With the Mavic Air, the Mavic Pro and the Mavic Pro Platinum, DJI's mid-range drone line is starting to get a little crowded. They're all decent machines, but what are the differences between the three and which one is best for you? New Atlas compares the specs and features of the current Mavic drones.
Designed to be the most portable drone of the line, the Mavic Air measures just 213 mm diagonally, compared to the Pro and Pro Platinum's 335-mm wingspan. That means it also folds up smaller, so it can be thrown into a bag or a (fairly big) pocket and taken anywhere.
As you'd expect, the Mavic Air is also a fair bit lighter, tipping the scales at just 430 g.
Part of that lighter load can be attributed to the smaller battery. The Mavic Air's lithium-ion battery has a capacity of 2,375 mAh, compared to the 3,830 mAh of the Pro and Pro Platinum.
The Air's smaller battery, in turn, cuts down on its flight time. The Mavic Air can stay aloft for 21 minutes at most, while the Pro can manage 27 minutes in good conditions, and the Pro Platinum boasts an air time of up to half an hour.
The Pro Platinum's flight is also made a little more pleasant by cutting down on the noise. DJI says the model's propellers are 60 percent quieter than the other Mavics.
The remote controller can beam instructions to the Mavic Pro and Pro Platinum from up to 4.3 mi (7 km) away, while the Mavic Air can only get as far as 2.5 mi (4 km). However, if you're just flying with a phone, the range of all three models drops to 80 m (262 ft).
The top speeds of all three drones in Sport mode is pretty close, with the Mavic Air just pipping the others by an extra 2.5 mph (3 km/h).
The whole Mavic line is kitted out with sensors in the front and underneath, allowing the drones to detect and avoid obstacles while flying forwards or landing. The Mavic Air, however, can also detect things behind it – handy for flight modes that have it moving in reverse.
The cameras are very similar between all three drones, but there are some subtle differences. The Pro and Pro Platinum have a wider aperture of f/2.2, meaning that they should perform better in low-light conditions. That said, the camera on the Mavic Air can capture stills with High Dynamic Range (HDR), and it has a wider field of view, letting you squeeze more background into closer shots and selfies.
All three drones can record video in 4K resolution (3,840 x 2,160) at up to 30 fps, but the Mavic Pro and Pro Platinum can scale things up to what's known as Cinematic 4K, widening the horizontal frame to 4,096 pixels.
Slow motion video capture is available across the board, at a rate of 120 frames per second. The difference is, while the Mavic Air can shoot slo-mo in Full HD, the other two models cut it back to a 720p resolution.
MicroSD cards are the standard storage format for drones, with all three Mavics supporting cards up to 128 GB. The Air, meanwhile, comes with an extra 8 GB of built-in storage, for quick jaunts or as backup if you fill a card.
Designed to be a quick and easy drone to pull out anywhere, the Mavic Air doesn't have some of the more complex flight modes of the Pro line.
Common to all three are Sport mode, which ditches some of the precision in favor of speed, Tapfly, which allows you to tap on a phone screen to drive the drone, and Gesture, which lets you use hand gestures to tell a drone to take off, frame and snap a photo, and land without needing a controller.
The Mavic Pro and Pro Platinum have a few other tricks up their sleeves. Terrain Follow allows them to stay the same height above the ground, easily traversing bumpy or steep terrain without risk of getting too low.
Course Lock keeps the drone's sense of direction locked, so a command of "forwards" always means the same real-world direction regardless of which way the drone itself is facing.
Home Lock mode lets you call the drone partway back if you lose track of where it is.
Waypoints mode lets you build a path for the drone to follow automatically, freeing you up to point the camera at whatever you like without worrying about where the drone is going. The route can also be saved and reflown.
All three Mavics share most of the same camera modes, but the Mavic Air adds two new Quickshot modes: Boomerang and Asteroid.
Boomerang works like other "orbital" modes, flying 360 degrees around a subject to show off the surroundings. The difference here is that the orbit is more elliptical, zooming far away from the subject before returning, like a thrown boomerang.
Asteroid starts off as a spherical panorama shot, before zooming right into the subject and flattening out, giving the impression of being an asteroid striking a planet.
It should also be pointed out that while the Pro and Pro Platinum don't have access to these two modes just yet, DJI could make them available in later firmware updates.
The Mavic Pro was originally released back in October 2016, while the Pro Platinum followed a little under a year later. The Mavic Air was just released a few months ago, in January 2018.
The Mavic Pro Platinum's upgrades saw its price tag increase by $100 over the original model. The Mavic Air, designed to be a more affordable and simpler drone, shaves a few hundred dollars off. At $799, it packs in quite a lot of the same features.
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