DJI Minis were once for those who want the best flight for the least amount of 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 tweaks to the arms and propellers, camera gimbal, and obstacle sensors while remaining under 249 grams with the standard battery installed. It’s made from DJI’s familiar gray plastic housing, which in my experience is tough yet lightweight.
The updated gimbal now allows for upward angled shooting and can even be rotated vertically for portrait orientation photos and video. In the DJI Fly app, it’s as simple as pressing a button to switch between orientations and it happens extremely quickly. The included plastic cover protects the camera and keeps the gimbal from moving around when not in use, but my issue is that it’s very difficult to put back on compared to any other DJI drone I’ve used . Maybe I haven’t found the trick yet.
New to the Mini series are the forward and rear facing obstacle sensors in addition to the downward sensor. These are used with APAS 4.0 not only to stop before problems arise, but also to be able to automatically find paths around obstacles. Unfortunately, APAS 4.0 is not active for high frame rate shots above 30p.
The battery life of the Mini 3 Pro is either around 30 minutes with the standard Intelligent Flight Battery or a 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 around 15 minutes of flight time. The caveat is that it is heavier, which takes the total weight of the drone to over 250 grams, which then requires 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 running into that recording requirement.
With the new Mini 3 Pro, DJI has also introduced a new optional controller. The DJI RC has a built-in 5.5-inch touchscreen, so no smartphone pairing is required. This display has 700 nits of peak brightness, which is less than the 1,000 nits of the $1,200 DJI RC Pro. In direct sunlight, the display at maximum brightness is a little too washed out for any sort of critical monitoring, but it’s perfectly usable for getting the fair of what the drone is doing. With highlight warning enabled and histogram displayed, screen brightness never became an issue for my use.
Coupled with the Mini 3 Pro’s 03 transmission system, the surveillance video stream is delivered in 1080p and looks great. There’s a difference in quality between when I’m sleeping 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 massive 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 step performs autofocus and sets auto exposure without taking a picture, and the second step actually takes the picture.
Overall it fits well in my hands and the rubberized grip keeps it from getting wet. My only criticism is that I think the shifters could use a little more tension for finer precision.
Featuring a generous 1/1.3 type CMOS camera sensor and a fixed 24mm f/1.7 lens, the camera can shoot images up to 48 megapixels. that said, in standard single-frame mode, photos are 12-megapixels. Overall image quality is impressive with good dynamic range and noise management. Colors also look great straight out of the camera, whether in RAW or JPEG.
DJI claims the camera has two native ISOs, which seems true, but honestly I can’t tell when the change is happening: images are still a bit noisy no matter what ISO I’m using. Noise levels seem about the same from ISO 100 all the way up to ISO 6400, and if anything, my test images take 6400 to look cleaner than 100 to look like grainy noise. I can see that the dynamic range takes a hit as the ISO increases, but the detail doesn’t get more or less chunky.
Another area that impressed me was how the camera handled backlit scenes. Lens flare is essentially relegated to a tiny green dot, and at just the right angle in the far corners there can be internal camera reflections. Overall, the lens maintains contrast much better than I expected in difficult situations.
When I look at the tiny Mini 3 Pro and the tiny camera on it, it’s hard to believe the video quality would be so good. However, even in strong winds, the Mini 3 Pro far exceeded expectations in creating smooth and rich footage.
It can shoot 4K at up to 60fps or 1080p at up to 120fps. There’s also HDR recording at up to 30 frames per second. This can all be done in a horizontal frame or even vertically to retain full resolution for social media posting. Below are 100% crop comparisons pulled from 4K, 2.7K, and 1080p footage. I see almost no difference in detail.
Below is a short video shot at sunset in windy conditions for an impression of video image quality at 4K 30p. It was shot in “Normal” color mode without post-color corrections. The DJI Fly app kept warning me that it was going to force a landing because the wind was too strong, although it never did. As you can see in the first clip, it was difficult to stay in a fixed position and stay stable with the wind, but adding any type of movement greatly reduced these effects to the point that it’s hard to say otherwise than looking at the grass blowing about.
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. No matter what digital zoom you’re using, you’ll want the final project to be 1080p, otherwise the results get pretty messy. Twice zooming at 4K looks bad, but when downsampled to 1080p it becomes passable, and the story is the same with 3x at 2.7K. Below is a digital zoom comparison where the video itself is 1080p.
A gigantic refresh for a mini drone
Continuing to raise the bar, DJI refuses to slow down in the drone market despite being on top for years. This new drone brings countless improvements to the Mini form factor with a better camera and gimbal system, extended battery life, more stable flight performance, additional obstacle sensors, as well as 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 line of small drones 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 all areas, but if the idea of buying a brand new drone that may or may not accidentally crash or drown the first time you you fly, it haunts you, spending a little less may be the only way to feel comfortable. On the other hand, the Mini 3 Pro is the first in the Mini series to have obstacle avoidance sensors both front and rear, so it’s still a tough call.
As a DJI Mavic Air 2 owner, the new Mini 3 Pro seems to be everything I love about my drone, only better, in a smaller package and with longer flight times. If I had to buy a drone today, I would go for the Mini 3 Pro over the Air 2 (to be clear, I’m not talking about the Air 2S).
Should you buy it?
Yes. The DJI Mini 3 Pro is a high quality drone in a small package. People who want the absolute best footage and don’t care about the size of the drone or how much they have to spend have other options, but for almost everyone, this is the right drone to buy.