Update: Now that we are into February and DJI launched a bit of a curveball with the Mavic Air, all eyes are on the Mavic Pro. Both share the same sensor, but the Mavic Air outstrips its bitrate causing cannibalization of sales for the Mavic Pro. Put simply; it isn’t ‘pro.’
What we do know is the Mavic Pro 2 is currently in mass production, and the prevailing wisdom is we should get our first look in March. A lot of what is to come for the second generation Mavic Pro can be gleaned from the Mavic Air. One item that is a lock is a better camera. Grabbing the one-inch sensor off the Phantom 4 Pro immediately puts the ‘Pro’ back into the Mavic Pro.
Rumors for the Phantom 5 still light up the internet with images of interchangeable lenses. Sign me up for that if DJI keeps price points similar to the current Phantom 4 Pro. It’s early for the Phantom 5, and rumors have the announcement towards the end of the year.
Original Post Below (January 13)
CES 2018 is behind us, and while DJI’s presence was felt, those looking for a new camera drone were left wanting. We saw the announcements of the Osmo Mobile 2 and the new Ronin-S.
DJI’s Ronin-S showed the company is ready to throw its weight around in the DSLR/Mirrorless stabilizer category. Still curious about the price and hands-on, but the Ronin pedigree has been well established. Expect plenty of B-roll to come from cameras hooked to a Ronin-S later this year.
That leaves camera drones. Some have even speculated they aren’t coming. That ignores 2017 which saw the company adopt a tick-tock cycle similar to Apple. DJI’s Mavic Pro Platinum and its noise reduction and increased flight time. The Phantom 4 Pro Obsidian with a reworked gimbal. And a badass paint job. DJI’s torrid pace of upgrades is there, but it’s more nuanced with slight upgrades.
Also, it’s not like there’s a competitor right behind it with loads of innovations. GoPro is gone. Autel looks interesting, but can it compete against DJI’s overwhelming market share? Which DJI products are in line for an upgrade? The quick answer is all three of their consumer camera drones are due – the Spark, Mavic, and Phantom.
DJI Spark Pro?
DJI’s beginner-level drone is due for a Pro version. In DJI speak, Pro always means a 4K camera. If that’s the case, a new gimbal is a necessity complete with three-axis stabilization. Better battery life, range, flight and shooting modes and of course, more colors are expected.
My theory? DJI takes the 4K camera off the Mavic Pro and puts it on the Spark Pro. It’s proven, and the company can rework the design a bit to fit the gimbal.
What happens to the current Spark? Nothing. It stays as the entry point for DJI and gives the company the ability to have a sub-$500 camera drone.
DJI Mavic Pro 2
In September, it will be two years since the launch of the Mavic Pro. In 2017, DJI gave it an upgrade with the Mavic Pro Platinum Edition. It featured reworked motors and props for sound dampening (that damn high-pitched whine) and increased the flight time. It’s the clearest example of the tick-tock strategy.
What could be in the Mavic Pro 2? The answer lies inside the Phantom 4 Pro. The one-inch sensor is by all rumors, a near definite on the next generation Mavic. Out of the three consumer camera drones, the Mavic series has been firmly established as a favorite for vloggers or videographers on the go. Match Phantom 4 Pro’s sensor with the Mavic’s portability? Yeah, I’m sold.
Other upgrades will be sensor range, flight times, shooting modes, etc. We know those will happen. For camera drones, it’s all about the camera.
But what about the current-gen Mavics? In this scenario, likely outcome is the original Mavic Pro is discontinued with the Mavic Pro Platinum taking its place as the entry-point and the new Mavic Pro 2 as the upgraded version.
DJI Phantom 5
First, let’s clear the air. A couple of years ago, DJI released a concept video called the Phantom X. That is not what the Phantom 5 will be. Yeah, I’d love to have it too, but let’s stop. That doesn’t mean we can’t see some of the tech shown off in the video materialize in a Phantom 5 or DJI’s lineup as a whole. The company’s partnership with Apple retail stores could be expanded into a DJI Apple Watch app? It’s possible.
In the Phantom X teaser, several shooting modes were shown off, and it’s a good bet that’s the direction DJI will go with the Phantom 5. One item it needs is reworked motors and props on the new Mavic. That high-pitched whine has to be gone in the next Phantom.
Other areas of expected improvement are battery life, sensor range, speed, etc.
What’s the biggest? The camera. It’s the selling point of most consumer drones.
There are two schools of thought. First is the 360-degree camera. I’m not a subscriber to this rumor. It would involve a massive redesign of the Phantom chassis and would need retractable landing struts. On a quadcopter drone, this presents a whole host of issues with the props buffeting the struts and making the entire drone unstable. I may be wrong, but DJI has shown time and again, the gimbaled 360-degree camera is for the Inspire series.
The second you can see on DJI’s homepage. The DJI Zenmuse X7. While for the Inspire 2, it’s not a massive leap to see a similar setup on a potential Phantom 5. The ability to swap lenses opens up an array of creative possibilities. And it doesn’t hurt DJI’s bottom line selling additional lenses with varying focal lengths. It would be game-changing in terms of camera drones for normal consumers.
DJI GO 5 App
With new drones will come the obvious upgrade to the app. We’ve already seen panorama modes added to the Phantom 4 Pro and Mavic. Various shooting modes with the Spark. While we all look to the drone, it’s the software that helps us capture amazing stills and video. If DJI starts rolling out the next-gen drones, the DJI Go 5 App will be an early tell where 2018 takes us.
Potential DJI Curveballs
Drone racing. DJI has been pushing its FPV Goggles for nearly a year and the release of the ‘racing edition’ points towards the company doing more than selling drone racing parts. Should we expect a dedicated DJI racing drone? I would not rule it out. That’s the one market the company lacks a defined presence.
2018 and DJI
What do you think? Sound off on your wishlist items for DJI as we dive headfirst into 2018. For me, I’m looking to see what’s next for the Mavic.