Today we got something exciting and terrifying at the same time. We are checking out DJI Mavic 3 Pro. It is the latest drone from DJI and it has an extra camera when compared to Mavic 3. That’s about it, really, but I am very excited to tell you about it and my experience of using a drone here in Singapore in 2023. I think you guys might learn a thing or two and this article could be useful when deciding if you should spend some serious money on it. Let’s dive right in!
For those who aren't completely immersed in drone news, it's worth mentioning that a few back in May DJI launched two new models - the Mavic 3 Pro and the Mavic 3 Pro Cine. The Cine is the more premium version, focused more on cinematographers. It has a built-in 1TB SSD and support for ProRes, but comes with almost 1000 USD higher price. In our testing we used the standard PRO with the RC Pro controller.
Having a premium controller totally transforms the experience, especially when compared to relying on your phone's screen for interfacing with your drone. I used to have the first-gen Mavic Pro and let me tell you, dealing with the hassle of attaching a phone to the controller and then using an app that's prone to lagging or crashing was just so inconvenient…
With the RC controller you get to location, set-up the drone, power everything up and take off. It actually makes the whole thing much more enjoyable.
Right, new drone in 2023 and what you should consider. First things first - can you even fly a drone in your country? I really recommend checking this out first ahead of purchasing as you may get disappointed. Here in Singapore it is not too bad, you are able to fly drones under 249 grams like DJI Mini 3 without needing to register. But for anything heavier, you'll have to register with local authorities. After that's done, there are still some rules to follow - you can't fly higher than 60 metres, and since Singapore's pretty tiny, there aren't many places where you can actually fly your drone.
The immediate problem I had was finding information on this. There's no one-stop-shop for this information. The DJI app isn't fully current, so you'll also need to cross-reference with OneMap and FlyWhere.
This all might seem like a lot, but doing your homework is crucial. I would recommend doing this ahead of your purchase to ensure proper compliance. And to be fair, once this is done - the rest is a breeze and you're good to go.
We found a nice, open approved space in the iconic Marina Bay here in Singapore and had a blast flying around. The flight itself was very easy, I used normal mode to get to the location where I want to film and then cinematic mode to move around slowly for that smooth footage.
Personally I would probably recommend slowing that mode down further. I almost never used sports mode as it disables obstacle avoidance and on this drone that is one of the things that keeps me confident I won’t crash. Cause God knows I’ve done that before - sorry Justin.
So anyway, let's move on to the camera setup - nowadays it's more of a system than anything else at this stage. Just like with Mavic 3 you get your wide camera with 24mm equivalent lens which shoots shockingly high quality video and pictures. There is also the 7x camera which is using a 166 mm equivalent lens. This was more of a look around kind of camera, can be creepy but also cool to record wildlife from the distance without disturbing it but that really left a gap for a complete system.
So this newest drone comes equipped with a camera sporting a 3x lens, which is 70mm, and honestly, it's quite an intriguing camera. It delivers a more cropped image, making the shots appear more intentional rather than just capturing everything. The 7x zoom, on the other hand, is definitely eye-catching but probably the least utilised. In many situations, it's just too zoomed in, but it can still come in handy.
Using the 7x and even the 3x zoom can be quite nerve-wracking as it's easy to lose your sense of distance and feel like you're about to hit something. I've had a few near misses myself, but luckily, the obstacle avoidance feature kicked in.
In terms of performance, the main camera supports 5.1K resolution and has variable aperture while others support up to 4k and have fixed aperture lenses. For best footage I would recommend buying some ND filters when shooting during the day. Another thing worth mentioning - the camera with the 7x zoom doesn't support the D-log colour profile, while the other two cameras do.
On our flying day, I asked my buddy Brent to bring along his DJI Mini 3 Pro as an alternative to compare both drones throughout the day. I think a lot of people might consider this drone when looking to buy one, and it's fascinating to spot the differences and similarities between the two. Sure, the smaller, cheaper drone doesn't quite measure up to this triple-eyed monster, but it's not that far behind. In fact, it even outperforms the larger model in some tasks.
With its standard setup, the DJI Mini 3 Pro weighs in at just 249 grams, making it a great drone to carry around and use in more places due to less regulatory restrictions. Its compact size also means it's more portable and easier to bring along. It features a vertical shooting mode which in many ways is more for the TikToks and Reels or what not, but it is also very useful for taking vertical pictures of tall buildings - something I personally enjoy. With the Mavic, you'd have to fly back and then crop your image to get the same effect.
Performance-wise it does not have all the bells and whistles but video coming out of it is actually still very good.
The key difference here lies in processing. The footage from the Mini is shot in normal mode, meaning it comes with colour, sharpening, and other adjustments already applied, based on what DJI thinks will look best. The Mavic's footage, on the other hand, is shot with D-Log, so it starts out flat and a LUT is then applied. While this means a bit more work, it also provides more flexibility. A skilled colourist can make both these clips look fantastic, but the footage from the Mavic offers more room for tweaks and adjustments.
When it comes to low-light video quality, the Mavic 3 Pro excels. With its larger sensor size it outperforms Mini 3 Pro, and even rivals some full-sized DSLRs. The Mavic 3 Pro's low-light capabilities are perfect for capturing those magical sunset or twilight shots that were previously only possible with larger, more professional equipment.
As for the pictures, the Mavic 3 Pro delivers high-quality images with excellent dynamic range and detail. I had already forgotten how much I enjoyed taking aerial pictures. There’s just something special about them. And the Singapore city skyline is always a sight to admire. However when setting the maximum sensor size to 4 by 3, there is some noticeable vignetting when using the wide lens. This can be easily corrected in post-production, but it's something to be aware of.
If we’re talking about the Mavic 3 Pro's zooming capabilities, they are impressive, but not perfect. Besides changing cameras the rest of zoom is digital, which means you're essentially cropping the image, leading to some loss of quality. As mentioned before, using the 3x and 7x zoom can be a bit uncomfortable as you lose your sense of distances.
And one other major limitation that kept bugging me is that you cannot swap the cameras while filming. This means you have to stop recording, switch the camera, and then start recording again. This can be a bit inconvenient, especially when trying to capture dynamic scenes and there is a pretty high chance of forgetting to press record. I hope DJI will bring this feature in a firmware update. Phone cameras do that seamlessly, so I see no reason why this Pro done can’t have it too.
If we’re talking about a feature that I greatly enjoyed, it has to be waypoint flight. It allows you to set multiple GPS points and then have the drone automatically fly between them while controlling the camera and its orientation. This is perfect for capturing complex shots without needing advanced piloting skills or doing day-to-night shots to merge together.
So all in all, the DJI Mavic 3 Pro is an exceptional drone that is teeming with advanced features, suitable for both amateurs and professionals in the field of aerial videography and photography. Like any piece of technology, it isn't without its quirks and limitations, but the multitude of benefits far surpass these drawbacks. This makes it a highly recommendable choice for anyone aiming to elevate their drone footage to new heights.
When deciding between the DJI Mini 3 Pro and the Mavic 3 Pro, it's essential to consider what you aim to achieve with your drone. The Mini 3 Pro is a compact, travel-friendly option that delivers impressive footage and can navigate tight spaces with ease. On the other hand, the Mavic 3 Pro provides an enhanced degree of flexibility with its three distinct camera setups and superior codec, but this comes at a trade-off in terms of size and price.
The price difference between the two models is considerable, and unless you're able to generate revenue with your drone, the Mavic 3 Pro might be a tough sell for hobbyists. However, for those with professional aspirations or requirements, its advanced features and capabilities could prove to be a great tool. Ultimately, the choice between the two will heavily depend on individual needs and budget.
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