Now that the dust has settled around the DJI Mavic 3 Pro‘s release, I want to emphasize, a couple of months later, just how powerful this camera system has been for me in my day-to-day use of this drone. It's gotten to the point where I've become so reliant on having three cameras that I can switch to on the fly, that it almost feels like I'm at a disadvantage when using any other drone.
DJI Mavic 3 Pro is the same as Mavic 3 Classic except…
Looking at the majority of drones that have come out before the Mavic 3 Series, such as the Mini 3 Pro, the Air 2S, and even going back to the Mavic 2 Pro, they all have a single camera system. Of course, the Mavic 3 Pro, being such a new and expensive drone, is going to outclass these other options.
However, even if we look across the Mavic 3 lineup, specifically at the Mavic 3 Classic, this drone is essentially identical to the Mavic 3 Pro in almost every regard – the flight time, range, speed, and airframe – everything is the same. You even get the same primary camera with a four-thirds sensor capable of capturing 5.1K video, 4K video at 120 frames per second, and 20-megapixel photos. The dynamic range, colors, and everything else about this camera are fantastic.
What sets the Mavic 3 Pro apart are the two extra cameras that come equipped on the drone, offering different focal lengths. With the push of a button, you can switch between the standard 24mm lens, the medium tele 70mm lens, or the third tele lens that lets us zoom all the way to 166mm. All of this is optical, so you don't lose any quality to a digital zoom as you punch in.
Assuming you keep the drone out of Explorer mode, you actually have a total zoom range of 28 times, but for the sake of this video, we're looking at the true focal length of each camera.
DJI Mavic 3 Pro vs. the DJI Inspire 3
This ability to switch between different lenses and focal lengths during your flight makes the Mavic 3 Pro's camera so powerful. You might think it was unfair that I compared the Mavic 3 Pro to drones that are less expensive and not in the same class, but this applies to any drone that only carries one camera with one lens. Take the DJI Inspire 3, for example.
I've been flying this drone for the past few weeks and have been loving everything about it. It's fast, agile, has a nice big controller, and the camera produces some of the best aerial imagery I have ever seen at 8K, with colors that pop off the screen and a dynamic range that seems almost impossible.
Here's the thing though: every time I'm flying this near $17,000-$20,000 setup with a full-frame camera, I always wish in the back of my head that I could just push a button on the controller and switch between cameras or focal lengths.
This beast of a camera does have interchangeable lenses with native 18, 24, 35, and 50 millimeter options, but to switch between them, you have to land, turn off the drone, swap the lenses, turn the drone back on, and by that time, you may have lost your window of opportunity to capture what you were shooting.
Take this example for instance: I was down in Cape May capturing some shots of the sunset when I saw this boat ripping into the inlet. At the time, I was far away from it, so I had to hustle to catch up. To help me gain a bit of distance, I punched into the three-times camera. Not only did this allow me to stay further away from the boat, but stylistically, I love the compression that comes off this lens, especially when orbiting around this fast-moving boat.
Because I had the ability to switch between lenses, I was also able to jump back over to the wide camera at 24 millimeters and get this epic reveal shot as the boat sailed underneath and into the inlet, ultimately revealing the rest of the bay and the sky.
If I had instead been flying the Inspire 3 at this time for this shot sequence, I wouldn't have been able to make it work the way I did with the DJI Mavic 3 Pro.
Now, look, I wouldn't have had cause to complain, because this camera is amazing. I would have gotten this crisp 8K video as the boat was coming towards me and as I was going towards the inlet. But I wouldn't have been able to make it stylistically look the same. I would have had to use the same lens that was mounted on my camera for both shots. I wouldn't have had time to land my drone, put on a new lens, and then put the drone back in the air to get a wide-angle shot of the boat as it went through the inlet.
That's why the Mavic 3 Pro's camera is so powerful: because you've got the ability to switch lenses on the fly at a moment's notice, to really adapt to whatever it is you're trying to capture.
Three lenses gives you options
Okay, so the thing to think about with these three different lenses is that, yes, they give you the ability to get a closer look at something, but the main reason that you'd want to switch between these lenses is to change the look of your shot to get a different level of compression. This is what professionals expect from any camera that they purchase.
For instance, you might have one camera body, but you've got multiple lenses, maybe five or six different focal lengths that change the way the images from your camera look. Except with the Mavic 3, instead of different lenses, you've just got different cameras or different sensors you can switch between. They all have different focal lengths.
To best understand the difference, I'll use the William Penn statue here on City Hall in Philadelphia as an example. When we flip through the shots between these cameras, the biggest change is the background. As we compress the image by zooming in, what's in the background comes closer and closer to the subject that you're capturing, ultimately changing how your shot looks.
I often show this example of the Salt Lake City skyline: with the 24-millimeter shot, you get this wide-angle view of the buildings with the mountains in the distance barely visible.
When I move my drone back and flip over to the medium tele camera, now at 70 millimeters, those mountains appear way closer as the image has been compressed. This, in my opinion, is a way better shot than what came from the wide-angle camera.
This, however, does come with its downsides. I mean, trying to cram three different lenses, three different cameras, three different sensors inside of one module is going to have its drawbacks. For example, between the different sensors, you've got different sizes that produce different colors between the images, so you do have a bit of color shift. For me, it's not that big of a deal now, after having used this drone and having color graded the footage, because I know how to make them match throughout, so you get one consistent look.
But another thing that I've had to overcome is the softness of the 3x and 7x camera, at least when compared to the main camera. Now, in a vacuum, they look plenty sharp, but when you start shooting with the main four-thirds sensor, you realize that the dynamic range and sharpness is just way better coming from that main sensor, from the larger sensor.
Now, I will say you do have an added benefit with the 3x medium tele camera giving you 48-megapixel images, so you do have a higher resolution photograph that you're capturing, but just know it is a quad-bayer sensor. It's not a true 48-megapixel sensor.
So yes, while we do have these drawbacks that come from trying to cram all of these sensors into one camera module, it's not enough to keep me away from using them. I know that I'm going to get a great-looking shot regardless, and I love the sequences that I can get by switching between lenses to get different types of shots while my drone is in the air.
Real-world example of the DJI Mavic 3 Pro
For instance, in a real-world example, I was capturing some video of a home for sale with the Mavic 3 Pro, and a majority of my shots were with the wide camera. It's the perfect focal length for reveal shots, rising shots, establishing shots, and wide shots. Really, almost everything was done with that wide camera. But because I had the ability to switch focal lengths, I could get low for this reveal of the home from around this tree.
There's even a little bush that's popping up from the bottom of the foreground, further adding to our parallax effect. This, mixed in with the other establishing shots, allowed me to show the home in different ways and was all done with the press of a button on my remote to flip amongst the different lenses.
Let me share another real-world example with you that isn't as glamorous. I do some work for a land developer that was clearing a plot of land for a new commercial building. Now, the task was just to kind of capture the current state of the job to document its current state. I could have literally used any drone to do this – even a DJI Mini 2 in this case would have handled the job perfectly as it would have given my client what they wanted – high-quality shots of the grounds.
This kind of brings us back to what we discussed at the beginning of this video, how all of these drones for the past couple of years have had a single camera system that captures videos and photos at the same focal length. So no matter what drone you use, your shots looked very similar. Sure, the video captured from a Mavic 3 is going to look much different than the video captured from a DJI Mini 2 because you've got a bigger sensor.
You've got better dynamic range, you've got better colors, right? You've got an overall improved camera system. But the Mavic 3 Pro is the first drone that can fundamentally change the way that your photos and videos look through different lenses.
Now, for this job, because I was using the Mavic 3 Pro, I decided to make use of those other two lenses to see how I could show what was going on at the job site in a completely different way.
I used the wide camera for a lot of my establishing shots, like showing off the whole plot of land from a high vantage point, capturing some of the larger areas of work from an elevated perspective, and focusing in on some of the machines and the current actions they were doing. Here's the thing, though: that main camera with a 24-millimeter focal length left these action shots feeling too wide. I felt like I wasn't able to focus on one thing and isolate what was happening without getting too close to what I was capturing.
This is when I flipped to the medium tele camera with the three times zoom, or the 70-millimeter focal length, and it completely changed the look of my shots. Now, I was able to capture those close-up shots of the guys working and the machines running. Not only could I do this while staying a safe distance away from the equipment as they moved the material around, but I also got some great compression within the shot, bringing the action going on in the background closer to the foreground.
Like this shot here of all the machines working in sequence; it is so pleasing because the entire frame is filled with up-close action. Just to quickly compare apples to apples, here is an orbit shot of one of the raking machines. While the wide shot gives a sense of speed as I whip low to the ground and around the machine, the 70-millimeter lens compresses the image and isolates our focus directly on what the worker is doing.
I couldn't help myself, though, and I tried to get some dynamic shots with the main camera by whipping the drone around, getting up close to the action. I feel like I was just asking for a crash to happen with this, but nonetheless, it goes to show how different lenses give you different results.
Now, we can't forget about the other tele camera, which gives us a 166-millimeter equivalent focal length. I've spoken poorly about this lens just because I felt like on a drone, it was too zoomed in or too tight. But I actually found some amazing use cases for it, like focusing directly on the worker who's operating the machinery. This moment right here was an eye-opener for me as I finally found, at least for me, what the purpose of this telelens is, and that is for the times when you want to isolate your subject even further.
Totally unrelated, but I also snapped this photo with the tele camera, and I was blown away by the clarity of the image. I'm definitely going to have to do some more experimenting to implement this lens into my everyday workflow. I also have to mention that the hyperlapse game has been changed forever, as you can now use this 3x zoom, the 70-millimeter camera, to capture hyperlapses.
Just like when taking photos and videos, it completely changes the way that you look through the camera. The way that you frame your shots is going to be way different, and what's great is, you can still make use of all the same flight modes that you get with the main camera. So, you've got free course lock, point of interest, and waypoints.
For me, just kind of experimenting here in Philadelphia, it's been cool to see the different angles I can get that would just look way too weird if I was using the wide camera. But now, with that compression, it allows me to get further outside of the city and really capture some awesome angles. I can't wait to take this on the road with me this summer and continue to experiment and capture hyperlapses across the entire country.
Now, moving on, recently in Philadelphia, we had a major incident happen in which an overpass on a major section of I-95 collapsed due to a truck explosion. I've been documenting the work done, and while the wide camera has proven to be a great way to capture the site as a whole, the medium tele and telecameras have been a great way to get a closer look at what work is being done.
From getting shots of the actual workers doing different tasks to machines moving around site to general detail shots of specific parts of the demolition and construction, this is a project that I've used the 3x camera the most on since getting this drone.
One final example I have to share before this gets too boring is the road construction that's being done on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. They're widening this section of the road here and what gets to be tricky is the logistics behind navigating such a busy roadway like this with my drone.
In a similar vein as the I-95 Bridge Project, the wide-angle camera is great for capturing major sections of the project, but both of the tele cameras came in to be super helpful when looking at smaller details on bridges, overpasses, and structures that were being constructed.
On the subject of compression, it also came to be the most helpful when trying to capture this entire two and a half mile stretch of road in one single image when flying at the end of the east section of the road work being done.
This photo, taken from the wide camera, makes the project look like it goes on forever. What's happening in the immediate foreground is present, but anything down the road can't be made out. Taking the same shot with a 70-millimeter lens compresses our entire image, thus making the whole project a lot easier to see in one single frame. It brings the background closer, as we've mentioned throughout this video.
Conclusion on the DJI Mavic 3 Pro
So, as you can tell, I've definitely become accustomed to using the triple camera system here on the Mavic 3 Pro. Whether I'm shooting for fun or whether I'm shooting for work, I'm always switching back and forth between the 1x and 3x cameras. The 7x camera doesn't get used as much, but the addition of that new 70-millimeter focal length to me really changes the way that I capture aerial photos and videos.
I never thought that drones would go in the same direction as smartphones by adding different cameras at different focal lengths, but I guess it makes sense. Because when you put a drone in the air, the last thing you want to do is land in order to go and change ND Filters, change focal length.
So that's why the Mavic 3 Pro all around is so powerful: because you can adjust the aperture on that gimbal camera as your exposure changes throughout your scene, and then you can also switch between lenses to change your focal length. So, it really is a dynamic system to work with, and that is what makes it so powerful.
Anyway, thank you, guys, so much for watching this video. Let me know your thoughts on the triple camera system here on the Mavic 3 Pro in the comment section below, and as always, I'll talk to you later. Peace.
Get your Part 107 Certificate
Pass the test and take to the skies with the Pilot Institute. We have helped thousands of people become airplane and commercial drone pilots. Our courses are designed by industry experts to help you pass FAA tests and achieve your dreams.
FTC: DroneXL.co uses affiliate links that generate income.* We do not sell, share, rent out, or spam your email, ever. Our email goes out on weekdays around 5:30 p.m.