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DJI Mavic Air – My Thoughts

I figured it’s about time I shared my experience of owning what is undoubtedly a cool piece of technology. Hopefully, I can address some of the most common questions:

  • Was it worth the money?
  • What are the good and bad things about it?
  • Did I buy the right one?

I bought my DJI Mavic Air from Amazon in June 2018, paying £830 for the ‘Fly More’ bundle. I also purchased a 64Gb micro SD card as well as some ND filters (more on those later), for a total investment of just under £900. At the time, the Air was on a special deal so I think I did pretty well on the price – as I write this (October 2018), the same Fly More bundle is still retailing for £799, so not a huge amount cheaper.

Trying to choose between the Mavic Air and the Mavic Pro was, perhaps, the hardest part of the process. I knew I wanted something small and highly portable for my frequent trips to Greece, but I didn’t want to sacrifice quality either, and the techno-geek in me wanted the ‘best’ version I could get.

I’m sure many of you will be familiar with the specs, but what complicated things for me were that the Mavic Air has a higher Bitrate for recording (100Mbps versus 60Mbps on the Pro) but a much shorter range (due to being WiFi-only instead of Ocu-sync) and slightly lower battery life too. This means there is no clear winner even on paper, despite plenty of reviews and YouTube videos claiming that one or the other is the better choice.

Ultimately, it came down to a combination of cost and portability: the Air was about £250 cheaper than the Pro when I bought it, and getting everything for under £1,000 felt like a big deal financially. Likewise, the Air is so much more compact, I knew it would be a better choice for taking abroad with me, and I wasn’t disappointed in this regard.

Practice and Sample Photos

Having never flown before, I wanted to get some practice in before the holiday, so my first flight was at an RC flying club south of Norwich. Here are a couple of photos:

I was really pleased with the drone, from how easy it was to fly and the quality of the photos and video. You can see some more recent videos taken with the drone on my Videography page.

ND Filters

Back to those ND filters: I’d read plenty of reviews recommending some, and having done quite a bit of photography before, appreciated how useful they would be, especially in a hot, sunny country like Greece. Using ND filters is particularly helpful when shooting video, as the recommendation is to lock the shutter speed to twice the frame rate of the video (in this case 30fps at 4k), and shooting at 1/60 on a bright day is impossible without them.

I opted for the Neewer 6 Piece Pro filter kit from Amazon, containing 4-, 8- and 16-stop filters in both polarised and non-polarised versions. To be honest, I rarely use the non-polarised versions as I prefer the look that polarisation gives, especially when videoing water – it tends to add a lot of clarity.

To be honest, my only issue with the filters is that even 16-stop isn’t always enough on bright days in Greece. Several times I’ve ended up with blown-out highlights and wished I had a stronger filter. I may invest in a 32-stop filter at some point, but for now, I just try to avoid filming towards the sun or choose times of the day when it’s slightly less bright.

Summary

Although the drone was an expensive purchase and I don’t use it that often, I’m still extremely glad I bought it. The flexibility that it offers to get unique shots of any environment is amazing. I often find myself using it for photos as much as video and I have had several drone shots printed onto canvas to hang in my home.

I would definitely recommend buying a bundle that includes extra batteries though. They don’t last long (22-24 minutes at best) and take a little while to charge, so if you’re out all day then having 3 batteries is just about enough to get a decent amount of usage. Given the time you need to get the drone into position and move between shots, I’d say each battery generally gives you 10-15 minutes of recording time.

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Tags: , , Last modified: 16/02/2020
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