In September, 2016, DJI introduced the Mavic Pro – a compact, foldable drone with a professional-grade camera that also detected obstacles. Two years later, they followed up with the Mavic 2 series. Notably, at the time of its release, the Mavic 2 Pro was the smallest drone to feature a camera with a 20MP 1″-type CMOS sensor and the first to include Hasselblad’s Natural Color Solution (HNCS) technology. It was an impressive feat, but there were some shortcomings.
The Mavic 2 Pro’s camera didn’t use the full sensor when shooting 4K video clips. Perhaps this was to prevent overheating, given its small housing, but what resulted was line skipping and pixel binning that compromised the overall quality of the footage. Furthermore, if you wanted to home in on subjects, you needed a whole different drone like the Mavic 2 Zoom.
Three years after the Mavic 2 series was introduced, DJI returns with the highly-anticipated Mavic 3 and Mavic 3 Cine. Weighing 7 grams less than the preceding models, they’re the first prosumer and compact, foldable drones to feature a dual-camera setup. At the bottom is a camera, co-produced with Hasselblad, with a 20MP Four Thirds sensor, with a 12MP 1/2″ CMOS telephoto camera placed above.
The standard and Cine models share most of their hardware, but with the more expensive ‘Cine’ version adding 1TB of internal memory and the ability to capture using the ProRes 422 HQ codec. The Cine model also only comes as a combo package, including three batteries, two sets of ND filters and the more sophisticated DJI RC Pro controller.
- 20MP, Four Thirds CMOS sensor + 12MP 1/2″ CMOS sensor
- 24mm (equiv.) lens with 84º FOV and a variable F2.8-11 aperture on main camera with up to 4X digital zoom
- 162mm (equiv.), F4.4 (fixed) telephoto camera with up to 28X digital zoom
- Hasselblad HNCS
- 5.1K/50p, DCI or UHD 4K/120p and 1080/200p video
- H.264 and H.265 recording at 200 and 140 Mbps respectively
- Apple ProRes 422 HQ codec on Cine model
- 10-bit D-Log and HDR video capture
- Raw and JPEG image capture
- OcuSync 3.0 (O3) image transmission (15 km range)
- Omnidirectional obstacle avoidance
- APAS (Advanced Pilot Assistance System) and ActiveTrack 5.0
- ‘MasterShots’ cinematic capture mode
- 46-minute flight time
- 900g (1.98 pounds) total weight
The Mavic 3 and Cine can fly up to 46 minutes. This surpasses the Mavic 2 series, and the Air 2S, by 15 minutes. It even beats out the Autel EVO II, that boasts up to 40 minutes flight time. The top-of-the-line Mavic 3 Cine, which costs $4999 for the ‘Premium Combo’ (the standard model comes in at $2999 for the Fly More combo), offers up 1TB of internal storage and Apple’s ProRes 422 HQ (High Quality): a codec that applies the least amount of compression to video files for the highest-quality imagery possible.
As impressive as these new features are, they come at a significantly higher cost compared to their predecessors. Does the overall offering justify the steep price hike? Furthermore, which model – standard or Cine – gives most people the best value? Most importantly, is it an all-in-one solution fit for most professional use cases? Let’s take a look.
When it comes to camera sensor size, video resolution, zooming capabilities, and flight time, the Mavic 3 and Cine excel compared to previous Mavic models. We’ve priced these as Fly More Combos since only the standard version is offered as a basic model (without two additional batteries and accessories) and the Cine is only offered as a Combo. The Standard Mavic 3 retails for $2199.
|DJI Mavic 3 / Cine||Mavic 2 Pro||DJI Air 2S|
20MP, Four Thirds CMOS sensor
24mm equiv. F2.8-11
20MP, 1″-type sensor
28mm equiv. F2.8-11
20MP, 1″-type sensor
22mm equiv. F2.8 (fixed)
|Zoom||Hybrid: 1-4X digital zoom on main camera, up to 28X digital on telephoto||2X optical, 4X digital (Mavic 2 Zoom, sold separately)||1-4X digital zoom|
|Video transmission||OcuSync 3.0 (O3), 4 antennas, 15 km, 1080p/60p||OcuSync 2.0, dual antenna, 10 km, 1080p/30p||OcuSync 3.0 (O3), 4 antennas, 12 km, 1080p/30p|
|Video resolution||5.1K/50p, DCI or UHD 4K/120p||4K/30p||5.4K/30p, 4K/60p|
|Video bit-rate||200 Mbps (H.264) / 140 Mbps (H.265)||100 Mbps||150 Mbps|
|Log video||10-bit D-Log, HDR video (10-bit)||10-bit D-Log-M, HDR video (10-bit)||10-bit D-Log-M, HDR video (10-bit)|
|APAS version (Advanced Pilot Assistance System)||APAS 5.0||APAS 1.0||APAS 4.0|
|Obstacle avoidance sensors||Forward, Backward, Downward, Upward, Left, and Right||Forward, Backward, Downward, Upward, Left, and Right||Forward, Backward, Downward, Upward|
|Flight time||46 minutes||31 minutes||31 minutes|
|Dimensions||221x96x90 mm||214×91×84 mm||180×97×80 mm|
Aircraft and controller
At 221 x 96 x 90 mm (8.7 x 3.8 x 3.6″) folded down, the Mavic 3 has a frame that’s slightly larger than the Mavic 2 series. It’s either 8 or 12 grams lighter, for the standard and Cine, respectively, due to the fact that its legs are thinner and the body is slimmer. The propellers are longer and have orange tips. The 5000mAh batteries, that are inserted into the back of the aircraft, as opposed to the top, are longer and slimmer. Overall, the design is more aerodynamic.
DJI has created a more robust obstacle avoidance system for the Mavic 3. The Mavic 2 series featured obstacle detection sensors on the sides of the drone but oftentimes they weren’t reliable and only worked when the drone was operating in Tripod mode. The Air 2S has obstacle avoidance capabilities on the top, bottom, front, and back of the aircraft.
DJI has equipped the Mavic 3 with six fish-eye vision sensors and two wide-angle sensors that give the drone 360º omnidirectional obstacle avoidance, even when flying in Normal mode. This means the drone can detect obstacles on the top and bottom along with every possible angle from the front, back, and sides. The bottom of the aircraft houses two additional sensors plus auxiliary lights that help aid take off and landing in low-light situations.
|DJI has placed two fish-eye vision sensors strategically on the back so they face both the back and side of the drone for enhanced coverage. The drone has 360º obstacle detection.|
APAS 5.0 – the latest iteration of an autopilot system that automatically detects obstacles – will avoid them by creating a path around them. In the demo given to DPReview by DJI’s team, the video shown to us demonstrating APAS 5.0 capabilities was recorded at a maximum resolution of 4K/30p. This is consistent with the Air 2S. If you went to 4K/60 or 120p, the feature will no longer work. DJI says it has updated APAS 5.0 to work properly in more complicated environments, including a congested city. This feature was not yet available for us to test in the beta version of the DJI Fly app.
|The standard Mavic 3 uses the same remote as the Air 2S and Mini 2.|
For the Mavic 3 model, DJI has opted to use the same RC-N1 Remote Controller that powers the Mavic Air 2, Air 2S, and Mini 2. It doesn’t have external antennas, and it can still be a challenge to attach a smartphone to the top. However, it’s comfortable to hold and includes everything you need to operate, including a gimbal wheel plus buttons to instantly start and stop taking photos and video. It’s easy to switch between Cine, Normal, and Sport Modes while the Return to Home feature is instantly accessible. For those not wanting to use their devices, DJI’s Smart Controller can be purchased separately for the Mavic 3.
The Mavic 3 Cine is powered by a new remote called the DJI RC Pro. It basically looks and behaves like an updated version of DJI’s Smart Controller. The RC Pro features a 1,000-nit, 5.5″ high bright screen and a range of 15km (9.3 miles) thanks to O3+ (OcuSync 3) transmission. DJI says it takes 90 minutes to charge fully and can operate the drone up to 3 hours.
|The Mavic 3 Cine’s remote, the RC Pro (pictured above), is similar to DJI’s SmartController.|
One new and noteworthy development comes in the form of a new gimbal protector. DJI has done away with the plastic gimbal clamp and created something that wraps around the drone and secures the battery, which now gets inserted in the back of the aircraft. Flexible straps hold the propellers in as well. The front of the drone fits into a molded cup that covers the top front section of the drone and protects the camera. A thick elastic band wraps around the bottom of the drone, where another molded buckle snaps in, and up the back. A small clip snaps everything into place on the top-center part of the drone.
|DJI has created a new way to protect your drone’s camera and gimbal.|
Photos and video
DJI worked with Swedish camera maker Hasselblad to create a custom L2D-20c camera for the Mavic 3 series. Placed on the bottom, the main camera features a 20MP, Four Thirds CMOS sensor that has a 24mm (equiv.) lens with 84º FOV and variable F2.8-11 aperture. It can shoot still images in 12-bit Raw format. The entire dual-camera system is placed on a 3-axis mechanical gimbal.
|With the Mavic 3 series, you can point the camera toward the sun and it will create a sunburst instead of blowing out and entire area.|
Directly above is a camera that features a 12MP, 1/2″ CMOS sensor. Entering Explore mode, by clicking the binocular icon in Photo mode allows you can activate this feature. The main camera offers up 1-4X digital zoom. The hybrid zoom switches to the tele lens which is capable of 7-28X digital zoom. A 162mm Hybrid Zoom (digital + optical) telephoto lens, 15º FOV, and fixed aperture of f/4.4 can hone in on a subject up to 28X. Similar to how Apple’s iPhone operates, as you zoom in on a subject, it’ll switch cameras – creating an optical zoom effect.
Until the Mavic 3 series, having a camera with a Four Thirds CMOS sensor placed on a drone meant purchasing a more expensive, and significantly bulkier, DJI Inspire and separately acquiring a Zenmuse X5 camera to mount on the drone’s gimbal. The camera on the Mavic 3 also includes Hasselblad’s HCNS technology which offers up enhanced color accuracy.
|The Mavic 3 series features a dual-camera system with Hasselblad’s HNCS technology. On the bottom is a 20MP, Four Thirds CMOS sensor while the top has a 12MP, 1/2″ sensor with up to 28X zoom.|
The standard Mavic 3 allows you to record video at resolutions up to 5.1K/50p, DCI or UHD 4K/120p and 1080/200p at 140 Mbps with H.265 and 200 Mbps with the H.264 codec. The Cine version, which we tested, includes Apple’s ProRes 422 HQ codec. Besides the specs previously mentioned, it can record 4K/120p at 3772 Mbps (the latter resolution was not available yet to test). These video specs are a significant upgrade from the Mavic 2 Pro’s 4K/30p at 100 Mbps and the Air 2S’ 5.4K/30p at 150 Mbps.
The basic Mavic 3 gives you 8GB of internal storage and can capture up to 1 billion colors when recording in a 10-bit D-Log color profile. The Cine version features a 1TB SSD since it also offers up the larger files using Apple’s ProRes 422 HQ codec. Both versions of the drone can use the full width of their 5.1K sensors. The housing on this dual camera system is lightweight and more suited for its overall size. As mentioned in the introduction, the Mavic 2 Pro had issues with pixel binning and line skipping, and there is no indication of this problem with the Mavic 3 drones.
The DJI Fly app and flight modes
The Mavic 3 series uses the DJI Fly app, which also powers the Mavic Mini, Mini 2, Mavic Air 2, and Air 2S. First introduced in November 2019 with the Mavic Mini, the pared down, intuitive interface showcases all the photo modes on the same screen. When switching out of Auto mode and into Manual, or Pro mode, the bottom-right-hand corner gives you sliders that allow you to adjust white balance, ISO, shutter speed, aperture and choose JPEG or Raw+JPEG imagery. Resolution can be adjusted once the ‘Video’ option is activated.
Three dots in the top corner give you more detailed options including selecting D-Log, video format, photo size and format, and if you want to brake in front of or bypass obstacles. It allows you to set height and distance limits and choose Metric or Imperial units. You can also activate AirSense, a feature that warns remote pilots of manned aircraft nearby.
MasterShots, which was introduced with the Air 2S, is also included on the Mavic 3. It automatically creates ‘professional-grade’ footage that’s ready to share on social media channels by simply selecting a few parameters, such as proximity and portrait or landscape orientation. It then flies autonomously and captures a variety of shots that are then stitched together, in app. You can then pick a soundtrack to add instantly. MasterShots was not yet available to test on the Mavic 3 Cine at the time of this writing, but we’ll be updating this review as soon as possible.
DJI has equipped the Air 2S with ActiveTrack 5.0 for increased accuracy in tracking subjects during automated flights. This is different in that it allows the drone to move with the subject. So, you could set it up and go mountain biking, for example, and the drone will follow your movements. If the subject disappears from the frame, DJI says the drone’s vision sensors will track movement and intelligently relocate it. The usual QuickShots, including Dronie, Circle, Helix, Rocket Asteroid and Boomerang are included. None of the features mentioned in this paragraph are available to test on the Mavic 3 but again, we will update this review as soon as we can.
|The Fly app gives you the option to either brake in front of or bypass obstacles.|
MasterShots was made with the casual consumer and beginner pilot in mind. This is not likely to be something a professional with access to Adobe Premiere Pro, Final Cut Pro, or similar software will be interested in using, which is why it’s perplexing that this is included with the Mavic 3 series. DJI is also introducing a QuickTransfer feature that allows users to transmit content from the remote to a mobile device, through a Wi-Fi 6 protocol, for instant editing. This seems like something an influencer or casual consumer, instead of a professional, would enjoy and use often.
What’s it like to fly?
All of DJI’s design updates and efforts to make the aircraft slimmer and more aerodynamic really paid off. The drone holds up well in the wind, hovers nicely, flies smoothly, and maneuvers flawlessly. It’s quieter than the Mavic 2 series, with less of a buzzing sound, though you can still hear it in close proximity. If you’re hoping to operate your drone incognito, this is still not really possible.
What I enjoyed most was using the DJI RC Pro controller which comes with the Mavic Cine Premium combo. All the colors and imagery displayed clearly and beautifully in near real-time. There wasn’t any discernible latency. Maneuvering the joysticks felt effortless and overall, even though the controller looks big and foreboding upon first impression, it’s ergonomically friendly.
|The Mavic 3 series has 2 obstacle avoidance sensors on the bottom of the drone plus auxiliary lights to aid in landing during low-light situations.|
The drone takes off swiftly and smoothly without any jerky movements or pauses. It also descends steadily and lands softly. Overall, the Mavic 3 is a joy to fly – it almost feels like it’s moving effortlessly, floating around the sky even. What’s unfortunate is that Hyperlapse mode, QuickShots, and APAS 5.0 weren’t available for me to try out. I am curious to see how these features perform on the Mavic 3 series once they become available.
Odds and ends
Equipped with DJI’s OcuSync 3.0 (O3) transmission technology, the Mavic 3 can fly at a distance up to 30 km (18.6 miles) when free of obstacles or interference. Of course you’d never want to fly this far but what this means is that there will be a clear transmission and the drone is less likely to lose its connection, especially if it flies behind an obstacle. Like its predecessor, it supports both 2.4GHz and 5.8GHz frequency bands. In ideal conditions, it can fly up to 46 minutes: 15 minutes longer than the Mavic 2 series or Air 2S. The Mavic 3 can travel at up to 75.6 km/h (47 mph) in Sport mode.
The standard Mavic 3 supports memory cards up to 2TB and contains 8GB of onboard internal storage should you forget a card or run out of space. The Mavic 3 Cine contains 1TB of internal storage plus a memory card slot. You many need to use the latter as a backup if you’re shooting a good deal of ProRes footage. If you’ve ever panicked about running out of space on a memory card, experienced corruption, or lost one, you’ll especially appreciate this feature on the Cine.
DJI has also fine-tuned the RTH (return-to-home) capabilities. Instead of the drone flying to a certain altitude that you predetermine, it’ll identify the shortest and most efficient path and bypass obstacles within a 200m range to get back to the home point. I look forward to testing this after launch when I know it’ll be fully functional.
|The Mavic 3 Cine comes with 2 sets of ND filters in 4/8/16/32 and 64/128/256/512.|
The Cine Premium combo comes with two sets of ND filters. Even with a variable aperture, these will give you smoother video and hyperlapse footage in bright conditions by allowing you to properly adjust the shutter. It also includes a sturdy 10Gbps Lightspeed Data Cable that transfers your files from the drone, especially the ProRes clips, rather quickly. The cable’s material is interwoven and sturdy. It doesn’t appear to be something that will tear or come undone over time.
Who’s it for?
A 20MP Four Thirds CMOS camera with a Hasselblad color profile, 1TB of internal storage, and Apple’s ProRes codec make the Cine fit for a professional. This is why I’m perplexed that DJI is powering it with the Fly app. As stated earlier, this app was debuted two years ago with the Mavic Mini – a drone aimed at beginners. Even though the Air 2S could work for some professional use cases, it’s still priced in a range that makes it a justifiable purchase for consumers.
|The camera on the Mavic 3 performs extraordinarily well at night. There isn’t any grain in this unedited image.|
The Mavic 3 series is clearly aimed at professional drone pilots, given its pricing. This is why, in my opinion, DJI should have continued using the GO 4 app. Maybe Hasselblad’s HNCS technology is so accurate that there isn’t a need to delve into the different types of White Balance settings including Sunny, Cloudy, and Incandescent. But what if I decided I wanted to shoot in Shutter or Aperture Priority mode? Why does DJI’s Phantom 4, which was released over five years ago warrant these sophisticated photography settings compared to a drone that costs substantially more?
I may have mentioned the Autel EVO II has a messy app in a review, but the company had the right idea including settings a professional photographer desires. Anyone who’s going to pay close to $5,000 for a drone, or $3,000 for the next model down is serious about their imagery and wants to invest serious time navigating all a drone has to offer. The Fly app was built with more casual consumers in mind. Why would it be incorporated into a drone aimed at professionals?
I’m also having a difficult time processing (no pun intended) the fact that DJI is offering up a digital zoom, versus an optical one, on such a pricey drone. What’s even more perplexing is that the files can only be saved as JPEGs. Some professional photographers and videographers tend to delve into inspections and other industrial use cases. Why did the Mavic 2 Zoom offer up some optical capabilities while the Mavic 3 does not? Then there’s a pertinent issue with the unique shape of the lens, though DJI may already have a solution for what’s pointed out below.
Looks like a circular polarizer is going to be hard to implement for the Mavic 3. pic.twitter.com/mW35taYmMn
— Jamie Malcolm-Brown (@jamiemalcolmb) October 27, 2021
This isn’t to say that there aren’t aspects of the Mavic Cine 3 that would make it a good fit for creative professionals. For videographers, Apple’s ProRes 422 HQ is the best possible HD format available for cinematography. What most people need to know is that this codec isn’t necessary for their workflow. The files are gigantic and you’ll need a powerful MacBook to process them. This is why including 1TB of internal storage was necessary on DJI’s part. When operating with a few dozen photos already taken, I had the ability to record about one hour of ProRes HQ footage.
To give you some context, as soon as I switched back to .MOV files at H.265, 17-18 hours of video recording time left appeared. When I uploaded a 30-second ProRes clip to my MacBook, it took over an hour. The other files took about one minute, tops. These files may not be as finely detailed but a lot of that effort could get lost with ProRes clips if you’re uploading them to YouTube or social channels. Commercial films and the like will benefit from having material filmed on Apple ProRes. Most people will be fine with what the basic Mavic 3 model has to offer.
I am a fan of the variable aperture, which was also available on the Mavic 2 Pro. It does make customizing your settings for photo and video less frustrating compared to the Air 2S. The quality of the imagery, especially at night, is also very good. I was delighted that there wasn’t any grain in my images captured in the dark. Finally, it’s nice to have a drone that has proper obstacle avoidance sensors covering each side of the drone, an issue with the Mavic 2 series (if they worked, it was usually in Tripod mode).
The release of the Mavic 3 series is long-awaited and for the most part, it delivers. My disappointment comes from the fact that more abilities to customize your photo settings weren’t included. DJI periodically updates its firmware, so the company could surprise us in the future. And since they never cannibalize their product line, I can’t help but wonder what’s next? What’s yet to come might offer the Hasselblad color profile, an optical zoom, and possibly even interchangeable lenses on an aircraft that can easily be carried around.
I got to test the Cine Premium combo. I am really impressed with the carrying case that converts to a back pack, the Intelligent flight batteries that are easy to insert, now in the back of the drone, and the close to 45 (realistic) minutes of flight time. It’s nice to go out and know you’ll have over two hours to get your desired shots with three fully-charged batteries. The drone is easy and enjoyable to fly and maneuver. I also found the new gimbal guard so much more convenient to attach and remove. The fact that omnidirectional obstacle avoidance worked when I was flying in Normal mode is a bonus.
I look forward to trying out the features that aren’t available yet, especially APAS 5.0. APAS 4.0 worked well on the Air 2S so I’m expecting promising flights, weaving through trees in a forest near my house. A cellular transmission dongle will also become available in the future (although we are told that it is not expected to be available in North America, the European Union, or the United Kingdom) and this is expected to help the drone keep its connection in congested areas, especially if it’s flying between buildings. All in all, the Mavic 3 series may not be perfect, but it represents DJI’s ability to innovate and iterate with every new release.
What we like
- Four Thirds CMOS sensor
- 46-minute flight time
- Hasselblad color profile
- 5.1K/50p video with 10-bit D-Log
- 1TB storage
What we don’t
- Digital zoom
- No mechanical shutter on main camera
- Lack of sophisticated photo settings
- Hefty price tag
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