May 3, 2017

I Bought A Mavic Pro Drone... And I Love It (A Review Of The DJI Mavic Pro)

By: Ben Farnham

Now, let me start this off by saying that this review will cover some of the specs but to be honest, I really wanted to really focus on how easy this is to use along with the footage you can capture with it. Also, I am by no means a 'Drone Professional' but I do have experience with camera.

Now, why did I pick this little guy up? Well, when it comes to my shoot style, I like to be as minimal as possible. I honestly love to pack everything up in my Manfrotto Tri Backpack (the medium sized one). This bag isn't big by any means so it really leaves me enough room for my GH4, an additional lens and now it fits my Mavic Pro perfectly. To be honest, I couldn't stand the thought of needing another bag for just a drone so again, while there are other drones that I am sure can capture so much more film wise, I wanted to have the best of both worlds. Quality video without needing to carry pounds and pounds of equipment.

My current run & gun camera setup.

So, from everything I had read, the Mavic Pro did just that. It claimed to be portable and deliver some quality images along with video. And let me tell you right right up front, it does deliver on both.

The Drone Itself & Flight

So, let's first talk about the actual drone itself. When folded up it is about 83mm for width and height (3.26 inches) and length is 198mm (7.8 inches) with a weight of 1.64lbs (743g). The battery claims about 20 mins of fly time and honestly, it may not hit the 20 mins but it does come close (these are also due to basic outside conditions such as slight wind etc.) so no complaints there. The body is well made and overall I couldn't be happier with the drone.

Now let me be completely honest and say that I had never owned a drone before this one which may play either good or bad for this review. Some of you drone snobs out there may say "crap just another drone rookie" while other newbies out there like myself may be able to relate to my experience. So, let's dig right in.

Setup

When I first opened up the drone itself, the setup was beyond easy. Simply unfold, attach propellers (which literally snap / lock on) and remove the gimbal covers (THIS IS AN IMPORTANT STEP as the covers / protection can burn the gimbal motor if you don't remove them). You tap the power button once to check battery levels and twice to turn it on (same for the remote, tap the power once to check battery level and a second time immediately after to turn it on). Now, with your remote you can attach a smart phone (Android or Apple) with the DJI Go 4 app to get a live view from your drones camera and the live view is incredible and I have yet to have it dip below hd resolution so the connection is incredible. To connect your phone to your controller, simply plug in your phone / tablet to the controller using the appropriate connection cable (the connection cables for each device should be included with your Mavic). Once connected, simply power on the remote and that should prompt your DJI app to open. From there, DJI has done a great job at walking you through the initial flight set up for your drone (I totally ignored it being the cheeky nerd that I am but I do recommend you do watch it). 

As hopefully you can pull from this, the setup was extremely easy. I had absolutely no issues setting this guy up and then when it came to flying it, it was just as easy.

The Flight

Flying is super fun and very intuitive. The left control stick adjusts the altitude and rotation (up and down for altitude and left and right for rotation) and the right allows you to fly forward, backward, and strafe left or right. Pretty easy. The nicest part? If you are new to drone flying and are nervous about maintaining control, you can literally take off and not touch the controls and the Mavic Pro will just hover. I have even taken it out in some pretty tough wind and it does everything in it's power to stay in the same spot with it's GPS location that has been built into it. All in all, if you are an absolute beginner, you can totally fly this drone.

The reason I say this is when I first went to buy a drone, I made the mistake of reading forums and pretty much all of them said 'buy a cheap drone and practice'. So I did and those little b@$#@&!% are so darn hard to control when you first start. I was terrified that I would wreck my Mavic but DJI took all of that into account and made it SUPER easy to fly.

The coolest thing is DJI starts you off with 'Beginner Mode' (that is if you want it). This mode let's you take the drone out with what I call 'drone training wheels'. Basically they limit your speed, altitude and help you get your bearings. I must be honest and say I completely skipped beginner mode but I was still able to fly this thing with no problems what so ever.

The DJI Mavic Camera

So let's talk my favorite part to any drone, the camera. Yes, this is the whole reason I got a drone in the first place. I wanted the ability to add some aerial footage to my videos. So does this camera hold up? Heck yes. First, to see all the technical mumbo jumbo, click here. Next, let's talk about the quality you can get with this drone.

Can you use this thing for professional images and video? Yes, I feel completely confident that you can. But there are some things I would first like to address.

When shooting, I noticed my footage was not quite as crisp and sharp as I would of liked. Now, normally in video with my GH4 and my past DSLR's I would turn down the sharpness because I could always add it back in with my post production process. With the DJI Mavic Pro, I actually recommend against turning down the sharpness simply because the sharpness actually acts more like a denoiser in where you can't reclaim detail. So what I have learned to do is turn my sharpness up to +1 because even 0 has a slight sense of denoised blurriness that really doesn't live up to the quality that I would like to see. But, once I set the sharpness up, the footage looked amazing. Again, it isn't amazing in low light conditions (high ISO) but honestly you shouldn't fly your drone in those conditions anyway.

Personally, I shoot in Cinelike-D and set some custom settings to have my sharpness +1, contrast -2, and saturation -2. With these settings, I have found I am able to really manipulate the footage in post and have the most room to do so.

Some Additional Features

Lately, I have been playing with the different modes that come built in to the DJI Mavic Pro. A couple of my favorites are the 'Active Track' mode and 'Tripod' mode. Let me first start with the 'Active Track' setting. Basically, once your drone is in flight, you can select the 'Active Track' mode on your Mavic Pro and then simply draw a green square on your phone (which is your drones live view) over the subject you want to track and that is it. Your Mavic will take care of the rest. The drone will now do everything it can to maintain that distance and height between your selected subject and will follow every movement. Honestly, this tracker does pretty darn well and I must say, I was / am extremely impressed. I even tracked a bird one time (for fun) and it managed to track that lil' guy hop across the grass. Seriously incredible!

Now, for the 'Tripod' mode, this will slow your drone down so you can really capture those cinematic movements and shots. Some say this is another way to really get comfortable with your drone and flying it but I chose to use this as a way to capture smooth moving dolly looking shots in the air. The nicest thing is you can push the control stick to the max and your drone will continue to move at a very smooth, slow rate so your footage will not be jarred. Again, love this feature and it has enabled me to get some seriously beautiful shots.

Now I do want to mention that the Mavic Pro does come with additional settings or 'modes' that all have their own perks such as 'Gesture' mode, but I personally haven't taken the time to really play with them to give my opinion on them. So, when I do, I will be sure to update this article. 

My Overall Opinion

For my overall take on this drone, it is incredible. This is everything I have been looking for in a drone. It is super compact, easy to set up and maintain, EXTREMELY durable (yes I have crashed it BUT it came out unscathed), easy to fly, and last but not least, it has an incredible camera for the price (by no means a Zenmuse X5 but a pretty serious camera for the price). So would I recommend this drone to others? 100% YES. I love it and even though I told myself that I wouldn't be that 'guy', I am so glad that I did buckle and purchase the DJI Mavic Pro.

Understanding and controlling the Mavic Pro was very easy and intuitive. It probably took me about a week of flying sporadically to feel extremely confident when flying this drone. The documentation and tutorials produced by DJI are also a bonus and will really help you get up to speed as well.

So should you get this drone? Well, if you like to keep your travel bag light and want to be able to record high quality 4k video, then this is the drone for you. I love this thing and have really started to love the new perspective and shots I have been able to access thanks to the DJI Mavic Pro. This truly is a one of a kind drone and I can confidently say you would most likely fall in love with this thing just as I have.

Benjamin - Teacher At Pure Presence Creative
Post Author

Benjamin (Creative Dork)

I am true nerd to the core, believer in quality design, Horde player, and an all around creative dork. I create films, photos, websites, and music and honestly believe that the saying 'Jack of all trades, master of none' is an excuse. I do what I want really.