Features and flying
Thanks to its smaller dimensions and lighter weight, the Mavic Pro feels more agile than a Phantom in the air. Flip the switch on the side of the controller into Sport mode and it becomes ultra-responsive, darting around like a fly. It's fast, too, and you really get a sensation of its speed when you don DJI's new Goggles (more on those later).
But while Sport mode is fun, we were more interested in the new ActiveTrack features.
Some features disable the Vision positioning system (as does Sport mode) so you won't get obstacle avoidance all the time. But thanks to the two bottom mounted cameras and pair of ultrasonic sensors, the Mavic Pro is able to maintain a certain height as it flies along close to the ground.
We tested this by flying the drone along a route which went up a hill with a hedge on it. No problem for the Mavic Pro: it simply detected the hedge and flew up and over it.
Gestures are also new and fun. You can get the drone to follow you by pointing in the direction you want it to go, or you can make a photo frame shape with your thumbs and forefingers, expanding the virtual frame to tell the Mavic that you want to take a selfie. All without holding the controller.
Taking a selfie proved a little hit and miss: it struggled to maintain a lock on one person when standing very close to other people. However, moving away from the group, re-drawing a rectangle around ourselves on the phone screen (to enable ActiveTrack) and then going back to the group seemed to be more effective.
Unfortunately we weren't able to test out ActiveTrack on animals or cars, although we did try to get a lock on a black cat sitting in some shade: it wasn't successful and only served to aggravate the cat, so it's probably best to avoid small animals as you have to fly relatively close.
Another great new feature is the ability to select portrait mode, rather than landscape. This is ideal if, say, you want to take a photo of a waterfall, or anything else where a portrait orientation is preferable. It's also handy if you want to take a panorama, since portrait photos give you more height.
In fact, useful for panoramas is the also-new Tripod mode. This reduces the drone's speed (consider it the opposite to Sport mode), and it also makes the control sticks less sensitive. It's useful when you want to pan across a landscape as it stops you going too fast. And if you're taking photos for a panorama, it's again easier to pan slowly before taking the next photo.
We also tested out the precise landing. Video is taken while taking off, and when you press and hold the return button, the drone flies to the preset height and returns to the take off location. It rotates until it's facing the same direction as it was for takeoff and slowly descends, landing in exactly the same spot it took off. Only once did it fail, and even then it was less than a foot away from its starting position.
The latest update to the DJI GO app tweaks the interface very slightly and moves a few options around, but it's also handy that it now warns you if it's too windy. Often you're unable to see or feel how windy it is at the drone's altitude, and it's typically much windier than ground level where you're likely to be standing while flying the Mavic Pro.
Quality - video and photos
We were impressed with the Mavic Pro's quality. You’d imagine that it would take a hit because of the tiny camera and lens, which is much smaller than the Phantom 4's, but photos and video look great. Video tops out at 4096x2160 at 24fps, but it's best to choose 3840x2160 at 25fps as this has a 16:9 aspect ratio and will be more compatible with the screens you're likely to watch the footage on.
If you want to get the maximum possible quality from the Mavic Pro, check out our pro tips guide.
It’s crucial that you remember to tap on your phone's screen in the GO app to focus before recording any video or taking photos because the lens is no longer fixed focus as with previous DJI drones. This is supposed to be an advantage when photographing or filming things close up, but given than most things are far away when you’re in the air, it’s a bit inconvenient and easy to forget to do - at least for the first few flights.
Here's a resized photo taken in harsh sunlight in Portugal:
And here's a 100 percent crop of the original photo so you can see the detail and sharpness:
Here's another example, this time an original 12Mp jpg from the SD card:
There's noticeable moire on the roof in the background (we saw this in other photos too). This could be fixable with a camera firmware update.
For those considering the Mavic as a first drone, you will be blown away by the stabilised, ultra-steady video. If you let the drone hover in place and record video, you’ll think you’re looking at a photo when reviewing the video on a phone or tablet – it’s that stable.
Here's some more footage from the Mavic (DJI filmed this, we merely edited it). Again be sure to select the highest quality in our player:
Amazingly, it's pretty much just as good as 4K footage from the Phantom 4 and the Mavic is so much more portable and usable, which arguably makes it the better buy for most people.
You can pair up to two Goggles to a Mavic Pro, and each receives the same 1080p video feed from the camera. The Goggles have a large, padded plastic head band which you tighten using a screw on the back. They're heavy and our instinct was to support them with our hands. But when they're tight enough on your head, it's not too uncomfortable to use them for a few minutes. There's plenty of room to accommodate glasses, too.
Video quality is decent, but the image wasn't quite as sharp as we were expecting but it's a lot, lot better than most googles used for FPV drone racing. The sensation is similar to virtual reality and it's a fantastic feeling being able to see a bird’s eye view as you fly high over trees and buildings. Of course,you can also use them with the Mavic in Sport mode.
Quickly changing the Mavic's direction will almost certainly leave you nauseous though, at least to begin with.
DJI Mavic Pro: Specs
- Flight time: Up to 27 minutes
- Range: 7km (4.3 miles) with controller
- Camera specs: 4K at 30fps, 1080p at 96fps, 12Mp photos in RAW or JPG
- Max speed: 40mph
- Stable flight in winds up to 24mph
- Obstacle avoidance: up to 22mph
- Weight: 743g