I really didn’t want to do a comparison that put my #1 favorite drone (the Mavic Pro) to the test, but when the Mavic Air came out, and I got it, inevitably it had to come to this.
Let’s compare the Mavic Air and Mavic Pro. Which is better?
So here is my background with both models:
I am the type of person who has massive loyalty to a product once I really like it and the Mavic Pro (MP) captured my heart in that regard.
It was my first REAL experience with high quality drone flying and in some cases, it’s one of those unforgettable feelings you get as a kid when you get something that totally shocks you in a good way. That’s what the Mavic Pro did for me. It also paved the way for my hobby into droning to grow.
But less than a year after this event took place, DJI released their new drone, the Mavic Air (MA), which I bought almost immediately and expected NOT to overtake the Mavic Pro. I mean how could it?
It’s smaller, the battery life is shorter, as is the range, and how could the camera be better?
Yet, I was shocked at what I discovered…
So let me begin by telling you where the Mavic Air is better than the Mavic Pro:
1) First the camera.
The picture and video taking ability of the MA initially felt better to me. Although both drones have the same specs (12 MP and shoot at 4k @ 30 fps), the MA has 2 particular areas where it’s better in this regard:
Area 1: The mpbs on the MA is 100 and the mbps on the MP is 60 which isn’t bad, but when you’re flying at fast speeds, this can make a huge difference, especially if you’re filming an area with a lot of detail.
Area 2: The shots are just better, period. I hate to say it. I love my MP and still use it, but if you’re a fanatic at taking great shots, the MA is your drone, hands down.
Here I took 2 exact photos on AUTO mode from both drones. You be the judge:
Despite having similar specs, there is a CLEAR distinction happening here. The MA has MORE color and more sharpness (look at the rocks). Now of course if both these images look great to you, then you can move ahead on this comparison, but I’d ask you to pause to read this because I have more comparison pics you need to see…
One experiment I ran after the above picture is taking the same shot on both drones, but MANUALLY. It is a well known fact (and you will see why) that if you know how to edit the picture and video settings on both drones, that it will look WAY better than the auto. Here’s the tutorial on how I manually set my drone’s camera/video settings.
I give you the MANUAL version of both photos from both drones:
Now in the following case, BOTH pictures look LEVELS better than their auto version, yet I would still argue the MA has a better shot taking ability than the MP. My personal opinion is that the MA’s looks better. What do you think?
Here’s another picture comparison (with the same results):
In this case, the auto on the MA is better, but you can argue that the MA manual shot (below) looks worse than the MP manual (where it says 3 shutter after auto, ignore that, it just means manual). So I would say if you can edit the camera settings, the Pro would win.
However, in just about every experiment I ran, the MA surpassed in my personal opinion the MP in just about every regard when it comes to pictures and video. Although the MP shoots FANTASTIC footage, you only start to see it’s limitations when you compare it to something like the Phantom 4 Pro, which indeed has a better camera, but at this stage, I will add the MA to that list…
So even if you know NOTHING about how to edit footage on drones, you can be calm in knowing that the Mavic Air will shoot better in just about every regard than the MP. Sometimes the image will be distinctly better and sometimes it’ll be slightly better, but it will win just about every time…
Now how about the video? That’s also an interesting comparison:
Although the test I was doing was on a cloudy day, one thing I’ve noticed consistently from both the photo and video comparisons (including from others who have done similar comparisons on YouTube), the Mavic Air consistently shows MORE color.
In the above case, there is more color to the trees, the grass, the water and just about everything. Add to this whole comparison what I said earlier about the MA shooting with up to 100 MPBS and you’ll get a smoother footage should the flight go faster.
2) No more touch to focus nonsense.
Guys you have no idea how happy I am this finally happened. The MP (and I’ve complained about this) has this super annoying feature where you consistently have to touch the screen on your phone to focus the image. It is something that is better for professionals but at the time I was using this, I still was a beginner.
After all the time I’d forgotten to manually focus the shot, I ended up having too many to count, blurry pictures pop up post looking up the footage I took only to discover I had forgotten to just touch the screen. It’s not something that’s easy to fix considering how often I travel to hard to reach destinations. If this screw up happens, I am quite literally screwed, so having this NOT be a problem would be awesome.
And on the Mavic Air, it just so happens, there is no manual, touch to focus, it auto focuses all the time so you don’t even need to worry about this. A MAJOR improvement. There is no debate here, the MA is a clear winner for me in this regard.
3) 3 sensors vs 2 on the MP.
Extra sensors mean more safety and DJI has proven to develop drone models that are good at spotting obstacles quite well (I’ve had a few close calls). You really do need these. But they also added another feature to this:
4) The intelligence on the MA is better at avoiding and flying around/over obstacles.
The MP will only stop (which isn’t bad), but if the drone is following you or trying to come back to you via the return to home feature, having extra intelligence in your drone to sense an obstacle and go around/over it, to continue to fly back to you is HUGE and the MA does have this. The MP does not.
My experience has been that this typically is not a situation you’ll encounter often and I always set my return to home way higher than any obstacle in the area of my flight, but you never know when this may happen and come in handy.
5) New photo taking abilities: Boomerang and sphere (360).
I’m personally not into taking these sorts of shots, but maybe I’ll come around to it later. There seems to be a new trend in taking pictures and videos with 360 type shots and the MA is in my understand the first drone to do this.
6) It takes panorama pictures automatically.
With the MP you would have to move the drone into the correct spots to make the whole thing come together. The MA does it on it’s own.
7) The MA is a lot more portable obviously.
Funny, before the Spark came out, the MP was considered to be the most portable drone on the market. Then the Spark overtook it and when I compared the MA to the Spark, I argued that the MA is even more portable than it because when it folds up, it actually ends up being smaller than the Spark and it’s carrying case is extremely cool.
The overall set up of this drone is a lot faster than with the MP so there’s more convenience besides the size portability perk.
8) It’s slightly faster than the MP.
Slightly by a few mph that is. I believe the speed it reaches (with no whether conditions interrupting the flight) is 41 mph while the MP is 35-40 mph (both on sports mode), but I’ll tell you what, both these drones are amazingly fast.
Controlling them both on sports mode is tough and not something I’d recommend you do unless you’re in an open field, but it’s quite a sight to see the MA fly around so quickly. It is just SO much more powerful than it looks and I am still coming to grips with that.
9) Handles slightly better than the MP.
I still say the Spark is the easiest of the DJI drones to fly and this is simply because it’s the smallest and slowest, thus having it turn while flying at it’s normal speed is easy. With the MA, because it’s so fast, you may have issues having it turn immediately, so let it come to a stop in the air or slow it down to make it turn faster.
But even with the MP, the same thing applies. Because it’s so large (yeah I can’t believe I’m saying that, look at what the drone world has become…) and flies so fast, having it turn at a high speed is tough. The MA will handle easier though because it’s smaller.
10) Palm control from a distance.
The MP doesn’t have this (the Spark does). So if you want to look cool and show off to people how you can control a drone with your palm, this is a good option.
12) Price is WAY better.
It’s nearly $200 less than the MP (basic) and about $300 less if you compare the combo packages.
Now let’s move into the advantages of the Mavic Pro (there’s a few):
1) Range is WAY further.
The MP has a max range of 7-8 KM and although I’ve reached about 5 KM in my tests, you have to understand that in most areas, there will always be some sort of interference and the connection is simply stronger with this drone so you can fly further with it. Here is how I judge drone range.
The MA is Wi Fi connected to the remote you get with it and the max range is 4 KM, nearly twice as short, but it’s something you may start even before you reach that distance as connection issues may start to happen way earlier. Ensure if you’re flying in areas with a lot of potential connection interruptions to not fly the drone far away, maybe 500 feet.
To some this is more than enough, to me, I need at least 1-2 KM in range and in that regard (range), the MP is my choice.
2) Better battery life.
5-10 min better that is. In many instances, this can make a huge difference. Maybe if you’re flying and see something cool, those extra minutes will allow you to take the time to film it well enough.
3) It’s sturdier.
I find the material the MP is made out of to be more dense and protective vs the MA. I’ve also seen experiments where this drone has survived some interesting accidents (water, crashes, ect…).
4) More intelligent flight modes.
There are 13 or 14. I’ve honestly never used all of them, but if you’re the type who loves to test out the abilities of a drone, then you’ll be able to do more with this one in that regard.
5) It’s camera after much deliberation is a bit better.
I went back n forth on this, but decided the MP’s camera is a little bit better.
6) It is quieter.
Especially with the low noise props I got for it.
12 advantages on the MA vs 6 on the MP. That’s my conclusion, but here’s the chart:
Even in this head to head comparison, despite the advantages the MA has over the MP, they are not that major.
There are indeed advantages and I pointed them out and you will get a better photo and video out of the MA, but the MP is absolutely NOT far behind.
Update: I changed the ratings…
Many updates, experiences and flights made me rethink a lot of the comparisons I originally made and so I changed up the scores:
- Mavic Pro: 85 out of 100 points.
- Mavic Air: 80 out of 100 points.
I give the slight edge to the MP because of it’s better reliability overall.
Do you agree with how I rated both drones?
Let me know below but as for these 2, well done DJI, well done.
I look forward to seeing what you do with the Mavic Pro 2!
Now you may still be wondering which of these models is better for you. Here’s my position:
- If you like portability.
- If you value a good photo/video taking ability.
- If you are tighter on money.
Then go for the Mavic Air.
- If you like good/great photo & video taking abilities.
- If you like a drone that is reliable with range and flight time.
Then go with the Mavic Pro.
If you already own the Mavic Pro but are considering buying the Mavic Air, I would say do it if you can afford it, but do note that Mavic Pro 2 is around the corner so if you’re tight on money, save it for that one (Update: it is out!).
Either way, as I’ve said before, you will NOT go wrong with either the MA or the MP. Both are absolutely, incredible machines and with a score of 90 and over on both these models, you are already in the ELITE level of drone quality.