The Ultimate Mavic Mini vs Mavic Air 2 comparison for Photographers

If you’re reading this Mavic Mini vs Air 2 comparison, you are probably on the lookout for a new drone. And just like me, you might find yourself wondering if you should go for the below €500 Mavic Mini or drop nearly double that amount for the Mavic Air 2.
Well, wonder no more! I’ve been down that road, have owned them both (more on that later) and can tell you what to choose and why.
The internet is full of individual reviews for the two drones, but I found very view comparisons of real life use, so I hope this review helps in that regard. If you really want tot dive into all the specs of each drone, I suggest looking at an in depth review.
Read on to see what I recommend as your first drone from a Photographers point of view.
*Update* DJI is teasing a Mavic Mini 2 with better range, controller and 4K video. I’ve added this in the comparison where relevant.

Which One to Pick?

The quick answer is to buy the Mavic Air 2. The Mavic Mini is a great little drone, especially for the price, but it just misses a lot of functions that you want as a photographer. For the long answer read on in this Mavic Mini vs Air 2 comparison.
I started out myself with the Mini. I figured it would be fine for my needs, the price made it a bargain and it weighed nearly nothing, even including the remote and extra battery’s.
I brought it on a trip to Madeira to really test it and it performed great. But on the last flight there I got some strange camera and sensor errors and could not fly, only after several battery removals.
Back home that happened twice more which let to missing some awesome mist shots. I decided to send it back for repairs. After it got lost in the mail I decided to by the  Air 2. Already after the first flight I new it was a completely different experience. 
Let’s look into the different aspects of the drones in this Mavic Mini vs Air 2 comparison to see how each one comes out.
*update*  The Mini 2 improves one some aspects but overall I would still pick the Air 2.

Size and Weight

The Drone

As you can see in the picture below the Mavic Mini clearly wins in this department. Since I’ve lost my Mini in the repair proces I had to blend several old and new photo’s in Photoshop in order to compare them side by side. I made sure to allign  the images proparly to ensure a good size comparison.
With a weight of 249 grams for the Mini compared to 570 grams for the Air 2 it’s less then half the weight. If you look at the total size and weight of the carrying case it’s not so clear. Taking the Mini along in my hand luggage was a breeze, but if you use the case from the fly more package, the advantage is almost gone.
Mavic mini comparison with Air 2

The Case

 The total weight of the two packages (carrying case with drone, extra battery’s and controller) is 1061 grams for the Mini and 1777 grams for the Air 2.
After carrying the Air 2 package on my recent photo day trips I must say the additional weight didn’t really bother me. My backpack is around 12 kg with camera body’s, Lenses and tripod so the relative addition is modest.
So in my own real world use, it’s not really that much of an advantage as on paper. I’ll have to wait till my next trip for a travel comparison but I think the Air 2 can still easily fit in my luggage although the charger and batteries take up more space. Since the Air 2 feels more solid I can also pack it without a case.
There are also some downsides to the small weight of the Mini. Offcourse the stability in wind and the top speed but also others. I’ll tackle those in the range, flight time and build quality sections
*update*  The Mini 2 has the same size and weight so nothing changes for this aspect. The new controller and carying case will probably further increase the weight of the package.

Build Quality

A big disadvantage of the light weight of the Mavic Mini is the build quality. It’s not that it’s poor, but DJI clearly had to go bare bones to achieve the 249 grams. After getting the Air 2, I realized how flimsy everything feels with the Mini. I’m not sure if my unit is examplary, but I feel the risk of something breaking or a cable loosing is higher with the Mini. The Air 2 has a much more solid feel to it and just feels more professional. It also has more room for sensors for obstacle avoidance and the bigger airframe improves stability.
*Update*  My expectation is that the Mini 2 does not change this aspect.


As mentioned the Air 2 has obstacle avoidance sensors located at the bottom front and back. This avoids flying in to objects when moving forward and backward. Flying sideways still puts you at risk. The Mavic Mini only has bottom sensors for landing. In real life I didn’t really miss the sensors on te Mini. But I also didn’t put the drone in situations where they could come in handy. It gives you some more flight path options for the Air 2. Especially when shooting film.
It also enables tracking modes that can be usefull, for example to let the drone follow you or an object. I haven’t tested these.
*Update* The Mini 2 will also not have sensors.


There is a massive range difference on paper. 2 kilometer for the Mini vs 6 kilometer for the Air 2 (in Europe). This is due to the transmission system used for each drone. Where the Mini uses WiFi, the Air 2 uses DJI’s Ocusync technology. In real world use you are supposed to keep the drone within visual range so you should never get at the end of the applicable range distances. The Air 2 still has a definitive real world advantage. A larger range means a stronger signal. And loss of signal was one of the issues I’ve had with the Mini. WiFi is more susceptible for interference especially in urban environments.
On multiple occasions I’ve encountered signal loss with the Mini, sometimes only 150 meter away. Although the drone would return on its own within range it’s still stressing and limiting. With the Air 2 I’ve had no such problems at much further flights.
The better signal also means that the Air 2 has a higher quality video stream (1080P vs 720P)
*Update* DJI is adressing this problem by giving the Mini 2 the same controller and OcuSync which should bring the range in line with the Air 2.

Flight time

In this department the Air 2 has a slight advantage by a couple of minutes on paper. Real life results are dependent on a lot of factors but I found the flight time of both drones more then enough. You’ll need extra battery’s anyway if you plan on shooting more then just a couple shots at a time. In Madeira I used the Mini several times a day for short clips and shots and I hardly ever used more then one battery and never more then two. Also the charging of the Mini is faster due to the smaller battery. 
A strange thing I’ve noticed so far with the Air 2 is that the batteries seem to drain on there own, and after a week they lose around one quarter of charge. This is in fact a function of the smart batteries to protect them from swelling. After one day they will discharge to 96% and after 5 days to 60%. With the Mini I didn’t observe this. All in all battery life is not really a factor in choosing between the drones.
*Update* The Mini 2 might have a smaller battery to stay under the weight limit, it’s unclear weather this will effect the flight time.

Camera Mavic Mini vs Air 2 comparison 

The camera is perhaps the most important part of the drone for photography purposes, so which one wins out?
I’ll try to answer that based on certain aspects of the image sensor.

Sensor comparison

The Air 2 has a slightly larger sensor at 1/2″  Vs 1/2,3″ for the Mini
That looks like this:
Sensor Size Comparison Mavic Mini and AIr 2

 I’ve thrown in the Mavic Pro 2 and my Sony A6500  camera for comparison. As you can see the difference is negclectible.


Both sensors show quite some noise even in good light, you need to use noisestacking to prevent this.  With  the burst mode on the Air 2 this is much easier.


The Air 2 offcourse has the option to shoot 48mp stills while the Mini tops out at 12. This is however a bit of a trick from the Air 2 due to the quad bayer sensor design. This design uses multi color sub pixels to get to 48 megapixels but you can question if it really produces a sharper picture at 48MP.  Also 48 Megapixel is a separate mode so it doesn’t work with burst or brackets. In good lighting conditions it does give you the ability to easily create high res files. By shooting hand made panorama’s on the Mini you can increase your megapixel count.


The Air 2 has HDR but this is more software based, the Mini does not have this option but it can be achieved manually by shooting different exposures.
Example pictures
In order to give you an idea of what the two drones are capable off, I’ve included several shots I took with both drones in different modes. Unfortunatly due to the loss of my Mavic Mini I was unable to take side by side comparison shots.
Mavic Mini vs Air 2 comparison Mavic Mini Example
Mavic Mini 12 MP shot - no HDR. The sky is slightly overexposed due to the limited dynamic range
Mavic Mini vs Air 2 comparisonMavic Mini Example
Manual Panorama with the Mavic Mini, stitched in lightroom
Mavic Mini vs Air 2 comparison Panorama Example Mavic Mini
Another Example of a manual panorama shot with the Mavic Mini
Mavic Mini vs Air 2 comparison HDR example Mavic Mini
Example of a Manual HDR with the Mavic Mini
Mavic Mini vs Air 2 comparison HDR Example
HDR Example of the Air 2
Mavic Mini vs Air 2 comparison HDR example Mavic Air 2
Another HDR example
Mavic Mini vs Air 2 comparison Mavic Mini 12 MP example
A 12 MP example
Mavic Mini vs Air 2 comparison Mavic Mini 48 MP example
48MP of the same scene

As you can tell from these examples, the picture quality of the two drones is very much in line which is what you would expect from the limited difference in sensor size. The advantage of the Air 2 mainly lies in the aditional photo modes that make it easier to produce higher quality images through HDR and Noise stacking.


Recording modes

This factor probably makes the biggest real world difference. If you want to take good shots with such a small image sensor you need to work with HDR or noise stacking. For this you take multiple shots with different exposures or just burst shots to average out the noise.  With the Mini you would have to do all of this manually. Take a shot, change exposure, and that 3 or five times. That gets old real quick. With the Air 2 it’s the change of a setting and the drone will do the rest. 
The same goes for panorama. Possible with the Mini and I had some good results but all manual. It just saves a lot of time and gives better results because the frames are taken closer to each other on the Air 2
Then there is offcourse the 48megapixel setting, the HDR setting and the smart mode on the Air 2
And let’s not forget the option to shoot raw. I still find the editing range limited because of the noise of the small sensor, but the possibility to change the white balance afterwards is very welcome.
The additional recording modes make it easier to focus on the picture and not on the techniques to get there. Thats a big advantage since you already have to take into account more while flying.
For video it’s the same with higher resolution and bandwith and also higher frame rates and shooting modes


The controller is one of the factors of which I didn’t thought much up front but is to me a real game changer. I find the Air 2 controller a big improvement over the Mini in real life. 
Yes the Air 2 controller is a bit larger but the weight difference is limited 249 Vs 390 grams.
The big advantage to me is the clamping mechanism and cable management which works much smoother on the Air 2. Since you’ll use this beforeor every flight small annoyances can compound over time. No more fiddling with the cable and the clamping system.
Also no more positioning of antenna. The phone on too feels more natural and the grip is better.
Another advantage of the Air 2 controller is the number of physical controls. While both controllers have a recording button and return home button, the Air 2 also has a switch for the flight mode (tripod, normal and sport) where you would have to use the screen with the mini. Even more convenient is the button to switch the recording mode from video to photo. You will do that a lot if you take both stills and short clips and it’s so much easier then going into the screen menu on the mini.
*Update* The Mini 2 will get the same controller as the Air 2 so the advantage of the Air 2 for this aspect will be gone.


One of the advantages of the Mini is that the weight is under the limit for registration in many countries, but rules change constantly and in practice you don’t really experience limitations from this, this might offcourse change in the future but I would not let this factor decide your choice.

The Elephant in the Room

From a photographer point of view the question which drone to get is offcourse not complete without looking at the Mavic Pro 2.

As we have seen earlier the Mavic Pro 2 sensor is about 4 times larger then the Air 2. This means quite a difference in image quality and dynamic range.

But with 907 grams of weight vs 570, the Pro 2 is also heavier and bigger, and therefore less packable.

Add in the fact that the price difference is another €600 more and you can see why the Air 2 is such a good deal.

The Air 2 is also capable of filming in 4K at 60 frames per second where the Pro 2 tops out at 30 frames per second. The Pro 2 does have a higher bit rate for the video, and therefore larger dynamic range.

For the most challenging conditions, the Pro 2 will probably give the best results, but the Air 2 is not far behind and with less weight and size will probably end up in your bag more often.

Conclusion Mavic Mini vs Air 2 comparison 

To summarize this Mavic Mini vs Air 2 comparison   I’ve included the table below. I’ve indicated with green where aspects win in my opinion. As you can see the Air 2 wins out in all expects except size and weight.  The Mini 2 improves on several aspects and the advantage of the Air 2 becomes smaller. So make sure to wait for the release to make your final decision.

Mavic Mini vs Air 2 comparison table
Gear shot
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