When it was released in late 2016, the DJI Mavic Pro created a new standard for portable drones. It captures good 4K video and provides top-notch flight performance, yet folds down into a package about the size of a 1-liter water bottle. If you want your video to look truly professional you'll need to upgrade to one of the Phantom 4 Pro models, and if you're looking to maximize portability in a drone with a slightly better camera then the Mavic Air is a lighter and more affordable option. The Mavic Pro delivers a balance between performance and portability in addition to features like following and autonomous flight modes.
DJI Mavic Pro Review
Pros: Small and packable, good video, great flight performance
Cons: Relatively expensive, can't match video quality of Phantom 4s
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Our Analysis and Test Results
The DJI Mavic Pro was possibly the most highly anticipated camera drone DJI has ever released. And it mostly lived up to the hype, delivering great video in a small package. Sure, it's not the drone to end all drones that some were predicting, as some larger models still do provide significantly better video quality and the Mavic Air is better for travel. However, if a well-designed combination of portability and camera quality are a priority for you, the Mavic Pro should be on your shortlist.
Because the two drones overlap in many applications it can be very difficult to decide which one is the best for your purposes. In general, we think that they both work well for most of the same applications, namely travel and situations where you need to carry your drone in a backpack. The Mavic Pro has an edge in terms of flight performance and range. With a battery life of 27 minutes, it will stay in the air for 6 minutes longer than the Air. It also has a 4.35-mile transmission range that is almost 2 miles longer than that of the Air. The Air's camera is a bit better, however, so the Air is able to capture better footage overall.
The Mavic Pro delivers impressive video quality, but its relatively small stature and gimbal do represent drawbacks when compared to the Phantom 4 Pro+. It scored a 7 out of 10 in this metric, coming in behind the Mavic Air and Phantom 4 Pro models, which scored an 8 and 10 respectively.
The Mavic Pro produced clear footage with a good color composition in our testing. The Mavic has a relatively small image sensor, so these vivid colors were often achieved by the camera digitally compensating and cranking up the saturation in certain areas of the image. This generally looks good upon first glance, but look more closely and colors can seem unrealistically acrylic, and objects can look so sharp they almost seem pixelated. Also, since these are essentially editing decision the camera is making for you, it's hard to undo them in any editing program. Don't get us wrong, the footage looks good, it just isn't ideal for pilots who want to have more control in post-processing. It is possible to manually adjust the sharpening and color settings. The Mavic Air has the same sensor as the Pro and its footage was far less finicky when it came to automatic saturation and sharpening. We preferred the Air's footage and found it to be more accurate when it came to colors and sharpening.
Considering its miniaturized gimbal the Mavic Pro camera stabilization was quite impressive and produced more stable footage than the Air. If we jostled the sticks around we could induce some camera shake, but panoramic panning shots were velvety smooth. Its design limits propellor intrusion, we only saw the telltale propellor flickering when taking turns at high speed or where the drone was flying towards direct sunlight. In this capacity, it was better than the Phantom 4 Pro models. Bottom line, the Mavic Pro produces good footage, but its real advantage is the fact that it can easily be touted along in situations where a full sized camera drone would be cumbersome.
An Issue of Focus
You don't have to look far to find people complaining about the Mavic producing 'soft' footage. This is mostly because DJI has introduced a focus feature that allows you to touch the screen and focus on a particular subject. This is great if your subject is close, like if you're using the Mavic to get a quick summit selfie of you and your friends, and you want to get the blurred background look that is all the rage. However, if the focus is off it can ruin landscape footage, so if you're flying far make sure your focus is set to 'infinity' before takeoff.
Ease of Use
Despite the Mavic Pro's folding arms, its user experience retains the quality of other DJI models we tested. It shared the top score of 9 out of 10 in this metric with the Phantom 4 Pro models, well-distanced from the bottom score of 3. Initial setup was a breeze and we had it in the air within 15 minutes of opening the box.
Controller: Small but Functional
In our opinion, DJI knocked it out of the park with the Mavic controller design. It matches the Mavic compactness without feeling limited. The joysticks lend a tactile experience similar to that of the larger phantom controllers, and feel supple enough to whip the Mavic to and fro like the tiny falcon it is at heart. A small display screen on the controller itself displays crucial flight information, freeing up some real estate on the smartphone that must be connected in order to display the video downlink. Two arms extend from the bottom of the controller to create a slot for a smartphone. This slot is tight enough that most of our testers had to take their smartphone cases off before docking. This is less than ideal but felt like a minor annoyance considering the overall superb design of the controller.
The Mavic Pro flies like a champion. It shared the top score of 9 in our flight performance testing, well above the worst scoring model, which earned a 5.
DJI has designed a drone that could be paired with a first-person view (FPV) headset. It is nimble in the air and can reach speeds of 40 mph in its sport mode. We found the Mavic Pro to be very stable both when moving and hovering. Its smaller size did make it feel a bit more squirrely in high wind than other models, but we never felt like it was out of control. Its orbit and cable cam autonomous flight modes produced smooth, solid footage in our testing, and its return to home function worked well (disclaimer: this function should only be used if some sort of malfunction prevents you from flying the drone back home, not as the de facto way to end a flight). If you're looking for something maneuverable, the Mavic Pro won't disappoint.
The Mavic Pro's video downlink was superb in our testing. It scored a 9 out of 10 in a metric where scores ranged from 7 to 10 for gimbal models and 4 to 10 for all models.
The downlink was consistently clear with vivid colors. This quality never wavered, even on our 2000 foot flight test. Some of our testers found it odd that the downlink was displayed below the hands rather than above, but once they got used to this orientation the downlink felt just as immersive as any other.
The real advantage of the Mavic Pro is its portability. Though it is not as compact as the Mavic Air, we still found it to be very portable compared to the Phantom 4 Pro+. Where most drones that can produce at least reasonable video footage require a dedicated case large enough to be counted as your one carry on item, the Mavic Pro's legs and rotors fold in to create a package small enough that it can disappear in a normal backpack. The folding mechanisms all feel solid, and it folds up in an intuitive enough manner as to not induce nightmares of trying to fix the transformer toys you had as a kid (rest in peace Optimus Prime). Though the Mavic Pro is portable, the Mavic Air packs much smaller and has an even better camera.
At $1000 the DJI Mavic Pro is certainly is not cheap. When it was first released the Mavic Pro was unparalleled in terms of performance and portability, though DJI has now outdone itself by releasing the Mavic Air. For $800 you can purchase the Mavic Air, which has a comparable camera and packs much smaller but has a shorter battery life. We found the Air to be a better value than the Pro and it's advantages outweighed its disadvantages in comparison. If you want something portable that can produce great footage the Mavic Pro is a good option, and thus a pretty good value.
The DJI Mavic Pro essentially takes the video recording capabilities of a mid-high level camera drone and stuffs them into a compact body. The DJI Mavic Air feels like an upgrade because of its smaller size and better camera, but the Mavic Pro's flight capabilities are still greater. If you're looking for something portable that has a long transmission range and battery life then the Mavic Pro is a great option. We recommend the Mavic Air for those who want a more portable package with a slightly better camera.
Mavic Pro Battery
- Cost: $89
Mavic Pro Propellers
- Cost: $9
Mavic Pro Platinum
-Same drone, but with longer maximum flight time (30 minutes vs. 27) and quieter propellers
— Max Mutter and Steven Tata