LET’S GET THINGS STRAIGHT
With the recent release of the DJI Mavic Pro and Phantom 4 Pro, there has been a lot of confusion about whether the Mavic is as good as the Phantom 4, or even the new Phantom 4 Pro. If the Mavic really is the better drone, why would anyone want to buy the Phantom 4 when it costs $200 more? Let’s see If we can find some reasons to go with the Phantom 4 over the Mavic. Watch the video above to see the wind test and get an idea of the video quality differences. Remember, this video compares the Phantom 4 to the Mavic, but not the Phantom 4 Pro which would do significantly better in the camera tests.
HOW THEY HANDLE THE WIND
Let’s face it; the Mavic is much smaller than the Phantom 4, so does that mean it won’t hold up in the wind? Not at all. We put both of the drones through extreme winds using a powerful leaf blower and both did better than you would expect. One thing we noticed with the Phantom is that in high winds, it tends to drift up much more than the Mavic Pro. We had to reshoot the video a few times because the Phantom would just keep drifting up out of the camera view.
The Mavic seemed to hold its position better, but the video didn’t look as stable as the Phantom 4. This is mostly because the Mavic has a narrower field-of-view, so any movements of the drone are more noticeable.
In most situations, both drones will handle the typical wind gust better than in this test, because real wind usually doesn’t have as much turbulence. This is more like what the drones would experience if strong wind gusts came along.
The main advantage that the Phantom has is that it has a higher top speed, so it will keep its speed better when going into the wind.
Despite its small size, the Mavic controller fits in my hands quite nicely. I do prefer the feel of the Phantom 4 remote just because it’s more like a traditional RC controller, but I’m liking the controller for the Mavic more and more every day. Both controllers have the same basic buttons, but the Mavic has a dedicated stop button for the smart mode which is nice if it’s getting ready to run into something that it can’t see.
Here’s where the Mavic controller exceeds the Phantom 4. It has and LCD screen for basic flight info, it charges through micro USB, it has a more reliable connection to the Mavic, and it’s super small. The only bad things about it are, there’s no way of mounting a tablet to it, and there’s currently no sun hood available.
The Phantom 4 Pro is has a few improvements over the Phantom 4. It has a focus button integrated into the shutter button, HDMI out, and an SD card slot for viewing your footage if you have an external display. There’s even an optional controller that has a built-in tablet-like display.
If you didn’t know, the Mavic has a whole new camera that’s much smaller than the Phantom 4. The size of the lens on the Phantom 4 is similar to what you would find on a GoPro, where the Mavic is more like a high-end Android phone. It’s tiny, but surprisingly it works. The videos from the Mavic don’t come out with as much digital sharpening as the Phantom 4, but if you add some sharpening in post-production (or turn the sharpening up in the DJI Go app), the video looks (to my eyes) just as sharp. I personally don’t like how much sharpening the Phantom 4 has because it produces more strange artifacts in the images, but I found that those same artifacts don’t exist on the Mavic Pro!
Low light performance on the Mavic is ok, but I think the Phantom 4 beats it by a hair. Both drones go up to ISO 3200, but I would try not to go past 800 or things will go downhill. This is the case for all small cameras, including the GoPro hero 4 and hero 5.
As I mentioned before, the Mavic has a narrower field-of-view (or FOV) compared to the Phantom 4, so shots that you take will look like they were taken with a 28mm lens on a full frame camera. The Phantom 4 isn’t as wide as the GoPro, but it’s still equivalent to a 20mm lens which is approaching the ultra wide lens category. I personally like the Mavic’s FOV because it allows me to get shots that are closer to the action without being “dangerously” close.
I don’t have an example to show right now, but one thing I noticed about flying the Mavic is that you can point the camera up when hovering and you hardly see the propellers at all! The Propellers also seem to show up less in forward flight.
The last thing you should know about the Mavic’s camera is that it doesn’t have a fixed focus like the Phantom 4. This means you need to tap what part of the image you want to be in focus while in the DJI Go App. Having a fixed focus is good and bad. It’s good because you can focus on closer subjects and the background will look slightly more out of focus like a DSLR. It can also make the subject that you’re filming appear sharper. The only bad part is, you have to remember to do it, or your images will come out blurry.
You might be wondering why I haven’t mentioned anything about the new camera on the Phantom 4 Pro. That’s because you can’t compare the Phantom 4 Pro camera to the camera on the Mavic Pro. The Phantom 4 Pro blows all other drone cameras out of the water (including the GoPro Hero 5). It has much better low light performance, higher resolution photos, less compression when shooting video, higher frame rates, tap-to-focus, and aperture control.
OBSTACLE AVOIDANCE AND SMART FEATURES
The Phantom 4 and Mavic Pro both have obstacle avoidance functionality, Tap Fly, and Active Track, but the Mavic has a few new tricks up its sleeve. It can identify rocks, railings, and other obstacles when landing, which means it won’t land unless it feels that the landing area is safe enough. The Mavic Pro can also take pictures of the ground when you first start flying and use those images to land almost exactly where it took off from.
The Phantom 4 Pro is on an entirely different level compared to the Phantom 4 and Mavic Pro. It has cameras in the back and infrared sensors on the sides to give it 360-degree obstacle avoidance. With all of these new sensors, you can now fly backward, forwards and even sideways with more confidence that you won’t crash. It can also travel 10MPH faster in than the other two drones with obstacle avoidance turned on.
Besides the safety benefits, the Phantom 4 Pro also has a new intelligent flight mode called Draw. In this mode, you literally draw a line on the screen, and the go app will generate a flight path which it then overlays on the screen. Using the draw mode, the drone will fly on a set path, and you’re free to pan and tilt the camera.
THE LITTLE THINGS
Right now, the Mavic is new, so things like ND filters and prop guards will take some time to come out. Obviously, since the Phantom 4 isn’t new, there’s a ton of third party accessories available. One thing you won’t have to worry about with the Mavic is buying a case. It’s so small that you could really throw it into any case or bag and not worry about it.
Here’s something you probably never thought about. Most people won’t care about this, but the Phantom 4 does have larger motors and propellers, so you can lift signs, deliver packages, or who knows what else. It’s also big and white, so seeing it when flying line of sight in dark conditions is easier.
WHICH ONE YOU SHOULD BUY
Do you own a decent smartphone? Do you need a sun hood no matter what? Are you trying to lift anything? Do you like shooting video while flying forward? Is portability important to you, or do you need the best video quality? Is Price important to you? These are the main questions you should be asking yourself.
For 70% of the population, I think the Mavic is going to be your best bet, but for the other 30% you might want to consider the Phantom 4 Pro since the camera is so much better and the added sensors can really save you one day.