Hot on the heels of the new Mavic 3, DJI is out with the latest iteration of its Mini drone with a few features filmmakers should watch out for.
While the vast majority of indie film and video work has settled on the Mavic lineup from DJI in the last few years, it's important to remember that DJI offers a whole range of drones, some of which offer some benefits that filmmakers should have in mind as they plan their kit and productions.
The smallest of those units is the Mini, its 249-gram little powerhouse. The newest iteration of the Mini just launched, the DJI Mini 3 Pro, with longer flight time, higher video specs, and a twist. We got our hands on one to see what all the fuss is about.
Check it out.
Tiny Package, Big Power
The higher video specs are the first thing to pay attention to. The tiny little Mini 3 Pro now shoots 4K 60p video, an upgrade of the 4K 30fps from the Mini 2. It's built around a brand-new, larger 1/1.3-inch sensor (compared to the 1/2.3" sensor in the Mini 2), with dual native ISO, so image quality will be somewhat a bit step up, especially in low light situations.
The image quality was acceptable in the Mini 2 in many situations, but seeing it upgraded here is a welcome improvement. The lens also gets an upgrade, from f/2.8 to f/1.7, so dawn and dusk shots (and even night shots were permitted) will see a major benefit.
Social Media Ready
The flagship feature that we have to acknowledge is the new ability to shoot vertical video with a hardware pivot of the gimbal. While failures like Quibi have already been lost to the winds of time, the reality is that vertical delivery is still very real for a lot of users. Instagram Stories, TikTok, and future platforms are going to keep prioritizing 9x16, and having a drone that easily switches to that format is, frankly, cool as hell.
The other big suite of upgrades is in collision avoidance and the beginning of autonomy.
The DJI Mini 3 Pro now offers tri-directional object avoidance, which is pretty amazing in such a tiny affordable unit. Those sensors also integrate with the Advanced Pilot Assistance System (APAS), which is up to version 4.0, which helps the drone chart a new path to avoid obstacles. APAS and Focus Track weren't previously available in the Mini lineup, but now here they are.
An Important Distinction
So, why 249 grams? Well, in many jurisdictions, including the US of A, 250 grams bumps you up into another weight class with more complicated restrictions, especially Part 107 licensing for commercial use.
A 249-gram drone can be treated as purely recreational, which can make life quite a bit easier in terms of licensing.
However, that 249-gram weight is only with the normal battery, which runs for a whopping 34 minutes of flight time. There is an available extended flight time battery, which adds a bit of weight but gives you an absolutely astounding 47 minutes. If you are already Part 107 certified, the extended flight batteries are going to be very useful. Especially as the drone features a new O3 video transmission system (OcuSync 3.0) that promises up to 12km of range, though as always that will be limited by the local RF environment, buildings, mountains, etc.
The obvious relevant use case here for filmmakers is that this becomes a drone you can literally just always have on you. At this weight and size, it can permanently live in your scout bag for whenever you want to get an overhead view of a location, whenever you want to add an extra drone shot you hadn't planned, or even preview shots you might later do on a crane.
Food for Thought
At this point, we suspect that it's more than just a scout drone now. With the new upgraded image quality features of the Mini 3 Pro, along with the bump to 4K 60p, there are absolutely going to be situations where you can get images you'll be happy with in a pinch using this as your main drone. You'll still want to consider the full Mavic 3 if drone work is going to be a heavy part of your workload, of course, but the Mini 3 Pro is going to slot well into a lot of workflows.
To top it all off, DJI is launching a new RC remote that is smaller and has a built-in screen to make flying easier and more flexible.
The DJI Mini 3 Pro is available now, starting at $669, with no remote controller. You can get the Mini 3 Pro with a traditional remote for $759, or with the new RC remote for $909.
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