Let’s get this out of the way: The $2,199 DJI Mavic 3 is excellent and I didn’t get to try all the new features yet.
The Mavic 3 is DJI’s latest top-of-the-line consumer drone. It’s foldable, expensive, and packs an impressive dual-lens camera and dramatically better drone-to-controller communication. The Mavic 3 is easily DJI’s best consumer drone yet. Unfortunately, a few key features were not available on pre-launch firmware, so a full review is in the works.
Here’s what’s new.
- Dual-camera system that features a custom Hasselblad L2D-20c aerial camera. It has two lenses: a 4/3 CMOS sensor with a 24mm prime lens & a 28x hybrid zoom telephoto lens.
- First DJI drone that can transmit live 1080p/60fps video from the drone to the controller
- Support for Apple ProRes 422 HQ and H.264/H.265 with video capabilities up to 5.1k@50fps, DCI 4k@120fps, 4k@120fps
- Improved vision sensing system able to detect items from .5 to 200 meters thanks to new, improved sensors
- 46 minutes of flight time (5000 mAh battery)
DJI sent me a Mavic 3 last week, and I’ve been flying it nonstop. However, several key features were unavailable until the drone officially launched. Before today, I was unable to test the drone’s new ActiveTrack 5.0 system and APAS 5.0 object detection — both are said to be significant upgrades over past versions. As such, I’m unable to confirm DJI’s claims, and I’m eager to try the new ActiveTrack system. Past DJI implications failed to impress.
The DJI Mavic 3 features a new camera system that includes two lenses. The primary lens is a beast: 20 MP 4/3 CMOS sensor, 24mm prime lens, 84° field of view. The second camera features a 162mm telephoto lens with a 28x hybrid zoom affair. This system gives the Mavic 3 a fantastic prime lens and offloads the dirty work of zooming to a second camera.
With the new camera comes new supported video formats. The Mavic 3 supports encoding in Apple ProRes 422 HQ, DCI 4k, and 5.1k. However, the Apple ProRess 422 HQ encoding is only available on the more expensive Mavic 3, the $4,999 Mavic 3 Cine edition (it also includes a 1TB SSD).
The images straight off the camera are stunning. I compared the images to those captured using the DJI Air 2S, and the differences are noticeable with deeper tones and more nuance in shadows. Details are crisp and sharp.
Look for a full report in the coming days. Several key video features were locked until DJI officially announced the Mavic 3. I need to test the drone using the latest firmware.
I crash a lot of drones, and it’s not for lack of caring. I push them farther (and closer) than they should go. And props are cheap, too. But I haven’t crashed the Mavic 3 yet despite my best attempts. The drone sees everything.
Features like object detection and crash mitigation have been standard features on drones for several generations. Still, this latest version features upgraded capabilities, including detecting objects at a greater distance and a closer range.
As of writing, DJI had yet to update the drone to the latest firmware that included significant updates to the Mavic 3’s capabilities. However, even using pre-release software, the Mavic 3 is impressive.
It’s Fall in Michigan, and most of the leaves are off the trees. The Mavic 3 doesn’t care. I found it’s easily able to detect even the smallest branch. The drone can either stop or attempt to bypass the object.
I took the drone for a walk through the woods. For the most part, it managed to walk itself, sliding side to side to avoid obstacles. I just had to direct the drone forward, and it found its own path. This was capable with past DJI drones, but it was not nearly this smooth. I never trusted the older crash mitigation systems. This one feels much improved.
Like the Mavic Pro 2, the Mavic 3 has sensors watching every corner of the drone. In addition, there are six fish-eye vision sensors and two wide-angle sensors. DJI calls this omnidirectional obstacle sensing, and its capabilities are a step above that found on the Air 2S, which only watches in four directions.
Owners are going to notice two things about the Mavic 3 over past models. One, this drone has a much more robust communication connection. I didn’t lose contact with the drone flying in spots past drones would cut out. The Mavic 3 streams live video to the controller at 1080p/60 — that’s twice the frame rates as past models and it’s very noticeable.
DJI claims that the maximum transmission range is 15km. That’s over 9 miles, and due to FAA regulations, I’m unable to test that range. However, this drone has a serious range.
I took the Mavic 3 around to several familiar spots during my short time with the drone, including an abandoned urban area with low bridges over a river. I like to fly drones in this area. Past drones (DJI Air 2S and Mavic Pro 2) struggle to maintain connection when passing under the bridges. The Mavic 3 held its connection the whole time.
Furthermore, I noticed the increase in transmission power when flying the drone in the cornfields behind my house. Often, other drones were able to skim the top of the field, but the range was dramatically cut when the drone was a few feet off the ground instead of hundreds of feet in the air. The Mavic 3 didn’t have that issue and managed to stream the live video to the controller at 1080p/60.
The live video preview is lovely. The drone now transmits in full 1080p HD at 60 fps when close enough. The increase in frame rates is delightful. In addition, the smoother video preview makes flying the drone more enjoyable.
- The construction and build quality is better than that found on the DJI Air 2. It feels solid and doesn’t look like a toy.
- The Mavic 3’s prop arms are significantly thinner than those found on the smaller Air 2S.
- The props are 4.5 inches. The props on the Air 2S are 3.5 inches.
- The Mavic 3 uses a new battery design from previous models. It’s a four cell unit that weighs 335.5g. It slides into the drone’s body.
- Charges over DJI’s preparatory connector. The charging dock uses USB-C.
- Claimed battery life is 46 minutes. I saw, on average, around 30 minutes in windy conditions.
Unavailable for testing at time of publication
- 120 fps video modes.
- APAS 5.0 — The pre-launch firmware did not have the latest object detection and crash mitigation features. As such, the drone still featured past versions of this ability and was able to identify and avoid objects as small as a tiny tree branch.
- ActiveTrack 5.0 — This feature will be available at a later, unannounced time. Supposedly, this system allows the Mavic 3 to track and follow an object no matter its direction of travel. Past versions of this feature were disappointing and limited mainly to tracking objects moving towards or away from the drone — not side to side or diagonally. I’m eager to try this new feature.
- 4G Network-Powered Transmission — This attachment will supposedly improve the video transmission by utilizing 4G network communication. This will be released at a later time and unavailable for testing at the time of writing.
A full review is coming. Look for it next week.
Originally published at techcrunch.com