DJI’s new Mini 3 Pro drone hits the sweet spot for aerial photography – TechCrunch

DJI just got introduced a new drone – it is the most capable ever beeping below the 250 gram limit that keeps operators free from a whole host of headaches and flight restrictions (note that local laws and regulations still apply – being small means not that you can do it all you want). The DJI Mini 3 Pro drone is the first in the series to add that “Pro” moniker, and it does a lot to deserve it, making it the best overall value yet in the consumer/enthusiast drone space for those who want portability, affordability and image/video quality.

The base

The DJI Mini 3 Pro is still small enough to earn its name, but it’s slightly larger than previous iterations. While the weight of the drone is 249 grams with the included standard battery pack, the wingspan in particular is quite a bit larger than the original Mini, especially when the arms are extended for flying. This provides additional flight control capabilities, and it barely changes the drone’s profile when folded for portability, so it’s certainly a welcome design trade-off.

Not only have DJI refined the aerial engineering here, they’ve also packed an impressive gimbal 1/1.3in sensor camera into the Mini 3 Pro, which can capture images up to 48MP in RAW format and record video in 4K at up to 60MP. fps, with a slow-mo mode that captures 120 fps footage in Full HD (1080p) resolution.

DJI Mini 3 Pro Drone

The new DJI Mini 3 Pro drone in flight. Image Credits: Darrell Etherington

The “Pro” also plays a part in the formats offered by the Mini 3 Pro: you can record video in D-Cinelike mode, which provides a wealth of color information to then fine-tune your video’s color mix in programs. like solving Da Vinci. This can give you a cinematic look that is nothing short of amazing when you consider that it is a drone that slips into a jacket pocket quite easily.

Another “Pro” feature that DJI has introduced for the first time in this size category: obstacle detection and avoidance. The Mini 3 Pro gets the company’s Advanced Pilot Assistance Systems 4.0, meaning you’re a lot less likely to have to climb a tree to retrieve it because it got stuck in some branches.

Other features include the ability to rotate the camera via the gimbal to record vertical video making it the ideal TikTok drone, subject tracking, 4x digital zoom (which unlocks some creative video shooting possibilities), panorama shooting and 34 minutes of runtime on the standard battery (plus 47 minutes possible on the extension of the optional Flight Battery Plus – which also tips you over that 250 gram limit, I should note).

Design

At first glance, the Mini 3 Pro doesn’t differ much from DJI’s time-tested approach to drone design; it’s a four-rotor aircraft, mostly consisting of that central body, with extendable arms and integrated blunt landing gear. There are some big obvious changes from previous Minis, though, including on the front of the drone, where the usual bulbous overhang covering the camera gives way to a hollowed-out, “hammerhead”-esque look with the orientation cameras on. either side of the gimbal 24mm equivalent, f/1.7 camera below.

The DJI Mini 3 Pro compared to the DJI Mavic Mini

The DJI Mini 3 Pro (right) and the DJI Mavic Mini (left) folded. Image Credits: Darrell Etherington

This probably helps save weight, so the Mini 3 Pro can boast of its impressive specs, while still staying on the fair side of those airline rule restrictions. It also means the drone comes with a larger, more bulbous protective hood mount to keep the gimbal and camera safe and stable during transport. This was my only knock on the design of the drone – the gimbal is loose when the drone is turned off which is understandable to protect the motors but means you have to fight it to some extent to align it correctly with the protective cap before it clicks into place.

DJI Mini 3 Pro and DJI Mavic Mini

The DJI Mini 3 Pro (right) and the DJI Mavic Mini (left) with outstretched arms. Image Credits: Darrell Etherington

DJI has clearly learned a lot from years of trying to make the most of the under-250 gram drone category, and it really shows in the Mini 3 Pro. The rotors don’t have the easy removal clips that come on larger models, but again, this is a worthwhile trade-off. For a few minor inconveniences, you get a drone that doesn’t require a major logistics operation to carry around – and a drone that captures photos and videos of a quality that leaves no one but the most discerning professional users feeling like they have a sturdier machine. should have brought.

A note here on the controller options – the Mini 3 Pro comes standard with the RC-N1 controller (although there’s also a controller-less option to save a few bucks if you already own one), which is a great controller in its own right, but for which you must supply the viewfinder in the form of your connected smartphone. The DJI RC pack also comes with that brand new controller, and if you’re on the fence you should definitely go for that: the DJI RC has a built-in display and essentially has an integrated Android phone to run the DJI Fly app. . It is a very compact and well designed device, with excellent display quality and so much less headache when it comes to fiddling with hardware smartphone connectors. More on the DJI RC in the next section.

Performance

I’ve alluded to the DJI Mini 3 Pro’s image and video capture quality a few times, but just in case it wasn’t obvious, this thing more than delivers.

The 48 megapixel images offer new detail and print options, and the RAW shot means you can really get a lot more out of your photos when you’re editing afterwards in programs like Lightroom. Images are also much less noisy than they were from previous versions of the Mini, due to the larger sensor and larger pixel size on the sensor itself. Low-light capture has never been a particular strength of these drones, but DJI has done a good job prioritizing improvements in that area of ​​the Mini 3 Pro, and it shows.

DJI Mini 3 Pro JPEG from the camera, automatic settings

DJI Mini 3 Pro JPEG from the camera, automatic settings. Image Credits: Darrell Etherington

The automatic mode delivers images that really impress, and for most users there probably isn’t much of a reason to dive into manual mode. But for advanced enthusiasts and professionals, the manual modes give you the opportunity to tweak to your heart’s content, which can result in some truly unique shots that stand out from the crowd. Custom image modes, including the panorama function, are great for unique applications such as large-scale printing, and the Mini 3 Pro software makes getting good photos relatively easy.

Speaking of breezes, when it comes to flight control, the Mini 3 Pro seemed to have no problem handling wind with confidence. One thing that struck me about my own OG DJI Mavic Mini was that it often complained about wind speeds and stability; the Mini 3 Pro, even at elevations above 400 feet, never gave any indication that it was struggling with that particular problem. The days I flew were relatively quiet at ground level, so your mileage may vary, but it’s definitely improved over previous generation hardware.

DJI Mini 3 Pro preview image, automatic settings

DJI Mini 3 Pro preview image, automatic settings. Image Credits: Darrell Etherington

As much as the DJI Mini 3 Pro is optimized for stills shooting, the new video options are a major upgrade over what this category could do before. 4K/60, HDR, full HD 120 fps slow-mo, vertical video and the D-Cinelike color profile combine to create a drone that can do it all, whether you’re an amateur filmmaker trying to make the next arthouse classic, a YouTuber who’s worth production or any TikTok creator looking to add another dimension to their content. Subject tracking works reliably well, and when combined with vertical video and modes like the “dronie” option for capturing aerial selfies, you can dive into a myriad of creative options for new posts on any platform.

As for actually flying the drone, it’s a little hard to judge from a newcomer’s perspective as I’ve been flying DJI planes since the original Mavic. But it definitely feels intuitive and simple, with the added bonus of the obstacle avoidance protections kicking in when large objects get in your way, potentially saving you from an expensive accident.

You can adjust settings such as how quickly the camera tracks to fine-tune the final product and compensate for inexpert or jerky joystick movements, but out of the box the DJI Mini 3 Pro seems tuned to produce good end results for a wide range of users.

As mentioned, the DJI RC controller option also really improves the game in terms of the actual experience of flying the drone. My biggest headache with DJI drones in the past has been the non-elegant experience of connecting a smartphone to the controller, getting everything to work properly and get the best grip. The DJI RC turns that into a truly seamless “it just works” experience, and you can connect the controller to any Wi-Fi network (including tethering your phone in the field) to keep both the controller and the aircraft up-to-date. to keep up with firmware and flight restriction maps. The picture quality and live video feed are high-resolution and excellent, even visible in direct sunlight, and it’s definitely not something you can give up once you’ve experienced it.

What it comes down to:

In addition to a performance boost, DJI’s latest Mini drone also got a pretty significant price increase: the DJI Mini 3 Pro starts at $669, and that’s without a remote. For $759 you get the Mini 3 Pro and the RC-N1 (which requires you to bring your own phone). The best option is obviously the most expensive, but I think this is the one most people should consider – that’s the DJI Mini 3 Pro plus the DJI RC for $909. As discussed, my device also included the DJI Mini 3 Pro Fly More Kit, which includes two more 34-minute batteries, a hub to charge all three batteries at once, extra propellers, and a handy shoulder bag that fits perfectly with the drone, controller, and everything I just mentioned, what an extra $ 189.

DJI Mini 3 Pro preview image

DJI Mini 3 Pro sample image. JPEG with automatic settings. Image Credits: Darrell Etherington

All told, the DJI Mini 3 Pro kit I reviewed costs about $1,100 in total — nearly double the price of the DJI Mini 2 Fly More combo, which still retails for $599. But for what you get, especially with the improvements to image and video quality, as well as the inclusion of the obstacle avoidance system, that’s well worth the price delta. Ultimately, the Mini 3 Pro is probably better compared to something like the DJI Air 2S, which costs $1,299 for the Fly More combo. With that option you do get a bigger sensor and better 5.2K video recording, but most users probably won’t appreciate the differences there, and the Mini 3 Pro still manages to sneak below that critical 250g limit, which the Air 2S does not.

DJI’s pace of innovation means it can be difficult to decide when to jump as a consumer (I own three of my own previous-generation drones, including the original Mini). But what it has brought together in the Mini 3 Pro seems to be a package that has so few compromises that it should satisfy even the most discerning enthusiast for years to come.

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