DJI Mavic 3 Review – Best Professional Cinematic Drone?

DJI MAVIC 3 Review – Best Cinematic Drone?

Regardless if you are a vlogger, filmmaker, or just like tech gadgets, Drones offer the ability for anyone looking to take their videos and photographs to the next level. When new drones get introduced to the market, there’s a level of excitement to be had, for anyone looking for the next high-end drone that delivers. 

That’s why when DJI, a brand known for its drone technology, introduces a new drone to its product line like the Mavic 3, all eyes are watching.

DJI Mavic 3 Review: The Hype is Justified

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Verdict

When it comes to criticizing the DJI Mavic 3, with its dependable flight and superb video/image quality, it’s really tough to find any faults with this incredible drone.

When I recently tested out the DJI Mavic 3 last month during a short film shoot, the key focus to me in deciding if the DJI Mavic 3 is worth the hype was based on the flight performance and imaging. With me testing out the drone on the first day of shooting, just watching the way the Mavic 3 performed in flight, via Cine and Normal mode, this drone looked like it was on a dolly track in the sky.

Plus the small camera gimbal was able to react at any speed by compensating at every twist and turn.

But what I was impressed by the most for the cinematographers out there is the front-mounted Hasselblad camerawhich is the major draw of the Mavic 3. The drone camera is capable of capturing high-resolution and quality video and stills that you can only expect from such a premium brand.

The DJI Mavic 3 is one of the best imaging drones on the market today, and while it looks and feels compact, the quality of the flight and imaging make it the best and only option for many photography and content creator professionals.

dji mavic 3 dji mavic 3

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Why Does The DJI Mavic Start Out?

Why Does The DJI Mavic Start Out?

Before the Mavic 3 came out, the DJI Mavic 2 Pro was the front runner as one of the most sought-after drones on the market in terms of imaging. The DJI Mavic 2 Pro, with the 1-inch sensor in the Hasselblad camera, produced an incredible image quality.

Plus, with the compact size of the drone and its exceptional flight features, it was tough for any drone manufacturer to compete with.

While the technology inside the Mavic 2 Pro is still amazing, improvements can always be improved upon, and those changes DJI made to the Mavic 3 make it stand out.

Why does the DJI Mavic 3 stand out? As a leader in drone technology, DJI has created one of the best imaging drones for the money that many of us can afford. Behind the Hasselblad, features a 4/3 sensor that allows you to take high-quality aerial photographs and videos like never before.

The only trivial disappointment is the second camera that provides a 162mm focal length and a hybrid zoom. Now I know what you are thinking, two cameras?

Yes, when you take a look at the front of the camera and you’ll see the two lenses. While both cameras are not built for cinematic filming, they both serve a purpose for a filmmaker or content creator.

The built-in zoom lens, for a filmmaker, is great for scouting out

locations and shots, compared to the Hasselblad camera which is a skillful cinematic tool.

In terms of staying up in the air, DJI has also increased the drone flight times from around 30 minutes to 45 minutes, in ideal environments.

Another feature that stands out with the Mavic 3 is the multitude of built-in sensors that prevent the drone from flying into things, and the data from those sensors also help with subject tracking along with other features.

The DJI Mavic 3 is exceptional, and it’s the drone you want, you just need to choose from the three possible options Standard, Combo, or Cine.

Mavic 3 - Build and Handling

Mavic 3, is still built with a portable and compact quality

With the DJI Brand, all the products DJI produces are built to last, and the Mavic 3 is no different. I was able to get my hands on the Mavic 2 Pro on the final few days of shooting the short film I was part of, so I was able to compare the two Mavic drones side by side. The Mavic 3, is still built with a portable and compact quality, but what did stand out was design and aesthetics did change compared to the Mavic 2 Pro because of the additional cooling and sensors.

The DJI Mavic 3 drone weighs 1.97 pounds (895 grams) and measures in at 8.3 by 3.8 by 3.5 inches (212 by 96.3 by 90.3 millimeters) while conveniently folded into itself. 

If you are looking to protect the drone I would suggest upgrading to the Fly More Combo or Cine Combo that offers more accessories for the Mavic 3 as well as a protective case that holds everything neatly together when packed away. Plus, it also helps prevent damaging the props in transit.

The DJI Mavic 3 Fly More Combo option comes with three batteries, four filters, a multi-charger, controller, and carry case. The Cine Premium Combo comes with an RC Pro remote controller with a 5.5″ display & OcuSync 3+Eight ND filters are included to manage shutter speed and exposure (ND4 to ND512), and microSD card slot supports up to 2TB cards for Apple ProRes 422 HQ codec capability.

Design Tweaks & Changes

Why Does The DJI Mavic 3 Start Out

While looking closer at the Mavic 3, there are sensors spread across the Mavic’s body, with two on the front, two underneath, and two at the rear. 

Plus, there are upward and downward sensors that all assist with the positioning and flight features, eight sensors in total.

Just like the previous Mavic drones, the propellers are foldable with a twist-fit style. This is great for those that may need to switch out old propellers to new ones easily without the need for tools.

With the Mavic 3’s appearance, DJI made changes to the chassis, the lines have been smoothed, and the amount of vents and cooling has been greatly increased.

These design modifications give the Mavic 3 an astonishingly stylish look, and while the Mavic 2 Pro felt solid during my comparison, the new DJI Mavic model feels and looks more professional.

Another major change to the design of the DJI Mavic 3 is the battery that slots directly into the drone’s back, securing with a solid click. 

Once the battery is in place, it’s not going anywhere during flight, and when you need to switch out for a new battery, you can release the old battery with a push the two buttons on either side.

The battery or batteries in the Mavic 3 Combo kit are charged in the USB charging dock. This uses DJI’s own 65W USB type-C plug and enables fast charging. You can also charge batteries in the doc through any laptop or standard USB Type-C plug, which is convenient but extends the charging times.

Cameras

Mavic 3, is still built with a portable and compact quality

While the Mavic 3 build and flight features are quite impressive, it’s the built-in camera that is what sets this drone apart from the competition.

With the Mavic 3, DJI and Hasselblad produced a dual-camera system. The first camera offers high resolution for capturing stunning wide-angle shots, and the second camera for zooming that’s part optical part digital.

The two cameras are positioned one above the other in a single, very compact unit.

These cameras work very much like smartphone cameras that work in combination to get the best photo or video possible. The Hasselblad features a fixed 24 mm focal length, while the second lens offers 162 mm with 28x zoom. The zoom lens is great for filmmakers scouting locations, and blocking actors, and while the quality is still impressive for a built-in zoom, it’s still a digital zoom that has drawbacks just like the digital zoom of your smartphone.

Before I jump into the performance of the Hasselblad camera and what it can do for content creators, photographers, and filmmakers, 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 attached to a gimbal.

As with earlier Mavic drones, this gimbal is compact, fitting into the front of the craft’s nose, and offers a 3-axis of stabilization.

Stabilization through the gimbal is controlled automatically by the drone. However, 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 Fly App, are the last elements of the Mavic 3 the make this drone stand out from the crowd. The DJI Fly app is a cinematographer’s dream because it gives the operator, 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.

The FLY App is well-designed and guides the user through the basics when the drone is first set up; there’s also an adequate flight training program for those just starting. Even though the price tag is higher than what a beginner would invest in, a total beginner would be able to fly this without issue. 

Something that I noticed with any drone that I have flown over the years is, to be a great drone pilot, flight hours are important. So, it’s worth your while using the drone simulator every once in a while to keep up your flight skills up to date.

Plus, with the App, there is direct access to all of the drones options and parameters. But like with many complex tech gadgets, it does take a while to find your way around. The only reason I found this out was when I needed to adjust a parameter and had no idea where it was, and the location of those parameters isn’t always 100% intuitive.

Another example of the controller’s complexity is when switching between the two cameras or adjusting the settings. In the past, you would simply tap the options at the side, and a nice graphic overlay would appear with direct tap options to make the adjustments. Now you have to tap different icons and sometimes delve a little deeper into menus to find exactly what you want.

But don’t let the complex controller scare you because, after a while, you’ll understand what functions and features you need to access frequently and will learn where those options are.

With the rest of the DJI App, it is well laid out, and many of the new features that have started to appear in the App are well-considered. The Geofencing is on point, and the drone won’t take off if you try flying somewhere you shouldn’t.

My favorite element of the App that was added with the Air 2S is the AirSense system. This picks up ADS-B signals from nearby airplanes and helicopters and alerts you to 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 has improved as well compared to previous DJI drone models. The quality of the video feed from the Mavic 3 has been upgraded with the 1080p feed transmitting at 60fps.

The visual effect of this on the screen is quite stunning, with the image being very clear and crisp with ultra-smooth motion.

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Performance

DJI Mavic 3

Setting the drone down on a flat surface 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.

This setup process is quite fast, and once your flight safety checks are completed, you can 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 clear live view.

The DJI Mavic 3 uses three different satellite systems, GPS, GLONASS, and BeiDou; and while you may have to wait for the drone to locate the number of satellites it needs, it doesn’t take too long.

When I was testing out the satellite connection on the film set I was on, we were in a remote area and the Mavic 3 still connected to 25 satellites, which was impressive considering I couldn’t even get cellphone reception in the area. The longest I had to wait for it to connect was around three minutes.

Once the satellites are located, you are ready for flight. One thing I did notice with the new Mavic 3 on my first flight was how quiet the propellers were. Most of the drones I have used in the past haven’t been as silent as they should, while they still make noise, it’s not as bad as the Mavic 3 competitors.

When grabbing the controls and pushing up on the left stick to create some uplift, the drone gets airborne fast with little to no wobble, and easy to control the rise to 2m. 

The controls are pretty simple to keep the drone in the air by a simple tap to the left, right, rotate left, right, back forwards, up, down, and land.

When I tested the Mavic 3 for the first time, I wanted to see what Normal Flight Mode would be like by using the physical switch on the controller just to get a good idea of how the drone reacts and flies.

What I noticed was with the increase in sensors of the Mavic 3, compared to the Mavic 2 Pro, that it was instantly apparent as the FLY App beeps to let you know that the ground is X distance and that there is an obstacle within the set parameter, that object being me.

As I moved the Mavic 3 in the air forward, 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 3 takes evasive action, before bucking and coming to a halt.

I liked having too many sensors on the DJI Mavic 3 because it made me aware that I was flying safely, or a risk to the objects around me. 

In terms of flight time, each battery will operate for a solid half hour before the limits are reached, and that’s a lengthy time of flying. On the day I timed the flights of the cinematographer capturing footage for the film I was on, they were getting around 29 minutes with each battery. Keep in mind that they were filming constantly and doing a lot of hovering on the spot which drains the battery.

Another factor that came into play with the battery drain was the temperature dipped in the afternoon, and the wind speeds above 50 feet picked up. These warnings all appeared in the App, letting the camera team know that while conditions on the ground were good, just a few feet up, was an entirely different story.

Flight Modes

The next thing I wanted to test out with the DJI Mavic 3 was the three different flight modes, Cine, Normal, and Sport, and the characteristics of the drone in flight.

The mode that was most important to me as a filmmaker when testing out the drone, was the Cine mode and how precise and smooth the rotation and motion would be.

The next mode I wanted to test was the normal mode just to see how the drone was in flight. I found the normal mode to be more reactive, enabling faster and more dynamic shots; which was a good start before switching to cine mode to figure out my start and endpoints for the shot.

Both Cine and Normal mode utilize the obstacle avoidance sensors perfectly to give the operator peace of mind during flight.

The next mode that was a simple switch on the controller was Sport mode, and I noticed the characteristics of the drone completely change.

Unlike the Phantom 4 or FPV, which change into rock-solid Airbourne race drones, the Mavic 3 is more of a drifter. The sport mode is fun to test out, but it just doesn’t have the high-speed control that you get with other drones in the DJI lineup. Even though Sport mode is a great mode to have fun with, this is not what the Mavic 3 is made for.

Overall the flight and balance of the Mavic 3 are impressive and feel solid in the air, easy to control, and provide that firm, steady base for your video and images when you need it.

What the Mavic 3 doesn’t offer is the high-speed flight control that you get with the larger and more expensive DJI Phantom series or the small FPV, but you really don’t need this option.

Camera Performance

When it comes to video transmission, the DJI Mavic 3 is a step above the competition for a drone this size because of its smoothness and crispness, and the response time between the camera and live view.

Something that you will notice the first time using the Mavic 3 is when you adjust the camera settings because 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 compared to shooting at 60fps.

The issue with the feed is the smartphone itself and not the drone; you need to ensure that the screen is set to show the color and brightness for the lighting conditions you’re in.

In one situation, I examined the footage and compensated for the exposure, only to find later that the uncorrected footage was correct and the compensated footage was too dark. Basically, the camera understood what it was doing.

In the air, I wanted to test out the second camera and its 28x zoom feature to see the performance compared to the main camera. This is very simple to do as all you need to do is tap the binoculars icon and then click the magnification icon while in flight. As you zoom into the image, you can see the zoom works well, but the quality of the image does quickly break down.

The zoom feature of the second camera is good, but it won’t achieve the high-quality video and stills that you can expect to take using the main Hasselblad camera. From what I noticed testing the second camera is it’s great for location and blocking shots, but it’s the Hasselblad camera that steals the show for this drone.

Sample Video

While I was just testing out the Mavic 3 on the film set, one eye-opener to me cinematically was the quality of the video and what DJI and Hasselblad were able to produce. Collectively these two brands have created something amazing with the DJI Mavic 3, and the high-resolution camera that it contains.

The camera and lens can conform well to various lighting conditions, but it does have their limits.

The dynamic range of 12.8 stops is great, but the challenge is the fall sunlight. As bright contrast light changes to hard contrast shadow, detail is lost and highlights are blown. While this sounds like a bad thing, but this small camera handles the tricky lighting particularly well.

But when it comes to lighting even with high-end video cameras and changing the situation so that the sun is carefully placed behind the camera with a clear vista ahead, the footage is dramatic at all frame rates and resolutions.

Examining the 5.1K footage, there’s so much detail and information that mixing this with footage shot with the latest DSLR or mirrorless cameras would blend in perfectly.

The footage caught on the 4/3 sensors exceeds what any other drone in this class or size can achieve.

With the DJI Mavic 3, you have a strong imaging drone capable of taking unbelievable quality footage at a fraction of the size and cost of any drone out there today. If you want a cinematic drone to take your content to the next level, you need to buy it.

DJI Mavic 3 is it worth it?

Since I have been in the market for a Cinematic drone for some time now, the Mavic 3 has been on my radar based on the rumors and speculated features the drone was going to have that I couldn’t wait to see it be released.

I was lucky to have the opportunity to test out the Mavic 3 at length on a film set, and it helped me gain a really good insight into how the drone flies and operates.

When in flight, the Mavic 3 was solid particularly in calm conditions, the multi remote GPS, GLONASS, and BeiDou connection along with the eight sensors held the drone steady in the air.

For me what stood out the most was when I was using Cine and Normal mode, as the Mavic 3 flys well and gives you the platform you need to capture great footage.

The Sports mode is strangely 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 only drawback to the Mavic 3 that isn’t a big deal, but was slightly disappointed with was that second camera. When I read the features on the DJI website, I thought it would be the Zoom compacted down and mounted adjacent to the Hasselblad; but it doesn’t; it’s more a video scope. It takes images, but the zoom image quality is lacking.

As for the main camera, the 4/3-sensor on such as small drone is amazing, and the video and stills quality match every expectation.

Drone flight (Cine and Normal) and image quality are outstanding, but several other features make the Mavic 3 stand out. The battery life is fantastic as you no longer have to land every 10 to 15 minutes to swap out batteries. Having the ability to fly the drone for 30 minutes of use, if not more, and is a real game-changer. 

I could have pushed the limits to see how long the drone could go for, but when I was on set, I can only play with toys for a limited time before getting kicked off the film set. 

When you break it all down, the DJI Mavic 3 is probably one of the best imaging drones out there on the market today, and not just for the size and price. The compact size delivers an action camera performance like the GoPro Hero10 Black for the sky. 

The image quality, both video and stills, is exceptional, and once you learn how to film from the air and deal with some of the trickiest lighting conditions in the environment you are in, you can capture mind-blowing imagery.

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About the author: Trent (IMDB Youtubehas spent 10+ years working on an assortment of film and television projects. He writes about his experiences to help (and amuse) others. If he’s not working, he’s either traveling, reading or writing about travel/film, or planning travel/film projects.

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DJI Mavic 3 Review: The Hype is Justified

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