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.