Thing Thoughts: Why The DJI Mavic Air Won’t Get My Money

DJI announced a new drone today and I must say, DJI is on a roll. Their drones get easier to fly with more intelligent features in smaller form factors for less money and look attractive to boot.

This little fella seems to have some pretty nifty features packed inside its cute little plastic chassis. They include:

  • 32 MP Sphere Panoramas
  • 3-Directional Environment Sensing
  • Smart Capture
  • A 3-Axis Gimbal mated to a 4K Camera
  • “Smart” Caputre
  • A maximum flight time of 21 minutes

But to date, they suck in the most important way possible: Their cameras. I have never seen decent footage pulled from a Mavic. I owned a Mavic Pro and thought that maybe, just maybe, it couldn’t possibly shoot as low quality video as it does in the year 2017 (yes, it’s 2018 now but I had it in 2017 and figured that firmware updates must have improved things since its introduction in 2016 when its footage sucked even for camera tech in 2016). No, really. They claimed it had high bitrates and could shoot LOG-ish footage, but the dynamic range and definition was disgustingly bad, even in the marketing footage, relative to what you could get out of the iPhone you had to connect to the remote to watch what you were filming. Sure, you could apply LUTS and grade it in DaVinci or the new FCP X (or other program), but its footage still looked like poop.

Here, I’ll show you:

 

On the left you have final graded footage, on the right you have a crop of the same video. The moire and total lack of sharpness or definition is appalling. Look at the way pixels swim around and moire that looks like a CRT display filmed at high speed.

Compare that to footage shot on an iPhone 7 Plus that came out a year before the Mavic Pro and there’s simply no comparison.

I realize I made the Ferrari video bigger, but that’s just for formatting, you can open the Mavic footage on YouTube and see it full size there as well. Also, the Ferrari footage was shot using Filmic Pro on the iPhone which ups the bitrate, but bear in mind, the Mavic Pro has a LARGER sensor at 1/2.3” vs the iPhone at 1/3”.

Now here’s the thing….

I’ve been talking this whole time about the Mavic Pro as opposed to the Mavic Air, but in my biased mind, there’s no way the Mavic Air is any better…in fact for all intents and purposes, it looks like it uses the same sensor as the Pro. And this isn’t about getting what you pay for, it’s just a simple fact that compact sensors are capable of WAY better quality nowadays and so I don’t know where DJI is sourcing their hardware. Frankly it looks like they merely further sliced up the pixel count on a “spy camera” sensor you might find in a cheap “spy watch”.

So until verifiable reviews come out showing that the DJI Mavic Air’s camera sensor can fold my laundry, I’m giving it a pass. The cameras in these arguably highly capable-but-inexpensive-toy-drones are their Achilles heels that prevent me from recommending any of them in the near future.

I’m not holding my breath.

Movie Thoughts: Phantom Thread

One simply cannot talk about how good the movie Phantom Thread is…unless they’re an old person with gray pubes, a shortcut to NPR on their iPhone 5C home screen, and a proclivity for crushing up and snorting lines of niacin tablets. I have an iPhone 5C lying around somewhere but I swear I have a newer iPhone now so I’m not gonna talk about Phantom Thread. I’m still young dammit.

So now I’m going to break rules (unlike Reynolds Woodcock) and review this movie in spite of the fact that I’m still young (dammit):

It’s just about a relationship between two people, but it’s brilliantly shot using vintage equipment that could make this a film as easily made in the 60’s as today, although arguably harder nowadays in an ecosystem dominated by Arri and RED cinema cameras. There’s this lovely and heavily contrasty grain that’s not unlike watching beach sand swirl in water and the use of natural light is superb.

Anderson peaked with Magnolia, one of the greatest movies ever made, in my humble opinion, and hasn’t made something as consummately perfect since then, but I do think this one was a return to form after The Master and Inherent Vice, which were both movies about seriously messed up people.

To be fair, all his films are about seriously messed up people. I guess I don’t have a point, do I?

I think I’m having a hard time articulating why I liked Phantom Thread because I don’t wear New Balance 990’s and go to Meetups. I should have stopped while I was ahead.

Go see it. Jeeze.

Sad Thoughts: RIP PF Chang’s in Burbank

The other morning, I noticed this sign outside PF Chang’s:

This makes me sad. I am far from an alcoholic, I’m a lightweight in fact. My poison of choice is probably coffee, but even coffee I can’t stomach after 10:00am. That being said, I was very sad to find out that P.F. Chang’s had closed the doors of the location in Burbank, California.

You see, I’m not a big drinker, and because of that, it only takes a couple for me to not feel so great the morning after imbibing with friends, and everyone knows the cure for any hangover is terribly awesome greasy food.

*Disclaimer – I know it’s not actually a cure. There is no cure for a hangover the same way there is no cure for being born straight.

**Double Disclaimer – There is, of course, Hangover Heaven if you happen to live in, or be near the area it serves.

With all that being said, PF Chang’s was an excellent hangover placebo. Their Lo Mein consistently made me feel better and left me with such a fond memory that I typically would go back roughly three days later and order it again…and regret the hell out of that second visit, swearing I would never be hung over again.

This sort of thing typically happened to me once a year, and I almost found myself looking forward to it, but alas, no more.

I wildly speculate that this was not the result of people not going there (PF Chang’s appeals to a lower-but-not-lowest common denominator, and thus, is is usually pretty full of people, but rather, it could be that Chang’s decided to pull out of their lease after the Burbank Town Center Mall failed to complete their renovation on time, and by on time, it was supposed to be done before Thanksgiving 2017, and is nowhere near being complete.

Of course, there are no winners here, whether it’s the staff of the restaurant (who hopefully got reassigned to other nearby locations…but probably didn’t), mall patrons, regular diners, casual diners with one less option , or sad sorry hung over folks such as yours truly looking for a little comfort on their day of suffering, nobody comes out ahead here.

With any luck, the new tenant will serve up a similar style of salty greasy goodness that brings joy. That’s all one can hope for.

Movie Thoughts: Den of Thieves

I went and saw Den of Thieves this afternoon and it’s worth pointing out that it was completely sold out all day on both screens it was showing in at the local multiplex which is scientific proof that not one woman in LA who participated in the 1 Year Anniversary Women’s March was able to get her boyfriend or husband to participate alongside her. But then again, we’ve always known that this is the dynamic in relationships.

With that bit of social science fact out of the way, let’s talk about the movie itself:

There’s nothing new under the sun so saying Den of Thieves is basically Heat isn’t enough and just makes you a dime store movie watcher if that’s the best you can come up with. Also, it’s good so just saying it’s Heat doesn’t acknowledge its twist. While it still may not be as good as Heat, it’s still good! So here are my thoughts:

It’s the goldenrod draft of Heat recut in iMovie while sipping on brotein & brown rice smoothies as you shop for a new ford vehicle (but can’t decide between a Fusion or a Taurus) on Autotrader.

So basically at the end of the day today, it’s going to be tough determining which half of the American couple had a better day: Women who marched rightly in the name of empowerment and women’s rights, or their boyfriends who got to fantasize about guns and periwinkle-blue collar criminals with ridiculous criminal technology robbing banks with guns and high-tech stuff that no ex-con could rightly get his hands on.