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DJI Just Wrecked my Week by Announcing the Mavic Air

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Come on DJI, really?!

Funny story:  

So I bought my Mavic Pro because it was the best drone (at the time) for portable travel.  Then the smaller Spark came out.  I scoffed at the Spark initially because it was marketed as a novice selfie drone.  But it’s much more capable than that.

I wanted to try out the Spark and see if it’d replace my Mavic Pro as my primary hiking, backpacking, sailing, and general travel drone.

I found I wasn’t using my Mavic Pro very much because, well, I’m lazy.  When I’m on the go I like to keep moving.  It takes up room, I have to stop and take my pack off, take all the lens covers and gimbal holders off, unfold the arms, install my iPad Mini holder to the controller, connect the controller, calibration, etc.  Those of you with the Inspire or Matrice are all laughing at me right now, I know.

But I don’t use drones for high-end commercial work, save for the occasional realty job or non-profit.  The aerials I do are really just for blog posts and putting up on social media.  I could much more easily take the Spark out of my pocket, throw it up into the air, take some photos, and be back on the move in a matter of seconds.

So, true story, I was putting the finishing touches on my post comparing the Spark to the Mavic Pro from a lightweight travel perspective.  Just as I was polishing things up I received an email from DJI – “Join DJI for a New Adventure!  Adventure unfolds.”  Fuck, are they releasing a new drone tomorrow as I’m getting ready to prep this post?  You bet they did.

Here’s their release video:

DJI - Mavic Air - Introducing the Mavic Air

So do I get the Mavic Air too?  Is it better than both the Spark and the Mavic Pro?

The Mavic Pro vs the Spark vs the Mavic Air

mavic proWhere the Mavic Pro is better than the Spark:

  • RAW photo capability.  The Spark captures JPG only.
  • 4K video, shoot up to 120fps at a resolution of 720p.  The Spark can only shoot 1080p at 30fps.
  • Higher video bitrate for more detail in video.  The Mavic writes at 60Mbps where the Spark can only do 24Mbps.
  • Long-ish flight time of 27 minutes versus the Spark’s 16 minutes of flight time.
  • 3-axis gimbal.  The Spark is not dampened around the vertical axis.
  • Higher speed & wind performance.

sparkWhere the Spark is better than the Mavic Pro:

  • More than half the price of the Mavic Pro!
  • One full pound lighter than the Mavic Pro (the Spark, with battery, weighs just over half a pound).
  • Control it without even needing a controller.
  • Charge it via USB – no AC power needed.  This is huge!
  • Quieter than the Mavic Pro – be more inconspicuous with it.

Enter the Mavic Air

So the Mavic Air takes what I love about the Spark and combines it with what I love about the Mavic Pro.  It really seems like a slightly larger Spark with the insides of a Mavic Pro.  Could be the perfect answer for me.

  • Quick & easy setup, control it with hand gestures.
  • Can record 120fps at 1080p, and up to 4K video at 30fps.
  • Video bitrate received a massive boost up to 100Mbps.
  • Can output stills in RAW format.
  • Protected 3-axis gimbal.
  • Fast speed & wind resistance.
  • Added rear obstacle avoidance.
  • Cheaper than the Mavic Pro!  But still more expensive than the Spark.
  • It’s actually smaller than the Spark for storage, and only weighs five more ounces.
  • Flight time is a compromise between the Mavic Pro and Spark, advertised at 21 minutes.
  • 8GB of internal storage.
  • More flight & photo modes.

For you table-viewer types:

SparkMavic AirMavic Pro
Price$399, no controller$799, controller included$999, controller included
Folded Size(Folding NA) 5.6" x 5.6" x 2.2"6.6" x 3.3" x 2.67"7.8" x 3.3" x 3.3"
Weight.66 lbs.95 lbs1.62 lbs
Max Flight Time16 minutes21 minutes27 minutes
Speed31mph, no wind42mph, no wind40mph, no wind
Wind Rating22mph24mph22mph
Internal StorageNo8GBNo
Gimbal2-axis (no yaw), -85 to 0 pitch3-axis, -100 to +22 pitch3-axis, -90 to +30 pitch
Video Modes1080p @30fps1080p @ 120fps to 4K @ 30fps720p @ 120fps to C4K @ 24fps
Max Video Bitrate24Mbps100Mbps60Mbps
Obstacle AvoidanceFront & downFront, down, & rearFront & down
Hand GesturesYes, palm landingYes, no palm landingNo
USB ChargingYesNoNo
Control SignalWi FiWi FiOcuSync Radio
DJI - Mavic Air - Song of Myself

Standby for the arrival!

I’ve ordered my Mavic Air and it ships on January 28th.  Stay tuned!

Update: You can read my initial review about backpacking & traveling with the Mavic Air here.

Check it out for yourself at B&H Photo Video.

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Jennifer Carati

Sunday 11th of February 2018

Hi there! So I recently got the Mavic Pro (few days before them releasing the Mavic Air) and I’m still unsure as to whether I should return the Pro and get the Air instead. My situation is basically same as yours, I’m a hobbyist photographer, do lots of hiking, traveling etc so portability is key. I got the Mavic Pro at the same price as the Air (Thank you Costco) so pricing wise there is no difference for me. People tell me than since I got the Pro at a good price then I should keep it...sooo, I wanted to hear from you as to whether you preferred the Air over the Pro since you tried the Pro? I’m a nebbie and this is my first drone as well. Thank you so much for the info on your blog posts btw!!!

John Peltier

Sunday 11th of February 2018

Hi Jennifer, thanks for writing. If it’s any indication, I just put my Pro on EBay. My only real complaints about the Mavic Air are that I can’t charge it via USB and the small size makes it difficult to see. I’m testing out a strobe for that now. If you’re a hobbyist and concerned about portability, I’d recommend the Air. It fits perfectly in my mirrorless camera bags (the Pro never did) and the camera is just as good, if not better than the Pro. I’ll have a few posts in the coming week all about what I just mentioned. Have fun!

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