With the recent announcement from DJI about the Mavic air, DJI now has a drone at each $200/$300 step (give or take) from the $499 Spark*, through the $799 Mavic Air ending with the $999 Mavic pro (or $1,100 for the Platinum Pro).
But which is the drone you
want need? With the steps being so small it is tempting to jump to the next level for just a few more dollars, but should you? Here is a breakdown on what each of those drones will do for you and which is better for each of their intended uses.
These, of course, are my thoughts. They are based on my usage of the Mavic Pro and the Mavic Pro and the things I saw about the Mavic Air. you mau think diferntly, in this case, hit me in the comments and let me know!
Image & Image Quality
In this section the Mavic pro and Mavic Air win hands down, both shoot at 4K while the Spark only shoots at 1080p. Al three drones use a 1/2.3” CMOS sensor, but 1/2.3″ at 1080 is not 1/2.3″ FHD. Heh.
You may also want to note that the Mavic pro has a F/2.2 aperture allowing more light in, while the Mavi Air, has an F/2.8 lens. This is not a big deal, about 2/3 of a stop. On the other hand, the Mavic air can do 100Mbps bitrate allowing for more post-production latitude. I guess we will have to wait and see how these two operate in a marginal light situation and if the higher bit rate compensates for the smaller aperture. (The spark sits right in the middle with a F/2.6 lens, but not shooting 4K really takes it out of this section). Slo-mo wise, the Air does 120FPS at 1080, while the Pro’s slo-mo is only at 720. On the stills end, the higher end models provide RAW format via digital negative (DNG) and the spark can only output JPGs.
Another difference is the FOV angle. The Mavic Air has the widest lens at 85°, the Spark is slightly behind with an 81.9° lens and the Pro is lingering at 78.8°.
As far as stabilization goes, both the Mavic Pro and the Mavic air feature a 3-Axis gimbal (pitch, roll, yaw) while the Spark only has a 2-Axis Gimbal (pitch, roll).
So the Mavic Air wins this round
Control & Flight
This comes down to what you need. All three models come with a remote control of some level. All three remotes support basic operations like navigating the drone, calling it home and starting/stopping the camera. The Mavic Pro’s and the Mavic Air’s are more advanced and have a lot of telemetry on the remote itself: Drone height, distance, battery status for both the remote and the drone, and make other indicators that I find very useful. Of course, once you plug a display/phone in, telemetry is very similar.
All drones support intelligent flight modes to some degree. All three support active track, which I find the most useful mode of all. All three drones support a quick smartphone/selfie/gesture mode if this is your thing. Actually, if quick selfies are your thing, the Spark and Air seem to be much easier to fly out of your hand due to their size.
how about the distance though? The Mavic Pro will let your drone get away for up to 7,000 meters (check your local laws about this – just because you technically can, does not mean that you are allowed to), the Mavic Ait will fly for about half as far: 4,000 meters and the Spark will cut that in half again for 2,000 meters.
Lastly, there is flight time. The Spark can fly for 16 minutes, the Air for 21 and the Pro for 27 (30 if you look at the Platinum model).
The max speed for the Pro is 65 kph, the Air’s 68.4 kph and the Sparks is 50kph. If you are trying to decide between the Air and the Pro, this will probably not be one of the key points.
31 mph (50 kph) in Sports Mode.
This is a win for the Mavic pro
Portability & Form Factor
The spark is the smallest of the three drones, but weirdly enough it is not the easiest one to carry around. Sure its 300 grams are lighter than the Pro’s three-quarters of a kilo and of the Air’s 430 grams, but it “fails” on form factor. Both the Mavic Pro and the Mavic Air fold nicely into a bulky package. It protects the propellors and cuts the drone width by about a half. The DJI Spark, on the other hand, can not fold and is always “unfolded”. This makes it kinda cumbersome to carry.
If you look at the weight again, the Mavic Pro weighs like about one and three quarters Mavic Airs. Is this a bad thing? I am not sure. More weight means better wind resistance. Sure there is a small impact on carrying weight – about a can of soda. Does it worth the extra performance? I think so.
Its a tie – Mavic Air if you are weight-centric (say riding a bicycle), Mavic Pro if you need the performance.
Each of the Drones come in two flavors: “bare bones” and Fly More Combo. The fly more combo has more accessories, like a remote control, a bag, extra propellers and spare batteries. From my experience, the Fly More combo is always the better deal. Here are the prices for all:
- Spark: $499* for the bare bone package, and $853* for the Fly More Combo
- Mavic Air: $799 for the bare bones and $1,112** for the Fly More Combo
- Mavic Pro: $999 for the bare bones package and $1,381** for the Fly More Combo
With current discounts, the Spark obviously wins for price and would be a great gift, while the other two drones are priced at a more prosumer level. Either way, I think it’s always better to get the fly more combo.
No matter how you look at it, the ability to take aerial footage at 4K (or even HD) at sub $1,000 is nothing short of amazing. For me, I am going to stick with my Mavic Pro for now. The smaller form factor and pano modes are not worth selling the Pro for the Air. (Look at your local forum, 2nd-hand Mavic Pros are a dime a dozen now :) ). This may change if I need the higher bit rate, but for anything else, the Pro is good enough.
If I was in for a new drone and did not need the control distance, I would go for the Air. It is cheaper and gives better bitrate.
I made a table to sum it all up and help you made a drone decision.
|Drone||DJI Spark||DJI Mavic Air||DJI Mavic Pro|
|Dimensions (folded)||143 x 143 x 55 mm||143.9 x 78.3 x 61.2 mm||198 x 83 x 83 mm|
|Remote Range||1.2 mi (2 km)||2.49 mi (4 km)||4.3 mi (7 km)|
|Max. Speed (Sport Mode)||31 mph (50 kph)||42.5 mph (68.4 kph)||40 mph (65 kph)|
|Max. Flight Time||16 minutes||21 minutes||27 minutes (30 on Platinum)|
|Sensor||CMOS, 1/2.3"||CMOS, 1/2.3"||CMOS, 1/2.3"|
|Focal Length||25 mm||24 mm||28 mm|
|Video Recording||Full HD: 1920ª1080 30p||4K Ultra HD: 3840ª2160 24 / 25 / 30p||4K Ultra HD: 3840x2160 24 / 25 / 30p|
|Video Storage Bitrate||24 Mbps||100 Mbps||60 Mbps|
|Slow motion||none||120 FPS @ 1080p||120 FPS @ 720p|
|Image size||12MP||12MP, 32MP Panoramas||12MP|
|Photo format||JPEG||JPEG & DNG||JPEG & DNG|
|Gimbal||2-axis gimbal (pitch, roll)||3-axis gimbal (pitch, roll, yaw)||3-axis gimbal (pitch, roll, yaw)|
|Bare bones price||$499.00||$799.00||$999.00|
|Fly More Price||$853.00||$1,112.00||$1,381.00|