Hello, so I thought it would be good to go through some of the gear that I have and use to make some of my content, in this post I am going to focus on the DJI Mavic Pro drone that I have. If you are interested, Ill try and cover some overall thoughts in this post, if you have more specific questions or comments, hit me up on @charlesgreig or any of the other networks I am on.
So I am a major gadget geek, I love gadgets, whats more I love photography and videography too, a drone was like the glorious culmination of a number of passions all colliding into one device, ever since I first saw people jerry rigging their gopros to early drones, I knew this was something that I was going to have to get involved with at some point.
I had been following the drone market for a while, and had already got a GoPro Hero3+ so it was with baited breath that I watched the launch promo of the GoPro Karma… unfortunately for me, in both a tech and an investment point of view, this launch was not to be the awesome crescendo of drone based goodness that I had hoped. Sure, the drone looked ok and the footage that they demoed was no doubt fantastic (You just can’t fault GoPro’s marketing team for the promotional videos they release at the launch of a new product, they are amazing), I think the main problem was, that ‘leaked’ images of DJI’s foldable drone had surfaced basically the day of the Karma launch, strange that. It looks significantly smaller than the Karma and DJI already had a proven track record with numerous Phantom’s and the Inspire also, and thats not even including the other professional drones and drone navigation systems etc that they were offering. It was enough to give pause for thought, also, the price point of the Karma was not exactly super aggressive, something that I had felt sure that they would have to be to try and undercut the more established but smaller drone company, but they obviously thought that their retail presence and brand identity would carry them through. Oh dear.
I was conflicted, so I decided to bide my time, I mean, we were talking about an investment of over a thousand pounds for either system really, and that was a lot for something I had no REAL need for, so I held off and waited to see what would happen and if I could be the benefactor from any aggressive marketing from either company.
Sadly for GoPro, when the Mavic Pro launched, it was significantly smaller, like, you could literally have three Mavic Pro’s in the footprint of one Karma, it had what I considered a better controller that took advantage of your phone and it had a camera built in (this wasn’t really a pro or a con, it just meant it could be smaller and more integrated I guess, but it wasn’t a deciding factor for me). One of the other main differences was the range, and though in the UK you shouldn’t fly out of line of sight, the capabiltiy to go over 7km away compared to a much smaller distance with the Karma just made the Karma seem… less… I don’t know…. good? It wasn’t long either before Karma’s started dropping out of the sky, this cannot have been a pleasant experience for GoPro, they recalled them and, unless I was doing something wrong, stopped selling them in the UK and I guess anywhere outside of the US while they made some fixes.
So I am guessing about a year ago, I pulled the trigger on my Mavic Pro, it was a lightning deal of some sort on Amazon, so it wasn’t an actual ‘fly more’ deal, but it had an extra battery and some bits and bobs, I was super eager to get this bad boy home and see what it could do. I was super pleased to get it home, get it all out the box etc, put the batteries on charge and then… one of the batteries was dead on arrival, gah! not a good start. Not purturbed and with my first ever experience of Amazon’s returns process being pretty painless, I got a replacement battery and was ready to rock.
So, its fair to say that in the time that I have had the drone, its not like I have gone crazy with it, I’ve not really used it THAT much, but what I like about it is, that when I have wanted to use it, it has performed excellently. I was flying it around a friends house and I managed to hit a thin branch of a tree which shook the drone but ultimately the computers and compasses and gyros etc kept it in the air and I was able to recover it before it hit the ground, at the same time as learning a very valuable lesson… REALLY check where you are flying for obstacles.
It’s easy to fly, almost TOO easy, its so easy and so controlled that it kind of takes the fun out of just flying it. Don’t get me wrong, that is a good thing, it makes the whole process safer, but as someone who used to race RC cars and likes a bit of action, the lack of drama in flying it is almost a negative. Almost. What this reliability in the air allows however, is for you to get involved in the planning of what your doing, can you THINK of a cool shot? Panning back out from your subject into the clouds? Cool, you can do it, and you don’t even have to think THAT hard about doing it either!
I got some PolarPro ND filters and polarisers, but I am not going to lie, even though I understand what they are for and how they work, I have never seemingly been able to get the results from them I wanted, I don’t think I am doing something with the video controls and the automatic settings seem to always take over, and I guess thats worth pointing out, though I am confident in my flying and that I know what I am doing, it is still a learning journey, something that I think I could have for another year and still not want to call myself a master of.
I took it with me to Ibiza, it was super easy to travel with, I packed the batteries in my hand luggage as is reccommended with any batteries and that was kinda that in terms of flying with it, no problems either end. I was a little scared of the local law regarding Drones, though I managed to find some guidance in english, the net result was that I didn’t fly it a LOT and when I did, it was very much early morning and in relatively unpopulated areas, whilst I wasn’t doing anything dangerous and I was pretty sure I was flying within the local laws, I didn’t fancy tempting fate with the local authorities. One thing worth noting was that as I was flying it around over the bay, I started getting loads of errors and stuff, pretty worrying when you think your prized possession is about to ditch into the sea, but apparently its because I didn’t re-calibrate the drone in Ibiza and as such the compasses and gyros and stuff doesn’t work properly as they need to be re-calibrated when you travel large distances between flights, none the less, I got away with that one and learned what to do in future.
Is it worth it?
That I don’t know, to me, I would say I have and am getting good value out of it, I would love to try and do some professional work with it, but alas, the ludicrous drone laws mean that if I get paid for a flight that I can, quite legally, do without getting paid, that I am breaking the law, unless I have a CAA certification, from what I can see, this basically does nothing other than milk you of around £2500 in terms of safety for the public, which seems crazy to me. I may consider doing this should the right opportunity present itself to make getting the certification worth it, but until then, I am just flying for fun.
I think if I was to make a purchase now, I would look long and hard at the Mavic Air or the Spark, because, whilst the Mavic Pro is better in some regards, the Air really is very similar and cheaper and smaller, if it had been around at the time I purchased my drone, it is probably the one I would opt for.
I am a big fan of my drone, I think the Mavic Air makes more sense for almost every non-commercial user at this time and I think that they are all super easy to fly so long as you take it seriously and are not distracted – being hit by a blade is not a joke (check youtube if you think it is). If you have a creative itch and some cash, I don’t think you’ll regret it, however, don’t go doing commercial work (weddings, promo videos etc) without the certification and insurance, and consider the cost of both those things before buying if that IS your motivation.
Hope this may have helped, again, if you have any questions or thoughts, let me know on twitter or wherever else you might find me!