DJI Minis used to be for those who wanted the best flight for the least money. The DJI Mini 3 Pro is what happens when we pay a little extra.
The $760 DJI Mini 3 Pro brings a new structural design with adjustments to the arms and propellers, camera gimbal and obstacle sensors, while still keeping itself under 249 grams with the stock battery installed. It’s made from DJI’s trusty gray plastic case, which in my experience was heavy but lightweight.
The updated gimbal now allows for upward angle shooting and can even be rotated vertically for portraits and videos. In the DJI Fly app, this is as simple as tapping a button to switch orientations, and it happens extremely quickly. The included plastic cover protects the camera and prevents the gimbal from moving when not in use, but my problem is that it’s extra finicky to put back on compared to every other DJI drone I’ve used. Maybe I haven’t figured out the trick for it yet.
New to the Mini-series are, in addition to the downward sensor, also forward and rear-facing obstacle sensors. These are used in conjunction with APAS 4.0 to not only stop before problems occur, but also to automatically find paths around obstacles. Unfortunately, APAS 4.0 is not active for high frame rate recordings above 30p.
The battery life of the Mini 3 Pro is either the total expected 30 minutes with the standard Intelligent Flight Battery or very impressive 45 minutes with the new $100 Intelligent Flight Battery Plus. The Intelligent Flight Battery Plus has the same footprint as the standard battery, but added about 15 minutes of flight time. The caveat is that it’s heavier, making the total drone package weigh over 250 grams, which then forces you to register it in many regions.
The extra battery life is great, but for many it won’t be worth using if it means meeting that registration requirement.
With the new Mini 3 Pro, DJI also introduced a new optional controller. The DJI RC has a built-in 5.5-inch touchscreen, so pairing with a smartphone is not necessary. This display has a peak brightness of 700 nits, which is less than the $ 1,200 DJI RC Pro’s 1000 nits. In bright sunlight, the screen at maximum brightness is on the verge of being a little too faded for any sort of critical monitoring, but it’s perfectly usable for getting the right amount of what the drone is doing. With the highlight warning enabled and the histogram displayed, screen brightness never became an issue for my use.
Paired with the Mini 3 Pro’s 03 transmission system, the video surveillance feed comes in 1080p and looks great. There’s a quality difference between when I’m on standby and when I’m recording video, with recording quality being a step up for more accurate monitoring when it matters.
The DJI RC has a healthy number of controls, including separate photo and video buttons for quick switching and two programmable buttons on the back. The photo button is a two-step button, just like on typical cameras, where the first stage automatically focuses and sets autoexposure without taking a picture, and the second stage down actually takes the shot.
Overall, it fits well in my hands and the rubber grip prevents clamminess. My only criticism is that I think the thumbsticks could use a little more tension for finer precision.
With a generous 1/1.3-type CMOS camera sensor and a 24mm f/1.7 fixed lens, the camera can shoot up to 48 megapixels. that said, the photos in the standard single-frame mode are 12 megapixels. Overall, the image quality is impressive with good dynamic range and noise processing. Colors also look great straight out of the camera, whether you’re shooting in RAW or JPEG.
DJI claims the camera has dual-native ISOs, which seems true, but I honestly can’t tell when the switch will happen: images are always a little noisy no matter what ISO I’m using. The noise levels look about the same from ISO 100 to the maximum ISO 6,400, and in my test images at least 6,400 look cleaner than 100 as the grainy noise. I see the dynamic range takes a hit as the ISO increases, but the details don’t get any more or less blocky.
Another area that impressed me was how well the camera handled backlit scenes. Lens flare is basically relegated to a tiny green dot and at just the right angle in the extreme corners, internal camera reflections can occur. Overall, the lens holds contrast much better than I expected in difficult situations.
Looking at the tiny Mini 3 Pro and the tiny camera on it, it’s hard to believe that the video quality would be very good. But even in high winds, the Mini 3 Pro performed well beyond expectations to create smooth, rich images.
It can record at 4K up to 60 frames per second, or 1080p up to 120 frames per second. There’s also HDR recording at up to 30 frames per second. All of this can be done in a horizontal frame or even vertically to maintain all the resolution for social media posts. Below are comparisons of 100% crops of 4K, 2.7K and 1080p footage. I see almost no difference in detail.
Below is a short video shot around sunset in windy conditions for a sense of video image quality at 4K 30p. It is recorded in “Normal” color mode with no color corrections afterwards. The DJI Fly app kept warning me that it would force a landing because the wind was too strong, although it never did. As you can see in the first clip, it was hard to stay in a fixed position and steady with the wind, but adding any kind of movement greatly reduced those effects to the point that it’s hard to see except by looking at the grass that blows around.
DJI promotes the ability to use digital zoom for video recording, such as 2x zoom in 4K, 3x zoom in 2.7K, and 4x zoom in 1080p. Regardless of which digital zoom is used, you want the final project to be 1080p or the results will get pretty messy. Zooming in twice at 4K looks bad, but when downsampled to 1080p it gets decent, and the story is the same at 3x at 2.7K. Below is a digital zoom comparison where the video itself is 1080p.
A huge makeover for a mini drone
DJI continues to raise the bar and refuses to slow down in the drone market, despite being at the top for years now. This new drone brings countless improvements to the Mini form factor with a better camera and gimbal system, longer battery life, more stable flight performance, added obstacle sensors, plus all the little things like ActiveTrack, a D-Log color profile and HDR video.
Are there alternatives?
This is the fourth release in DJI’s small drone lineup after the Mavic Mini, Mini 2 and Mini SE. The Mini 3 Pro clearly stands out as a next level improvement over previous models in every facet, but as the thought of buying a brand new drone that may or may not accidentally crash or drown the first time you fly. , chasing you, costing a little less may be the only way to feel comfortable. On the other hand, the Mini 3 Pro is the first of the Mini series to have front and rear obstacle avoidance sensors, so it’s still a tough decision.
As the owner of the DJI Mavic Air 2, the new Mini 3 Pro seems to be everything I love about my drone, but better, in a smaller package and with longer flight times. If I were to buy a drone today, I’d go for the Mini 3 Pro over the Air 2 (just to be clear, I don’t mean the Air 2S).
Should you buy it?
Yes. The DJI Mini 3 Pro is a high-quality drone in a small package. The people who want the absolute best images and don’t care how big the drone has to be or how much they have to spend have other options, but for almost everyone this is the right drone to buy.