DJI Mavic Air Review. The New King of Portable Drones?

mavic air drone picture

About a week after it was released, I jumped on the opportunity and ordered myself a Mavic Air. This review covers the experiences I’ve had with since (which is now well over a year).

Stats and info on the Mavic Air:

Name: Mavic Air.mavic air review

Company: DJI.

Typical Flight Time: 15-21 minutes.

Size: Fits in your palm. Slightly larger than a Spark and slightly smaller than a Mavic Pro (MP).

Price: $799 for basic controller/drone combo. $999 for combo package which includes extra batteries and other accessories.

Camera quality: 4k @ 30 fps with up to 100 mbps, 12 MP camera.

Rating of product: 80 out of 100 stars.

This drone to me at first seemed like a perfect middle between the Spark and Mavic Pro, but once I got it and truly saw it’s shooting and flying abilities, I believe it’s far better than the Spark and more portable than the Pro.

It’s a fantastic choice if you’re seeking great footage ability, great flight ability from your model and of course, portability. 

Update: After flying it around for a long time, I have to say, I updated the score to 80 points. It’s a great drone, but I still believe, there’s 3 drones which top it (right menu shows the list).

The only downside of the Mavic Air I would say is how loud it gets and that the range of it isn’t always great (compared to higher models at least).

Back to the review of the Mavic Air:

Just when you though they were going to announce a Mavic 2…

In comes the Mavic Air, the newest model in the arsenal DJI has, particularly it’s portable ones. I recently got my hands on this new one, making it my 4th drone and here I’d like to share what I liked about it, what I disliked and overall why the score of 80 points out of 100 that I gave it seems appropriate as well as if this is the right drone for you.

Also, I will be doing separate articles on how the Air compares to the Pro and Spark in the future.

Note: Since this review went up, the Mavic 2 was released, get the review on the Mavic 2 Pro here.

So what exactly is so special about the Mavic Air? 

Well if you’re an owner of a Spark…

And want a better camera, more battery life and overall a higher quality drone, without losing out on the portability perk…

And if you’re MP owner…

Want to have something smaller with just about the same kind of camera, same kinds of flight capabilities and want a smaller version of it…

And if you’ve never owned one of these models and seek a portable model with a great camera…

Well then this model is your new go to drone. It basically encapsulates MOST of the camera/flight capabilities of a Mavic Pro and nearly all of the portability perks of a Spark and more. 

The Mavic Air is basically a HYBRID of the 2…

And as a result (from my tests) superior in many ways to both. But we need to get into specifics…

The pros:

The camera.

mavic air camera

I always begin my drone reviews with the camera quality. With this model, you’re looking at VERY high quality camera. 12 MP, 4k @ 30 fps is no joke and it is found on the following models:

  • MP.
  • Phantom 4. 
  • Phantom 3 SE.

Those are some elite names and the Air is right up there with them when it comes to camera quality. It also shoots at 100 mbps, making it the largest mbps in the portable drone department by far.

I have to admit, I honestly didn’t expect the camera to shoot as well as it did.

Here’s some shots I made on a shore while it was low tide and close to sunset. This photo is shot on auto:

mavic air footage

I’ve got to say, I was absolutely amazed at how it captured the shadows and details of the rocks on the shore…

And speaking of rocks, I want to draw your attention to the shoreline on the right hand side of the picture. Because I had to lower the size of the photo, it actually impacted the details a little bit, but make no mistake, when you view this photo from it’s default size, the details in such things as those rocks are simply amazing. One more:

Now I will try to put up a video soon but here is a screenshot of one of the videos I made with this drone while flying in this area:

Ready to take these kinds of shots? Get the Mavic Air here.

But when you put it into perspective, how good is the Mavic Air camera? This good:

When you think of the best camera phones on the market today, what do you think of? In my case, 3 come to mind:

The Google Pixel 2, 3 or 4, the iPhone X and the Samsung S8-S10.

In terms of the camera quality, the Pixel model is considered to have the best one on the market right now.

I own the Samsung S8+ and I’ve compared it to the iPhone X camera and I have to say, Samsung’s seems better to me. Now what I did was, I compared the same shot I took my Samsung S8+ with the Mavic Air footage. In fact, I took 2 comparison shots:

The first is the Samsung S8+ camera vs the MA camera (on auto):

As an auto shot, I dare say the MA has more sharpness and detail. Not to say the Samsung “sucks”. I actually love the camera on it, but on this drone, the footage you take is superior. PLUS if you manually edit the shot (on the drone), this is how it would change:

If there was any doubt the first picture was close, this should put an end to that debate. The MA shoots WAY better than one of the best smartphone cameras on the market (and it’s still considered to be a great camera). 

Auto focus. Yes! 

The Mavic Pro had this annoying thing, it wouldn’t focus on a shot unless you touched the phone screen to make the camera do it. On the Mavic Air, this is no longer an issue as auto focus is turned on all the time.

Therefore, you won’t get blurry shots because you forgot to touch the screen to focus, just the fine details, every time.

Gimbal.

Despite looking like a 2 axis gimbal, like on the Spark, this one actually has 3, giving it more mobility and options, a huge improvement from the Spark before it.

Sensors. There’s 3 of them. It’s the first portable model of it’s kind to do it.

This is first portable drone that I know of in existence that has sensors on the front, bottom and BACK of the model. The portable options you had before didn’t have anything on the back, just on the front and bottom, so this is a huge plus. Flying backwards is something many pilots do and having this extra safety feature is awesome. 

Before this drone, only the Phantom 4 Pro had this feature. Additionally, these sensors allow the drone to more intelligently fly around obstacles when following you.

Flight capabilities (range, 8 intelligent flight modes & palm control):

4 KM range, has several intelligent flight modes such as controlling it with your palm (like with the Spark), accurate return to home option and a bunch of follow me features which let it fly around an obstacle, vs stalling next to it.

The Mavic Air has incredible, Mavic Pro, Phantom 4 Pro level intelligence.

Battery/flight time.

Officially, it’s at 21 minutes, but these numbers always “vary” based on circumstances. Usually the more average and real number is about 5 minutes under, so basically above 15 minutes, but under 21 minutes (unless you can get perfect weather conditions to get to 21).

It has legs that unfold near the tip of the wings. 

I’d say this bonus more so adds aesthetic benefits, but it is nice to have as when you fold it up, the drone has more portability and when you unfold it, it has less chances of touching down on it’s belly. 

Also: ALWAYS unfold them because if you start the drone and the camera starts moving, it’ll touch the ground if the legs aren’t unfolded. 

HUGE: An internal USB drive with 8 GB of storage.

This is the only drone that I know off that has such a thing. With other models, if you ever forget to bring an SD card, you’re out of luck. With the Air model, should such a scenario happen, you can rely on 8 GB worth of internal storage to save you.

And I’ll tell you what, this came in VERY handy the first time I flew this drone:

The shots I took above, I originally used an SD card to do it, but when I got home and tried to have a look, it turned out the same SD card was corrupt and I couldn’t view the files. While I was upset, I decided to check the internal storage of the drone by connecting it to the USB port on my laptop and low and behold, the images/videos were there! 

While most people who review the Mavic Air attribute this perk when you forget an SD card, I’ll add from my own personal experience it comes in handy if the SD card is messed up as it was in my situation.

Flight speed.

Over 40 MPH (41). That’s ridiculously fast and to be honest.

Smooth flight:

I couldn’t believe how such a tiny, light drone could fly like this. The smoothness of the flight very much reminds me of the Spark, which also is very smooth, but that’s mainly because of it’s size. The Mavic Air is bigger (slightly) and is even faster and still maintains that control the Spark has. This is a huge bonus for people who seek a fun, easy flight.

Good, actually great wind resistance. 

I honestly can’t believe how all of DJI’s portable models, including this one withstand wind, but somehow they do, and it just doesn’t seem logical. They can really hold their own in high winds, we’re talking up to 20-30 mph…

Good, easy controls. 

DJI excels at ease of flying. The Air model continues on this path. If you’re a beginner flyer, you will enjoy this model. The controller is easy to use.

Crazy portability. 

I’m going to say it: It’s even more portable than the Spark and I say that because the wings are foldable and when it’s in that folded state, it’s even smaller than the Spark. Plus the case the Mavic Air comes with is extremely portable and easy to carry. 

We have a new king of portable drones, ladies and gentlemen.

Great looking drone!

The design of this model is superb. It looks better than any other DJI model I’ve seen so far. 

Price is actually not bad. 

It is literally in between the price range of a Spark and Pro. At $799, it’s not bad at all! And for that, you get a lot more than I expected:

  • The drone.
  • A controller.
  • 1 battery with the whole thing.
  • Propeller guards.
  • Extra set of propellers.
  • Extra pair of controls to put on the remote controller.

Get the regular MA pack here (combo pack also available).

It’s able to shoot better panoramas and a 360 degree shot.

Added to the awesome camera is the ability to shoot more diverse shots with over 30 pictures used to create a panoramic view. The 360 degree shot is also something new not seen before on DJI models. It basically shows the image as a sphere as though you’re looking at it from space.

Slow motion video option available.

Palm usage available here too and it’s next level.

There is no “palm landing”, but you can LIFT it with your palm, land it with your palm and have it follow you while avoiding obstacles. 

The case is awesome.

It’s like carrying a holder for glasses, but it fits this model perfectly (and protects it well). The case comes in both the regular and combo packs so feel safe knowing it’ll come either way. I can carry it in one hand easily.

Love the pros? Get the Air while it’s still in stock here!

Cons:

Propellers aren’t foldable.

The wings are foldable, but the propellers aren’t. The option is to fold the wings so the propellers stay close to the drone and that will keep them away from hitting something when you walk around with it.

It honestly makes it very portable to carry as I said before, and as long as you keep it in it’s case.

I would have liked to see the body made with the same material are the Mavic Pro.

It seems like the Mavic Pro has an awesome body and feel to that, but it’s a material that’s actually plastic, yet not the typical kind of plastic, but something sturdier and it feels far more dense. The Mavic Air does not have this sadly, even though it still feels great to hold in your hand and the body of the drone is smooth. I guess I’m just too used to my Mavic Pro still…

Other than this, I can honestly not think of any other cons. Even the ones I pointed to here are quite literally nothing to worry about. It’s just my subjective perspective of it. In any case, I really think DJI has made another awesome model worth having.

Why does it have to be so loud?

In my opinion the noise the propellers make are too much, especially when you consider how bigger drones like the Mavic 1 and 2 are WAY quieter. If this model was quiet, I would have scored it even higher.

My Score of the Mavic Air:

80 out of 100 stars.

An instant, elite level drone worth getting, especially if you don’t own any existing portable models. It encapsulates the perks of 2 existing, awesome models in existence.

Is it worth buying the Mavic Air?

If you’ve never owned a Spark or MP, you are not going to go wrong with getting the Mavic Air, that I am absolutely certain of. It’s camera is nearly identical to it and the portability is that of a Spark. If you seek great filming potential and portability, the Mavic Air is your go to choice of a drone.

You will have a lot of fun carrying this thing around and using it. You will get great shots from it and awesome memories in the process

-But what if you do own a MP? Well I’d say unless you can afford it, you may want to stick with your existing Mavic Pro, at least until the second generation of it comes out.

-And if you own a Spark? Definitely upgrade. I like the Spark, I truly do and will continue to fly it, but it just can’t film of fly as well as the other drones in the DJI arsenal and the Mavic Air is quite superior to it.

-And if you have had neither but couldn’t decide on either one, then the Mavic Air is a must. Like I said, it’s a hybrid of the two and basically a best case choice as you’ll feel fulfilled with having the perks of both the previous models in this one.

Get The Mavic Air Here.

Regular vs combo package. Which should you get?

Normally I suggest first time drone buyers get combo packages because they have extra batteries and a bunch of other accessories you normally won’t get with a regular package.

With the Mavic Air, this appears to have changed as the regular package already holds so much (see above for a list of what it comes with). In my case, I already own several models in addition to this one, so having extra batteries to discharge is more of a problem for me, so I decided to go with the regular package.

If you’re a new drone owner (aka this is your first one), get a combo package, if you’re not and already have multiple models like I do an have to take time to discharge all the batteries, you may want to consider the regular package like me. 

Update: Mavic Mini has been released. Is it the new portable king?

In many ways the new Mavic Mini is very close and even better in some ways than the Mavic Air, but I still think the MA has a superior camera and reliability. But if your wallet cannot invest an extra few $100, the Mini is what I would buy.

Looking For a Good Phantom 4 Backpack? Here’s One I Love

The Phantom 4 drone is one of the few elite models that comes with it’s own “foam case”, which quite frankly is awesome. But if you’re going to travel with it, a backpack would be better.

While the default foam case has tight protection of the model and carries the necessities (controller, propellers, and a few other things), carrying this around in your hands or even at the handle can get annoying if you’re traveling, hiking or climbing anywhere and quite frankly, you need an actual backpack for this stuff and there happens to be quite a few options out there.

However, one in particular that I’ve been using for several months has been the Manfrotto MB BP D1, a backpack designed specifically for ALL Phantom 4 models (and I think all the Phantom 3 models fit there too). Here is what it looks like:

Quite honestly, this backpack “over delivers” in my opinion because it’s really made for the more professional film/photo takers as it has an absurd amount of space for more than JUST the drone.

Here’s just some of the things this thing can fit (besides the model):

  • The controller.
  • Extra propellers (LOTS of them).
  • There’s specific space for at least 3 extra batteries to fit (plus the one inside the model, so that makes 4). You can also occupy the other remaining space with even more batteries if you wish it.
  • You can fit other small models like a Mavic and Spark in there too, although I prefer another specific case for those, like this one. 
  • You can also put a laptop in there, there’s a specific space available for it.
  • Other areas can fit cameras, other miscellaneous camera equipment, wires, and even food.
  • Overall, there are 2 spaces on the sides, one space for laptops on the front, an opening at the top for miscellaneous equipment and the back which holds the model and it’s controller and batteries.

Besides space availability, here’s pros I’ve experienced from using it:

Most importantly, this thing keeps the drone model steady as you move around and I would know, I’ve literally hiked with this thing on my back and opened it up several times throughout a single hike to take the model out, fly it, put it back and move to my next destination.

I’ve also taken it with me on at least one major road trip where I basically had it in the passenger seat waiting to be used. If I hit the brakes or some turn causes the backpack to fall, I’m not worried at all, it’ll keep the model protected well enough.

Now there is a “rain guard bag” that comes with this that you can take out and put over the backpack itself in case the situation calls for it, something I found to be VERY useful as on one of my hikes, I had to walk through a lot of rain, hoping to get a chance to fly the model, but never being able to, but while this was going on, I was being poured on, worried my drone would get wet, yet the bag kept it very well protected!

Besides the bag handles you put around your shoulders, there is also a seat belt like handle you can strap across your waist so it doesn’t bounce around if you’re on a motorcycle, bicycle or jumping around somewhere. 

Another cool thing about it is that it has a flat bottom so when you put it down, it will stand vertically on it’s own. This is good for situations where you need to put the bag on dirty ground and it will ensure only the bottom part of it gets dirty/wet. 

Fits well into overhead storage on planes. Are you familiar with the rules of taking a Phantom on a plane? Here they are.

Are there cons to this product? Well that’s subjective…

1) I don’t think there’s a need to have this thing if you don’t plan on traveling in situations where a backpack is even needed in the first place. In that scenario, you can just stick to the regular foam case.

2) It’s not cheap. At $140+ (I got it for $160), you’re investing in a major product. Although there is a lot of protection and space, keep the price in mind. 

3) As I said before, this product “over delivers” for me personally and that’s because I just don’t utilize it to it’s fullest. In fact, when I carry it around, I only occupy the space for the drone itself, the controller, the propellers, some necessary wires and a landing pad which I stick into the area which is meant for the laptop. 

I am not a professional film maker or photographer, so for now, at least, I don’t have a need to use up all the available space, but it is comforting to know that as I learn more about the industry, should I add new equipment to my video/photo taking collection, this backpack still has plenty of left over space to fill…

Will this product suite your flying needs?

I would look at the pros and cons I listed on it and decide if the way you use your Phantom drone requires this product or not. 

If you’re a professional photographer and video maker, and travel outdoors or in areas where carrying a foam case isn’t exactly suitable, get this.

If you’re looking for excellent protection for your Phantom, including the rain, and travel a lot (outside especially), this is also a good product.

If you plan on riding a bicycle, motorcycle, snowmobile or anything that involves being in motion and traveling outside, this product will also suite you.

Despite not using it as fully as it was intended, I am happy with the Manfrotto MB BP D1 model. At the time I got it, I was in the initial stages of “overprotective drone syndrome” as I call it and wanted to get the best possible product when traveling with my Phantom 4 (Pro). I certainly have it with this, and I am sure it will make other people who have similar experiences of plan on having similar experiences very happy and assured that their expensive drone is protected.