DJI Mavic Air – When smaller is better

While rumours of the DJI Mavic Pro 2 were going around for a while already, DJI surprised a lot of people by releasing the DJI Mavic Air instead. Although this came at a disappointment to some, others were pleasantly surprised.

With the DJI Mavic Pro being DJI’s most popular drone to date, let’s take a look at this new DJI release and see what the DJI Mavic Air has to offer.

Our impression
Is the DJI Mavic Air right for me?
Where can I get the DJI Mavic Air?

Our impression of the DJI Mavic Air

DJI Mavic Air SizeThe first thing we notice about the DJI Mavic Air 2 is its size. It’s much smaller than the DJI Mavic Pro/Platinum. In fact, it’s only a little bit bigger than the DJI Spark. Or rather we should say, it’s only slightly bigger than the DJI Spark when it is ready to fly.

When folded for transportation the DJI Mavic Air is actually smaller than the DJI Spark. In fact, the case for the DJI Mavic air is only half the size of the DJI Spark’s case. Being that small the DJI Mavic Air the best drone for travelers.

Another nice improvement relates to the remote controller. It’s now possible to detach the sticks from the remote controller and insert them inside the controller. This obviously makes the controller a lot more portable as well.

You can now carry your Mavic Air without even needing a bag or case for it. Just stick the Mavic in one pocket of your coat and the remote controller in another and you’re good to go. That said, we still recommend you transport the Mavic Air in a case/bag for additional protection. After all, better safe than sorry.

Obstacle Avoidance on the Mavic Air

Mavic Air Flight AutonomyLike the DJI Mavic Pro it comes with forward facing obstacle avoidance sensors. But unlike the Pro, the Mavic Air also has backward facing obstacle avoidance sensors. So DJI managed to build an additional  safety mechanism into this tiny little flying camera.

Not only that but with the DJI Mavic Air DJI introduces the Advanced Pilot Assistance System (APAS).

By now we’re used to DJI drones recognizing obstacles and stopping in front of them rather than flying into them. A great featured that has already saved countless DJI owners. But DJI takes that one step further with APAS. Rather than stopping in front of the obstacle APAS will actually navigate around it.

Granted, it’s not a huge feature to most of us. After all, we can see where we’re going and can use the fpv feed to fly around obstacles ourselves. Still it is a nice feature that new pilots will probably appreciate.

Also, like all newly introduced features, APAS isn’t perfect. It needs a fair bit of distance going up to the object to work and it also has some problems dealing with 2 objects that are close together. Then again, as it’s not a big feature that your safety depends on anyway, it’s still a nice thing to have.

Camera sensor

The DJI Mavic Air has a 1/2.3inch sensor, just like the DJI Mavic Pro, and a 24mm equivalent 2.8 lens. This makes the lens a bit wider than the Mavic Pro’s 28mm equivalent. For those of you new to photography/video, that means there is a little bit more to see in the frame.

Photography

DJi Mavic Air CameraAlthough the Spark is an awesome little flying machine (you can read more about it here) it does have some limitations.

For one, the Spark only shoots JPG images, not RAW. Even though the Mavic Air is (unfolded) not much bigger it does offer better camera options and yes, it shoots RAW. This alone will make photographers appreciate the DJI Mavic Air.

Not only that, the DJI Mavic Air has the ability to take 360 degree photos with just the push of 1 button. It does everything else for you automatically. As an extra bonus DJI has created some new HDR algorithms that help you get even better pictures.

Video

And even though it’s a small drone DJI made sure not to compromise on gimbal quality.

Unlike the DJI Spark, the DJI Mavic air has a 3-axis stabilized gimbal, just like the DJI Mavic Pro which means your footage will be perfectly stable.

DJI Mavic AirNot only that, like the Pro, the DJI Mavic Air shoots 4k video. Granted, right now that might not mean much to a lot of people but just think ahead. 10 years from now your videos will still look great on the hardware that’s commonly available then.

But aside from that, if you make a full HD video from 4K footage you have a lot more screen real estate to work with. This means you can digitally zoom in on parts of the footage without compromising the quality of the final HD video. Having this option gives you many more creative options to edit your videos.

And now we come to the point where the DJI Mavic Air really shines, bitrate. We won’t get into the technicalities of bit-rate but simply said, the higher the bitrate is, the better the detail quality of your video will be.

The DJI Spark features a bitrate of 24mbits which is not bad but will disappoint the intermediate to advanced filmmaker. The DJI Mavic Pro is a lot better with 60mbits and this will do for most people. But the DJI Mavic Air features an impressive 100mbits (at 30fps) bitrate which puts it on line with with the DJI Phantom 4 Pro, the top of DJI’s consumer line of drones.

So although the DJI Mavic Air is smaller than the Pro it actually delivers better quality video. If you want to shoot slow motion you can drop down to 1080HD and shoot at 120fps.

Storage

Aside from taking a micro SD card like all other DJI drones the DJI Mavic Air also features an 8gb internal harddisk. Although this is a nice little addition for when you run out of space on your micro SD card, it’s not a lot of storage space.

Yes, it’s fast so it can easily handle the 100mbits bitrate. But we’d have rather seen a second SD card slot with the option to either exclusively allocate it to photos, to use it for backup of the first disk or to just use it as an expansion of our overall capacity. That said, if you forget to bring your microSD card you’ll be happy to have this internal disk.

Flight time

White DJI Mavic AirSo far all has been great. The DJI Mavic Air is very small and creates incredible footage. So there has to be a compromise somewhere, right? Well, flight time is where we find this compromise.

We’re going to use the DJI stated flight times here for comparison.

Yes, we know. You’ll most likely never be able to get those under real world conditions but we need a benchmark and as these flight times are established under perfect conditions they do give us a good benchmark. Just keep in mind that real time flight time will most likely be a couple of minutes shorter.

While the DJI Mavic Pro gives us 27 minutes and the DJI Mavic Platinum gives us an even more amazing 30 minutes, the DJI Mavic Air “only” gives us 21 minutes.

We say “only” because it still beats the DJI Spark’s 16 even though the DJI Mavic Air is smaller when folded down. Not only that, for anybody that’s been flying for a bit longer (before the Phantom 4), 21 minutes is pretty good. Often even an upgrade.

And we know, to some of you flight time is very important. You want to do long distance flights and when it comes to that, longer flight time is better. However, long flight time is not a necessity for everybody.

Filmmakers will hardly ever make a 30 minute shot. Why would they? After all, most videos are a montage of several shots. If for no other reason that to keep the viewer interested. And when we do shorter shots it’s not that a big issue to land in between shots and change your battery.

Max distance

And that also brings us to a second limitation. With the shorter flight time we also have a shorter maximum distance. While the DJI Mavic Pro can fly up to 8M / 13KM up to the DJI Mavic air has a maximum distance of 6M /10KM (4km in Europe because of regulations).

Again, although some might, we don’t see this as a huge problem either.

First because we’re often not allowed to fly that far in a lot of places as line of sights restrictions. Second because we actually don’t often fly that far anyway as we don’t need to for most of our shots. And third, there will always be range extenders to help us get some more distance when we really need it.

Would it be nice to have a 8M range? Of course it would be. Is it a deal breaker to have 6M (4KM in Europe) instead? It isn’t for us.

Max speed

The DJI Mavic Air is surprisingly nimble.

With a top speed of 42mph/68 km/h in sport mode it’s fast enough to even do some cars or motorcycles tracking shots. Or, on a sometimes more practical level, to outrun those annoying seaguls if they decide to come for you.

It’s certainly faster than most people need. But then, although we don’t need some things, they can still be a lot of fun. And flying fast is one of those things. So kick your Mavic Air into sport mode and see what you can do.

Flight Modes

DJI Mavic Air Asteroid BoomerangAs expected, the DJI Mavic Air has all the flight modes that the DJI Spark has as well. Yes, that means Quickshot too.

For those of you that are not familiar with Quickshot, it’s a flight mode that makes some complicated shots super easy to do and you can read more about it here.

Not only that though, as we have come to expect from DJI the newly released DJI Mavic Air offers some additional QuickShot modes, Boomerang and Astroid.

We especially like Astroid which starts out a spherical shot and then descends on the subject. A bit like the view you’d have from an Asteroid as it plummets to earth.

Gestures

Although SmartCapture is not new anymore, DJI has improved this gesture control mode on the DJI Mavic Air over the DJI Spark. You can now do more with gestures and the Mavic responds better. While this is not a big deal to us but we can see how it might be a plus to some travelers. After all, you can quickly launch the DJI Mavic Air and take some shots without having to break out (or even bring) the controller.

DJI Goggles

DJI Goggles Side ViewAs expected the new DJI Mavic Air also supports DJI Goggles (read more about them here) so you can have that amazing First-Person-View experience with the Mavic Air as well. As long as you’re allowed to fly FPV of course. Don’t forget to check your local regulations first.

Obviously they’re not included or the price would go up too much. So you’ll have to buy them separately. Unless of course you already have them in which case you can start flying with them right away.

DJI Mavic Air Price

And finally we come to the point where the DJI Mavic Air really shines, the price!

At the time of writing (check this link for the current price) the DJI Mavic Air is only $799 (US price. Other prices will vary).

This is an incredible price for any 4k drone but especially for one that comes loaded with safety features, flight assistance, is easily portable and delivers amazing quality video.

Is the DJI Mavic right for me?

We’re tempted to say that the DJI Mavic Air is the right choice for everybody. But of course that isn’t true.

If you travel a lot than the Mavic Air is definitely the drone for you. If you’re only just starting out with drones and you want 4k video than this is the drone for you as well. Or if you’re just looking for a high quality drone that’s easy to take along than it’s right for you as well.

However, if you need longer flight time than look at the DJI Mavic Platinum instead and if you need the best consumer drone there is, the Phantom 4 Pro still shines even. But for everybody else this is probably the best consumer drone on the market right now

Where can I buy the DJI  Mavic?

You can obviously get the DJI Mavic Air from the DJI shop or you can get it from Amazon.  The second is often preferred by people because, although it’s getting  better, DJI’s customer service hasn’t always been great. Click here to see the current price.

Buy the DJI Mavic Air on Amazon

Conclusion

As you might have guessed by now we love the new DJI Mavic Air and will go as far as saying it is the best buy for most people.

No, we won’t be getting rid of our DJI Phantom 4 Pros. And no, we won’t be using them any less either. But if you’re just starting out with drones there is no better drone for the money than the DJI Mavic Air. And if you’re a travelling filmmaker (or a filmmaker who likes to travel or a traveler who likes to create memories) the DJI Mavic Air is by far the best drone on the market for you. So get one now and let us know how you feel about it.

Before you leave, and if you haven’t already done so, don’t forget to subscribe to our newsletter so you’ll always be automatically kept up to date on the latest and greatest from DJI.