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Mavic Air - my brief review

Jcborden

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Well I’ve had some time on the new Mavic Air this weekend and thought I would write down my opinions which might/not help some of you on the fence.

Firstly, I have been flying the Mavic Pro for about four months (prior to the an Inspire 1 and 2 personally and commercially).

Quality
One of the first things you notice about the Air is the build quality, it is simply beautiful and feels very well put together. This is especially true of the gimbal, which looks and feels much stronger than the Pro. The lines are all very smooth and the plastic shows none of the join marks you can see on the Pro. The gimbal protector is also a huge improvement over the Pro, just so simple, effective and easy to use.

The legs fold out easily and the front landing feet click down reassuringly. And of course the overall size is tiny.

Controller
The controller is somewhat of a disappointment (for me), there isn’t actually much wrong with it, just coming from the Pro, I miss the additional buttons (C1, C2, the 5d button and of course the second scroll wheel). In fact I miss the second scroll wheel the most since I would use this to adjust the exposure (C1 to switch between ISO and shutter speed) and the wheel to adjust the values. Having to bring up the camera settings screen and slide the wheel is no where near as convenient, especially in the cold wearing gloves. Of course, this is probably more aimed at the market that will leave things on auto so won’t be such an issue for many…

The removable sticks are a plus and a minus. They are tiny and easy to drop, but being able to remove them means the controller is even smaller. More on this later.

I also miss the screen from the Pro controller which can be surprisingly useful as it provides a lot of info which is nice and easy to read.

Fly more combo bag
The bag (with the fly more combo) is in my opinion horrible! Its actually no smaller than the Pro bag, although very different in its dimensions (but does allow you to fit in the charger/hub as well easily). However, the space for the controller means you HAVE to remove the sticks before packing away which is a little fiddly and adds another 30 or so seconds. Lastly, what is the big flappy pouch on the front about – just looks weird to me.

Flying
So onto the flying experience… Like the pro, the gimbal sits low so you need to be careful to place it on a fairly smooth surface. She fires up nice and quietly, but boy does she hum when in the air. Like angry bees, higher pitched and louder than the Pro and audible at greater distances as a result. You also hear what I would describe as fluttering as it adjust itself in the wind – must just be the higher pitched prop sound as you don’t hear that on the Pro.

As for battery life, I was getting on average just over 16 minutes (down to 30%) so that was not too bad at all (flying between 1000-1500m per battery).

Out of the box, as usual, the settings are far too aggressive so need to be turned down to achieve nice smooth flight. But she does fly beautifully especially given the size. She is quick and nimble and in sport mode extremely quick although bear in mind the gimbal won’t be able to always keep up and won’t sit straight on extreme angles so you will see a fair bit of movement.

There has been much talk about the enhanced wi-fi vs OccuSync, however in practice for the line of sight flying I do the video reception has been very good. There has been a very occasional screen freeze for a fraction of a second, but no break up and no real noticeable lag.

Camera
The camera – well I appear to have something of a dud in that there is noticeable distortion in the centre of the frame, particularly on horizontal lines, but that aside (assuming it is just mine) here are my thoughts. Out of the box the colours are way off, the images seem to generally be too dark and contrasty and also often have a magenta tinge. I’m not too worried as you have some control over these settings and no doubt future firmware updates will improve things.

I have also noticed that the fixed focusing seems to mean the first 2/3rds of the scenes are nice and sharp and this tails off leaving the final (distant) third looking much less sharp, perhaps a little muddy. This is especially noticeable when comparing similar footage from the Air to the Pro. This is evident in photos and video.

What about the bit rate increase from 60mb/s to 100mb/s. Well there is a definite improvement in the foreground, you just don’t see the noise that you see in the Pro video, but the background almost looks worse as it is fuzzy/less clear. Seems to be a bit of a trade off with the fixed focus.

Quickshot modes – yes these are pretty cool and great that they (like panoramas) are automatically created in the Air. To get the best from these and video in general you really need ND filters so you can set the shutter speed correctly as the resultant video (from asteroid) wasn’t as smooth as expected.

Summary
So a beautiful and beautifully created craft which is easy to fly and looks like it could withstand some little bumps and knocks but for me the camera isn’t all it is made out to be. Perhaps this is just my copy of it?

Not particularly scientific, but here are some comparison video (and a couple of photos) from the Mavic Air and Pro.


For reference, this is the distortion seen – note what should be horizontal lines at the top and bottom of the bifold doors. Yes I realise this might be being picky, but you can easily spot this along building roof lines and as you pan across a roof the distortion means it curves in weird and wonderful ways….

IMG_4270.jpg


IMG_4272.jpg
 
As a first-time drone owner, could you elaborate on this?
Don't worry about his comment. It's a matter of personal preference. You can put it in beginner mode or use tripod mode to slow down the controls. I use neither mode and it controls just fine out of the box as I am guessing 99% do not mess with these settings. Your stick skills will provide nice smooth flight. practice
 
As a first-time drone owner, could you elaborate on this?

I’m a drone newbie (the Air is my first drone) and only spent about 15 minutes in Beginner mode. I just felt like I got the controls down at that point and moved on. You don’t get any of the flight modes (boomerang, rocket, etc.) in Beginner mode. So if you just want to fly it and see what the drone can do, you’ll need to get out of Beginner mode. I haven’t been back to this mode since then.

The other item I adjusted was the gimbal setting. There’s an option in there for speed and smoothness. I tweaked that about 5 times before I got it dialed in but I was able to smooth out the movements a lot. I still use Cinematic mode when I’m looking to do some cinematic panning but now the gimbal speed is a better match to those movements.
 
Well I’ve had some time on the new Mavic Air this weekend and thought I would write down my opinions which might/not help some of you on the fence.

Firstly, I have been flying the Mavic Pro for about four months (prior to the an Inspire 1 and 2 personally and commercially).

Quality
One of the first things you notice about the Air is the build quality, it is simply beautiful and feels very well put together. This is especially true of the gimbal, which looks and feels much stronger than the Pro. The lines are all very smooth and the plastic shows none of the join marks you can see on the Pro. The gimbal protector is also a huge improvement over the Pro, just so simple, effective and easy to use.

The legs fold out easily and the front landing feet click down reassuringly. And of course the overall size is tiny.

Controller
The controller is somewhat of a disappointment (for me), there isn’t actually much wrong with it, just coming from the Pro, I miss the additional buttons (C1, C2, the 5d button and of course the second scroll wheel). In fact I miss the second scroll wheel the most since I would use this to adjust the exposure (C1 to switch between ISO and shutter speed) and the wheel to adjust the values. Having to bring up the camera settings screen and slide the wheel is no where near as convenient, especially in the cold wearing gloves. Of course, this is probably more aimed at the market that will leave things on auto so won’t be such an issue for many…

The removable sticks are a plus and a minus. They are tiny and easy to drop, but being able to remove them means the controller is even smaller. More on this later.

I also miss the screen from the Pro controller which can be surprisingly useful as it provides a lot of info which is nice and easy to read.

Fly more combo bag
The bag (with the fly more combo) is in my opinion horrible! Its actually no smaller than the Pro bag, although very different in its dimensions (but does allow you to fit in the charger/hub as well easily). However, the space for the controller means you HAVE to remove the sticks before packing away which is a little fiddly and adds another 30 or so seconds. Lastly, what is the big flappy pouch on the front about – just looks weird to me.

Flying
So onto the flying experience… Like the pro, the gimbal sits low so you need to be careful to place it on a fairly smooth surface. She fires up nice and quietly, but boy does she hum when in the air. Like angry bees, higher pitched and louder than the Pro and audible at greater distances as a result. You also hear what I would describe as fluttering as it adjust itself in the wind – must just be the higher pitched prop sound as you don’t hear that on the Pro.

As for battery life, I was getting on average just over 16 minutes (down to 30%) so that was not too bad at all (flying between 1000-1500m per battery).

Out of the box, as usual, the settings are far too aggressive so need to be turned down to achieve nice smooth flight. But she does fly beautifully especially given the size. She is quick and nimble and in sport mode extremely quick although bear in mind the gimbal won’t be able to always keep up and won’t sit straight on extreme angles so you will see a fair bit of movement.

There has been much talk about the enhanced wi-fi vs OccuSync, however in practice for the line of sight flying I do the video reception has been very good. There has been a very occasional screen freeze for a fraction of a second, but no break up and no real noticeable lag.

Camera
The camera – well I appear to have something of a dud in that there is noticeable distortion in the centre of the frame, particularly on horizontal lines, but that aside (assuming it is just mine) here are my thoughts. Out of the box the colours are way off, the images seem to generally be too dark and contrasty and also often have a magenta tinge. I’m not too worried as you have some control over these settings and no doubt future firmware updates will improve things.

I have also noticed that the fixed focusing seems to mean the first 2/3rds of the scenes are nice and sharp and this tails off leaving the final (distant) third looking much less sharp, perhaps a little muddy. This is especially noticeable when comparing similar footage from the Air to the Pro. This is evident in photos and video.

What about the bit rate increase from 60mb/s to 100mb/s. Well there is a definite improvement in the foreground, you just don’t see the noise that you see in the Pro video, but the background almost looks worse as it is fuzzy/less clear. Seems to be a bit of a trade off with the fixed focus.

Quickshot modes – yes these are pretty cool and great that they (like panoramas) are automatically created in the Air. To get the best from these and video in general you really need ND filters so you can set the shutter speed correctly as the resultant video (from asteroid) wasn’t as smooth as expected.

Summary
So a beautiful and beautifully created craft which is easy to fly and looks like it could withstand some little bumps and knocks but for me the camera isn’t all it is made out to be. Perhaps this is just my copy of it?

Not particularly scientific, but here are some comparison video (and a couple of photos) from the Mavic Air and Pro.


For reference, this is the distortion seen – note what should be horizontal lines at the top and bottom of the bifold doors. Yes I realise this might be being picky, but you can easily spot this along building roof lines and as you pan across a roof the distortion means it curves in weird and wonderful ways….

IMG_4270.jpg


IMG_4272.jpg
You might want to get a builder in to look at those doors, look a bit wonky.;)
 
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