Which Drone is Best For You: the Mavic Pro or the Mavic Air?

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Mavic Pro vs. Mavic Air

There are a number of excellent DJI drones on the market today.  The Mavic Pro and the Mavic Air are the portable drones geared towards the serious amateur or commercial photographer who needs excellence in a portable package.

But which one would serve you better?  Here’s a look at the main similarities & differences and which ones will help you decide on which one is right for you.

Similarities Between the Mavic Pro and Mavic Air

Still photos:

  • 12 megapixels.
  • DNG (RAW) & JPG.
  • Single shot, burst mode, auto exposure bracketing, interval shooting, panoramic, HDR.
  • Electronic shutter speed of 1/8000s to 8s.

Video:

  • MP4 & MOV format.
  • ISO range of 100-3200.
  • Ultra 4K @ 24/25/30p.
  • 720 HD @ 24/25/30/48/50/60/120p.

Sensors:

  • Front & down collision avoidance.

Flight Control:

  • More or less equal wind ratings and maximum speeds
  • Intelligent Flight modes include Tripod Mode, Follow Me, Point-of-Interest, Helix, Dronie, and Rocket.

Main Differences Between the Mavic Pro and Mavic Air

Size & weight:

  • Mavic Air is smaller when folded at 6.6” x 3.3” x 2.67”; the Pro is 7.8” x 3.3” x 3.3”.
  • Mavic Air is also lighter at .95lbs versus 1.26lbs.

Camera:

  • Mavic Air has a slightly wider field of view with 85° versus the Mavic Pro’s 78.8°.
  • Mavic Pro has a faster & wider aperture of f/2.2 versus the Mavic Air’s f/2.8.

Still photos:

  • Mavic Air is more sensitive with an ISO range of 100-3200 versus the Pro’s ISO 100-1600.
  • Mavic Air panoramic shots have twice the resolution of the Pro.

Video:

  • Mavic Pro has the Cinema 4K mode (4096 wide), at 24p. The Mavic Air’s largest video resolution is the slightly smaller Ultra 4K (3840 wide).
  • Mavic Air’s 2.7K mode adds a 60p framerate; the max on the Pro is 30p.
  • Mavic Air can record Full HD (1080) slow motion up to a framerate of 120p; the Pro’s maximum is 96p.
  • Mavic Air records a higher bitrate up to 100Mbps while the Pro records up to 60Mbps.

Flight Control:

  • Mavic Pro uses OcuSync while Mavic Air uses Wi-Fi.
  • Mavic Air adds rearward avoidance sensors.
  • Mavic Pro has a fixed-wing flight mode.
  • Mavic Pro has waypoints and course lock.
  • Mavic Air adds hand control gestures, Boomerang, and Asteroid modes.
  • Mavic Pro controller has LCD telemetry screen and many more customizable controls than the Air.
  • Mavic Air adds the Autonomous Pilot Assistance System (APAS), allowing the drone to map its environment and fly around obstacles.

Flight Characteristics:

  • Mavic Pro has an advertised flight time of 27 minutes while the Mavic Air is 21 minutes.
  • Mavic Pro produces less noise than the Mavic Air.

The Mavic Pro: Who it’s Good For

Photographers who don’t need the tiny package of the Mavic Air would probably be better off with the Mavic Pro.

The Mavic Pro has a faster aperture and lets in more light than the Mavic Air, offsetting the higher ISO.  Even though the Mavic Air has a higher ISO range, photos at 3200 ISO have a lot of noise and aren’t very usable for professional photos.

Otherwise, both drones are the same as far as still photography goes and you get more flight time out of it.  You can also manipulate your camera controls much easier via the controller versus going into settings menus on display screen.

Cinematographers choosing the Mavic Pro over the Mavic Air lose two big things: a bitrate that’s almost double, and slow-motion capability.

The Mavic Pro’s bitrate of 60Mbps still records plenty of data for most cinematographer’s purposes though, so this may not be a big deal to many people.  You also gain a slightly higher resolution with Cinema 4K in the Pro.

The Mavic Pro still shoots Full HD at up to 96p, which is often more than enough for people who don’t need full slow-motion action video.

The OcuSync transmission of the Mavic Pro will transmit a crisper video feed of 1080 vs the 720 transmission of the Mavic Air.

The controller itself is also much better suited for serious cinematographers.

You can move all of the telemetry data off of the video screen and see it on the controller.  You also have many more customizable buttons so that you can change exposure settings and camera angles with a quick button press, without having to go into menus on your small smartphone screen.

The Mavic Pro gets an advertised six minutes longer flight time in ideal conditions, and this extra few minutes can make or break a video shoot.  The heavier weight makes it slightly more stable in winds and the larger size makes it easier to see.

The Mavic Air: Who it’s Good For

Travelers who need an ultra-portable package get some great capabilities with the Mavic Air.

Everything about it is smaller and cheaper.  The controller is smaller with the detachable control sticks, the drone itself is smaller, and the batteries are smaller.  You’ll save hundreds of dollars while gaining these advantages.

In order to get that smaller package, DJI has substituted OcuSync systems for Wi-Fi, a small sacrifice that is still functional.

The increased video bitrate and higher framerate at Full HD will be ideal for cinematographers taking this drone to remote locations for detailed action shots.

The Mavic Air is also a much sportier drone to fly, and includes flight modes that may be gimmicky to serious pilots but a lot of fun to the more casual pilots.  Rearward sensors and APAS will help keep you honest as you’re zipping around and using these creative modes.

Final Decisions Between the Mavic Pro and Mavic Air

There are a lot of differences between the Mavic Pro and the Mavic Air, and none of them necessarily makes one drone better than the other.

It’s easy to fixate on the Mavic Air because it’s the shiny new object and has a bunch of new features.

But remember that for some people’s purposes, the old reliable pickup truck is better than the brand new plastic sports car.  What do you really want to use it for?

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