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Mavic air honest photographer's review and why I am getting rid of it


Apr 8, 2018
I am more used to read the posts of others than participating myself, today is different!

Having failed (once again) to fly this morning because of the updates, I decided to write this review, review that has been in my mind for quite a long time now… It is not a full coverage review, but more of a list of what's really annoying with this drone. You can find plenty of marvelous positive reviews on the net to moderate mine!
DISCLAIMER: I don’t pretend to be an expert in drone flying, the following statements might be wrong, as I don’t totally master the drone nor the software (I might have missed some options…). However, being generally speaking ‘’tech-savvy'' I think it is an honest review and that, at least, I tried to do my best, please don’t send me hate messages!

I qualify myself as a serious amateur photographer: it is not my main activity but I do sell photo for advertisement or stock, mainly in the travel and adventure industry. I do own professional level photography equipment and the Mavic air was supposed to be a great addition to my kit. I must be honest and say that I bought the Magic air mainly to do aerial photography, as I am not into videography. But I certainly enjoyed the possibility of filming as well.

The magic air is my first drone: after having contemplated the possibility of doing aerial photography for a long time, I took my decision after the announcement of the Mavic air: after having read a lot on internet about it, it seemed that it was THE perfect drone for me: foldable, easy to operate, image quality seemed to be good enough.

I had not tried it myself before, nor any other model or brand: The Mavic air was my first drone experience, and I have since tried the Mavic pro.

Knowing that I paid less than 1000 $, I didn’t expect a professional grade product, and that most of my following comments would be addressed if only I had more money to spend, but I think that most of my bad experience comes from the software rather than the hardware.
Maybe I am dreaming, and I should only pay more to get what I want…

Although it is an amazing piece of technology, as a photographer, and after 3 months of use, I want to get rid of it as soon as possible, and here are the reasons why:

Camera controls (for photographer):

- Being a DSLR user, I am used to have all my controls available at the fingertips, so I can change the settings without leaving my eye from the viewfinder. With the air, changing settings is a pain in the a**…

On the mavic air, we have two ‘’fn’’ keys that we can personnalise. I would have preferred to have only one, and have an aperture or shutter-speed wheel instead, like on the mavicpro remote.
Of course you can change the settings on the app, which means not looking at your drone anymore, and try to hit the right spot on your tiny screen with your big finger (of course I could use an iPad, and the problem wouldn’t be one anymore…).

I know that the mavic pro has more controls like this, and that DJI needed to cut costs in order to sell it at the price I was able to buy it, but it is really a pain...

- Automatic controls: I wish I could have different modes, like on a DSLR : Aperture priority, speed priority, program mode.
For now, the air offers us a fully manual mode, and a full auto mode. The problem of the full auto mode is that sometimes it will raise the ISO (knowing that above 100 ISO, you would start to see noise a lot), or slow down shutter-speed to the point that your image will be blurry… There is no way (as far as I know) of choosing to have the fixed iso and change only the speed, or the other way around.

- Of course I would have loved to have control of the aperture as well…

- As I said, I didn’t bought the drone with video in mind. However, I very often shifty to the video mode, and I would have loved that the software would have separate settings options. I explain myself:
Say I am shooting photography with certain settings and I see something that I want to film: I hit the record button, the app switches to video mode and I am able to record. I can change my settings in the menu (ISO, shutter speed…).
When I am done with video, I go back to photography mode, but I need to change again my settings, because it is now the settings I used for video that are on… Meaning I need to go back to the settings again… If I need to switch from one mode to another several times, I would love that the app keeps different settings in memory: one set for photo, the other set for video.

- Shutter-speed controlled by the wheel (like on the pro), with real-time visual return, like on modern electronic viewfinders.
- Semi automatic modes based on the Program mode of DSLR.
- Automatic mode with fixed ISO
- Separated set of settings for photo and video

Connexion problems:

- Very often it takes forever to connect the mavic to the controller, I don’t know why… By the time it is connected, in third of the battery is gone.
- Connexion is very unstable…During a flight in semi urban area, I will have several connexion issues during a battery worth of flying time.
- I have had one very frustrating experience, where the drone would fly away and disappear, with a lost connexion, to the point that after trying everything, I started packing my things, sobbing to the loss of my new drone… when It magically reappeared! Returned home easily (thanks DJI for this amazing feature!). I only wished I had some informations from the controller or the app...

First of all I would like to say that I find it very reassuring to see that DJi continues to update it’s products and tries to resolves all the small bugs that we are experiencing : it means that they really care about it!
I live in this parts of the world where internet connection is a nightmare (we are talking about 175kb/s at its best…)

So every now and then, when I want to fly my drone, I prepare everything, unfold my drone, connect it to the controller, and then… Nothing! Because I need to update this or that…

It means:
- I cannot fly right away
- I need to spend 3 full Drone batteries in order install do the updates
- I need to use some of the battery of the controller (I don’t know why I cannot download the update without being connected to the controller and the drone running up? Every time the drones shuts down, the remote starts ringing, and the updates stops…)
This means that because of my internet speed, I am not able to do the updates correctly. (The drone runs out of it’s 3 batteries before I can manage to download the update!)
- I need to drain my phone battery. Knowing that when my phone’s battery will be under 50%, the app will refuse to download the update.

It means that before the updates are finished:
- I have lost an entire day worth of shooting (because my internet download speed is almost inexistant)
- Even if I had some more time available, I don’t have anymore battery on my devices to fly

At the end of the day, I have experienced these issues almost every time I wanted to fly… Which is very frustrating!

Meaning that since march 2018, I have managed to fly only 7 times!

Basically I bought a drone that is only capable of updating itself, nothing else… I would have saved money in buying a ‘’useless box’’ instead!

This means I cannot use my drone on any serious project in which I need to be sure I can fly!

The app could send us a ‘’popup’’ message whenever an update is available: like this, we can update everything having to wait 3 hours, or maybe we could receive an email, stating that next time we want to fly, we wonM’t be able unless we do the update before! AS for now, every time I want to fly is more of a gamble…
The update could be downloaded automatically in the background, the app just ‘’popping up’’ when the download is finished and the update ready to be installed. Like this, even if the update takes 3 weeks to download because of internet speed, I can still use my drone! (It would mean allowing the drone to flight without the last update as well, which is not the case at the moment: no update, no flight!).

Small other things:

- Remote controller sounds and ‘’Bips’’: could we just have the opportunity to turn it off? Or maybe just turn down the volume? I know it is here to make us aware that we are running out of battery, or returning home, or maybe something else that we don’t know, but once we are aware of it, it is very annoying to have to endure it until the drone has landed…. Of course I could do a ‘’mechanical’’ and definitive operation with a heated needle, but we are in 2018, and a small

- Focus: as a photographer It is very frustrating not to have any control over the focus… I know the pro have a focus selection possibility, and that the air is cheaper… but still, in the end, images from the air are never sharp: not an issue in video, but definitely a No go for photo…

- Ok, this one is maybe a stretch, but is there not any way to have a variable ND/PL filter that we could manage from the app? (either physical or not…), using a rotating PL filter on a drone is almost a bad joke…

In the end, the mavic air is a great technology packed product, with a lot of fussy options and auto modes that are great for videographers, but I feel that we don’t event have the basic stuff needed for photography…

Of course my experience is very bad because of my internet connexion, in which DJI cannot do anything, except allowing me to do the updates at any other time than the time I decide to fly….

Overaal these little things ruined my experience with the drone, to the point that I am now reluctant to even think of turning it on...
After a fewweeks without using it, I prepared everything today, got ready to fly, and once again I wasn't able to...

Right now: my 3 batteries, my phone and the controller are charging, and the update was a failure (because of ''no more juice'' to perform it!).
Why don't you just allow me to fly with the old firwmare?

It has been a very frustrating and disapointing experience overall....
so you cheaped out on the drone and complain it doesn't have the functions of the Pro.

You get what you pay for.

I don't complain that my 1000 dollar Pro doesn't do what a 4000 dollar drone does.

If you buy a Kia, don't complain that it isn't a Bugatti.

If you are not preparing for flights by checking the software before you leave the house/office then you are not serious about your flights, especially if you are using it professionally. Do you show up to shoot an event without checking your gear before hand?

Are you in the U S of A? If so and you are using the drone to take pictures to sell, have you taken the steps to be able to do so legally?
I am more used to read the posts of others than participating myself, today is different!

Having failed (once again) to fly this morning because of the updates, I decided to write this review, review that has been in my mind for quite a long time now… It is not a full coverage review, but more of a list of what's really annoying with this drone. You can find plenty of marvelous positive reviews on the net to moderate mine!

How much are you going to sell you setup for?
I agree with your point about the lack of physical shutter control on the remote like the Pro has. Likewise when I'm shooting with a DSLR, I touch that button more than the actual shutter. I really dislike having to open up a menu first to adjust this. That said however, many points could have been known beforehand as the Air's functionality is pretty much covered extensively on many reviews. I watched pretty much all of them including about the Pro before I decided on purchasing one of them so I knew what I could expect from it and what not.

In general I think the Pro would fit you better with a more solid connection in urban areas, shutter wheel and manual focus. I recall hearing some rumors about the MP2 that you can set the aperture as well, but that one is only in the rumor fields though.
Unfortunately as for polarizers, these cannot be motorized at such a small scale (with the current tech at least). I'd reckon if such a thing is available, it would be for high end quads.

As for the software, this would be related to every DJI quad unfortunately. I'd recommend ignoring update requests if the drone flies well until you really feel the need for updating and you are at a comfortable location to do so. I cannot recall DJI forcing me to update the quad thus prohibiting me to takeoff. Unless I've updated only one battery or something. Once an update is completed, you are free to go and AFAIK free to choose on whether or not you want to install the next update when it prompts it.

As for fly-aways, please post the logs. There's always a reason of why a quad would fly off by itself.
As I said many times, I get what I paid for. But as I said also, most of it is software related, and not ''expensive hardware'' related.

I bought the drone almost immediately when it was released, and all reviews were so fantastic! Since then, it is true that most of my comments are covered in many youtube videos, and I don't think I would buy it again if it was now...

But at least I expect to be able to use my drone, which is not the case at the moment.

As for updates from home, that is exactly what I am talking about, and what i tried to do this morning, except that I leave in a country where internet sucks (yes, there is a world outside of the USA, where fast internet is not granted; actually even access to food and drinkable water is not granted).

The frustrating part is that I can't use my drone in the meantime

Thank you for your concern about the legal aspects of my sales, I am fully compliant on this.
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Are you in the U S of A? If so and you are using the drone to take pictures to sell, have you taken the steps to be able to do so legally?

I believe he lives across the pond somewhere. I always check for updates prior to flying. Never needed more than 1 battery and that was when I first bought the drone. All the other updates are rather quick.
You can’t simply ignore the updates as I have been doing since I the day I got it?

Are you using the android or ios app?

Since in the app instead of the green "ready to flight" indication i got a red "need to update" one, it didnt seemed to me that i had any choice.
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Are you using the android or ios app?

Since in the app instead of the green "ready to flight" indication i got a red "need to update" one, it didnt seemed to me that i had any choice.
Hmm interesting. Mine would just tell "New firmware update available" using Android.

Wait, I had the update notification of the Go4 startup screen in mind. I believe it's possible that you get a mandatory update notification if the update has either already been downloaded, or you are using a battery that hasn't been updated yet and doesn't correspond with the firmware on the quad.
There are no forced updates. Never seen one. I'm also a photographer, and when I was considering a drone it was pretty clear that the MPP was what I wanted. Really, it's up to the buyer to 'vet' the specs. Had you spent a little more money you'd likely have the features you want. And avoided all the hassle, except for your slow internet. But even that can be solved by checking for updates before you go. But again, you are not forced to do them.

Having said all that, I've seen some fine photos from the Mavic Air. People are taking them all over the world. No, it's not a high quality DSLR, but it costs less than a DSLR, and throws in an aircraft. Not a bad deal really.
Did you cycle all your batteries through and individually update the firmware on those too?

Anyways, your complaints seem to mostly be that you didn't buy a more expensive drone. The things you want (variable aperture, variable focus, bigger sensor, etc.) are very much hardware additions, which make things more expensive.

There are no A / S modes like a DSLR, but for video you want to be shooting in manual anyway. You don't want the drone to raise the ISO on you because the ISO performance of a tiny 1/2.3" sensor is abysmal above base ISO.

Changing shutter speed isn't a big deal, you would never want to do that mid-footage anyway, but with 2 taps on the screen you can change it before getting your next wave of footage.

The Air has a fixed focal length and a fixed focus, anything out past a few feet will be in focus. If yours isn't, you may have a defective drone. Don't expect the same level of sharpness as a higher end drone that can carry a much better lens.

The limitations of circular polarizes have nothing to do with the drone itself. Maybe in the future we could have a power-rotating front element for polarizer adjustment, but that would likely be reserved for much more expensive drones.
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I own a Mavic Pro for almost a year, and once used the Mavic Air for 2 months, your comparison on their photography part is right on point.

- Shutter-speed wheel/dial is one point that most of the reviews online (even until now) didn't mention or didn't put emphasis on
- Sharpness for the infinity-focus Mavic Air lens is another issue that is not much talked about again (even until now)

And for the update part, I agreed the DJI can do a bit more to help pilots to judge whether to do the firmware update or not. I used to ignore those updates as many people had some bad experience with firmware updates before, so I rather wait and see. But then one time when I am out, it just CAN'T FLY before the update and I stood there for 20 minutes and the sunset has gone. I think an email to warn you that you can only fly after the update will be simple and good enough.
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Agreed but I would say, as a point and shoot the air is the best in the range. If you want more control, the pro should have been your purchase.
Can a person plug a PC into the air and do updates hardwired . If possible it might speed things up . Just asking as I don’t have a air .
install a "custom" formware in the bird and rc and be done with updates, i finally have mine where i want it, i modded her back in feb and she will never see the internet again. theres many custom firmwaress and firmware for the rc as well that will not run the update warning
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Regarding the camera, you have voiced a lot of frustrations we all have. I am guessing that DJI could have addressed these issues but then the cost would probably double. We just have to learn to work with what we have. Your problem (and mine) is you have experience with full-featured cameras so you know what you are missing.

Regarding updates, I think you can fix your problem. Once you get a setup that works, put your device in airplane mode (no internet/phone connection) while Go 4 is running. That way it cannot "phone home" to even know if an update is available. Also turn off auto-updating on your device so Go 4 will not change and require you to update your Air and batteries. It works with my MP and I am assuming it will work with the Air.

I had a background update change Go 4 which made it un-usable (pixilated display). I had to downgrade and apply the steps above and have not had a problem since.
I've had mine for about 3 weeks and have only had to update everything the day a got it. Not sure why you would get so many updates or why they would keep you from flying...
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Apart from his issue with updates, surely the OP would have done his due diligence and known all this before dropping his cash ?
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