DJI Drones Explained – which is the right one for you?

This article is an in-depth look at the current consumer drones that DJI has to offer. DJI drones are indisputably the top choice when it comes to aerial cinematography. DJI is the largest drone company and they make solid products that are packed with features to make your flying experience as easy as possible.

Which DJI Drone Is Best?

DJI offers a few different drone models. At first, they all seem very similar, especially when looking at the comparison table below. Do not be fooled by this however, this line up goes from high end professional equipment to beginner level cinematography. All of these drones are relatively easy to fly, straightforward to set up and excel in different ways.

Drone Price $ Flight Time Max Resolution Sensor Size Max Bitrate Range Weight Dimensions (folded if applicable) Avoidance System Max Speed
Mavic Mini 399 30 mins 2.7k 30fps, 1080p 60fps 6.3×4.7 mm 40 Mb/s 4 Km 249g 140x82x57 mm 1, downward 29 mph
Mavic Air 799 21 mins 4k 30fps, 1080p 120fps 6.3×4.7 mm 100 Mb/s 4 Km 430g 168×83×49 mm yes, 3 directions 42 mph
Mavic Air 2 799 34 4k 60fps, 1080p 240fps 1/2″ 120 Mb/s 10 Km 570g 180x97x84 mm yes, 3 directions 42 mph
Mavic 2 Zoom 1349 31 mins 4k 30fps, 1080p 120fps 6.3×4.7 mm 100 Mb/s 8 Km 905g 214×91×84 mm yes, all directions 48 mph
Mavic 2 Pro 1599 31 mins 4k 30fps, 1080p 120fps 13.2×8.8 mm 100 Mb/s 8 Km 907g 214×91×84 mm yes, all directions 48 mph
Phantom 4 Pro 1599 30 mins 4k 60fps, 1080p 120fps 13.2×8.8 mm 100 Mb/s 7 Km 1375g 289x289x196 mm (can’t fold) yes, 5 directions 45 mph
Inspire 2  3299 27 mins 4k 60fps, 1080p 120fps 13.2×8.8 mm 100 Mb/s 7 Km 4250g 42.7×42.5×31.7 mm yes, 3 directions 58 mph

The first place to start when looking at buying a drone is what you require it for, and what your main uses will be. Spending £1350 on a Mavic 2 Pro just to get some “drone selfies” on holiday a few times a year might not be worth it, especially when it is much larger and more expensive than something like the Mavic Mini which you could just throw in a backpack and forget about.

The drone that stands out for me is the Mavic Air 2. It is packed with features, has a new improved camera that allows for 4k 60fps, as well as DJI’s new Advanced Pilot Assistance Systems (APAS) 3.0, allowing for safer flying as well as improved tracking of people/objects.

If you are looking to pick up a cheap drone second hand, the Mavic Air 1 is still an excellent choice. The release of the Mavic air 2 means that the prices will drop considerably. It strikes the middle ground for being light, compact and producing an incredible image. From semi-professional use to capturing incredible photos on holiday, the Mavic Air can do it all yet still remain relatively cheap, with high end capabilities that could warrant a more expensive price tag.

Mavic Mini

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With the new legislation that has recently been placed almost worldwide, drones that weigh over 250g will need registering if you want to fly it anywhere. The response from DJI was undeniably impressive: they made this Mavic Mini that has a range of 4km, a flight time of 30 minutes and a camera that is capable of recording videos at a crisp 2.7K resolution, weighing a mere 249g! (under 250g)

That means you do not need to register this drone in most places (check your local legislation before purchasing), and yet it can still do almost everything that the more expensive, heavier drones can do. I seriously recommend looking at some sample footage on Youtube from a Mavic Mini as it is a very capable drone and should not be overlooked. For an interesting perspective, an iPhone 11 weighs 194 grams – that’s how light this drone really is.

Having said this, the Mavic Mini isn’t for everyone. It only records videos in 2.7K, which can still create some stunning visuals, but is definitely a slight step down from the crisp resolution of 4K. I feel that in most scenarios this couldn’t really be used in professional instances, especially when it has a limited bit rate of 40Mb/s (essentially meaning it doesn’t capture as much detail as other drones like the Mavic Air).

The other downside is the app that it uses on your smartphone, “DJI Fly“, limits its capabilities. It doesn’t have all the “Quickshot” modes, lacks trackable follow and the app (that’s currently exclusive to the Mavic Mini) feels like a “lite” version of “DJI GO 4” that the other DJI drones use.

Finally, it also doesn’t have any sensors for obstacle avoidance so is slightly more prone to being crashed than its more expensive alternatives.

Back to its good points: its cheap so if you crash it or lose it, it’s not too much of a loss. It is tiny so if you have it in your backpack for a long hike you won’t even notice it, and for a cheap way into aerial cinematography, it is a great place to start. Not to mention it outperforms any other drones at this price point. The Mavic Mini is truly an impressive contender for something of this price and size.

Mavic Air

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The Mavic Air has a lot of the premium features such as obstacle avoidance, active tracking and a camera that generates stunning images, all for a comparatively small price.

This drone has been out since the start of 2018 and has had a revamp with its second generation (Mavic air 2), but also means that you can find an abundance of these drones second hand for a good price.

Mind you there is the updated Mavic Air 2 just released recently, so I would strongly recommend not buying this model brand new at this time as they are still the same price. But if you see a second hand one with good price, it’s worth considering.

Be aware that many stores including DJI’s website are still selling this model brand new for the same price as the Mavic Air 2. If you’re looking to buy one new, do buy the second generation. For the same price, you are massively missing out if you buy this two-year-old technology over its newer replacement.

Onto the Mavic Air’s good points however, we can see from the table that it has a maximum bit rate of 100 Mb/s, it can shoot in 4K 30fps and comes in a smaller package than its more expensive counterparts.

So… that’s it then? It’s the best? Not quite.

It lacks the flight time of the Mavic 2’s or the Phantom 4 Pro, it doesn’t have a 1” sensor for more detail and better low light capabilities, it doesn’t have an optical zoom, the list goes on.

However, these are the reasons why the Mavic Air is the perfect “middle ground” drone. It loses some of the more expensive functionality to create a cheaper, smaller all-round great drone. It’s half the weight of the Mavic 2 series, takes up less space in your bag, creates simply stunning photos and videos and still maintains some of the much-needed features including avoidance system front and back, all the various flight modes that make it easier to capture shots autonomously, all at a more obtainable price.

The Mavic Air could be used in a semi-professional manner, or it could be the drone you chuck in your bag to get those great holiday shots. The more expensive drones on the list can generate better images under different scenarios, and if your sole purpose was to use a drone for a professional need, I would save up for something like the Mavic 2 Pro. However, I will say the difference in the video quality is really quite hard to notice between the Mavic 2 Zoom and the Mavic Air, especially considering the price difference of £300.

Mavic Air 2

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DJI released the second rendition of the Mavic air in May 2020. At the time of writing, it is clear that the Mavic air 2 has the best price to performance out of any of these drones on this list. It boasts the longest flight times, the best range, OcuSync 2.0, 4k 60fps, the list goes on. For its size, it is undeniably impressive and definitely a leap forward in the capabilities of these compact drones.

It’s interesting to see that DJI would release a drone that, on paper, seems superior to the Mavic 2 Pro/Zoom. However, the Mavic 2 Pro still takes the edge due to its larger Hasselblad camera sensor, allowing for a more professional image as well as manual control over the aperture. The Zoom has its ability to control optical focus which allows for more creative freedom when capturing more unique visuals. If I had the choice over the three drones and price isn’t a factor, I’d choose the Mavic 2 Pro. If I had a tight budget, I’d probably choose the Mavic Air 2 for its value. Its packed with features, has a larger sensor than the Zoom, and for a saving of £300-£600, seems like an obvious choice.

It does have one minor negative from its predecessor due to its superior performance. Compared to its previous iteration, it has lost a bit of its transportable nature. With a remote twice the size, a slightly larger footprint overall and a greater overall weight it will take up more space in a backpack. Saying this, it is still smaller that the Mavic 2 series, with a smaller footprint (albeit only marginally) and only around 2/3 the weight.

I have a suspicion that the Mavic 2 Pro/Zoom is also due a revamp as they came out the same year as the Mavic Air 1. It doesn’t seem like DJI would make something this capable for a smaller price tag than their more premium products.

Mavic 2 Zoom

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The Mavic 2 Zoom uses the same sensor as the Mavic Air, is larger and more expensive. Its obvious differences come with its newer technology: better flight time and range, and of course the newest feature, 2x optical zoom.

With this comes some new modes, the most prominent being “dolly zoom”. Used in the right scenario it can create a very interesting effect to spice up your video edits, but I feel it may fall short and be more of a gimmick for the casual users.

The Mavic 2 Zoom also has 4x “lossless zoom”, which I don’t see being used in a professional manner as it can only be used in a resolution of 1080p and uses digital zoom to essentially crop in on a video.

A feature I can see being used professionally is the “super res photos” which essentially captures 9 photos and stitches them together to create a massive 48MP photo, allowing for a greater level of detail in your images.

I would compare the Mavic 2 Zoom most to the Mavic Air. The Mavic 2 Zoom definitely produces better video on paper, but not something that is incredibly noticeable. For a more professional use, or just if you want slightly superior images quality, I’d choose this over the Mavic Air.

Just be aware that it is considerably larger, so will be slightly more cumbersome on long hikes to get that perfect shot. For me the Mavic 2 Zoom strikes an odd middle ground: if you want a drone for professional means, the Mavic 2 Pro is certainly the better option. If you’re more of a casual user, you can get a Mavic Air for cheaper that performs similar to the standard of the Zoom. I will say the Zoom is still a very capable drone, with the optical zoom allowing you to widen your creative freedom in a unique manner.

Mavic 2 Pro

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If you want better-looking videos without saving for a DJI inspire 2, this is the drone for you.

It has a larger, 1-inch Hasselblad image sensor meaning that it can capture more light, and perform better in low light conditions such as indoor or later in the day, as well as having a higher ISO ability, again aiding it in low light situations.

It can also shoot in 10-bit Dlog-M, essentially meaning it has more natural looking colours, aiding in more accurate colour grading in post editing. It seems the Pro is the slight upgrade of the Zoom, with slightly better functionality when it comes to a more professional end product – hence the price difference.

I would say this suits someone pursuing a professional image; whilst it can be used fairly easily by a beginner due to its very simple interface (DJI GO 4 App), you won’t be able to get the most out of it, especially when there is so much you can do during editing the footage or images when you have finished flying.

That being said, this drone really has it all. The Mavic 2 series offers the best obstacle avoidance system currently available on any DJI products, has a great range of up to 8km and with a top speed of around 45mph (72km/h), gives you a lot of creative freedom to open up the range of things that you can shoot. DJI has managed to offer this technology in a fairly light, relatively transportable drone in comparison to its more expensive counterparts, the Phantom 4 Pro and the Inspire 2.

Phantom 4 Pro

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Before talking about why I wouldn’t suggest this drone anymore, I will say that the phantom series is really what kicked off DJI’s mainstream popularity, with a lot of the company’s success being based around this very product. It offers professional level quality, ease of use with a true ‘ready to fly’ ideology, that anyone could pick up and obtain some great footage.

Having said this, I can’t suggest that anyone buy one of these (at least new) in this current era. The only strong point over the Mavic 2 Pro is that it can shoot in 4K 60fps over the Mavic’s 4K 30fps. Every other technical aspect seems to match the Mavic 2 Pro, in a package that is heavier and harder to transport because it cannot be folded into a smaller shape.

Prior to the release of the Mavic 2 Pro, I would have wholeheartedly suggested this for those individuals that want to push their professional capabilities as a creator, but since the release of the Mavic 2 Pro it seems to have been dethroned at this price point.

However, if you can get one at a good price (albeit retail on a Phantom is more expensive than the Mavic 2 Pro), it is still a highly capable drone. It may be larger and more of a hassle to travel with, but it still has all the excellent features of the Mavic 2 Pro, such as long flight times and an excellent camera, paired with an easy to use interface.

Inspire 2

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The DJI inspire 2 is the ultimate cinematography workhorse that you can just buy off the shelf.

On this list it is easily the most capable and most adaptable, due to its swappable camera and lenses to suit any environment, to get any shot required. It demands the highest price because it can haul around heavier equipment, can raise its motors above the camera for better flight characteristics as well as full uninterrupted 360-degree views, the list goes on.

This drone is not for the average users. This is truly a professional piece of equipment and requires a large boot to be hauled around in. For its capabilities, it does come in quite a small package – but at 4.2kg for just the drone, it’s not something you’re going to take on holiday for a few dronies.

The Inspire is often used in the creation of TV shows and movies, such as “blue planet” and many others, capturing anything required of it due to its adaptable nature and its top-tier visuals from its array of accessories. I’d only suggest this to individuals that are starting an aerial photography/cinematography business, that have good editing skills and some experience with safe flying of drones. Definitely not for the faint-hearted.

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