We’ve all seen those amazing aerial videos taken by modern drones, these high flying quadcopters capture a view of the world we may have never seen before. DJI is one of the leading drone manufacturers to put cameras in the sky and their amazingly capable Mavic Pro is one of the easiest drones to fly.
Want more options? Here are the best drones for taking photos and video from the air.
The compact size and light weight make the Mavic Pro an ideal drone to pack around, but a small size means a small camera, which means poor photos and video quality, right? Let’s find out in this feature focus on the camera of the DJI Mavic Pro.
With a starting price of about $1000, the DJI Mavic Pro is not exactly a toy, rather, it is a serious flying package for consumer level fliers that want to put a camera in the sky. The camera in question this time out is a 12MP shooter that captures 4K video.
Diving deep, the camera on the Mavic Pro handles a handful of shooting resolutions, and speeds, with video capture up to C4K (4096 x 2160) at 24 fps (frames per second,) down to 720p capture, but that 1280 x 720 resolution starts at 24 fps and can boost up to 120 fps.
If slow motion video is your desire, you can capture, as I say, up to 120 fps at 720p and up to 96 fps at full HD, 1920 x 1080.
The camera itself is a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor with a total pixel count of 12.71 M, capturing photos at 4000 x 3000 pixels. The lens is a 28 mm focal length with 78.8 degree field of view at f/2.2.
Truth is, the camera spec sheet is almost as long as a full sized camera. Let’s lay it all out for you.
|DJI Mavic Pro|
|Camera||1/2.3" CMOS 12MP 4K|
|Lens||FOV 78.8° 28 mm f/2.2
(Roughly equivalent to 35 mm)
|ISO||Video ISO 100 - 3200
Photo ISO 100 - 1600
|Shutter||8s - 1/8000s|
|Video recording||MP4 or MOV
Cinematic 4K - 24fps (4096x2160)
4K - 24/25/30fps (3840x2160)
2.7K - 24/25/30fps (2704x1520)
FHD - 24/25/30/48/50/60/96fps (1920x1080)
HD - 24/25/30/48/50/60/120fps (1280x720)
|Photo capture||4000 x 3000 resolution 4:3
4000 x 2250 resolution 16:9
Single shot or burst 3/5/7 fps
|Storage||Up to 64GB micro SD
Class 10 and/or UHS-1 minimum, UHS-3 recommended for 4K video
|Remote controller||Max 4.3 mile operating range
Video record button
Photo capture button
Camera tilt scroll wheel
Camera exposure value scroll wheel
Center focus and auto exposure button
|Mobile support||FPV video streaming 720p by default, 1080p optional
Tap to focus
Full manual controls available
-90° to +30° vertical pitch
0° or 90° roll (Landscape or Portrait)
Camera sensor capabilities aside, the camera itself is a little metal cylinder attached to a highly capable 3-axis motorized gimbal. The whole assembly suspends with shock absorption for ultra smooth video in flight.
The gimbal articulates a full -90 degrees down, to shoot straight at the ground, and 30 degrees up. You have control of this pitch, to a certain extent, use the left wheel on the controller to tilt all the way down, but only up to level, the remaining 30 degrees are reserved to maintain forward facing video capture when the drone is tilted in flight.
Out of your control is a slight yaw, again managed by the drone itself to keep the camera pointed ‘straight’ and used to ease video movement when the drone turns.
Finally, instead of using software to rotate your capture between landscape and portrait, the camera actually spins itself a full 90 degrees, ensuring the best use of the sensor.
How well does the gimbal work on the DJI Mavic Pro? Here is a sneak peak at our upcoming Mavic Pro vs GoPro Hero5 camera comparison. We’ll better show off the actual camera capabilities when we get there, but for now, watch how shaky the non-stabilized footage can be.
Photo results and video footage
We can talk about the specs of the camera on the DJI Mavic Pro all day, but what matters, of course, is seeing the results.
As you might imagine, we spend the vast majority of our airtime capturing video, which you watched in the video above. Photo capture takes on a new life, we must admit that the lens and overall camera setup are geared toward video, photos are nice, but not as clear and crisp as some of the better smartphones out there, never mind DSLR cameras.
Before we go too far, allow me to say that the overall result of both photos and video is usually a little muted. Image quality is not a concern, but we opt to bump up the color saturation on almost every photos and video we capture with the Mavic Pro.
The real difficulty with aerial photography is that you are almost always capturing the sky in frame. As you may know, the sky is usually bright enough to wash out, to over-expose, when you set your values to best see the ground below. Conversely, capturing the sky often darkens the ground below to the point of losing details.
Your modern smartphone likely offers HDR photo capture, designed to overcome the dramatic dark and light situations of a bright sky in the background, or other low light capture, but not the Mavic Pro, sadly. Luckily, you can spin the right side wheel on the control to adjust the EV (Exposure Value.) Able to bump up or down about 2 full points, in roughly 0.3 point increments, you can brighten or darken the image capture with ease.
Most times, your white, black, contrast, highlights and shadows are all well balanced, you may have to adjust exposure after the fact, a little, but mostly it is just that color saturation.
Last thing, lens flare. Sadly, the lens of the Mavic Pro is fairly susceptible to lens flare, often creating rolling lines on the video, you’ll see this several times in the review video above. We think this is an acceptable distortion, all things considered, but will be looking into ND filters to see if that helps.
Here is the video we shared in our full Mavic Pro review of some video samples with and without color grading. As you can see, things look great straight out of the camera, but a little tweaking can really change the look and feel of your video.
Now for some photos from the sky, enjoy this little gallery of shots from our short few weeks flying the Mavic Pro in California, Oregon, British Columbia and Alberta.
Mavic Pro photo gallery
This first set is photos taken directly using the still photo capture – so, just normal photos. All photos are untouched and unedited. I truly had the urge to color grade them. Taken at full 12MP, downsized to 1080P.
Mavic Pro video frames photo gallery
This second collection are frames extracted from video shot on the Mavic Pro. I’ll let you decide if these are good enough for your needs, because, after all, you cannot shoot a picture while video is recording, so the ability to extract shots like these from the video itself, not half bad.
These frames were taken from 2.7K video, then downsized to 1080p, otherwise are untouched and unedited in any way.
Mavic Pro 4K video sample
Here is some straight up 4K video captured by the Mavic Pro. Just a few short shots to show off the full glory. I’ve used the same minor color saturation bump and tiny bit of vignette as the main camera feature above, so it’s fairly close to default camera settings capture.
Mavic Pro ND Filter sample
DJI recently introduced new accessories for the Mavic Pro, one of which is a set of ND Filters to help with bright lights and shooting toward the sun. We are working toward a full test and comparison of the three filters, an ND4, ND8 and ND16, but we really have not had a warm and sunny day to fly here in Oregon. Easter day was decent, as you’ll see in the video, but I had to go for a decent highway drive to get some footage to work with. Hope you enjoy and stay tuned for more.
There you have it, I hope you can agree that the DJI Mavic Pro is a super camera, at least when considered as being attached to a flying frame and not costing $5000 or more. There are better cameras out there, no doubt, and there are better flying drones, barely, but our conclusion remains the same, there is no more portable, easily used and flown quadcopter drone on the market today. The ease of use and relatively low price make for the best bang for the buck drone we can think of.
What do you say, is the camera on the DJI Mavic Pro capable enough to handle your aerial photography needs?