Test flight of DJI Mavic Pro

With its 3-axis gim­bal-sta­bilised 12.4MP cam­era, 4K video and un­par­al­leled free­dom of move­ment, Kirk Sch­warz takes to the skies with the Mavic Pro.

Practical Photography (UK) - - Welcome -

PHO­TOG­RA­PHY IS an ever-chang­ing art, evolv­ing from the first da­guerreo­type of the 1840s to the mir­ror­less revolution of the 2000s. But noth­ing has had more of a dras­tic im­pact on how we are able to take our pic­tures than drone pho­tog­ra­phy. Chi­nese pow­er­house DJI started when RC he­li­copter en­thu­si­ast Frank Wong crashed his model and de­cided to make flight eas­ier. Reg­is­ter­ing the com­pany 11 years ago, it took four years to re­lease its first prod­uct, a sim­ple flight con­troller. From this hum­ble start, it has al­most sin­gle­hand­edly brought ae­rial pho­tog­ra­phy to the masses. DJI now has an im­pres­sive ros­ter of pro mod­els, with drones such as the pro-level Ma­trice se­ries ca­pa­ble of haul­ing weighty DSLR rigs.

The com­pact, en­thu­si­astlevel Mavic Pro sits just be­low the slightly more ex­pen­sive Phan­tom range, yet is just as ca­pa­ble as its larger sta­ble­mate, and packs in some as­ton­ish­ing aero-tech fea­tures.

Main fea­tures

Boast­ing a 1/2.3in CMOS sen­sor, the 3-axis gim­bal­sta­bilised cam­era on this drone is ca­pa­ble of 12.4MP stills and 4K Ul­tra HD video, and can be set to ei­ther auto or man­ual, let­ting you pro­gram your own set­tings.

Its quad pro­pel­lers can belt out a breakneck max­i­mum speed of up to 40mph in Sport mode and an as­cent/ de­scent speed of 5m/sec and 3m/sec re­spec­tively. The Mavic Pro is ca­pa­ble of trav­el­ling up to 8 miles from

its op­er­a­tor and of­fers up to 27 min­utes of flight time or 24 min­utes of hov­er­ing, with an ac­cu­racy of +/- 0.1m ver­ti­cally and +/-0.3m hor­i­zon­tally.

In­clud­ing both for­ward and down­ward vi­sion sys­tems, along­side GPS and GLONASS, the Mavic has very ad­vanced col­li­sion de­tec­tion and navigation ca­pa­bil­i­ties. It’s ca­pa­ble of de­tect­ing ob­jects up to 30m away and has a pre­cise mea­sure­ment range from 0.7-15m, fea­tur­ing modes that will al­low it full au­ton­omy to take eva­sive ac­tion. The Ac­tive Track modes will make the Mavic Pro lock-on to your cho­sen sub­ject and fol­low it in a va­ri­ety of dif­fer­ent ways. It’s even pos­si­ble to use ges­tures to trig­ger the cam­era – per­fect if you want those hard-to-get en­vi­ron­men­tal self­ies.

The re­mote is about as big as a com­puter game con­troller and can be used alone or with your smart­phone (which you’ll need to see through the cam­era). This con­troller of­fers a whop­ping 4.3-mile work­ing dis­tance, sup­ply­ing a 1080p Full HD (720p at fur­ther dis­tances) feed back to your screen.

The DJI Go 4 app of­fers some ex­tremely in­tu­itive fea­tures for any­body look­ing to quickly cre­ate pro­fes­sion­al­look­ing footage. Cine­matic mode slows the re­ac­tions of your Mavic, giv­ing you silkys­mooth pan­ning shots. Its Tap Fly func­tion will even let you se­lect a point – just tap the smart­phone screen and it will duly fly to the cho­sen point.

Han­dling & build

Cam­eras are of­ten lauded for their tough al­loy con­struc­tion, but drones have to fo­cus on be­ing lightweight and ro­bust – any­thing too heavy will re­duce flight time and ham­per han­dling. That said, the Mavic Pro is im­pres­sively sturdy, even more so con­sid­er­ing its 743g weight. The arms, which fold back into the body for eas­ier trans­porta­tion, feel ro­bust and should eas­ily with­stand at least 5000 op­er­a­tions. The ro­tors at­tach with ease and don’t re­quire any fid­dly lock­ing into place be­fore flight. The diminu­tive size of the Mavic Pro is as­tound­ing, given the fea­tures,


and the high qual­ity of the ma­te­ri­als used is very ev­i­dent.

The bat­tery fits into the top of the body and cre­ates an al­most air­tight seal, while four lights let you know how much bat­tery you have left at a glance. Even the gim­bal (some­thing we have seen com­peti­tors han­dle poorly) is a dis­tinctly pre­mium bit of kit, with a sturdy con­struc­tion and smooth, re­spon­sive move­ment. The con­troller is also very in­tu­itive, with a solid

build qual­ity and very rugged flight sticks. The bot­tom un­folds into two chunky arms to hold your smart­phone in place and ev­ery­thing still fits nicely in hand. The lack of un­nec­es­sary fea­tures also leaves you free to fo­cus on the act of fly­ing, and ev­ery­thing is in­tu­itively placed.

Over­all, the build qual­ity is ex­cep­tional, and the size means it’s a truly por­ta­ble op­tion, fit­ting eas­ily into a back­pack.


From the mo­ment you ac­ti­vate the take-off mode, it’s im­me­di­ately apparent how re­spon­sive the Mavic is. The phe­nom­e­nal 5m/sec as­cent speed (in Sport mode) is ev­i­dent, with a full push on the stick send­ing the drone rock­et­ing into the sky. The rest of the mo­tions are equally pre­cise and quick, and among the most re­spon­sive we’ve ever seen. Us­ing the con­troller will al­low you to take ad­van­tage of the Sport mode, with its in­sane top speed of 40mph and as­ton­ish­ing han­dling. The Mavic cor­ners like it’s on rails and feels per­fectly smooth as it does so (some of the com­pe­ti­tion should re­ally take note here). Even the hov­er­ing is amaz­ingly solid. We flew it on a day with 20mph gusts and, al­though there was a slight sway, the video feed was prac­ti­cally mo­tion­less, with the gim­bal coun­ter­act­ing any move­ment per­fectly.

Thanks to the sturdy flight sticks, which spring back to cen­tre if you let go, you re­ally get the sense of con­trol, and mak­ing a course change in the mid­dle of flight is sim­ple and in­tu­itive. Con­trol­ling the cam­era’s pitch (up and down move­ment) can be done via a wheel on the top of the con­troller. It’s ex­tremely re­spon­sive and very smooth, al­low­ing you to get pro­fes­sional-look­ing ver­ti­cal pan­ning in your video and pre­cise an­gles for your pho­tos.

The Mavic’s con­nec­tiv­ity is also wor­thy of praise. Us­ing the DJI Go 4 smart­phone app you have a Full HD 1080p (720p at longer dis­tances) pre­view of the ac­tion from the 1/2.3in cam­era. From set­ting your drone down to tak­ing off takes 30 sec­onds and is com­pletely ef­fort­less. This is in line with the DJI mantra of mak­ing flight ac­ces­si­ble and it re­ally takes the in­tim­i­da­tion out of drone

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