A quick little video for KBHDelaware.com showcasing Rehoboth Beach Delaware’s only bayfront mobile home community. Lots of folks want to move to “The Beach” and buying a vacation, full-time or retirement home in Rehoboth Bay MHP is an affordable way to accomplish that.
Practicing some orbit moves and fly-bys around the Cape May-Lewes Ferry in some relatively stiff winds. The Inspire 2 handled it like it a pro and had enough punch to power through some gusty conditions.
Recently flew from Baltimore (BWI) to Las Vegas (LAS) via Southwest Airlines for a week of vacation in southern Utah and northern Arizona. You bet your ass I wanted to bring a drone along so I’m writing this down before I forget the details. Maybe it will help anyone that has questions about getting on a plane with a drone. As usual, this post contains affiliate links. If you see something you want to buy, use them – it’ll help me out![Read more…] about Airline Travel with a Drone
A very short clip testing out some low light footage from the Phantom 4 Pro. Also uploaded to YouTube (below) to see how their compression affects the detail and color. Either version looks a whole lot cooler full screen. Shot in H.265 and edited in Adobe Premiere CC with a bit of Lumetri grading to taste. I’ve found that editing the H.265 clips from the Phantom 4 Pro on my Mac Pro is much easier when I create proxy clips in Premiere (ProRes 1280 x 720) instead of editing the native clips.
With this proxy clip workflow, even my little MacBook 12″ can handle some light H.265 editing work on the go. For a primer on how to do exactly what I’m describing, check out this video tutorial from Adobe.
Totally in love with the P4P. It has been my go-to drone for just about everything lately. The Goldilocks solution. The Mavic is awesome for portability, but its image quality is meh. Inspire 1 Pro is awesome for stills and video, but it’s a pain to lug around. Phantom 4 Pro hits hard in all the right spots.
Blurry, Out of Focus Areas – Lens/Sensor Mis-alignment?
I didn’t want to believe it when I first found it, but there it was… on the left hand side of every image I’ve taken with my new Mavic Pro: An oddly shaped area where detail seemingly stops and just turns mushy. Is it minor? Meh – yes and no. It doesn’t take up the entire image, but it’s definitely there. If I were a casual user doing nothing but posting small images to social media it probably wouldn’t bother me as much. Given that my main purpose for the Mavic is photography however – it bugs the shit out of me. If I’d like to print out a large image to frame, stitching a panorama together, or sending full resolution files like this to a client – no way.
I’ve tried tapping to focus on the left side (even though that shouldn’t change the focal plane), and tapping focus on the right side… tried tapping up, down, all over the place and still get the same results. I also tried manual focusing, focusing near and focusing far. No dice. Someone also mentioned calibrating the IMU and resetting the camera via the Go App, so I gave that a shot (even though that shouldn’t have anything to do with focus either). Guess what? Same results. Gotta be hardware, which is super disappointing given that the rest of the image frames are in focus and tack sharp.
Here are some examples, (purple line + text overlays added to emphasize the areas I’m talking about) :
I’ve been a photographer for many, many years and I’ve used a ton of glass. To the right is some proof. I’m totally aware that some lenses, especially wide angle lenses (mavic = 28mm eqv) have sweet spots and massively different edge sharpness vs center sharpness. I’ve only had to return a couple lenses for this reason to get a better “copy” but I feel like that may be the case here.
Raw DNG link 1 (dropbox/24.3MB)
Raw DNG link 2 (dropbox/24.3MB)
Raw DNG link 4 (dropbox/24.3MB)
Raw DNG link 5 (dropbox/24.3MB)
The links above will let you download some dng’s straight from the Mavic. I don’t know… am I expecting too much of this little lens/sensor combo? If the whole image was as sharp as the center and right hand side, I’d be totally happy. You tell me? Part of me feels like I’m overreacting, part of me feels like if I’ve paid this much for a tool, it should work 100%. Right now it looks like I’m going to have to get in touch with DJI on Monday to try and get an RMA setup because knowing this is there will drive me insane. I can only hope that my “DJI Refresh” enrollment gets me a quick replacement/turnaround. Fingers crossed, and I’ll update this post with any info.
Called DJI North America/LA and explained what was going on. They agreed after seeing my sample images that I had a bad lens and that it was a widespread issue others have been experiencing with the first batch of Mavic Pros. No argument there at all. They set me up with a case number, RMA and return shipping label. As we speak, my Mavic is on it’s long journey back to the People’s Republic of Kalifornia.
There was some back and forth about how to handle it on their end due to my unit still being in what the rep referred to as the 14 day “return or exchange period” – plus having the DJI Refresh coverage. He gave me the option to “repair” or “replace” the unit and I told him “Whatever will get me a 100% working Mavic Pro faster is the choice I’ll choose.” His suggestion was that I choose the repair option because replacement units would be ordered directly from DJI China as new orders and “we are still having long supply and production times/wait.”
I am hopeful that maybe… just maybe they’ve got a couple boxes of fresh, sharp mini-gimbals out there in LA that they can just swap out on mine since there was nothing else wrong with it. Notably, they asked me on two occasions (I had to call back and clarify what they wanted in the box – only the unit) if I had experienced any other problems with my Mavic – any odd flight characteristics or controller trouble, of which I had none. Mine flew like it was on rails. Fingers crossed I get my same unit back and not some refurbished lemon that takes great photos but files like a drunken mule. Snapped a shot of the serial number before boxing her up… time will tell. Sigh.
UPS delivered my Mavic yesterday (Thu/17th) at the DJI LA Compound. Radio silence – No email or update. When I query the repair portal with my case number under “REPAIR PROGRESS INQUIRY” it returns my case as “Accepted” with minimal info. I was curious about the “MY CASE” area, and after a couple clicks I was able to “Register” my case there.
Registering “the case” was a strange process of filling out duplicate forms, tracking, serial numbers, etc. I can only guess this is some kind of account linking mechanism between databases to display your active support/repair cases when you’re logged into your DJI account. Anywho, when I click on “My Cases” now, the case details reveal that my case is setup as a “Replacement”, complete with all my info. IDK. I hope this doesn’t mean I’ll be waiting until Mid-January for a “replacement”, and hopefully within the next couple of days there will be some kind of status update. Maybe.
Radio silence broken tonight – Received two emails about an hour apart from each other.
— 6:54PM EST —
DJI Product for Repair Received
The item you sent to DJI for repair has been received and your case number is
Please visit our Repair Progress Inquiry website or use the DJI GO App to view the repair progress in one business day.
— 8:14PM EST —
DJI Damage Assessment
Your Mavic Pro has been evaluated by our repair team. Your case No. is:
Please visit our Repair Progress Inquiry website or use the DJI GO App to view the repair progress. We will email you an invoice in two to three business days.
Seriously hoping they skip the whole invoice part. Will keep updating this post with any other news.
A flurry of awesome news today (started Monday, around noon EST) – and good info for those wondering what a gimbal & camera assembly replacement will run you:
Tracking number shows they’re shipping it back via UPS Ground, with an estimated arrival time of next Tuesday Nov. 29th. Will post an update here when it shows up and let anyone reading this know how things look.
For anyone else concerned about sending theirs in: I was extremely worried about how long they’d have mine. I thought they’d have it for months, not weeks. It looks like total time from door to door is just about two weeks (depending on where you’re located). UPS Ground is the only thing holding things up. Figure out your time-in-transit durations for shipping your unit to DJI (zip code 90745), add two to three business days for repairs, and then time-in-transit back. Granted, this could change based on volume or parts availability, but two or three weeks is completely reasonable (at least to me) for a warranty repair.
If anyone from DJI is reading this, I’d really like to commend you guys on your improved repair speed – total time at the facility was just two business days (which is tremendously improved from last year when I had to send my Inspire 1 back). Thank you DJI. Your QC at the factory could be a bit better, but I’m an early adopter and can understand things like this happen. Thanks for making it right at no cost to me, other than time.
The Mavic is back but the jury is still out. DJI definitely sent me back a completely different/refurbished bird – not the same serial number and some packing stickers were still on it in odd places. After unpacking it, setting it up and configuring it like a brand new Mavic (activation, firmware update and all) I only had a few minutes to shoot a couple images before it got dark, and the last couple days have been shit weather wise around here.
As far as flight is concerned, it flew perfectly. But from initial inspection there is still edge softness on images. It takes up much less of the frame, and it’s now appearing more on the right hand side and deeper in the corners. Sigh. I’m not 100% sure. This may be as good as it gets with this tiny ass camera. I don’t know. Super frustrating to see others with total edge-to-edge clarity. Really need to get it out in some better light with faster shutter speeds and less wind. Will post sample pictures here as soon as that happens.
After a glass of scotch, there’s some serious arguing going on in my head. On one hand, I’m still thinking I may just be nit-picking. The Mavic that was sent back to me is indeed better… in my book, somewhere around 85-90-ish percent. But it’s not perfect. The softness is noticeable much further down in the corner and doesn’t seem to run all the way up the side like my old one did. When I step back (and stop pixel-peeping) and think about how much of the image is affected, it’s less than 10-15% in most shots. That side of me says “dude, you may just have to accept the Mavic for what it is… a portable, aerial, point-n-shoot. Not an A7IIR, not a Mamiya, not a Hasselblad.”
Then there’s the other side of me that wants to kick the shit out of the guy saying that. I know there are Mavics out there that are 100% razor sharp from edge to edge. I’ve seen the images. Why should I settle? Why shouldn’t I demand one that works 100%? I wouldn’t buy a brand new car at full price with 10% of it covered in dents, right? Aghhh. First world problems. The more and more I think about it, I work hard for my money – I’ll be damned if I’m going to just let it slide. This isn’t the first time DJI has done this to me either. My Inspire 1 saga lasted about a half a year and required two trips as well. Come Monday, I’m going to have to call them again and see if I can get setup with yet another RMA to get this one sent back too.
UPON FURTHER REVIEW
Wanted to give DJI the benefit of the doubt today and do just a couple more tests (in case it was me being a jackass). Made sure all the batteries, firmware and app were up-to-date, reset all camera settings, did an IMU calibration, compass calibration, sprinkled some holy water around and did a little dance while chanting. All systems go. It was a cloudy morning with no wind. Shutter speeds were a little low (1/100th) but acceptable. Ascended to just shy of 240 feet, parked it in GPS mode and started shooting.
All the photos I’d shot before were focused by pressing C1 to focus on the center of the frame. I wanted to test the center focus method using the C1 button versus actually tapping to focus in different areas. The results were surprising.
If it pleases the court… here we have “Exhibit A” and “Exhibit B”, respectively. Exhibit A was focused using the C1 button and the center of the frame. Exhibit B was focused by tapping deep in the lower right hand corner (where I was experiencing softness). Below are 100% views..
Fuck me Freddie. Yeah, instant sharpness in that lower corner when I tap to focus waay down there. The black sedan is in focus, brown leaves in the grass look sharper and the bushes look crisper. But what about the rest of the image?
Just as I feared, the focus had shifted down to that lower right corner leaving the opposite side/edge of the photo soft. Check out the roof of the house, the red boards/steps on the back deck, the green bush at the top and the tree and pile of leaves at the bottom.
Ok, so I thought “Maybe there’s a sweet spot midway between center and that lower corner.” Tried again. And again. And again. Same results each time… either the center is sharp and that lower right corner is soft, or the lower right corner is sharp and the rest of the image is soft.
12/05 – GOING BACK TO CALI
Sigh. I’m throwing my hands up, had enough. Something has to be off with the focusing system or alignment. All I’m after is a Mavic that can produce an image that has consistent sharpness from edge to edge. I know it’s possible, scroll down to the middle/end of this page. They’re out there. So frustrating… but could always be worse I suppose. Off it goes again, back to Kalifornia.
02/12 – As good as it gets
Thanks to Christoph for asking about how things ended up… In my frustration I didn’t get around to writing a follow up. So Mavic #3 they sent back to me still has an ever-so-slight amount of blur (i think, but could just be me), it’s so minor i’m just like “this is as good as it’s going to get with this thing… can’t expect 5D/A7RII quality out of such a small lens/camera.” On most images I’ve shot with it you’d only notice it if you’re pixel peeping.
DJI also sent me a spare battery with the replacement Mavic, maybe as some kind of consolation… idk. It was a nice little perk, along with extra blades on each replacement unit… I think I have about six spare sets now. While my Mavic was in-transit back and forth I decided to buy a Phantom 4 Pro which is night and day. A ridiculous step up in image quality. Been flying that a lot more and it seems to be the sweet spot/goldilocks drone for me right now – good balance of size/convenience/features and resolution.
The Mavic gets taken along *only* when I don’t have room for the P4P. Really cool design on the Mavic and I do like it’s portability, but it’s hobbled by image quality. If that kind of thing really, really matters to you, I’d go with the P4P. In an ideal world, it’d be really cool if DJI developed a Phantom 5 that was the same form factor as the Mavic (maybe a bit larger) but with the camera of the Phantom 4 Pro. Time will tell.
It’s that time of year again. Wanted to capture some of the peak foliage with the Inspire 1 – enjoy!
And lo, the brown box gods decided to shine favorably upon me… last Friday my Mavic Pro “Fly More Combo” was delivered early. It wasn’t scheduled to get here until Monday (Halloween) but for some bizarre reason the FedEx guy showed up around lunchtime on the 28th. Giddy doesn’t begin to sum it up.
I had ordered the Mavic on release day directly from DJI [order time: 2016-09-27 17:43:31 (UTC)] which was an exercise in extreme patience in and of itself. DJI’s servers were down for at least an hour and a half right after the announcement and I must’ve refreshed that page hundreds of times trying to get that damn thing added to the cart. Finally got it ordered – and then the waiting began. A long month of forum reading and lots of rumors. Lots of uncertainty about when it would show up.
Anyway… it made it. Thank you DJI and thank you FedEx. Right out of the box the Mavic is impressive. Solid, amazingly small and well made. Bonus points for nice packaging too. The thing looks like it’s from the future (or some terminator movie) and is as badass as you can imagine. But I’m not going to bore you with any bullshit details about specifications, capabilities or features. You can find all of that in a million other places on the web. I wanted to fly it, use it and take it with me for a week and then share my thoughts about it. So if you’re looking for someone’s opinion who has owned and operated a multitude of DJI drones, keep reading.
Is the Mavic Pro your favorite drone/greatest device ever?
No. And it’s tough saying that because I really do like the thing.
Why? My current collection of drones includes the Phantom 4, the Inspire 1 Pro and now the Mavic Pro. Each tool has its place, each has its strong and weak points. If someone were to say to me “You can only pick one” I’d sadly point to the Inspire 1 and watch the P4 and Mavic drift off into the sunset.
Why? Photo quality. The Inspire 1 is just a beast. Still my #1. Photo and video quality when paired with the X5 is fantastic (plus the interchangeable lenses) and that’s really what matters to me right now. If I could somehow miniaturize the Inspire 1 and take it with me everywhere, I would. If the Mavic were to magically gain a larger sensor camera… well, that “you can pick only one” decision would be much tougher. As it stands, the real question for me is “Pick one: the P4 or the Mavic” – that’s a tough one and I’m most definitely leaning towards the Mavic at this point.
So is it worth getting one?
In my opinion, absolutely – yes. If you have the means, I highly recommend picking one up. Regardless of what you want it for, it’s a blast to fly. Plus the take-it-anywhere and “have it with you when you need it” factor goes a very long way in my book. Just knowing I can take it with me on a hike or have it everyday at work is huge. If this is your first drone, you’ll be in love. If this is your tenth drone, you’ll still be in love. If you like to pick nits, well, you may still be slightly in love.
So you’ve already got the P4 and the Inspire. Why did you want the Mavic?
Portability & Size. End of story.
When the Mavic was announced, I said to myself “Ok, so they’ve made a Phantom 4 that folds up and looks cool as shit. As long as the image quality is equal to the P4, I have to get one of those.” Now, don’t get me wrong… the Phantom 4 isn’t that big, but compared to the Mavic, it’s massive. Here’s an image of the backpack I carry my P4 around in vs the satchel I’ve been using with the Mavic (and batteries and controller). You be the judge:
Yeah. But.. ah, the compromises… the compromises will always get you. My original plan was to sell my P4 after getting the Mavic, but after using it for the past week I’m not 100% sure I want to give up ye olde Phantom 4. Part of it is this “lens misalignment” thing I just discovered with my Mavic, and part of it is the buttery smooth power and performance of the P4.
I’ve always loved my Phantom 4 – it’s quick, sharp and super reliable. If you’ve ever driven a higher end car, that’s what the Phantom 4 feels like – an exceptionally responsive machine with plenty of power when you hit the gas (especially in sport mode). So far, it seems like I have to run the Mavic in sport mode all the time just to match the regular GPS/P mode on the P4. I feel like I’m maxing out the sticks all the time – constantly pushing it at full power – It’s just not as punchy. There’s even been a few times when I’ve been in sport mode, full right stick but the maximum speed tops out around 25mph. Idk. Maybe it’s a firmware thing, maybe not. Meh.
The lens/sensor misalignment thing is another story. The first couple images I took with my Mavic looked “OK” – not quite as detailed as my P4. As the week went on I got better at remembering to re-focus and things were looking decent, but I started noticing that the left side of every image had this strange blurriness. From what I’ve read online there may be some issue with lens and sensor mis-alignment that results in strange soft zones on some Mavic Pros. Update: After reading even more about this issue, the Mavic has “Tap to focus with center weighting” which I don’t quite get. Do they mean “Tap the screen in the area you’d like to focus on and it will apply focus and center weighted metering/exposure?” or do they mean “Tap the screen in the area you’d like to focus on and somehow the focal plane will shift to the tapped spot?” (similar to a tilt-shift lens). IDK. I just tried a quick test in the garage on some items about four feet away with promising results and will have to test this more tomorrow in some daylight. Update: nope. Still experiencing out of focus areas.
Ah, so while we’re on the topic – sharpness. I’d be remiss to not mention the Casey Niestat video that made the rounds right after the Mavic was announced. It was a blurry mess because he didn’t RTFM and didn’t know that you have to tap-focus the lens on the Mavic just like the X5. I can tell you that my Mavic can shoot sharp enough images, but even as a veteran operator the Mavics’ focus system has tripped me up twice so far in the past week. About two seconds after takeoff, the Mavic automatically focuses on whatever the hell is in front of it, be it a house, a car, a tree, etc. If you don’t tap on something else to re-focus after you get to your operating altitude, things may end up soft. After tapping to focus however, the photos I’ve been taking are decently sharp – on par with the P4 – no complaints here, except for the weird left side softness.
So what do you like about it, other than the size?
I really enjoy the portability… that really is the biggest feature. But in all seriousness if I had to pick a few other things that I’d really miss if it were gone, they’d be:
Stability: it’s mind-blowing. I still can’t believe how ridiculously rock solid this thing is when it hovers – it’s almost creepy in a mechanical way. By far, it is the most stable drone I’ve ever flown. You remember those old chevy commercials “aaohh… like a rock!” (ugh). It’s stable alright. Tripod mode is another really useful trick that I sooo wish they’d enable for the Inspire… just slow, smooth footage from that mode, oh so nice.
Batteries: They’re cheaper and last longer than any other DJI drone i’ve flown. Charge faster too… can’t wait for the “advanced charging hub”.
Noticeably Quieter: It’s no stealth drone, but there is a difference. I had read about the props making it a tad quieter and I thought “meh, it’ll sound just like the P4.” But it really doesn’t make as much noise when hovering or taking off. That being said… blasting around at full throttle in sport mode has a distinctive “braaaaaannnnn” droning sound that is reminiscent of a sportbike exhaust.
DJI Refresh: Yeah, I know, I know… no water coverage at all – but I still opted for this. I figured for an extra $99 bucks, it’s worth the peace of mind. On such a small machine that’s going to be carried around in places that drones usually aren’t, it was a wise move. If I drop it or the gimbal goes south, if something goes sideways… I’m covered.
Anything else? Closing thoughts?
Be aware of visibility. This thing disappears like a fart in the wind. We’re working on skins for it at DecalGirl, and I may actually put a blaze orange skin on the thing. It’s really hard to see even when it’s not that far away. I do have a Flytron Strobon on the rear, which helps a bit at dusk or cloudy days.
I’m not completely sold on the new controller – it’s different, and that’s probably why. Just going to take some getting used to. Couple of nits to pick: There’s no longer an inward press on the top right dial (which on the Inspire and P4 is the way to switch between ISO/Shutter/Aperture) and that same dial for adjusting camera settings seems to be setup in reverse – in other words, if you want to raise the shutter speed it’s clockwise on the Inspire/P4, but counterclockwise on the Mavic. Maddening. Maybe they’ll be able to add a software switch for wheel direction in the Go App. I’m also not totally happy about having to take my phone out of its case every time I want to use the controller. The Inspire/P4 ones hold just about anything. Meh. Old dog. New tricks. Change is tough.
Overall, it’s a fantastic little machine. And aside from a bit less throttle, I have a feeling that the Mavic Pro will end up being a worthy replacement for the Phantom 4 (as long as I can get my lens situation fixed).
Rode down to see my first “close-up” launch from Wallops Island, VA. The last launch I watched from Ocean City MD and that was the unfortunate one that blew up. This time around Orbital was launching their ATK Antares/Cygnus OA-5 Cargo resupply mission for the International Space Station and it was picture perfect.
Mind. Blown. Hoping they do more of these down there – totally worth the drive and the wait.
Putting the drone to some good use: surveying storm damage. Was concerned about the wind being too strong to fly this soon after the storm passed, but it wasn’t bad – maybe 10-15mph. Sad to see the beach and dunes almost completely gone, but you can’t stop mother nature. Could’ve been much worse. Take note of that beach grass doing a great job holding what’s left of those dunes together!