In Depth Comparison of the DJI Mavic Mini, Air, Zoom, and Pro Drones

In Depth Comparison of the DJI Mavic Mini, Air, Zoom, and Pro Drones

With the latest Mavic Mini release, DJI now offers four drones in the Mavic line-up, ranging from entry level aircraft to professional grade quadcopter. But picking the right model might be confusing. Here is clear and comprehensive comparison based on direct, hands-on experience.

Criteria of Comparison

Price: The price point is an obvious criterion, but one must not forget all the associated costs of ownership, especially spare batteries which can run up to $159 each.

Portability: The drone size and weight will often dictate which model to buy. While the DJI Mavic Mini falls below the FAA registration threshold (250 grams), the Mavic Pro will take more space in your bag. The size also plays a role in public perception. Larger or louder drones look more intimidating to the public and attract more attention (visibility and noise).

Image quality: Larger drones tend to carry better sensors and optic. Entry-level models are often limited to lower video resolution format and can only record JPEG images.

Flight performance and features: While small aircrafts may struggle in windy conditions, larger drone can be more stable. The maximum speed may be an important feature when filming moving subjects such as racing cars and boats. The battery life is also a critical factor to consider.

Additional features: Anti-collision system, type of radio transmission technology, etc.

DJI Mavic Mini

Price: $399 for the ready-to-fly set. The Mavic Mini is the cheapest DJI drone with a three axis gimbal camera. An extra battery comes at $45.

Image quality: Unlike the previous DJI Spark, the Mini comes with a camera stabilized on three axis. Therefore, this tiny drone offers fully stabilized video recording. Unfortunately, the video resolution is limited to 2.7k (2720×1530) and the 24fps cinematic frame rate has been skipped. The user must select either 25fps or 30fps in 2.7k or up to 60fps in 1080. The maximum bit rate is also on the lower side with 40mbps recorded in h.264. And don’t expect to adjust the picture profile or change the white balance value, they are set and automatic. Finally the new flight app (DJI fly) is as basic as the drone itself. In stills mode, the 12-megapixel sensor can only capture JPEG images; raw/DNG is not available. However, it is capable of shooting time-lapse at up to two-second intervals.

Portability: Weighing only 249grams, the Mavic Mini goes unnoticed in your bag and does not have to be registered with the FAA (only at 250 grams and above).

Flight performance: The Mini can handle moderate winds thanks to its maximum speed of 29 mph (48 kph) in sport mode. The three-axis gimbal does a good job with image stabilization and the GPS keeps the aircraft very steady. In terms of endurance the small battery usually lasts about 20 minutes which is remarkable for that tiny drone.

Additional features: DJI had to remove the anti-collision sensors altogether to achieve this level of portability. However, the new WiFi radio transmission system is clearly improved compared to the one of the Mavic Air. The battery can be recharged with an external USB power bank but it takes two hours to complete the charge.

Pros

  • Tiny and lightweight
  • No need for FAA registration (falls below the 250 grams threshold)
  • Effective 3 axis gimbal stabilization
  • Excellent flight endurance in this class of drone (23-25 minutes in real life)
  • Good flight characteristics and handling for this class of drone
  • Quiet, low acoustic signature
  • Battery can be recharged with an external powerbank
  • No anti-collision sensors (less weight and less chance for bugs)

Cons

  • No 4K recording, limited to 2.7k maximum
  • Automatic white balance only, no manual adjustment or WB lock
  • No raw/DNG recording, JPEG only
  • No 24fps frame rate, only 25,30,50, or 60 (1080 only)
  • No picture profile adjustment (eg. sharpness, contrast, saturation)
  • Basic controller (similar to Mavic Air)
  • Basic striped down flight app (DJI Fly), not as complete as the DJI Go App
  • Poor radio transmission link but better than the Mavic Air transmission
  • No anti-collision sensors (less forgiving for beginners)
  • Long battery recharge time (about 2 hours)

Conclusion: More than a basic selfie drone, the DJI Mini is capable of delivering decent photos and videos in a very small package at a reasonable price. It won’t take much space in your bag and fall outside the legal FAA requirement for drone registration. It's an ideal choice for beginners and casual users who don’t plan on doing advanced creative work. But more than the lack of 4k resolution and 24fps, the absence of manual override for the white balance and picture profile is a big no go for advanced users.

DJI Mavic Air

Price: $750 for the ready-to-fly set. The Mavic Air is the mid-range offering of DJI positioned between the Mavic Mini ($399) and the Mavic 2 Zoom ($1,439). An extra battery comes at $95 which is pricey for this type of drone.

Image quality: this drone is a real step up compared to the Mavic Mini. It can record up to 4k UHD video in 24, 25, and 30fps. Stills can be captured in raw DNG or JPEG. Except for the focal range, the sensor and image features are nearly identical of the Mavic 2 Zoom.

Portability: Weighing only 0.94 lbs (430g), the Mavic Air slightly larger than the Mavic Mini. However, it must be registered with the FAA unlike the Mavic Mini.

Flight performance: This tiny quadcopter can handle moderate winds and easily cruise back to the pilot against the wind in sports mode. The three-axis gimbal does a good job with image stabilization and the GPS keeps the aircraft very steady. The only negative side on this drone is the battery life with only lasts for about 15-16 minutes in real life condition. Much shorter than the 20+ minutes of the Mavic Mini and Zoom/Pro.

Additional features: the anti-collision sensors protect the front and the back of the drone but the sides are exposed. Therefore, it is an intermediate feature compared to the sensorless Mavic Mini and the full 360 degrees obstacle avoidance coverage found on the Mavic 2 Zoom and Pro.

The Mavic Air is smaller and lighter than most lenses. It's the perfect travel drone.

Pros

  • 4k UHD recording in 24,25, and 30fps
  • Good bitrate: 100mbps in 4k (h.264)
  • Raw DNG and JPEG
  • Full manual control of the recording settings (WB, exposure, shutter speed, picture profiles, etc.)
  • Effective 3 axis image gimbal stabilization
  • Small and lightweight
  • Good flight characteristics and handling for this class of drone
  • Built-in 8 GB memory when you forget your memory card at home

Cons

  • Poor radio transmission link, especially in urban environment. Worst radio link of all the Mavic drones.
  • Relatively short battery time (15-16 minutes in real life condition), worst endurance of the Mavic drones.
  • Basic controller (no screen, one control wheel)
  • Noisy for its size
  • No log curve but has Cinelike-D profile

Conclusion: Jack of all trades, master of none? The Mavic Air does not break records in any category, but considering its size, this drone is extremely capable. The three-axis gimbal delivers rock stable footage and the 100 Mbps bitrate is enough to capture 4K video correctly. Yes, the Wi-Fi radio link is bad in urban environments, the flight time is a little short (15-16 minutes) but for the size and price, this drone is very convincing. But there is one major caveat: In many countries outside the USA, the drone automatically limits the transmitting power output to CE mode, severely affecting the range and video quality in urban and suburban environments. Nevertheless, this drone is very capable. Below is a video of Buenos Aires filmed with the Mavic Air. Overall the footage is pleasing and easy to grade.

DJI Mavic 2 Zoom and Mavic 2 Pro

The Mavic 2 Zoom (left) features a small sensor but comes with an optical 24-48mm zoom range. The Mavic 2 Pro is equipped with a large 1" CMOS sensor able to deliver 10 bits footage and higher quality stills.

Price: $1,439 for the Mavic 2 Zoom set and $1,729 for the Mavic 2 Pro. Both drone use the same battery that comes at $159.

Portability: these two drones are nearly identical except for the camera. Thanks to the foldable arms, the Mavic Zoom/Pro fits in a camera bag without taking too much space. It weighs only 2 pounds (0.9 kg).

Image quality: Both aircraft share the same body and only differ by the camera: a small 1/2.3" sensor on the Mavic 2 Zoom and a much larger 1 inch sensor for the Mavic 2 Pro.

The specifications of the Zoom and Pro version are identical except for the camera. Here are the main differences.

Flight performance: The small quadcopter can handle moderate to strong winds fairly well. Switch to sport mode to reach a speed of up to 42 mph (70 kph). It can stay in the air for up to 23-25 minutes.

Additional features: The two versions comes with 360 degrees anti-collision sensors. The OcuSync 2 radio technology guarantees a solid transmission link with much better range and interference rejection than the Mavic Air and Mini. Finally, the controller is a better version of the entry level drones with additional buttons and a central display to visualize the main parameters.

Pros

  • Relatively small and compact
  • Solid camera stabilization and flight performance
  • Full manual control of the recording settings (WB, exposure, shutter speed, picture profiles, etc.)
  • Excellent flight endurance (23-25 minutes in real life)
  • Best in class video transmission link, way ahead of the Mavic Air and Mini
  • High bit rate video recording (100mbps) associated with efficient h.265 codec.
  • Low acoustic signature
  • 360 degrees anti-collision sensors
  • 10 bits recording (Mavic 2 Pro only)
  • Log curve (Mavic 2 Pro only)
  • Versatile zoom range, especially for the Zoom version.

Cons

  • No 4K DCI recording (only 4k UHD)
  • No log curve on the Mavic 2 Zoom (only for the Mavic 2 Pro)
  • Expensive, especially after the recent price increase (due to the USA-China trade war?)

Conclusion: Should you buy the Zoom or the Pro version? Beside the $300 price difference, this decision comes down to your needs. The Mavic 2 Zoom offers a more versatile focal range (24-48mm in full frame equivalent) than the Pro (28mm and 40mm in cropped sensor mode) but only records in 8 bits against 10 bits for the Pro. The Pro is also a natural choice for photography use thanks to its much larger sensor. Both quadcopters can record high bit rate video with efficient h.265 codec but the Pro version does it in 10 bits with a log curve. In any case, the Mavic 2 Zoom and Pro are serious drones able to capture professional grade imagery.

Comparison Chart

In Depth Reviews

For more information about these drones, please check our detailed reviews:

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6 Comments

Koen Miseur's picture

I just bought a Mavic Mini, it's my first "serious" drone (only had a Tello before), for me it's great as I can take it while cycling (it fits in my jersey)! And while it does move in wind (it was 7 beaufort), u can't notice it in the video! While It was my first (and so far only) flight I really like it!

Oliver Kmia's picture

Yeah, it's a very good drone for the size and price. The stabilization is excellent, as usual on DJI drones. Just make sure to calibrate the IMU and compass once in a while or when you travel.

Campbell Sinclair's picture

Ive just bought the mavic air and took it to my mine site in Western Australia. Its super portable , fitting into my carry on. It has the same 1/2.3" sensor as all other mavics apart from the Pro 2 with its one inch Hassleblad. It flies well. At the accommodation village the signal did get a bit choppy due to all the wireless APs scattered around and you think your in the middle of nowhere, but Western Australia outback is crisscrossed by high frequency microwave links for the mines and towns scattered about which interfere and overwhelm the signal with the mavic air and also my old Phantom Pro 3 whicb had occusync. Apart from that I enjoy the automatic panorama and the 5 AEB burst. The 4k 100mpbs is great.

Oliver Kmia's picture

Very good drone indeed except for the poor radio link. The image quality is identical to the Mavic 2 Zoom, expect for the zoom range obviously.

Mark Sanford's picture

Who knows, we may be close to a Mavic Pro 3 but my 2 is still doing a fantastic job. It can turn out some impressive images and the video is stable and great for short clips.

I've tried various display systems for shooting including the DJI goggles (too huge) and the Epson translucent ones which are pretty impressive but also pretty expensive. I tried using my iPhone and an Android tablet and then an iPad mini for a while. At long last I switched to one of the DJI bright screens and it works great. Strangely enough that's what DJI thought too so their new controller has one built in and that's the way to go, no silly cables!

For stills I shoot RAW and even some longer exposures and the thing is amazingly stable even in wind, well done!

Their Pano modes, once understood, can turn out high-res images though there can be stitching issues at times.

Oliver Kmia's picture

I really like the DJI smart controller, no silly cable as you say and I can keep the entire system "air tight", completely disconnected from the internet because I hate DJI's annoying updates and random flight restrictions.
https://fstoppers.com/aerial/fstoppers-reviews-dji-smart-controller-396525