There’s little to fault with the DJI Mavic 3; its flight is solid and its image quality is simply suburb. In this review, I’ve looked at the final production model, but with pre-release firmware, the flight performance and imaging are outstanding, but a few features are still to be unlocked. I’ll update you on MasterShots and some of the other features when the final release firmware arrives.
Outstanding flight quality provides the rock-steady base you want, forming an ideal platform for the high-resolution Hasselblad camera. Watching the Mavic 3 in flight, Cine and Normal mode, the drone looks like it’s on sky rails, with the small gimbal reacting at speed to compensate for every twist and turn. Sports mode is less refined but as ever, great fun.
The front-mounted Hasselblad camera is, of course, the star of the Mavic 3. Capable of capturing the high-resolution and quality video and stills you’d expect from such a premium brand.
The Mavic 3 is truly one of the best imaging drones on the market, and while it may be small, the quality of the flight and imaging make it the best and only choice for many professionals.
Outstanding video quality
Solid flight control
DJI Build quality
Zoom lens camera is much lower quality
What is the DJI Mavic 3?
The DJI Mavic 3 has a tough act to follow as its predecessor the Mavic 2 Pro redefined drone imaging. When I looked at the 2 Pro a couple of years ago, I was blown away with the 1-inch sensor in the Hasselblad camera; the image quality it produced seemed incredible. Coupled with the size of the drone and its advanced flight features. there was really very little not to like.
But three years on since that review I have yet to buy one. I didn’t so much hold out from buying a Mavic 2 Pro, more I had other kit that I had to prioritise, and now that the time is right, DJI has launched the successor, which means I now need to save some more.
You see, while the Hasselblad fronted Mavic 2 Pro was good, the Mavic 3 is just so much better.
Why? Well, that comes down to what the Mavic 3 is, and that’s the best imaging drone for the money you can buy. Behind the Hasselblad, label is a 4/3 sensor that enables you to capture high-quality aerial images like never before.
The only slight disappointment is the second camera that offers a 162mm focal length and a hybrid zoom. Firstly, yes there are two cameras, take a look at the front of the camera and you’ll see the two lenses. When I first heard about these I got very excited as I thought that DJI had essentially created the Mavic 3 as a combination of the Mavic 2 Pro and Zoom combined; unfortunately, this isn’t the case.
The zoom lens, while good, is more for scouting out locations and shots rather than being used as a clever cinematic tool.
DJI has also boosted the flight times from 30-ish minutes to 46-ish minutes, in ideal conditions, of course.
There’s also a host of sensors that stop the drone from flying into things, and the data from those sensors also helps with subject tracking along with other features.
Essentially the Mavic 3 is outstanding and it’s the drone you want, you just need to choose from the three possible options Standard, Combo or Cine.
Video resolution (CINE): Apple ProRes 422 HQ 5.1K: 5120×2700@24/25/30/48/50fps DCI 4K: 4096×2160@24/25/30/48/50/60/120*fps 4K: 3840×2160@24/25/30/48/50/60/120*fps
Max bit rate: H.264/H.265 Bitrate: H.264 Max 200Mbps, H.265 Max 140Mbps
Sensor (Tele Unit): 1/2-inch
FOV (Tele Unit): 15º
Format equivalent focal length (Tele Unit): 162mm
Aperture (Tele Unit): f/4.4
Build and Handling
This is DJI, and as we’ve found before, the build quality is good. I’ve checked at length, and like the Mavic 2 Pro, this upgrade is just as solid, and the design and aesthetics have changed to accommodate the additional cooling and sensors.
Again the Mavic 3, as with the Mavic 2 Pro, is a fine-looking drone and being a Mavic is designed to be as portable as possible.
The folding arm design is ever-present and as confusing for a first time user as ever. My main drone doesn’t have folding arms, and while I’ve looked at and flown every Mavic drone there has been, I’ll still unfold out of sequence one in five times.
Essentially tops arms fold out first, and bottom arms rotate round, all very easy. The props are already attached, and a quick check is always required to make sure they’re attached as they should. The props are again of a folding design and enable the drone to pack down nice and small.
A nice feature is the drone harness that arrives with the Mavic 3, at least with the Fly More Combo. This fits over the nose of the Mavic 3, loops around the back and holds everything neatly together when packed away; it’s simple but effective. It also helps prevent damaging the props in transit.
One point about the Combo option that I’m looking at in this review is that it comes with three batteries, four filters, multi-charger, controller and carry case.
The filters are simple clips on ND’s at ND4, ND8, ND16 and ND32 and help control the light, which shouldn’t be too much of an issue in early November in the UK.
The case/bag is well worth a mention as not only does it very neatly hold the drone and all the batteries, remote, filters and charge, it’s also one of the best-looking bags I’ve come across.
I like the drone’s design, but I kind of like the bag’s design more; it’s perfect, everything fits in exactly, and it’s a nice mix of materials and a great colour. But it’s more than just a simple case; it’s also a backpack. Unzip, flip out the staps, and it transforms with a large section for a coat and a few other bits and pieces you might want to take with you for the day.
A closer look at the drone
The sensors are scattered across the Mavic’s body, with two on the front, two underneath and two at the rear. There are also further upward and downward sensors that all help with the positioning and flight features, eight sensors in total.
As with previous Mavic drones, the propellers are of the foldable twist fit style. This means that they’re easy to swap and change without the need for tools.
As you look over the drone, you notice the number of changes that DJI has made to the chassis, lines have been smoothed, and the amount of vents and cooling has been greatly increased, not as much as the FPV, but quite a bit.
These design tweaks give the Mavic 3 an incredibly stylish look, and while the Mavic 2 Pro felt solid, this new model feels and looks more professional.
Another big change is the battery that slots directly into the drone’s back, securing with a reassuring click. Once in place, it’s held solid and to release you just push the two buttons on either side.
The battery or batteries in the Combo kit are charged in the USB charging dock. This uses DJI’s own 65W USB type-C plug and enables fast charging. Due to the design can also charge batteries in the doc through any laptop or standard USB Type-C plug, which is handy although charging times are significantly extended.
It’s all about the cameras
When it comes to the Mavic 3, the drone itself is very nice, as are the flight features such as object detection, but it’s the camera that is the real crowd-pleaser.
This time around, DJI and Hasselblad have developed a dual camera, as previously mentioned. One high resolution for capturing stunning wide-angle shots and the other a zoom that’s part optical part digital. The two cameras are mounted one above the other in a single, very neat unit.
Like cameras on your smartphone, the two cameras work in combination. The Hasselblad features a fixed 24mm focal length, while the second lens offers 162mm with 28x zoom. This zoom lens has been added to help locate subjects and scout out locations and paths rather than for its imaging potential, but still, it’s a nice touch, and the quality is still pretty good before the digital zoom comes into play.
While the zoom camera is interesting the real interest for photographers and videographers falls to the single Hasselblad camera and what it offers.
Before we take a closer look at the Hasselblad camera and what it can do it’s worth noting the camera units set-up and how it connects to the drone. The combined cameras are mounted on a single unit that is in turn attached to a gimbal. As with previous Mavic drones, this gimbal is compact, fitting into the front of the craft’s nose and offers a 3-axis of stabilisation.
Stabilisation through the gimbal is handled automatically by the drone. Still, as with previous DJI releases, you can control the camera’s tilt using the wheel on the side of the remote control.
The Smart Controller, along with the App, are the final elements of the Mavic 3. As ever, the DJI Fly app is used to give you, the pilot, a visual interface of the drone’s parameters, settings and a live view stream from the drone.
The Smart Controller also has a few direct control buttons such as the camera tilt, immediate start and stop recording and RTH. These are all standard on the now not so new, new style of controller.
The FLY App is well laid out and runs through the basics when you first set up; there’s also a decent flight training program for those just starting. Despite the price and level of the Mavic 3, a complete beginner would be able to fly this without issue. However, as is the case for any drone pilot, flight hours are important, so it’s worth dipping into the simulator once in a while and having a fly to keep your skills up to date.
Also in the App are direct access to all of the drones options and parameters. As there are so many, it does take a while to find your way around. Usually, it’s only when you need to adjust a parameter that you realise you have no idea where it is, and the location of those parameters aren’t always 100% intuitive.
Taking the switching between the two cameras or adjusting the settings as an instance. In the past you would tap the options at the side, then a nice graphic overlay would appear with direct tap options. Now, those options are still there; but you have to tap different icons and sometimes delve a little deeper into menus to find exactly what you want.
Nevertheless, after a while, you’ll know what functions and features you need to access regularly and will learn where those options are.
The rest of the App is well laid out, and many of the new features that have started to appear in the App are well-considered. The Geofencing is spot on, and the drone won’t take off if you try to fly somewhere you shouldn’t.
My favourite part of the App that was added with the Air 2S is the AirSense system. This picks up ADS-B signals from nearby
aeroplanes and helicopters and alerts you to make sure that you land the drone and move to a safer location.
This feature works incredibly well, and you can track aircraft through the interface.
DJI’s video transmission is yet another feature that the company has excelled with on previous drone models. The quality of the video feed from the drone to the App has always been excellent, and now this sees an upgrade with the 1080p feed transmitting at 60fps.
The visual effect of this on the screen is quite striking, with the image being incredibly clear and crisp with ultra-smooth motion.
After getting the drone set up and spending a good amount of time checking it over, and familiarising myself with the functions and features, it was time to take the Mavic 3 out for a test flight.
Setting the drone down on a flat surface it then takes a couple of minutes to check the drone over, power up, connect the controller to the mobile, unfold the drone arms and props, pop in the battery and finally power up.
The process is as fast as the setup for any drone, meaning that you can arrive at your location, do your flight safety checks and be ready to fly within a few minutes.
As everything powers up, the connection between the drone, controller and App is highlighted through the App interface along with the crystal clear live view.
The DJI Mavic 3 uses three different satellite systems, GPS, GLONASS and BeiDou; this means that although there is still a wait for the drone to locate the number of satellites that it needs, it doesn’t take too long. In this test, I checked and was connected to 27 satellites so not bad.
I found that the maximum time it took to connect was about three minutes.
With the satellites located, it was time for the take-off. I’m still a stick take-off pilot, so fold the two sticks down and towards the middle; the props fire into life after a second or two.
This is the first time you hear what the new Mavic has to offer, and it’s far more than a simple cosmetic update and a new camera. The props are quieter than anything I’ve used before, still far from silent, but not as loud as the FPV!
Pushing up on the left stick creates some uplift and the drone is airborne and incredibly solid in the take-off, thankfully no wobble, and easy to control the rise to 2m. With the drone in the air a tap to the left, right, rotate left, right, back forwards, up, down and land.
Those flight checks performed, and as this is the first time with this drone I’ve run through the whole thing again, and all seems to be in order and working.
In this first test, I’ve selected the Normal Flight Mode using the physical switch on the controller. This will give a good idea of how the drone reacts and flies.
The increase in sensors is instantly apparent as the FLY App beeps to let you know that the ground is X distance and that there is an object within the set parameter, that object being me.
As I guide the Mavic 3 forward and start making a few turns, those sensors continue to beep, letting me know that the ground’s contour is too close, flying close to the bush, and again as the beeps start the Mavic takes evasive action, before bucking and coming to a halt.
I had the same with the Air 2S, too many sensors making sure you fly safely. Really that’s a good thing.
One thing that becomes apparent compared with previous drones is the air time. Each battery will operate for a good half hour before the limits are reached, and that’s a long time. On the day I timed the flights I got around 29 minutes with each battery, taking into consideration that I was filming constantly and doing a lot of hovering on the spot which drains the battery.
There was also the fact that the temperature dipped on one test flight day, and wind speeds above 50m picked up. These warmings all appeared in the App, letting me know that while conditions on the ground were fine a few meters up, it was a different story. I landed the drone waited an hour, and tried again, part of the peril of trying to fly early in the morning.
It did at least give me more time to explore the options and delve into those menus.
Clicking through the different flight modes, Cine, Normal and Sport and the characteristics of the drone in flight completely change.
In Cine mode, the Mavic 3 is precise and smooth in rotation and motion. Switch to normal, and the drone is instantly more reactive, enabling faster and more dynamic shots; it’s also good when selecting start and endpoints for your shot before switching to Cine mode.
Both Cine and Normal mode make full use of the object avoidance sensors and give you peace of mind when flying, although they can also be a little annoying.
Switch the controller to Sport, and the characteristics of the drone completely change. Unlike the Phantom 4 or FPV, which transform into rock-solid Airbourne race drones, the Mavic 3 is more of a drifter. It’s incredibly fun, but it just doesn’t have the high-speed control that you get with other drones in the DJI lineup. While Sport mode is there, this isn’t what this drone is about, although well worth a go for a bit of fun.
Overall the flight and balance of the Mavic 3 is excellent – it feels solid in the air, is easy to control and provides that firm, steady base for your video and images when you need it.
What the Mavic 3 doesn’t provide is the high-speed flight control that you get with the larger Phantom series and small FPV, but then why would it.
The video transmission for the Mavic 3 is in a league that hasn’t been seen on a drone of this size. It’s smooth and crisp, and the latency between the camera and live view is next to nothing.
What’s also apparent is that for the first time, as you adjust the camera settings, the frame rate changes are apparent on the screen of your smartphone. The difference for drone footage between 30fps and 60fps is quite dramatic, with the 30fps footage looking jerky in comparison with the 60fps.
The only issue with the feed is the phone itself; you need to ensure that the screen is set to show the colour and brightness for the lighting conditions you’re in.
In one situation, I reviewed the footage and compensated for the exposure, only to find later that the uncorrected footage was correct and the compensated footage was too dark. Essentially the camera knew what it was doing.
In the air, one of the features that I was keen to test was the second camera and its 28x zoom feature. To activate this all you need to do is tap the binoculars icon and then click the magnification icon. As you zoom into the image, you can see the zoom works well, but the quality of the image does quickly break down. This eliminates any hopes that the Mavic 3 was a combination of the Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom.
The zoom feature of the second camera is good, but it won’t capture the high-quality video and stills that you can expect to capture using the main Hasselblad camera. To be honest, if they hadn’t put this camera on the drone I think it would have been better, it’s inclusion is just a bit of a disappointment.
Checking through the quality of the video and you have to hand it to DJI and Hasselblad. Together these two brands have created something very special with the Mavic 3, and the high-resolution camera that it holds.
The camera and lens can adapt well to different lighting conditions, but it does have its limits.
The dynamic range of 12.8 stops is good, but the challenge is the Autumn sunlight. As bright contrasty light changes to hard contrasty shadow, detail is lost and highlights are blown. This may sound bad but actually, the small camera handles the tricky lighting exceptionally well.
Away from the lighting that challenges high-end video cameras and changing the scenario so that the sun is carefully placed behind the camera with a clear vista ahead, the footage is spectacular at all framerates and resolutions.
Checking through the 5.1K footage, there’s so much detail and information that mixing this with footage shot on the latest mirrorless cameras shows that the footage would blend in perfectly.
The footage captured on the 4/3 sensors is beyond any other drone in this class or size can achieve. Even put against the superb if slightly ageing Phantom 4 Pro, the footage beats it hands down.
DJI has experience with 4/3 sensors with their Zenmuse systems, such as the X5s. While the specifications of this high-end camera are slightly different, they’re close enough to speculate that there has been some cross-pollination.
Ultimately with the DJI Mavic 3, you have a very serious imaging drone capable of capturing incredible quality footage at a fraction of the size and cost of anything else out there. Really you need to buy it.
I’ve been excited about the Mavic 3 for some time, like many I have read the rumours and speculated about its features and when it would finally be released.
To have the Mavic 3 here and to have been able to test it at such length has enabled me to gain a really good insight into how the drone flies and operates.
I’m still waiting for the final firmware to arrive, which will add the MasterShots and a few other features that we’ve seen on the likes of the excellent DJI Air 2S. I know what DJI’s previous drones with these features do and will update if I find anything other than how those features worked on the Air 2S.
When in flight, the Mavic 3 was solid especially in calm conditions, the multi remote GPS, GLONASS, etc connection as well as the eight sensors kept the drone steady in the air.
Using Cine and Normal mode, the Mavic 3 flys well and gives you the platform you need to capture great footage.
Switch over to Sports mode, and you have a drone that is incredibly fun to fly and does some great air drifts; it’s a lot of fun but doesn’t have the handling of some of DJI’s other offerings.
The one point that I was slightly disappointed with was that second camera. When I read about it, I thought it would be the Zoom compacted down and mounted alongside the Hasselblad; unfortunately not; it’s more a video scope. It takes images but the zoom image quality is lacking.
Looking at the main camera and there’s nothing to fault with the quality. A 4/3-sensor in such as small drone is amazing, and the video and stills quality match every expectation.
Following on from the superb DJI Mavic 2 Pro is hard, but the Mavic 3 has done that with startling ease.
Drone flight (Cine and Normal) and image quality are excellent, but several other features make the Mavic 3 stand out. The battery life is amazing; no longer are you having to land every 10 to 15 minutes to swap out batteries; you get a true 30 minutes of use, if not more, and that’s a real game-changer. Through this test, I could have flown for over an hour and a half on each outing, but that’s far too long in one go!
Ultimately the DJI Mavic 3 is the best imaging drone out there and not just for the size and price. The small size makes it the GoPro Hero10 Black for the sky, the image quality, both video and stills, is outstanding, and once you learn how to shoot from the air and cope with some of the trickiest lighting conditions going, you can capture mind-blowing imagery.
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