DJI’s Best Drone Just Got Upgraded – DJI Mavic 3 Pro Review
What's going on, guys? Billy here, and DJI has just dropped a new version of their Mavic 3 – this one being the DJI Mavic 3 Pro. Now, in case you've lost count, that brings us to seven different versions of the Mavic 3 that have been released: the Classic, the Mavic 3, the Mavic 3 Cine, the Pro, the Pro Cine, the Enterprise, and the Thermal.
DJI Mavic 3 Pro Review Video
Here's the thing: all these drones basically have the same identical airframe. The body of the drone is so similar, from the flight time to the speed, to the obstacle avoidance system, to transmission. There are some slight differences, like the Cine models having a built-in one terabyte SSD for storing your video captured in ProRes, while the Enterprise and Thermal versions have an attachment point on the top side of the drone for different modules.
With that said, because we're already so familiar with the Mavic 3 airframe, I figured I'd blitz through what this drone is capable of by just covering the main highlights – the most important information that you need to know – and then we'll take a deeper dive into this brand new camera system.
So, the design of the drone is standard from what we've seen in folding drones over the years, with refinements that give the Mavic 3 Pro and the rest of the lineup a leg up in basically every regard. We have omnidirectional obstacle avoidance with DJI's upgraded obstacle avoidance hardware – cameras looking in every direction that have a wider field of view and higher resolution for more reliable obstacle detection.
Another standout feature of the Mavic 3 is O3, DJI's top-of-the-line transmission system that actually comes standard in most of their high-end drones right now, like the Mini 3 Pro, the Air 2S, as well as the entire Mavic 3 lineup. This makes for a smooth, uninterrupted flight as the signal is strong and reliable, whether you're 1,000 feet away or a full mile away. There will be little to no lag or dropped frames, even in the most urban of environments where you'll encounter the most interference.
Flying the Mavic 3 each and every single day has made me so accustomed to using a drone with a strong transmission system that it's kind of made me hate flying any other drone that doesn't run O3.
Especially when I pair the Mini 3 Pro, the Air 2S, or any of the Mavic 3s with the RC Plus, this controller gives you an even better signal between the controller and drone because of its upgraded antenna system.
Having a solid connection between your remote controller and drone really does make a huge difference, especially when trying to capture video. I mean, the last thing you want to do is deal with dropped frames or a laggy feed coming back to your controller because it just makes shooting video even harder.
Now, getting into probably my favorite part about this drone: the flight time and other specs. An advertised 43 minutes is just insane, and even though you'll only get about 33 to 35 minutes with real-world usage, that is still plenty to zip your drone around and capture all of the photos and videos that you need.
It's also plenty for capturing longer hyperlapses, which is something that I do frequently with my Mavic 3, whether it be the Classic, Cine, or Pro.
Inside the backpack that I carry with me each and every single day, I bring five Mavic 3 batteries, which gives me an advertised flight time total of 215 minutes or three and a half hours, which is more than plenty to capture what I need throughout the day.
Now, as for the other miscellaneous specs, like the speed of this drone, they really make it a well-rounded airframe. While the 47mph top speed is impressive, something that I like even more is the vertical speed of this drone.
We can dive down to the ground at 13 miles an hour while being able to climb at 17 miles per hour. That makes the experience of flying this drone effortless, as it's very nimble and will allow you to get where you need to go fast, but it also opens up the door for a lot of cool different shot opportunities, like being able to change your altitude fast while chasing a moving subject to make your shot look more dynamic.
We also can't forget about the flight features built into this drone, like ActiveTrack, Spotlight, and Point of Interest. Utilizing the upgraded obstacle avoidance system, the autonomy that comes out of this drone makes for a unique flight experience.
In ActiveTrack, the drone is able to avoid obstacles all by itself while it tracks a moving subject. After years of improvements, this feature has become incredibly reliable. Make sure you stick around towards the end of the video because I have something very awesome to share regarding these flight modes.
Okay, so it's been very well-known that the Mavic 3 is more than capable ever since it first released. I mean, I've been flying a version of the Mavic 3 for about a year and a half now, so this drone is fairly old in terms of technology years, but it still handles everything I need it to with ease.
There's never a time when I'm flying this drone and I wish that it could do more. But the camera, on the other hand, is an area where I think we can always be making improvements, and that's what DJI did here with the Mavic 3 Pro.
This massive new camera housing, mounted to the front of the drone, now holds three separate cameras with three different focal lengths. Just to help you understand the size of this camera, let me put it side by side with the camera on the Mavic 3 that only had two cameras.
I always thought that the four-thirds sensor made this camera very large, but the Pro Camera dwarfs this original design and makes the Classic's camera look even smaller.
So, this new camera is what makes the Pro version of the Mavic 3 different, and it really only introduces two changes.
The first is a brand new sensor, a brand new camera, giving us three different lens options and three different focal length options to choose from when capturing both photos and videos.
The second is the introduction of a new color science that's been on previous drones before, and now they're bringing it back to the Mavic 3 Pro, and it's D-Log M. So, we now have four different color space options available when capturing video with the Mavic 3 Pro.
That third lens, though, is by far the biggest change of the two. When it comes to the specifications of all three cameras, here's a quick glimpse at what's important to know: we've got the same four-thirds main camera, the same half-inch tele camera that punches in for a 7x optical zoom or about 166 millimeter equivalent focal length, and this new medium tele lens sits just in between the two, giving us a 3x optical zoom or a 70 millimeter equivalent focal length.
This camera is basically the same as the DJI Mini 3 Pro, so it's the same sensor size with the same video shooting resolution, frame rate options, and megapixel count. The only difference is that the Mini 3 Pro has a 1.7 aperture, while this camera on the Mavic 3 Pro has an f/2.8 aperture, and of course, has a much tighter focal length than the Mini 3 Pro.
When you think about zoom on a drone, the first thing that enters everybody's mind is, “Oh, I can keep my drone higher in the sky and zoom down to get a closer look at something.”
This stems from the 28x hybrid zoom that we have here in the Mavic 3 Pro, which gives us digital zoom on top of the 7x optical zoom from that half-inch sensor.
Now, don't get me wrong, using the tele camera with Explore mode is a lot of fun to look around, and when you zoom all the way in, it is impressively stable. You'll notice that as we zoom, it cycles through the different cameras until we eventually reach the maximum of 28 times.
This digital zoom, though, makes for an image that isn't as sharp, so I'd primarily use this to look and scout around, not to actually produce photos or videos that I wanted to share.
So, that's why most people think that zooming on a drone is important: it's to get a closer look at something. When in fact, the addition of the 3x camera, the 70 millimeter focal length here on the Mavic 3 Pro, is all about compression.
For example, when we look at how a mirrorless camera with interchangeable lenses functions, the image that you capture is vastly different based on the focal length that you use.
For example, on my Sony A1, this is how things look with a 12-millimeter wide-angle lens: I'm standing super close to the camera, and the background behind me looks massive.
This parking garage looks like it goes on forever. Now, as we cycle through the different focal lengths from 24 millimeters, which is kind of like a standard based on how your eye sees, to 70 millimeters, which is the focal length of the 3x camera on the new Mavic 3 Pro, and even all the way out to 200 millimeters, you can see that even though I take up a similar portion of the frame throughout, the background has changed drastically.
That's because as I zoom in or use a tighter focal length, the space throughout is compressed.
So, that is just a basic understanding of how the focal length on your camera will change the way your image looks. If we apply that same philosophy to the Mavic 3 Pro with its three different focal length options, you'll understand why this camera system is such a game-changer.
To give you an understanding of the different amounts of distance that we can cover with each camera, here's a shot captured with the main four-thirds sensor of all of Manayunk, just outside of Philadelphia.
Switching over to the 3x medium tele camera, we start to punch in and get a closer look at the church tower up on the hill. Then, with the 7x tele camera that has a 166-millimeter equivalent, it brings us right up onto the tower, giving us a perfect view of the building. Just to show you how far we zoomed in, let's put all of these side by side.
It's pretty crazy that with just one single drone and one single camera unit, we can achieve all three of these frames at lossless quality, as this is optical zoom, not digital zoom.
So, that gives you a good understanding of how far we can reach with these different cameras, but what do the different levels of compression look like from the air between these three different focal lengths?
The main sensor is what we're used to seeing on a drone: 24 millimeters. It isn't super wide, but it isn't super tight, which leads to a very natural-looking frame. Like this shot with the Art Museum in the foreground and the Philly skyline in the background is what it looks like with your eye. It's a little bit wide, showing the buildings from North to South to West Philly and all the highways and roads here in between.
In order to achieve that similar frame, though, we needed to fly 3,000 feet backward to show the Art Museum and skyline together at 70 millimeters. This is far more compressed, bringing the foreground and background closer together.
If I wanted to show this same frame, though, but with the 7x zoom, I'd have to fly back like one and a half to two miles, which isn't doable. But check out this shot I was able to grab from all the way out in West Philly.
This is in the Manayunk area, where we showed the other comparison of the tower up on the hill. I'm a good four to five miles away from Center City, and it looks like we are right there, which is crazy.
This image is pretty sharp too. Getting back to the 1x and 3x cameras, though, which I've personally been using the most, you can really see the difference in the level of compression between these two cameras, giving you two very different looks when we put them side by side.
This opens up the door for so many possibilities. Really, it's given me a new experience when flying my drone. It's allowing me to see things differently from the air.
For the longest time, I was just using the single camera, the standard 24-millimeter focal length on all the drones that I have ever flown, and I've made it work.
But now that I have this different focal length at my disposal that isn't too punched in, like it's not as tight as that 7x 166-millimeter tele camera that we have, it's a usable focal length.
It's now got my brain turning, right? It's got my mind spinning on how I can capture photos and videos differently.
For example, this reveal shot of Manayunk has been captured time and time again by all of the drones that I have flown in the same way, despite all the different cameras, color sciences, and resolutions. It all comes down to looking the same with a similar focal length.
Flipping over to the medium tele camera, though, gives us a completely different look, compressing the trees and buildings again, bringing the foreground and background together. It makes for a really epic shot. You can really see the traffic down there on Main Street while also getting a great shot and a great view of the church up on the hill.
Now, I don't think that one of these clips looks better than the other. I think that it really just comes down to personal preference: what's going to work best for the video you're making, what's going to work best to propel the story that you're trying to tell, a wider or a tighter shot, right?
It just comes down to the fact that having both of these focal lengths at the top of a button available on your controller, on your drone, is really powerful.
Cycling through a couple of other examples, I love this shot coming up and over the waterfall on the Schuylkill River to reveal Boathouse Row. The wide shot from our 1x main camera establishes the entire area from the gazebo to the highway, to of course, the waterfall right in front.
To further put the focus on Boathouse Row, though, we can switch over to the 3x camera and capture the same video, but in my opinion, this shot is a lot more powerful.
Moving on, this wide orbit shot here of the Philly skyline is great for giving the viewer context. You can see the art museum, the skyline, and the surrounding area; it's what we're used to seeing right from this standard focal length.
Flipping over to the medium tele camera, though, we can really put the focus on the skyline, bringing the viewer closer to what the main subject of the shot is: the buildings in the background.
You can go even crazier and punch in to the tele camera at 7x to pick out specific details, like Liberty One being revealed from behind the Comcast Tower. Remember, I am way outside of the city, flying near the Art Museum in the Fairmount area, and we can still get a crystal-clear view that makes this reveal shot look epic.
Staying here in Philly, a clip that I always like to capture is this reveal shot up and over the Art Museum. You get the skyline in your shot and a view directly down the Ben Franklin Parkway, leading your eyes towards City Hall and the William Penn statue up on top of the building.
Capturing this same shot with the medium tele 3x camera, though, is super powerful, as you can get the columns of the Art Museum front and center, and then that view down the parkway is much clearer as the compression from this lens brings the background even closer, so City Hall is much more distinct in this frame.
Now, the final example here is a shot that I would never have captured with any of the drones that I usually fly. This is a view directly down Interstate 676, which is cool because it has a ton of action going on: you've got cars whizzing up and down the highway, cars driving by over the bridges above, and other vehicles moving up and down the side streets.
With our 1x camera, all of this action is basically lost, but flipping over to the 3x camera turns this into a shot that I would actually use. This view straight down the interstate looks awesome, and it's all thanks to the new focal length that we have and that level of compression. Again, it's allowing me to see things differently from the air and capture shots I usually wouldn't.
Now, remember, all those shots that you just watched were captured from the same drone with the same camera that just has three different focal lengths. So, again, being able to switch between these cameras with the push of a button is really powerful.
But I really want to emphasize that one shot isn't necessarily better than the other, right? Like, a wide shot of the city skyline of Philadelphia isn't bad by any means, but it just comes down to what your personal preference is.
I think it's going to be awesome moving forward when capturing aerial cinematic videos to switch between focal lengths to give the viewer a different perspective of specific areas and to change up the feeling of the video and, of course, of the photos that we capture.
Just recently, when testing out this drone, I took it to Utah with me, and while I won't spoil the entire video, I'll share a couple of my favorite shots. I actually captured most of my clips using the 1x camera, just because that's what I was most familiar with, but it was great to have the 3x camera to also use for mixing up the look of my clips.
There were also shots that just looked better with that tighter focal length too, like orbiting the city to bring the mountains in the background closer to the city skyline here.
That video will be uploaded to my channel soon, so you can see all the clips I captured on my trip out west. But up until this point, we've really only discussed video, which I hope is giving you an understanding of the quality of all three cameras here on the Mavic 3 Pro.
What about aerial photos with the DJI Mavic 3 Pro?
But what about photos? Well, the same mentality reigns true. The medium tele camera opens up the door for brand new shots that I wasn't able to capture before with the standard 24-millimeter focal length on most drones. The images from each of the cameras are tack sharp and edit really well, especially the new medium tele camera that gives us 48 megapixels, so there is room to punch in even more if you wanted to.
Regardless, this new lens has been a dream of mine because I really enjoy shooting photos between 50 to 85 millimeters while on the ground with my mirrorless camera. The fact that now I'm able to utilize this same focal length from the air makes this drone so valuable to me.
Now, really quickly jumping back to the video side of things, I know I'll be asked about the low-light capabilities. We already know from testing out the Mavic 3 Classic and Mavic 3 Cine that the main camera, the four-thirds sensor, can capture some of the best low-light aerial video on any platform available right now, whether it be a sunset, blue hour, or the middle of the night.
You're going to be able to capture some really great low-light video, so long as you have a light source that you're actually shooting, like a city skyline. This will be one of the best drones to do so. Now, in terms of that new camera we have, the 3x optical zoom, it gives us really good low-light video as well. It's got an F2.8 aperture, which allows a lot of light to hit the sensor and overall gives you a really great usable image.
So overall, when it comes to capturing photos and videos, this brand new focal length really opens the door to a lot of new possibilities when you're capturing your shot to give you a different feel to those images.
It's something that I personally haven't been able to experience on a drone. We, of course, have digital zoom, but it's something I never wanted to use because it kind of gives you crummy image quality. But because we now have optical zoom at 70 millimeters, 48 megapixels, and 4K at 60 frames per second, it really has changed my outlook on capturing aerial photos and videos.
Now, if you want to see these files, these photos, and videos in their full resolution and play around with them for yourself, I'm going to leave a link to my website in the description.
It's going to be a download link that allows you to bring these files onto your computer, play with them for yourself, and understand how they work. The final quick tip here that I want to give you in regards to the camera is: don't fly around with the 7x or 3x camera engaged. You're going to end up crashing, as that tight focal length just makes flying the drone really weird and cumbersome. It kind of gives you almost like tunnel vision as you're flying around.
So, my workflow is to flip over to the 1x camera, try to find out where I want to fly to, flip back to the 3x camera, figure out if my framing is right, and then I go and get my shot. If I want to move to my next spot, I'm flipping right back to the 1x camera, the main camera, because it gives you that wider field of view. For me, I actually switched the C3 button on my RC Pro so that I can quickly flip between the different focal lengths as I'm going around capturing my photos and videos.
Telelens combined with ActiveTrack
And now for the final thing that I want to cover here in this video: remember, we discussed ActiveTrack, Spotlight, Point of Interest, and we also kind of touched on hyperlapses. All four of these modes are available with the new 70-millimeter focal length here on the Mavic 3 Pro. For example, with ActiveTrack, being able to have the drone track me while zoomed in means that it can stay higher to avoid trees while keeping me as the main subject in the frame.
It isn't as immersive as using the regular 1x camera would be because the drone isn't down in the action, but it makes tracking yourself in more populated areas very easy. Like if I'm riding my OneWheel along the Schuylkill River Trail here, I don't want it flying right behind me where it could potentially crash and injure someone. Now with this tele lens, I'm able to stay far away and I can use ActiveTrack without having to worry. It also does a great job locking onto me as the subject and not jumping around, as I mentioned. ActiveTrack has gotten really good over the years.
Hyperlapses with the 70mm telelens on the Mavic 3 Pro
And now for the final mode that has me most excited: hyperlapses. You can now capture hyperlapses using the 70-millimeter 3x zoom here on the Mavic 3 Pro, which is going to completely change the game. Now, if you follow me over on Instagram, you know that I've been posting a lot of hyperlapses from all the spots that I travel to, but I actually haven't been doing many hyperlapses with the Mavic 3 Pro here.
I've been focusing a lot of my time on playing around with that zoom capability for capturing different photos and videos, using that new focal length to again experience these different views from the air. Another reason I really wasn't doing a lot of hyperlapses is because, on the beta version of the firmware I was running, the hyperlapse function wasn't really all that finished.
For example, I noticed that the drone would fly a bit erratically during flight. I also noticed that I couldn't save RAW photographs; I could only save JPEG photographs. So while I did some testing, I took those initial tests with a grain of salt.
These here are two examples I was able to capture. I am personally not happy with them whatsoever; they're very shaky and not stable. Again, I was editing JPEGs, so this is kind of like a learning experience for me, right? It's helping me understand how to get the best results using this type of focal length on a drone that is very new.
Making it work with hyperlapses will take some time to get used to. I didn't even really try to stabilize or edit these images; these were processed super fast. But again, be sure to check back on my channel because I'm going to make a dedicated video in a few days about creating hyperlapses with this brand-new focal length.
I did manage to capture one hyperlapse that I think is fairly usable. I'll put it up on the screen here; I actually cropped it down to be vertical. It looks good, right? I mean, it's fairly stable, but again, it's going to take some practice to understand how to best use this focal length.
I did a similar hyperlapse to this, which I'll also put up on the screen, and using the main camera, the 4/3 sensor on my Mavic 3, it kind of gives you this wide-angle look that shows you the highway and all the traffic whizzing by, but you also see the skyline very small in the background. This hyperlapse, though, that I captured with the 70-millimeter focal length, puts you front and center with the traffic whizzing by the skyline as it pulls it closer, compressing our image.
Is the DJI Mavic 3 Pro worth the upgrade?
So overall, I am in love with this new focal length. Again, it's given me a new way to look at how I'm capturing aerial photos and videos. It is by far the single biggest change that was made to the Mavic 3 Pro. But is it worth the upgrade? Like, again, we've had so many different Mavic 3s out there. If you've got a Classic, is it worth it to upgrade to the Pro? If you've got the Cine, should you upgrade to the Pro Cine? If you've got the Mavic 2 Pro, is this now the time to upgrade to the Mavic 3 Pro?
Look, I really can't determine that for you; you need to make the decision based on what you use your drone for. Could you benefit from this focal length? Could you benefit from this new camera? If the answer is yes and you want to experiment with it, then I'd highly recommend you check it out because, personally, it's one of my favorite ways to capture aerial photos and videos now from the sky because it just looks so different.
Anyway, thank you, guys, so much for watching. Be sure to check out my Instagram, as I'm going to be posting a lot of hyperlapses over there with this brand-new lens; it's going to be awesome. But yeah, I hope you guys enjoy it, and as always, I'll talk to you later.
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