DJI Mavic Pro vs. Phantom4 vs. GoPro Karma – Casey Neistat uhh.. kind of clears it up.

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Yesterday, we covered the new DJI Mavic Pro, which was released a couple of days ago. The drone looks amazing on paper – it’s small, foldable, and not insanely expensive. There was one really eye-opening part of the big release though – they gave a demo version to Casey Neistat, and the footage he filmed with it looked soft.

So soft, in fact, that the comments on the video were dominated by multiple threads saying how blurry the video looked. People had a lot of hypotheses, which basically ran down like:

  1. Casey set up the camera wrong.
  2. Casey had bad settings while downsampling the video from 4K to 1080p, and that made the picture soft. As I mentioned in an update (check the bottom of yesterday’s post), when you transcode 4K down to 1080p, it should always make the video much sharper – assuming you do it right – but if you messed up the codec settings enough, you could certainly make the 1080p less detailed.
  3. Maybe Casey left the little sticky plastic lens protector sheet on top of the lens when he unboxed it (that’s how soft the image was).

The comments were so strong on this subject, that Neistat dedicated his entire daily vlog today to testing the drone’s camera in 4K – I think it’s fair to say that the people from DJI were in a huge panic once the original video hit, and if they’re smart, they were probably calling him all day begging him to test the camera again.

So, at the start of the video, he explained his criteria for a good drone, which is that he values convenience/size just as much as picture quality. Then, he tested the Mavic Pro against the Phantom 4, and added the raw footage with no color grading to the video.

I believe that before he filmed, his point was going to be “The Mavic footage is a bit worse than the Phantom but not much” – you could tell because he made a chart at the start of the video where he marked the Mavic as having only slightly less video quality than the Phantom 4.

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However, the footage from the Mavic Pro was bad, it may have even looked worse than the previous video. I literally said “Woof” involuntarily out loud when I saw it. Neistat seems to be a huge fan of DJI, and I think he wanted very badly to make out the Mavic to seems like the video was fine, so I really expected it to be better in this video, but no. Even Neistat himself really backed off and spent the end of the video explaining how the Mavic video was “good” but not great, and really emphasizing how convenient the drone’s size is.

He also threw in some clickbait in the video’s title by saying he was testing against the GoPro Karma drone, but in reality he just held up a GoPro Session 5 for a short bit, since that’s one of the cameras that you can use on the Karma. This wasn’t actually very instructive, since he couldn’t fly it over the same water in NYC, but in a way it was pretty fair, because even though it wasn’t attached to a drone, it was the real camera.

It was clear that the GoPro produced some very nice footage, which is pretty much to be expected, since GoPro is (right now anyway) a camera company that is just sticking its toes into the drone water. The Hero5 and Hero 5 Session are almost certainly going to produce fantastic videos, the real question with the Karma will be whether the first version of it is any good as a drone – if it turns out to be hard to fly, or has some other drone-related problems, that will be its downfall, not video quality.

So what did we learn from this latest Neistat video? A few things, which I’m going to list:

  • The video from the DJI Mavic Pro seems to be really soft. This is a huge problem for DJI, especially since the camera is (I believe) fastened to the drone permanently.
  • The Mavic Pro is undoubtedly a much more convenient drone than the Phantom 4, although this wasn’t really in doubt – I think most people will be comparing the DJI Mavic to the GoPro Karma, not the Phantom.
  • Everyone who said “RIP GoPro” in the comments of the first video (or on Twitter, looking at you TonyNorthrup) might not have seen the footage from the Mavic Pro yet. GoPro are still a much more recognized mainstream brand than DJI, and if the actual Karma drone turns out to be good, I think it’s going to have a big edge with people buying Christmas presents this year – especially considering it’s a bit cheaper than the Mavic.
  • Casey Neistat needs to get a real 4K camera stat. For this video, he used the new Canon 5D Mark 4, which is literally the worst 4K camera available, despite it’s high price (check out Max Yuryev’s great comparison between the 5DMK4 and three much better professional 4K cameras that cost way less). At the start of the video, Neistat made a comment about how hard it was to get filming with the Canon, and that confused me, but Canon have screwed up every aspect possible of the video on the 5DMK4, so I assume they somehow also made it tough to even change to 4K mode maybe? I know that on any real 4K camera right now, like the Panasonic GH4, Sony A7rii, etc, you just open a menu (or touch a screen) and select 4K. Maybe Neistat meant that editing the 4K footage is tough, which like… yeah maybe the Canon footage is, since they made the files insanely big (3.25x bigger than other 4K cameras) without actually increasing the quality, just by picking the most braindead codec possible. Anyway, my point being that Casey Neistat needs to try some real 4K cameras and he won’t be so baffled at how people can film in 4K daily – it’s literally no harder than using 1080p if you don’t use Canon‘s clunker.

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