DJI’s latest drone, the DJI Mini 3 Pro, packs in flight features and incredible image and video quality that far exceed expectations.
Weighing in at 1g under the 250g weight limit, the DJI Mini 3 is exempt from many flight restrictions that restrict larger drones in the UK and many other territories. Because the Mini 3 can be flown almost anywhere by anyone without the need for a licence, this drone will have wide appeal and DJI has gone all out with the potential image capture quality and features of the Mini 3 Pro.
The Mini 2 was already an amazing drone, and while the flight characteristics of the new Mini are much the same, the imaging has been completely overhauled and is now in line with the Mavic Air 2. The addition of the Pro in the name of the new drone is an obvious marker of the DJI Mini 3 Pro’s imaging potential.
In-flight, DJI has applied the usual three modes, Sport, Normal, and Cine, which can be switched between the controller. The drone’s lightweight means more drift in Sports and Normal mode than you’d experience with the Phantom 4 or Mavic 3 Pro, but the air brake and position are still exceptional.
The inclusion of additional sensors also makes some difference for new and experienced users. Adjusting the settings in-app enables plenty of flexibility over how you can use the drone.
The imaging, however, is where the new Mini 3 stands out; the larger sensor transforms this DJI Mini range from a bit of fun to something that can be used a little more seriously.
Our review sample is an early version and there are some software glitches and limitations when it comes to advanced flight features such as MasterShots and QuickShots, but we’ll bring you a full update on these features very soon.
Excellent image quality
Easy to fly
Fully featured app
Prone to slight drifting
Easily buffeted by the wind
Not all features unlocked at present
What is DJI Mini 3 Pro?
The DJI Mini series, which now gains the DJI Mini 3 Pro, is the smallest of the DJI drones and came to prominence in the droning world because of its weight. While the UK and other global aviation laws clamped down on the use of drones requiring certification and licences for different classes, any drone under 250g would be exempt in the UK and many other countries.
250g is not a great deal of weight, but, DJI with the Mini and then DJI Mini 2 managed to get everything a drone needed to be packed into that small takeoff weight. Now the Mini 3 Pro has taken a leap and boasts extended flight times, advanced flight features and a dual function 4K video and 48MP stills camera built-in. This camera is of course not just for fun, with DJI branding the new drone a Pro the camera has some serious potential.
The DJI Mini 3 Pro is a huge leap from the Mini which simply offered good fun, an OK camera that all cameras in under the 250g weight limit. The Mini 2 pushed forward the quality of the camera and the design and build were reinforced, to be honest, it was a great little drone.
Now the DJI Mini 3 Pro has arrived and it boasts a camera that can be directly compared to the larger Air 2s in its potential, in fact there only real reason I can see to opt for the DJI Air 2s now is if you need a drone with a touch more weight due to where you’re flying and want the extra speed that the motors provide.
Otherwise, the difference between the two cameras at least on paper seems to be very minimal. However, there is one big issue and that is weight. With the Air 2s if you need to stop down the exposure on a bright day or add a polarizer, then no problems just pop one on the front of the lens and off you go.
With the Mini 3 Pro, any addition, unless it’s 1g in weight will likely push you over the weight limit. However, the advantage of having a drone you can almost always use, compared to one that is tightly bound in restrictions has its obvious advantages.
the DJI Mini 3 Pro then looks to be one of the smallest and most useful drones to have ever been released. As long as the flight characteristics and image quality are compared to what the spec sheet says this is the drone that could surprisingly be the one everyone is waiting for.
Video resoution: 4K at 24/25/30/48/50/60fps, 2.7K at 24/25/30/48/50/60fps, 1080p at 24/25/30/48/50/60fps
Slow motion: 1080p at 120fps
Sensor: 1/1.3-inch type Quad-Bayer CMOS
Lens: 24mm equivalent f/1.7
Takeoff Weight : Under 249 g
Dimensions folded: 140×81×57 mm
Dimensions unfolded: 245×289×55 mm with propellers
Max Ascent Speed : 4 m/s (S Mode), 2 m/s (P Mode), 1.5 m/s (C Mode)
Max Descent Speed : 3 m/s (S Mode), 1.8 m/s (P Mode), 1 m/s (C Mode)
Max Speed (near sea level, no wind) : 13 m/s (S Mode), 8 m/s (P Mode) 4 m/s (C Mode)
Maximum Takeoff Altitude : 3000 m
Max Flight Time : 34 minutes (measured while flying at 14 kph in windless conditions)
Max Wind Speed Resistance : 8 m/s (Scale 4)
Build and Handling
Once again, DJI has taken a leap with its latest drone the DJI Mini Pro 3 which offers exceptional build quality. Unlike the few DJI rivals, the Mini 3 is extremely lightweight but constructed with tough, high-quality plastic materials.
Unfolding the arms of the Mini 3 Pro follows the usual procedure of front arms rotating out and rear folding back. Everything about the design feels extremely solid, the first weight-saving feature that you’ll notice are that the propellers are individually screwed in rather than using the quick release style that we’re used to seeing with other drones. Once the drone is unfolded, the camera shield is removed; this is essentially a piece of protective plastic that clicks around the camera and gimbal.
Despite the drone’s small size, the gimbal is of the standard 3-axis type, offering tilt, pan and roll mechanical stabilisation. While there are the usual rotation limits of the gimbal due to physical design, the amount of movement is impressive.
As with the Mini 2, the design of the drone is compact but inside it sports a large imaging sensor. The specs align this camera with the one on the Air 2s, but there are a few minor differences such as aperture. Despite the new camera technology, the camera design looks much the same as the previous Mini 2, just with a larger aperture for better low light performance.
Unpacked, the small drone is impressive and far less shark-like and aggressive in looks than its predecessor. DJI has recently started to completely redesign each iteration of their drone ranges rather than tweaking previous designs, this is a definite advantage when it comes to styling.
Essentially almost everything has changed with the design and features set from the Mini 2 to the Mini 3 Pro. The only thing that really remains the same is the weight.
First and foremost is the weight of the new drone, coming in under the all-important 250g at under 249g take-off weight. This means that it is around 1g below the weight that requires you to have registered for a licence as it is classed as a toy.
The DJI Mini 3 Pro features some huge upgrades over the DJI Mini 2; firstly, the big feature for photographers and videographers is the all-new camera. The camera features a 1/1.3-inch CMOS 48MP sensor fronted by an f/1.7 24mm equivalent lens this compares with the Mini 2 which featured a 1/2.3-inch CMOS sensor fronted by an f/2.8 24mm equivalent lens.
Video wise, you have resolutions of 4K at 24/25/30/48/50/60fps, 2.7K at 24/25/30/48/50/60fps, 1080p at 24/25/30/48/50/60fps and slow-motion 1080p at 120fps. Video is captured at 150Mbps, which is a huge data rate for such as small camera, and you have the choice of normal or D-Cinelike colour profiles.
The ISO range for video and photo is between 100-6400 ISO with shutter choice in Pro (Manual) mode of between 2-1/8000s.
Photos can be taken at 48mp with the choice of Jpeg and raw files.
The small camera is supported on a small 3-axis gimbal that offers a tilt range of -135 to 80º, roll -135 to 45º and -30 to 30º.
I used the smart control in this test, which features a built-in screen that enables you to use the controller in isolation with a live view feed without plugging in your mobile phone. I would highly recommend this if you can stretch the additional cost.
The video transmission system is DJI O3, which transmits footage at 1080p 30fps.
When it comes to the aircraft itself, its take-off weight is 249g and folded, it measures 145x90x62mm, just small enough to slot into a bag pocket without too much issue. Although unlike the DJI Mavic 3, the Mini 3 Pro doesn’t feature a harness to keep the props together when packed down, which can be annoying when trying to extract the drone from an outer pocket.
As with previous DJI drones, you have three flight modes, N (Normal) for everyday use and S (Sports), which is a lot of fun, but even with this small drone is best avoided unless you have a good amount of experience and C (CINE) which is ideal for filmmaking and keeps flight to a nice slow pace.
In sports mode, the maximum speed is 16m/s, roughly 35mph, while in CINE mode, that maximum drops to 6m/s, which equates to 13mph, so quite a difference.
Flight times are 34 minutes which is a long time to be staring up at the sky. In the pack that I tested, the drone came with three batteries, and while I could fly for a good hour without too much issue, I wouldn’t personally like to fly for that much longer in one go.
As well as the standard battery 2453mAh (80.5g), there is also the option of the Intelligent Flight Battery Plus 3850mAh (121g), which weighs a little more but extends the flight time to 47 minutes which is quite a jump. However, installing this will mean the drone exceeds the weight limit in many territories and mean that a licence is required to fly.
Whenever I get a new drone, the first check is to see how it flies in the standard flight mode; in the case of the DJI Mini 3 Pro, as with almost all recent DJI drones, that’s N (Normal).
The weather conditions varied greatly during the test of the DJI Mini 3 Pro, with most days being cloudy with sunny spells. What was consistent was the speed at which the DJI Mini 3 Pro could pick up the satellites and complete its automated boot-up and check process.
Once these checks are complete, the app or Smart Controller automatically connects you to the app. On first running, it asks if you want to run through the pre-flight checks, and it’s recommended that you always follow the checking procedure. It only takes a couple of minutes and will help to ensure a safe flight.
All checks done, and it’s time to run through the standard flight checks; take off, and the first landing are solid, with the small craft lifting clear of the ground and then settling back down. You can either use the two sticks of the controller pulled towards the bottom middle or use the take-off icon on the smart controller’s screen.
One thing to note about the Mini 3 Pro is that a take-off mat is essential. These should always be used anyway, but the front props have little clearance from the ground, so they need a flat surface for the take-off. Even in a recently mown field, it can be tricky to find a surface that is flat enough!
The DJI Smart Controller effectively mimics the DJI Fly App, with the functions and features that appear on the app also appearing on the Smart Controller.
Like the app, you can connect the Smart Controller to a local Wifi signal to receive updates ensuring that it stays up to date with the latest flight information, features and software and this is all easy to do.
In common with the rest of the DJI range of drones, the Return to Home (RTH) position is set as part of the powering up the process, so as the pilot, there is nothing that you have to worry about on that front. Testing the RTH feature by pushing the physical button on the controller first and then the touch button on the app showed in both cases the drone sedately return to its take-off point. Likewise, flying the DJI Mini 3 Pro so that the battery is almost exhausted automatically activates the RTH and flies back to the take-off position.
Up in the air and the Mini 3 Pro is well balanced with the position of the props enabling easy and smooth control. I did find that the pre-set speed for the pan of the craft was a little slow in N mode and adjusted this through the app.
Like its predecessor, the DJI Mini 2, the slightest wind would influence the craft’s position in flight, especially when hovering.
However, the quality of the gimbal stabilisation is excellent, and the small camera captures a perfectly smooth and sharp image when required.
Quickly running through the other two flight settings; Sport (S) is great fun, and the Mini 3 Pro can pick up some speed with the small motors having more than enough power to stop it from drifting too far when turning through fast corners. It’s also incredibly controllable in the mode and great fun. However, I’m not sure how the lightweight craft would fair if it hit the ground at top speed.
Cine (C) is far more sedate and enables you time to plan your shot. In this mode, the control is easy, and it is ideal for long panning shots where you need absolute accuracy.
It’s all well considered and easy to use.
One of the features that make the DJI drones stand out is the sensing system. This has been greatly enhanced over the previous model with front, rear and bottom sensors.
Before you go testing the efficiency of these sensors against a brick wall or similar, it’s worth noting that they only work when the small craft is going at 10m/s or less. Essentially they work for N and C modes but not for S mode.
These sensors work relatively well; they avoid solid objects but not all shrubs, bushes and trees. I will note here that our review samples are pre-production and there were firmware updates coming thick and fast that would activate and deactivate some features through the test. While the front and bottom sensors worked and tested fine, the rear sensors didn’t quite kick in, in the same way.
As with other avoidance systems the distance of the sensors can be set and is 6m as default.
Incredible image quality.
Starting with the stills image quality. Firstly as with most DJI drones, you can shoot in Jpeg and raw file formats. Raw files are saved as .DNG with a typical image file size of 25MB, while the Jpegs are around 6MB.
The quality of the images is an exception for the camera’s size and captured at 12 rather than the full 48MP. Looking at the aerial shots taken through the test and the level of detail is exceptional. However, due to the present firmware checking these images out and they only seem to be being captured at 12MP – this should be updated soon with the next round of firmware updates and I’ll update you with more then.
Compare these images to those from the previous Mini models, and the quality is a world apart. Like the DJI Air 2, these images take a quality leap in every way. One of the most interesting aspects of the images is the vast dynamic range. The small sensor captured all that detail by taking one of the DNG files, pushing the shadows, and highlights you can really see the range of data captured by the small sensor.
Outstanding video quality from the DJI Mini 3 Pro
When I looked at the Mini 2 a couple of years ago, I was impressed by the video quality. It was a huge leap up from the compact rule-bending Mini.
The Mini 3 Pro shows that DJI has really developed the format, and the new camera has specifications that rival the Air 2s. This new camera is far more closely related to the one that features on the DJI Air than the one on the previous DJI Mini.
Firstly the quality of the stabilisation is excellent, especially when you consider the small drone’s light weight, as it is far more likely to be buffeted around by the wind, especially at altitude. Thankfully, thee three-axis gimbal does an excellent job but there are limits.
When it comes to the actual video quality, as with the stills, the dynamic range of the footage is exceptional. Looking at the detail of the shots, there is very little to fault considering the price and level of the drone. The small camera balances exposure well through the test, and when used at low levels and heights.
What’s impressive is that when you compare the quality of footage from the Air 2 against the Mini 3 Pro, there does seem to be very little difference.
The clarity of the image is good, with well-balanced colour and tone. The fact that the camera is capturing data at 150MB/s shows. In the slow-paced shots shot at 4k 60fps, the motion is smooth with no image break up or jerkiness in the motion.
Switching to 2.7k and 1080p, the footage’s quality is again excellent. The only issue that I had was that a 32GB MicroSD card would fill in the blink of an eye, far faster than I’m used to with this level of the drone.
While the Mini was aimed at beginners or those just wanting a hobby drone, the Mini 3 Pro is something completely different. This is a drone that fulfils many of the requirements that professional image creators have. It’s small, easy to use, unrestricted in use by aviation law, captures incredible stills and video has decent flight times and is relatively inexpensive.
If you want a drone for imaging then really the DJI Mini 3 Pro ticks almost every box.
DJI Mini 3 Pro sample video
The following videos were captured using a DJI Mini 3 Pro running non-final firmware.
4K (3840×2160) 60p and 30p
4K (3840×2160) 60p
Full HD at 60p and 30p
By the end of this test, I have to say that the DJI Mini 3 Pro more than exceeded expectations. Unfortunately, the firmware at present isn’t 100% complete so there are features that don’t work but I’ll update the review as and when those updates roll out. But even so, with the still images limited in resolution and the flight features restrained, it’s still one of the best drones I’ve ever used when it comes to outright image quality and features.
Using the Mini 3 Pro couldn’t be easier; there’s no real assembly required as the props are bolted in, and the batteries enable a full 25-30 minutes of real-time flight without issue. If you’ve ever flown for that length of time, it does become a little tiring anyway.
Image and video quality is where the small drone makes its mark. The 4K 60fps video captures plenty of detail, tone and colour. It’s of a quality that would be easy to mix with high-quality footage taken with professional cameras.
If you’re wondering why pay extra for more expensive drones such as the Air 2s and Mavic 3, now that the DJI Mini 3 has been announced, that’s a difficult argument.
Really for most people now, the DJI Mini 3 Pro will probably enable you to capture the quality of the footage you want. However, the small size does mean that it does get buffeted around far more than the DJI Air 2s and DJI Mavic 3, and that means that when it comes to control the two larger craft are easier to manoeuvre accurately.
The DJI Air 2s is a solid machine, and the image quality is excellent; in truth, the only advantage I can now see is that it does have that extra weight which can be an advantage in flight – it’s also that bit faster! There’s also the fact that if you need to use neutral density filters and polarisers then you’re going to go over the weight limit, which means that you’ll need the licence etc, so maybe then the DJI Air 2s is the better option.
The Mavic 3 does take a step up in image quality, and the size and weight make it a solid choice for professionals as you have more scope when it comes to flying conditions. You also have far more control over the camera position, and there are plenty of additions that separate it. However, side-by-side, the footage from the DJI Mini 3 does stand up to the might of the Mavic 3, but the Mavic 3 is still my prefered choice, but only just.
Ultimately, the DJI Mini 3 Pro is an amazing drone; it’s small and compact and is easy to transport and use. It has incredible battery life and flexibility regarding camera options and settings control.
The DJI Mini 3 Pro is a great choice for almost any user level, and I’d only pay the extra for the Air 2S if I wanted the additional speed and the Mavic 3 if I was shooting stills and video professionally.
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