DJI Mavic Air Vs DJI Phantom 4 - I Just Wouldn't Get A DJI Mavic Pro Right Now

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Alright, I’m not going to make a DJI Mavic Air Vs DJI Mavic Pro video cause everyone has done that and I think the Mavic Air is better than the Mavic Pro right now. And I don’t think its a good idea to get a Mavic Pro right now cause I think the Second Generation Mavic Pro will be released in the next 6 to 8 months. What I’m interested in is Mavic Air vs the DJI Phantom 4 cause if you know where to look you can get these two drones for almost the same price. 

Remember, this isn’t a full review on either of these drones… I’m just trying to point out the most important differences between them so I can help you with your purchase decision. If you want to learn more about these drones then watch their full reviews. Now to be clear, this is the DJI Phantom 4… not the Phantom 4 Advanced with the upgraded camera or the Phantom 4 Pro with the extra sensors on the sides and rear. The Base DJI Phantom 4 usually retails for $1,119.00 but I actually got this Phantom 4 for $735 brand new. And the brand new DJI Mavic Air is currently retailing for $799 if you get the base package. If you want to pick either of these drones up I’ll have links in the description below, and if you use the links it really helps out the channel. Check them out cause DJI drones sometimes go on sale so you might get lucky.

Ok so lets talk about “whats in the box” for both of these drones. Both drones come with one battery, a controller, 2 full setts of propellers, a power brick and cables to charge the batteries and controllers, and they both come with accessories like gimbal protectors other cables, and a carrying case. Only the Phantom 4 comes included with an SD card, but its only a 16 gig SD card so its not going to do you much. Personally I think you need at least a 32 gig SD card for either of these drones. 

Now lets get the obvious stuff out of the way, the Mavic Air is tiny compared to the Phantom 4. In its folded state the Mavic Air is smaller than the Phantom 4’s controller. It is super easy to travel around with the DJI Mavic Air… If you’re going somewhere even if you’re not sure if you’re going to need a drone or not you’re not going to mind to bring the Mavic Air along with you cause it takes so little space. You can slip it in your jacket pocket or just drop it in your backpack. With the DJI Phantom 4 you kind of have to plan your day around it. Its a big piece of equipment to lug around. And its carrying case does not help the cause. And since we’re talking about the case, the Phantom 4’s case is made out of hard styrofoam just like the Spark’s case. It’ll protect your drone just fine but its still very light weight. But in order to put the Phantom 4 inside its case you have to take the propellers off. With the Mavic Air you just fold it up, drop it in, zip it up and you’re good to go. And when you’re going to fly all you have to do is unfold it and take off. 

But now lets talk about the most important thing on these drones and thats the camera. Both of these cameras are housed in a 3 Axis gimbal system.The DJI Mavic Air is rocking a 1 over 2.3 inch CMOS 12 megapixel sensor while the DJI Phantom 4 is rocking a very similar 1 over 2.3 inch CMOS 12.4 megapixel sensor. Both of these cameras have a 2.8 aperture and they both have an electronic shutter. But the DJI Mavic Air has a field of view of 85 degrees and the Phantom 4 has a slightly wider field of view of 94 degrees. But image quality is much better on the smaller Mavic Air. Colors are much richer on the Mavic Air where as the color on the Phantom 4 is much cooler. You’re really going to have to play around with the settings and in post with the video captured on the Phantom 4. And just putting it out there, the camera sensors on the Mavic Pro and Mavic Pro Platinum are very similar to the Air’s and Phantom. But if you were to go for the Phantom 4 Advanced then you’ll get an upgraded camera with a 1 inch CMOS 20 megapixel sensor, with adjustable aperture, and a mechanical shutter. Which means more detail, better low light performance, and sharper and less distorted video when flying at high speeds. 

Concerning video resolution, both of these drones can shoot in 4K 30 frames per second, 1080p 60 frames per second, 1080p 30 frames per second, and they can both capture slow motion video at 120 frames per second. But the Phantom 4 one ups the Mavic Air by being able to shoot cinematic 4K video up to 25 frames per second. And Basically cinematic 4K is just a little wider than normal 4K. But since I post in 16:9 I don’t really use it. Now both of these cameras do have other video resolution settings to choose from but these are the ones that matter to me the most. Capturing 4K video is especially useful on a drone because you’ll be able to zoom in on certain subjects in post without losing too much detail. But personally I really like shooting in 60 frames per second because it means smoother video. So I typically just shoot in 1080p 60 FPS. 

Now when it comes to photos the Mavic Air wins again. Just like before, colors on the Mavic Air are much richer than the colors on the Phantom 4.

But something the DJI Phantom 4 completely lacks that I feel every drone should have are panorama modes. The DJI Mavic Air can shoot Vertical Panoramas, horizontal Panoramas, 180 degree panoramas, and my personal favorite… Spherical Panoramas. And the DJI Mavic Air is able to take the necessary pictures for these panoramas and stitch them together in a matter of seconds. So theres not much waiting around. And even under high winds the Mavic Air is able to keep itself steady and produce some stunning images. Being able to take horizontal  or spherical panoramas at a moments notice is one of the main reasons why I always carry around my mavic air.

Just to make things simple, the camera on the Mavic Air is better than the camera on the Phantom 4 right out of the box. But when it comes to the gimbal system the phantom 4’s is still superior. The first thing is that if you’re flying in normal mode with the Mavic Air and then switch to sport mode you’re going to get this jerk thats going to ruin your shot, where as with the Phantom 4 it has no problem switching from one mode to another. But while in sport mode the props on the Phantom 4 will show up if your camera is pointed to high up. And if you’re flying very aggressively then the gimbal on the Phantom 4 does a better job of keeping your video smoother than the Mavic Air. 

Now when it comes to comparing battery life, range, and flying dynamics this is where things start to get very interesting and its what you should take into consideration when choosing between the DJI Mavic Air and the DJI Phantom 4. The DJI Mavic Air has an advertised battery life of 21 minutes, and like I’ve said in past videos my Mavic Air averages about 18 minutes of flight time while in the NYC winter where temperatures are between 20 and 40 degrees. And the DJI Phantom 4 has an advertised battery life of 28 minutes, but again in the NYC winter I’ve been averaging 23 minutes. Degraded performance is normal for batteries in cold environments, so hopefully I’ll get that 21 minute flight time on my Mavic Air in the spring and Summer. Now when it comes to charging these drones both batteries require proprietary cables and you have to remove them for their respective drones to charge them. But the 2375 milliamp battery on the Mavic Air takes about 50 minutes to fully charge while the Phantom 4’s 5350 milliamp battery takes about the an hour and 20 minutes to charge. Having a slightly longer flight time on the Phantom 4 is nice, but the extra 7 minutes isn’t really that important to me. Before I take off with either of my drones I usually have a flight path planned out of what I want to shoot. I feel that longer flight times are really only beneficial if you’re flying far out and just getting B-Roll. 

Range and connectivity is another very important thing to take into consideration. The DJI Mavic Air has an advertised range of 4000 meters or 2.5 miles when used with the controller, but thats under ideal conditions with minimal signal interference and with direct line of sight. But in highly populated area with lots of radio signal interference and with lots of tall metal structures I’ve been averaging about 1200 meters on my mavic air before my video feed gets too choppy and I don’t know what I’m doing. The DJI Phantom 4 has an advertised range of 5000 meters or 3.1 miles under ideal conditions and it does a much better job of keeping a consistent connection at a longer range. The video feed might stutter for a second or two but it comes right back. But If you’re a content creator shooting yourself, or tracking a  car while it drives down a canyon road, or if you’re shooting a building I don’t really think having multi mile range is that important unless you’re going for epic landscape shoots or again, getting B Roll.

Flying dynamics is also very different on these drones. The Mavic Air is tight and precise, but the Phantom 4 is like trying to direct a boulder thats sliding on ice. While in their normal flight modes both of these drones have a very similar linear speed of about 18 miles per hour or 8 meters per second. And in sport mode the Mavic Air tops out at a speed of 42 miles per hour or 18.8 meters per second while the Phantom 4 can reach a top speed of 45 miles per hour or 20 meters per second. But at these faster speeds the Phantom 4 is much harder to control cause of all of its mass. Where as the Mavic Air is much more nimble thanks to its smaller size. But the phantom 4 is able to gain and lose altitude much faster than the Mavic Air which is again great if you’re trying to capture landscape shots. It just makes it a little easier cause it takes the mavic air longer to get up or down. 

Both of these drones also have built in sensors that help you preventing from crashing…. The Phantom 4 has forward and down ward sensing sensors that will prevent it from crashing in to something directly in front of it or below it. But if you’re flying from side to side or backwards you’re on your own. The Mavic Air on the other hand has sensors on its front, belly and rear so it can detect obstacles in front of it, below it, and behind it. Having these sensors on the rear of the mavic air means you wont crash into stuff when flying backwards, but you’re still prone to crashing if flying from side to side. Something that I do on a regular basis to get panning shots. 

The Mavic Air also has a new feature called Advanced Pilot Assistance Systems or APAS for short. And when this feature is turned on, the Mavic Air will automatically avoid obstacles… all you have to do is tell it to fly forward. And it also works when flying backwards. Granted the Mavic air will drastically slow down when its automatically avoiding these obstacles but its still impressive none the less. But once it detects theres nothing in front of it again it’ll speed back up. This feature makes flying in cramped environments much less stressful. Where as with the Phantom 4 you don’t have this feature and just its sheer size makes it hard to fly in tighter spaces. 

And finally lets talk about the controllers, the controller on the Phantom 4 is larger than the Mavic Air and its controller combined. But you do get far better signal range and stability with it than the mavic air. And if you wanted to you could also mount a tablet so you can better position your shots. But with the Phantom 4 you can only fly it with said controller. Where as with the Mavic Air you can fly it with the controller, or with your phone. Something that makes life easier if you just want to take a quick snap or if you don’t want to carry the controller around as well. 

So, if you’re in the market for a drone and you have $800 to spend you can either choose between the Mavic Air or the Phantom 4. And in most cases the DJI Mavic Air is far superior to the Phantom 4. It has better image quality, its much more compact, its much easier to fly, and it has those all important panorama modes. But still think there are some people who would benefit from the Phantom 4 thanks to its longer flight time, farther range, and more stable connection. If you plan on getting a lot of landscape shots or if you just need that longer flight time then I would consider the Phantom 4. But for everything else the Mavic air is the way to go. It just comes to show how amazing this little guy actually is.