Review: DJI Mini 3 Pro

By Tim Lévy | August 24, 2022

A few years ago, I was considering buying a product as I occasionally received customer requests for aerial images to go along with my more traditional mistake… “terrestrial” photography.

The drone offerings on the market at the time were decent – but to get really decent footage you had to buy the expensive high-end machines that were quickly being replaced by the next generation.

Image: Tim Levy

To solve the problem, I would end up hiring a drone (which would also have to complete the whole CASA form), or I would stick my camera to the end of a fully extended monopod with a long release cable to get a little more height.

However, the new DJI Mini 3 Pro completely changed my opinion on the viability of doing my own drone work. The previous model was only 12MP. Now that’s an impressive 48MP. Should I throw away my 45MP Canon R5 and hold a drone in my hand and film everything on it? Well, let’s take a look, and more on the all-important image quality later.

Image: Tim Levy
Image: Tim Levy

Manufacturing quality

As you can see from the photos, the Mini 3 Pro is super compact, but it still looks very high quality and solid. The way the rotor arms unfold is brilliant. As for maintenance, I had to swap out one of the eight blades and it took a small screwdriver (included) and only two minutes of time.

On board, DJI integrates its three-way obstacle detection cameras which, as the name suggests, detect obstacles in front, behind and under the drone. The 24mm (equivalent to 35mm SLR format) f1.7 camera is housed in a pretty nifty omnidirectional housing, and allows for control of it in both horizontal and vertical formats, as well as panning up/down and to shoot straight down.

The DJI Mavic 3 Pro stores neatly and very compactly in its carrying case.  Image: Tim Levy
The DJI Mavic 3 Pro stores neatly and very compactly in its carrying case. Image: Tim Levy

Initially I wasn’t quite sure why you would want to shoot vertically, but in conversations with a pro-level drone operator he told me that he now shoots everything exclusively in vertical format because the majority of his work is shown on phones and social media.

Finally, the dedicated controller is close to perfect and feels very responsive and robust. If I had to make one criticism, it’s that the detachable thumbsticks fit into wells at the bottom of the controller. You probably won’t lose them, but it would be nice to have a bonus stick just in case you do. Also, the touchscreen is pretty bright, but it would be nice to have some sort of hood around it or an anti-glare coating as it can be hard to see in direct sunlight.

The flight

One of the most biting parts of any drone flight is takeoff and landing. With the Mini 3 Pro, it’s completely automatic at the push of a button. It takes off and hovers at about 1 meter, patiently waiting for you to take control.

Image: Tim Levy
Image: Tim Levy

To land, you have two options – either land at the current location you are flying over, or “return home”, i.e. the original landing location. WHATEVER YOU DO – DO NOT choose the “origin take off location” if you are on a boat. A friend’s associate used “return home” while fishing and the drone landed fine from where it took off – about 20 meters from the boat and in the water because the boat had drifted. Good bye drone!

All this means that the controls are almost Idiot proof. If you’ve played PlayStation before, you’ll have no problem adapting to the controls very quickly. It should only take 10 minutes to master the flight controls and find yourself soaring through the sky.

The drone is also incredibly stable in flight. It’s really as simple as up and down / rotate on axis Left and Right / Forward Backward / Roll Left Right. Other handy switches control the direction of the camera and take pictures/start recording to the built-in Micro SD card that sits on the back of the drone.

Image: Tim Levy
Image: Tim Levy

When it comes to flight modes, there are three – C for Cinema, N for Normal and S for Sport. You can consider them as slow (about 20 km/h), medium (35 km/h) and fast (55 km/h). Slow and Medium take advantage of the Mini 3 Pro’s obstacle avoidance technology and will warn you, and even slow the drone, to avoid any obstacles.

The “Sport” setting has no warnings or operating sensors. I found that once I got the hang of it, I quite liked zooming the drone at full speed in S mode and “drifting the air” around turns. As for the app and camera menus, they require a lot more study. Maybe an hour of tinkering and getting to grips with everything should do the trick for most users.

Image: Tim Levy

Image: Tim Levy

Finally, the instructions that come with the drone are uh… ridiculous. They lack detail and you need a microscope to read them. Fortunately, the touchscreen controller has a variety of built-in tutorials to help you get started. Or, you can view the manual online.

And finally, a word of warning. On the first flight I needed to update the software and I was in a field on private property. It was a huge download and quite a long installation time. So I suggest doing it at home with WiFi before you go.

Image quality

The DJI Tech Heads did a great job with the image quality under the “Image Settings”. What I mean by that is that seeing an uncropped image on a 5K screen looks great.

However, when you start to zoom/crop, you very quickly see the limitations of the 1/1.3” (12mm) sensor and what would be a very cheap lens (and the reason why high end heavy lenses cost more than $3,000). purple and magenta fringing white objects, which you commonly see with expensive lenses when shooting directly into the sun and looking at narrow objects such as power lines or branches. That said, the quick fix is ​​to apply lens corrections in Lightroom.

Image: Tim Levy
Image: Tim Levy
The other thing you’ll probably notice when zooming in is noise, especially if you start using high ISO. However, since it’s illegal to fly in low light or at night, and the aperture is a fixed f1.7, you’ll almost always be shooting at 100.

Unlike many small drones, you can shoot in auto mode and manual in raw mode, which is nice, but you have no control over the aperture.

Would have been nice to add it as you may notice a drop in image sharpness at the edges of the image due to the fixed f1.7 lens, something that could be fixed just by being able to stop, but considering it’s an entry level device I can’t complain too much. As for video, 4K images looked excellent for this price range.

Ultimately, I think the image quality on the Mavic 3 Pro is very good and on most screens (phone/laptop etc.) you won’t notice any aberrations. Just be sure to crop into the camera positioning the drone exactly where you want it.

If you were shooting a feature film, you would definitely use a $40,000 drone. But for 80% of other uses, I think it’s a great tool for video and photos, and it’s a really cheap way to get a ‘wow factor’ for your image package if you’re working in trade.

Rates and supplements

You can buy the Mavic 3 Pro with an RC-N1 controller, which attaches to your phone, for $1119.00. Or, the drone plus a DJI RC controller for $1299. A very nice inclusion is the “Fly More Kit” for $259. With this you get a perfectly sized leather storage/carrying pouch, two extra batteries, a triple battery charger and even more replacement propellers.

Image: Tim Levy
Image: Tim Levy

Flight time

As far as flight time goes, one battery can get you approx. 25 to 30 minutes of flight time (note that it is rated by DJI for 34 minutes) depending on the speed and speed of your flight. You should also plan for a return time that will cause the controller to beep furiously if you don’t return home to land.

Image: Tim Levy
Image: Tim Levy

For most users, I’d recommend getting extra batteries – with three my pick. That way, after the first battery was depleted, you could recharge the first battery in flight, with a spare “in hand” in time for the first battery to be ready again.

However, keep in mind that if you purchase the “battery plus” option (approximately 45 minutes flight time), the drone is now in the 250g Micro Drone category above, which changes how CASA regulates its use.

The results

Handling ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Excellent. With three different “speeds” and a built-in obstacle avoidance system, the Mavic 3 Pro is easy for novices but still fun for more experienced pilots. It even has a range of more than 10 km!

Build quality ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Solid and sturdy for its weight. It’s quick and easy to replace the batteries and the drone stores easily.

Features ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

More than enough, including a number of smart flight modes, built-in tracking and smart return-to-home functionality. For more features I would expect to pay a lot more and would need a bigger drone.

Image quality ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

Really great for the 1/1.3 inch sensor and lightweight drone lens limitations.

Last word

The DJI Mini 3 Pro is probably the best consumer drone currently on the market. When you start considering switching to commercial options, the cost can quickly become astronomical. So, at a starting price of $1,119, this drone is a bargain, especially for people who don’t plan to fly a lot.

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