First up, the DJI Mavic Pro can takeoff and land all by itself. Well, not entirely by itself, you will have to tap the take-off and land buttons on the DJI GO mobile app, but that’s all there is to it. Even if you decide to take off or land manually, the smarts of the drone take over to ensure you land softly and get up to an appropriate height for the Vision Positioning to kick in.
Next on the list, something we touched on above, the ability for the Mavic Pro to hover with impressive stability. Beyond just the ability to stay in place, the fact that this is the default flight mode of this drone. Any early adopter or toy class drone pilot will tell you, these things don’t like to stay in place very well. Releasing the controller used to mean an undeniable crash, not with the Mavic Pro, it’ll just sit there until you move it or it runs out of battery and lands.
It would be wrong of me to call Tripod mode a beginner’s mode. Really, if you are looking to slow things down, keep movements as stead as possible, Tripod mode is the answer. Designed to create the most stable video capture possible, reduced flight sensitivity makes it a great mode for learning to fly.
Finally, the fourth feature that makes the Mavic Pro extremely valuable as a drone, the Return to home feature. Admitting that many drones offer this functionality today, keep in mind that the Mavic Pro utilizes its dual GPS modules to place an accurate mark, then takes accuracy down to within inches thanks to proximity sensor and camera capture of the surroundings of the drone. GPS gets you close, matching the exact view as when you took off will land you almost exactly where you took off.
Aside from these key features the DJI packed the Mavic Pro with a ton of extra flight modes and built a rather exciting drone to fly.
First up, the Mavic Pro can fly at up to 40 MPH ground speed, while vertical travel is at 16.4 ft/s. I could tell you that that is roughly 11MPH, or I could tell you that it will take 24 seconds to get from the ground up to the 400 foot legal ceiling within the U.S.
The camera is the key to a handful of creative and automated flight modes, starting with a feature called Trace. Trace offers three ‘Follow-me’ modes, leading you from in front, following you from behind or circling you while it keeps you in focus.
The second mode is called Profile, think about your favorite old video games, the 2D side scrollers, that’s the idea here. The Mavic Pro recognizes your side and flies along sideways to capture your block breaking exploits. Please just keep an eye on things, the collisions sensors are on the front, not the back or sides.
The final mode is called Spotlight, this is the most fun you’ll have with your object focused videography. Not locking to a specific angle of an object, you take control of flight, the drone will keep the camera pointed at the subject. No matter where you or the subject of your video go, you fly the drone and the camera will keep a lock on the target.
Another handy tool is called Gesture control. Want to allow your friends to take pictures with your Mavic Pro, without handing over the remote? Gesture controls allow them to wave at the drone, it will see them and accept gestures to take a photo, follow them and more.
Related reading: 10 reasons to choose the DJI Mavic Pro
TapFly is an additional flight mode that allows you to point out a location on your smartphone display, then enjoy as your Mavic Pro autonomously navigates to that location. It flies, you control the camera.
Ignoring all these fancy figures and flight modes, I should mention that the Mavic Pro is very predictable in terms of take off and landing. Take off will bring you up to about 4 feet and enter a hover. Landing will get you down to about 3 feet, then halt, you can then hold down the joystick or use the automated landing mode to slowly touchdown.
The latest DJI GO 4 app update added a few new features that seriously improves the value of the Mavic Pro, dual pilot control and a higher speed, for starters. One controller takes full control of the craft, the next logs in as co-pilot and can control as well. This is a full control setup, if the first pilot is off the controls for a few seconds, the second pilot completely takes over. Craft like the Inspire 2 have dual pilot setups, but in that case, one controller flies the drone, the other controller works the camera, sharing the load. While this is not true for the Mavic, at least the second controller can see the display, allowing it to be used as a monitor for non-pilots.
Update: The new Fixed-wing mode adds a great FPV aircraft feel to your flight. Looking the camera in a forward state, then tilting it side to side when the craft turns, you’d never know from the recorded footage that you were not flying a fixed-wing craft. If you are a fan of look of flying an airplane, but want to put your Mavic pro into the air, this is absolutely the tool for you.
Speaking of a monitor for a non-pilot, DJI has introduced the DJI Goggles. We went hands-on with them at NAB Show 2017 in Las Vegas, you should check that out. In short, the wearer enjoys full HD view from the Mavic Pro in an enclosed VR headset. This FPV gear can also take over control of the camera – active track control means when you look up, the camera gimbal on the drone tilts up, it can even turn the aircraft when you turn your head to the side far enough.
Extra functionality beyond this increases the top speed of the Mavic Pro to 33.5 mph while in ActiveTrack mode, the drone’s total top speed remains unchanged. The new fixed wing flight mode is a fun addition, it adds a cruise control like flight mode, it locks the camera gimbal forward and when you turn, the gimbal turns a little emulating the look as though you were flying a fixed wing aircraft.
Things to come
DJI recently announced the new DJI Spark, the smallest drone in their stables, and to a certain degree, the most capable. Thing is, DJI has new flight methods for automating technical video capture, some advanced modes wrapped up in the label DJI Quickshot. Currently only available on the DJI Spark, we are desperately hoping that the features migrate to the Mavic Pro with a future software update. We are confident that the Mavic Pro can handle the modes, we’ve flown them manually before for sure.
The following are unedited photos taken by the Mavic Pro. We’ve re-sized them and cropped from 4:3 to 16:9 aspect ratio, but have not edited color, exposure or any other settings.
Stay tuned for a full DJI Mavic Pro camera review,
coming soon Mavic Pro camera review out now! Until then, here is a quick sample of the raw vs color graded video capture from the drone. Captured at 2.7k and compressed to 1080p.
|DJI Mavic Pro|
|Style||Quadcopter - foldable|
|Size||335 mm frame
21.5-inch (546 mm) diagonal with propellers
Folded: 83 mm x 198 mm x 83 mm (3.27 x 7.80 x 3.27 inches)
Ready to fly (approx.): 432 mm x 483 mm x 89 mm (17 x 19 x 3.5 inches)
|Weight||1.64 lbs (743 g)|
|Max speed||40 mph (65 kph)|
|Max service ceiling||16404 feet (5000 m)|
|Max ascent/descent speed||16.4 ft/s (5 m/s)
9.8 ft/s (3 m/s)
|Battery||3830mAh Lithium Polymer - Removable.|
|Battery life||Max 27 minutes
Ensure safe landing: 21 minutes
|Range||Max 4.3 miles from controller
8 miles total flight
|Camera||1/2.3" CMOS 12MP 4K|
|Video recording||Cinematic 4K - 24fps (4096x2160)
4K - 24/25/30fps (3840x2160)
2.7K - 24/25/30fps (2704x1520)
FHD - 24/25/30/48/50/60/96fps (1920x1080)
HD - 24/25/30/48/50/60/120fps (1280x720)
|Storage||Up to 64GB micro SD|
|Remote controller||2.4GHz range
Max 4.3 mile operating range
2970 mAh rechargeable battery
Up to 7-inch tablet
microUSB, Lighting and USB Type-C
|Mobile support||Fly by Android or iOS device
use mobile device as FPV attached to default controller
|Mobile flight range||Up to 80 m (262 feet) distance, 50m (164 feet) height at max speed 9 mph (14 km/h)|
|Flight modes||ATTI, GPS, Visual
Follow-me: behind, in front, circle, side
Tap to fly map navigation
Return to home
|Hover accuracy||Horizontal: 1.5m GPS, 0.3m Vision
Vertical: 0.5m GPS, 0.1m Vision
Announced in February of 2017, DJI has added a handful of new accessories for the Mavic Pro. We ordered ours the day they launched, the sleeve and remote control sun shade arrived in March, but the ND filters only just arrived here in April. We opted not to pick up the propeller guards or the advanced charger, and the rest most all came in our Fly More bundle. The sleeve is well built, provides a great layer of protection, even if only from dust and scratches.
The remote control sun shade is well built, I like the folding design but wish it folded just a bit more, so it fit in the carrying pouch. I will say, I am a little concerned with the long term effects of mounting the sun shade on the antennae, but so far no problems. Haven’t been many sunny days to fly around here lately, so I will revisit this sun shade opinion later, if anything changes. Thanks to that same lack of sun, I have not yet put the Mavic Pro into the air with the ND Filters installed. I took a peak at things here in the office, I’ll give the filters credit for handling bright scenes, but I have not yet tested for sun flare.
Stay tuned for an update here, the next time the Portland area is both sunny and not experiencing hurricane force winds (sadly, I mean that literally,) I’ll take to the sky. Update: I have taken to the sky with the filters in place. Forgive the following video for being a little amateur, I fly when I can and capture what footage I can.
Final thoughts on the DJI Mavic Pro
We really are unabashedly smitten with this drone, DJI has packed an impressive amount of smarts and camera abilities into a very small package. Admitting that many of the features are, on paper, the same as many other top drone manufacturers, but real world testing proves that specs on paper do not explain the real value here.
A fast and stable drone, the Mavic Pro is fun to fly, but we still must consider it a member of a sub-class of drones I like to call ‘flying cameras.’ FPV racers will find the Mavic Pro both slow and expensive. Hobby flyers will also find this level of thrill and maneuverability in less expensive options, but consumer-level drone shoppers looking to get a camera into the sky will find few, if any, better drones on the market today.
The DJI Phantom 4 Pro was recently released, packing superior flight options, particularly obstacle avoidance, and a far more powerful camera, but this remains on the large Phantom frame. Those looking for an ultra-portable drone should find the lacking features from the larger and more expensive drone are worth the convenience of the Mavic Pro.
The going price for the Mavic Pro is $999 for the base package, which includes the Mavic Pro, controller and one battery, with cables and charger. The Fly More combo brings the price up to $1299, adding on two more batteries, a couple more sets of propellers and a handful of battery charging options.
This drone is an investment in high quality aerial photography. There are certainly far more capable drones on the market, such as the DJI Inspire 2, but we do not believe that any offer the same overall convenient package as the Mavic Pro, nor the bang for the buck features and flight capabilities.
Any DJI Mavic Pro owners out there care to jump in – is there a better drone for the money on the market today?