Conclusion

What we like What we don't
  • Portability is best-in-class
  • 4K/30p at 100 Mbps captures higher quality video than the Mavic Pro
  • Forward and rear obstacle avoidance allows for greater security in more types of shots
  • Raw stills capture with burst mode
  • APAS system more subtly avoids obstacles
  • Fast 65 km/h (42 mph) speed
  • Expanded intelligent flight modes
  • Video quality is poor in shadow details
  • Video falls apart when shooting scenes with tree branches, leaves, grass, or other small patterns
  • Mediocre low-light performance
  • Lacks sideways obstacle avoidance
  • Limited range due to use of Wi-Fi for signal transmission
  • No D-Log or flat color profile equivalent
  • Shrill propeller noise

Overall conclusion

Overall performance of the Mavic Air is excellent when considering the size, design, and images it can produce. This drone is the absolute best option for size-conscious consumers who still demand good-quality imagery. The portability of both the aircraft body and the controller are unrivaled. It's great for the hobbyist who likes to travel and could also be applicable to a professional who knows how to apply it for specific purposes. The drone offers enough beginner-friendly features, like obstacle avoidance and automated flight modes, to make it easy to use out of the box, yet still delivers - to a point - on image quality demanded by more picky professionals.

ISO 100 | 1/320 sec | F2.8 | DJI Mavic Air

Photo by Reza Malayeri

This drone is not capable of shooting content on the upper end of video and film production, however. A colorist would have a very difficult time getting footage from the Mavic Air to fit seamlessly with ProRes or Raw footage. Yet the small and sturdy three-axis stabilized camera is smooth, and it captures good-quality 4K video for the sensor size, as well as Raw stills in DNG format. The colors coming out of the camera are pleasing and DJI has done a great job of keeping the images looking natural, without too much sharpening or extreme noise reduction.

Compared to similar models

The Mavic Air delivers a lot of bang for the buck, but it's certainly not the only model worth considering. Here are a few other options and how they compare:

DJI Mavic Pro/Pro Platinum: These are DJI's original Mavic models, and the Mavic Air represents an upgrade in almost every category other than battery life and image transmission. The Mavic Pro will fly for 27 minutes vs. the Mavic Air's 21 minutes, and the Mavic Pro uses the superior OcuSync image transmission while the Mavic Air uses extended Wi-Fi. Otherwise, the Mavic Air bests it predecessors in size, portability, 4K video quality, a slightly higher top speed, and obstacle avoidance in back and front paired with APAS. With a list price of $1,000 the Mavic Pro is priced a bit higher as well.

DJI Mavic 2 Pro/Zoom: The Mavic 2 Pro was DJI's big announcement towards the end of last year. It provides a significant improvement in image quality thanks to a 1"-type sensor, and boasts far superior signal transmission thanks to OcuSync 2.0. It also includes 10-bit color and D-LogM color profile. The Mavic 2 Zoom has a small sensor like the Air, but includes an optical zoom lens and the ability to create 'dolly zoom' effects automatically. The Mavic Pro 2 lists for $1,500 while the Zoom model lists for $1,250. When folded, both are about the same size as the original Mavic Pro, so are less compact than the Mavic Air.

Parrot Anafi: The Anafi is another small, foldable drone similar to the Mavic Air. Both capture 4K/30p video at up to 100 Mbps, and have similar sized sensors, though the Anafi's sensor is 21MP vs. 12MP on the Mavic Air. The Anafi has a couple unique features of its own, including a 180º tilting camera that can shoot straight up and 2.8x zoom in 1080p mode. However, it lacks an obstacle avoidance system. Its list price is competitive with the Mavic Air at $700.

DJI Spark: The Spark is a smaller cousin to the Mavic Air that's less oriented towards enthusiasts and pros. It has many of the same flight modes as the Mavic Air along with the fun SmartCapture gesture controls, but the Spark tops out in video resolution at 1080p and has no option for Raw photo capture. Its range is also more limited. All of this drops the price of the Spark to $400, around half the cost of the Mavic Air.

Sample gallery


Mavic Air rating

Build Quality

Ease of Use
Photo Quality Portability

Video Quality

Obstacle Avoidance
Camera and Gimbal Range
Controller Battery Life
Overall Rating 3.75