October 2019 was an exciting month for the drone industry. Drone enthusiasts were in for a treat as two drones, the American-made Skydio 2 and DJI Mavic Mini hit the drone market. While both these drones are targeting the mainstream consumer market, they have different strengths and fall in different price segments.
And as if these were not enough, as per the latest DJI rumors, we shall be seeing the latest iteration of the Chinese behemoth’s flagship drone, the DJI Mavic 3 in January 2020.
Particularly, many industry analysts are all praise for the new Skydio 2. And rightly so. This drone developed by two enterprising MIT graduates has six (!) cameras powering its autonomous flying capabilities. Particularly, the Skydio 2 could be a great option for Part 107 pilots regularly flying in interference heavy environments as this drone relies primarily on visual obstacle avoidance (with GPS working as a secondary tool).
So far, DJI has been upping the ante with every launch, and the competition has been struggling to catch up with the industry leader. But now, the tables have turned and it remains to be seen if the DJI Mavic 3 manages to outdo Skydio 2 in terms of specs and performance.
Enough about the Skydio 2 now. After all, this blog post is about the DJI Mavic. So here goes.
DJI Mavic 2 Pro – The Good and The Not so Good
After, DJI chose to discontinue the Phantom 4 Pro, Mavic 2 Pro is their flagship drone . And rightly so. There are many who swear by this drone’s awesome cinematic capabilities.
The biggest selling point for the Mavic 2 Pro is its large 1-inch Hasselblad sensor. A while back DJI purchased a majority stake in Hasselblad, a renowned Swedish camera manufacturer whose equipment has been even used for NASA missions. And immediately after this acquisition, DJI was quick to retrofit this sensor on the Mavic 2 Pro.
This Mavic 2 Pro sensor is capable of capturing 10-bit images. To put things in perspective, some of the latest mirror-less cameras like Nikon Z6 and Z7 and my personal favorite, the Panasonic GH5S are capable of shooting in 10-bits.
So, why is this a big deal? Can’t you make do with a 8-bit camera? Well, you can if you are a Vlogger or a weekend warrior. However, if you are a commercial drone pilot offering professional real estate photography and videography services, a 10-bit sensor can help you stay ahead of the competition.
In other words, if you are a professional planning on editing your drone footage to make the colors look better, you will find that 8-bit images are prone to banding. Whereas you can get smoother transitions with the Mavic 2 Pro’s 10 bit sensor.
“Further, 14 stops of dynamic range, and high ISO numbers (6400 for video and 12800 for manual photo mode) means that the Mavic 2 Pro is an excellent option for low-light or night photography”.
Now, from the good to the not so good. The Mavic 2 Pro does not have a global shutter but a rolling shutter which is a bummer. Does this matter? Not if you wish to stick solely to videography/photography. However, if you are planning on ultimately taking up drone mapping jobs, you are better off sticking to a drone with a global shutter like the DJI Inspire 1 or DJI Inspire 2.
Having said that, you can use the Mavic 2 Pro for drone mapping in your learning phase. However, doing so will drastically increase your data acquisition and processing time, thus lowering your overall efficiency and rendering the job unprofitable.
We were also disappointed that the Mavic 2 Pro cannot shoot 4K60 but shoots 4K30. Shooting in 4K60 and then stepping down to 4K30 can allow you to deliver those slomo silky-smooth real estate and wedding videos.
DJI Mavic 2 Pro vs Mavic 2 Zoom – Which is a Better Drone for You, and Why?
The only difference between the Mavic 2 Pro and the Zoom is the sensor. In fact, when this drone was launched, there were many who were surprised that DJI did not come one with a single drone with interchangeable sensors.
The Mavic 2 Zoom comes with a smaller 1 / 2.3” sensor with 2x optical zoom. You get a 24mm equivalent field of view at the wide end and 48mm at the narrow end of the zoom range.
So, if you need to capture a high-end real estate property surrounded by tall trees, you can do so by flying farther away and then zoom in on the subject. The Mavic 2 Zoom is also emerging as a popular home inspection tool.
A fun feature on this drone is the “Dolly Zoom” which results in the eerie “Vertigo” effect. First used by the classic filmmaker, Alfred Hitchcock, the “Vertigo” effect has been used to enhance storytelling in numerous movies like Fellowship of the Rings, Jaws, and Goodfellas.
“On the flip side, a smaller sensor means less pixels (12 million compared to Mavic 2 Pro’s 20 million pixels) and a narrower ISO range (maximum 3200 in manual mode). Not surprisingly, I found that the Mavic 2 Pro produced far better results when it came to low light photography”.
DJI Mavic Mini – Why a 249 Gram Drone is (Not) a Huge Deal
As far as new product releases are concerned, we saw a big lull from DJI with the DJI Phantom 5 and the DJI Spark 2 rumors turning out to be well, just “rumors”. Sure, we saw products like the ground drone, Robomaster S1 and the Agras T16 being released this year. But with DJI not releasing any mainstream consumer drone, DJI enthusiasts were a disappointed lot.
But this changed as DJI launched the DJI Mavic Mini on October 30.
DJI Mavic Mini, the smallest drone in the Mavic range was released last month. At 249 grams, the DJI Mavic Mini is only slightly bigger than your average smartphone (the iPhone 11 weighs 200 grams).
Like it’s bigger cousins, the DJI Mavic Mini is foldable and can shrink from 160×202×55 mm (L×W×H) to 140×82×57 mm (L×W×H).
DJI Mavic Mini Specs – Has DJI Cut Any Corners?
- Compact Size
- 30-minute flight time
- Decent camera for the price point
- Drone can shoot only in JPEG and MP4
- No 4K
- ActiveTrak and Waypoint are missing
- No ADS-B Receivers
- No Hasselblad sensor
What the Rules for Flying a Drone Weighing Less than 250 Grams?
It is no coincidence that the DJI Mavic Mini weighs just 249 grams. As per the FAA, you do not need to register a drone weighing less than 250 grams. After going through numerous YouTube videos, articles and online forums, I found that there was considerable confusion surrounding this topic. Let me explain why a weight of 249 grams is no big deal for US drone pilots.
First of all, the FAA drone registration process is a simple and quick process that can be completed online. The registration cost is $5 and this registration will last you for 3 years.
Secondly, flying a sub-250 gram drone does not mean that you can bypass any drone laws. And now, with the Reauthorization Act becoming the law of the land, even hobby pilots need LAANC approval to fly in controlled airspace.
And, for those who are having any funny ideas, surveillance systems like DJI Aeroscope are capable of detecting and preventing small drones like these from entering controlled airspace.
DJI Mavic Mini Fun Fact
Japan is the only country in the world where the DJI Mavic Mini weighs 199 grams. DJI has come out with this customized Japanese version because of airspace restrictions for drones weighing more than 200 grams. This extra small DJI Mavic Mini has smaller battery size and a reduced flying time of 20 minutes.
Will DJI Mavic 3 Live Up to the Hype?
Our good friend, OsitaLV recently tweeted this. Osita is a DJI pilot based in China who regularly tweets DJI news and rumors well before a product is released. And he is right, more often than not.
The DJI Mavic 3 is rumored to release in January 2020. As per industry speculation, these are the specs:
- ADS-B Receivers
- Occysync 3.0
- Hasselblad sensor
- Obstacle Avoidance powered by 10 cameras
- ActiveTrak 3.0
As per DJI’s whitepaper, “Elevating Safety” which was released earlier this year, all drones weighing above 250 grams and released after January 2020 shall be equipped with ADS-B receivers. In simple terms, these receivers allow manned and unmanned aircraft to “talk” to each other, and shall greatly enhance drone safety. So, we expect the DJI Mavic 3 to come with this additional feature.
Further, Skydio 2 has certainly shown us what the further of flying will look like. But, it remains to be seen whether DJI, with all its resources is able to come up with a drone with similar or better autonomous capabilities. Considering the terrific success of its predecessor, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro, we expect the DJI Mavic 3 to continue with a Hasselblad sensor. Watch this space for more updates!
Which Mavic Should You Buy?
- Best Drone for casual photography and videography – DJI Mavic Mini
- Best Drone for professional photography – DJI Mavic 2 Pro
- Best Drone for Inspections, and creative videography – DJI Mavic 2 Zoom
If you have more sophisticated requirements like higher zoom capabilities or greater wind resistance, we recommend you check out larger birds like the DJI Inspire 2.
If you found this information useful, you might want to check out other blog posts as well. Watch this space for the latest and most exciting drone news and updates!