After more than three years of good and loyal service, the excellent but aging DJI Mavic 2 Pro and Mavic 2 Zoom are retiring and giving way to the new flagship portable drone in the range: the Mavic 3. We tested it and as many to say that its capabilities far surpass its “recreational drone” label. Explanations.
If it would be tempting to compare the Mavic 3 exclusively to its predecessors the Mavic 2 Pro and 2 Zoom, it should be understood that DJI's ranges have recently begun to lose meaning. We are thinking here of the relevance of the price positioning of the Air 2S unveiled in April 2021: although located in DJI's intermediate range, this compact drone clearly walked on the flowerbeds of the Mavic 2, both in terms of the size of the sensor than software features. The very recent Mavic 3 therefore comes to restore the image of the range, and it could even be compared to the Inspire 2, this drone purely intended for professional shooting. We tested the Mavic 3 as a general public user and one thing is certain: we find it difficult to understand the removal of the “Pro” in the name of this Mavic 3 as it looks great.
This test was carried out with a Mavic 3 drone lent by the brand.
A Mavic at heart
The Mavic 3 unsurprisingly takes up the folding format of DJI's leisure drones. The latter has largely proven itself on the brand's ranges by allowing a minimum size once the drone is folded. Logically, the Mavic 3 is the most imposing of DJI's foldable drones: it is at the top of the chain, after the Mini range and the Air range.
If it is also slightly less compact than the Mavic 2 Pro, the difference is clearly not disabling, whether for transporting the drone or using it in the air. The Mavic 3 displays 895 grams on the scale (899 grams for the Cine Premium version). This mass just under 900 grams is not insignificant, but we will come back to it a little later.
The manufacturing quality to which DJI has accustomed us is there. The drone inspires confidence on many levels: impression of robustness, natural handling to unfold the arms… This year, the manufacturer even thought of blocking the nacelle after the drone was switched off. It's silly, but this kind of detail is very valuable. This allows, in addition to facilitating the storage of the drone, to ensure maximum protection for the nacelle during transport. On this subject, DJI delivers its Mavic 3 with a storage protection that looks like a muzzle. Rare enough to be underlined, this accessory is very well thought out, easy to install and protects the nacelle as well as the propellers. Like its protective shells for the Osmo Pocket and Pocket 2, DJI once again demonstrates its certain attention to detail.
The brand does not communicate on the motors used and simply indicates a maximum speed slightly higher than those of the Mavic 2 and other foldable drones of the brand. Count 75 km/h for the Mavic 3 against 68.4 km/h for the Air 2S and 57.6 km/h for the Mini 2. The propellers of the Mavic 3 benefit from the quick release mechanism and are therefore very easily replaceable: a simple press/rotation is enough.
Mavic range obliges, the drone is lined with obstacle detection sensors. Their placement has been intelligently revised, like the sensors placed in the corners at the front and at the back: they make it possible to cover a wider area than a sensor placed only at the front or on the side. There are also upper and lower sensors, in addition to the usual infrared detection system for landing. The Mavic 3 thus benefits from omnidirectional obstacle detection. We have tested the performance of the drone at this level, but we will have to wait for the dedicated part of this test to read our conclusions.
Bottom sensors on the left, rear/side sensors on the right
Let's finish the owner's tour at the back of the drone, where we find the hatch for the microSD and the USB-C port. It is with it that you will have to recharge your Mavic 3 since the battery of the latter does not have such a port. However, it is compatible with the charging station sold by DJI as an extra and included in the Fly More and Cine Premium versions. Understand that with the classic version of the Mavic 3, it will be imperative to leave the battery in the drone to recharge it.
The Mavic 3's battery is removed from the back, where the Mavic 2's were removed from the top
Note that the Mavic 3 battery accounts for 37% of its total mass. Speaking of masses, it is precisely time to take a quick look at the legislation in force for DJI's new high-end drone.
The Mavic 3 does not have a CE class marking, at least at the time of writing these lines at the end of February 2022. It is not impossible that the drone will soon be marked C1, that is to say the class dedicated to drones weighing between 250 grams and 900 grams – DJI has obviously planned the coup by respecting this limit to within a few grams. The C1 marking is hoped for by professionals, because it is less restrictive, especially on the question of flying over people.
Thus the Mavic 3 currently flies in the so-called open category and must therefore comply with the usual inherent European regulations. These include the ban on flying at night and overflying people, sensitive areas, private property and built-up areas. The maximum flight height is 120 meters — and over 150 meters. The drone must always remain in the pilot's field of vision. If you haven't already, don't forget to take the online training for the said open category. You will also need to remember to register your new toy on AlphaTango, then affix your operator number directly to the drone.
No RC Pro, but ultra-reliable transmission
The remote control delivered with the Mavic 3 is the same as that sold with the Mini 2, Air 2 and Air 2S. The brand surely thought that it was not necessary to offer a new version of its radio control when the current one is doing a very good job. The latter is indeed very well thought out: its grip is pleasant and has just the right amount of physical buttons, although we would not refuse a second customizable button.
As usual, the joysticks unscrew and are housed in dedicated spaces on the lower edge of the radio control to facilitate its storage. The phone sits on top of it all with a retractable slider system and connects with one of three included cables — USB-C and microUSB for Android, Lightning for iOS. Do not hesitate to change the direction of the phone to prevent the slider from continuously pressing the lock button or the volume buttons.
Those who want the luxury of not having to connect and use their smartphone to fly the Mavic 3 will have to stretch the budget to acquire the famous DJI RC Pro radio controller, equipped with a 5.5-inch 1080p screen displaying a maximum brightness of 1 000 nits. It also has more generous connectivity with a mini-HDMI port, a USB Type-C port and a microSD card slot. Good to know: the RC Pro has recently (end of January 2022) been compatible with the DJI Air 2S.
Who says new DJI drone says new version of transmission. Already excellent on the brand's latest drones, the OcuSync in-house transmission system is entitled to its 3+ version on the Mavic 3. On paper, this O3+ transmission is capable of ensuring a maximum transmission range of 15 kilometers in landscape said “open”, between 3 to 9 kilometers in areas a little more prone to interference and up to 3 kilometers in the city center – where interference is logically much more present. Let's come back to earth: in addition to being purely theoretical, this data cannot reflect a real use case with the legislation in force since a pilot must keep his drone visible.
No need to drag on: remember that the O3+ version of the DJI transmission system is excellent. It makes the flying experience enjoyable and offers great peace of mind: we haven't had any major cuts or disconnections in our 20 or so flights, in different situations – high altitudes in the mountains, windy areas near the coast … In short, we trust the drone and can therefore fully concentrate on the shooting.
The Mavic 3 marks a leap forward in image quality over the brand's foldable drones, at least on the spec sheet. Already excellent on the Mavic 2 Pro and 2 Zoom, the camera features of the new Mavic 3 are no joke. “Des”, because yes, it embeds two modules.
The first is none other than a micro 4/3 sensor. Such a size necessarily makes it possible to capture more light and it should be remembered that that of the Mavic 2 Pro and Air 2S was almost twice as small – 1 inch sensor. Above all, and as we mentioned in our Mavic 3 announcement article, this 4/3 format is reminiscent of that of Panasonic's renowned GH series, but also that of the Zenmuse X5S gimbal, compatible with the DJI Inspire 2 cinema drone – which is much more massive and expensive than the Mavic 3. Just that. It would be tempting to say that the latter now ridicules the Inspire 2, but it's not all about the integrated sensor format.
Remember that by integrating a 4/3 sensor (signed Hasselblad by the way) on a foldable drone, DJI has clearly put the dishes in the big ones. Add to that variable aperture optics from f/2.8 to f/11 and this package allows the pilot a hell of a lot of freedom to adjust camera settings. Unsurprisingly, we end up with better details, better management of strong dynamics (range of 12.8 stops) and better management of noise. Suffice to say that it will be difficult to miss a plan, even for beginners.
Do not hesitate to take advantage of the potential of the camera by increasing the ISO in complicated situations. Here, we notice that the Mavic 3 offers usable noise at ISO 800 and logically displays a significant loss of detail from 1600. A performance that the other foldable drones in the range cannot technically achieve.
The Mavic 3 can record up to 5.1K (5120 x 2700 pixels) from 24 to 50 frames per second. In DCI 4K (4096 x 2160 pixels) or 4K (3840 x 2160 pixels), the frame rates oscillate from 24 to 120 fps. Count up to 200 frames per second in 1080p. Enough talk, here's what the Mavic 3 is capable of in different situations.
Here are two new comparisons with an image taken from another situation. The difference is also visible here: the branches of the trees display much more faithful colors and details.
DJI Fly app catches up
We had to wait until the end of our test for DJI to add one of the few features that we felt was missing from the application: the Color Display Assist. Concretely, it makes it possible to display a “normal” rendering of the colors on the screen when the recording is done in D-Log, this flat color profile which leaves a large freedom to the calibration. This avoids having a preview of the greyish plane and therefore allows better composition.
The latest update has also made it easier to access camera settings — ISO, shutter speed, aperture, white balance, and more. Here we are once again getting closer to the old application… and it is the professionals who will be happy. Understand that in flight, it is essential to have access to such settings as quickly and easily as possible, so as not to waste time and not spoil a plan.
Finally, be aware that we encountered only one small bug in the DJI Fly application in about fifteen flights. A black screen appeared for a few seconds before everything returned to normal. We used the Google Pixel 5 and iPhone 13 Pro for our Mavic 3 review.
A stunning drone, features to refine
The DJI Mavic 3 is disconcertingly easy to use. Pairing, take-off, piloting, shooting and landing: beyond the reliability of transmission already mentioned, the various assistances of the drone always give us confidence. The RTH (return to home) mode is very accurate and is now supposed to be smarter. Instead of taking off at the predefined altitude and then traveling above the starting point before descending there, the drone automatically defines the shortest and safest return path: it can then afford to lower little by little its altitude on the return trip, even before having reached the coordinates of the end point. If it is brought to cross an obstacle, it circumvents it. The gain is double since the maneuver is faster and uses less energy for the battery. Be careful, not everything is rosy: if the drone avoids a tree without any problem, we have doubts about its ability to detect electrical cables – a real pet peeve of drone pilots. We didn't have fun testing this, but be aware that the Mavic 3 switches to the old version of the RTH (known as “straight line”) when the lighting is not sufficient and the environment is not is not suitable for detecting obstacles.
Let's continue with a second small criticism, this time oriented on the behavior of the drone in flight. We found it particularly reactive, even a little too much. If DJI drones have always been lively, the Mavic 3 seemed to react more abruptly to our actions on the joysticks than usual, giving the impression of making small jolts. Connoisseurs who are bothered by this can however solve this problem by adjusting the sensitivity of the joysticks in the EXP parameters. One thing is certain: the drone reacts with liveliness and we can only advise you to use the Cine mode to easily record nice stable shots. With this last mode, the speed of the drone is capped at 5 m/s against 15 m/s in N mode (for Normal) and 19 m/s in Sport mode.
While we were afraid of its behavior in cold weather, the Mavic 3 did not flinch in the face of a temperature of -7°C. Battery life didn't seem to be affected more than that. To be honest, in this situation, it was the state of my fingertips and my motivation that declined the fastest. Side discretion in flight, the drone will attract attention if you push a little too much on the sticks or if you switch to Sport mode. As an indication, we measured a sound volume of 65 dB under the drone with an altitude of 5 meters, 54 dB at 20 meters and 53 dB at 30 meters. In short, a beautiful bird.
Good to know: the drone has 8 GB of internal storage. You will therefore have enough to make a few short shots if you have ever forgotten your microSD card at home.
APAS 5.0 and ActiveTrack 5.0
The DJI Mavic 3 has a host of sensors that provide omnidirectional obstacle detection. There are two wide-angle vision sensors at the front, two rear, two lower and two upper. As mentioned earlier, the front and rear sensors are positioned in the corners and then also play the role of side sensors, which were missing on the brand's latest Air 2S drone.
The measurement ranges of the various wide-angle sensors of the Mavic 3 oscillate between 0.2 m at 10 m and 0.5 m at 25 m
Coupled with an algorithm, the Mavic 3 sensors offer what DJI calls APAS 5.0 for version 5 of its Advanced Pilot Assistance System. This feature allows the drone to scan its environment and avoid potential obstacles. The user can choose between three options in the application:
ask the drone not to use the obstacle sensors: practical in certain controlled flight situations to make a particular plan for example, but very risky;
ask the drone to stop in front of the obstacle and hover in the air;
Ask the drone to try to go around the obstacle.
The tracking is very good, but clearly not free from flaws. Let's take the example of following the motorcycle at 01:10. Everything is fine at first, but on the way back, the drone surprisingly loses and then regains track of the motorcycle. He then activates to catch up and accelerates. Impossible for us to say if he lowered his guard at this time, but one thing is certain: he hit a thin branch (a very complicated situation for the sensors to detect) a few seconds later. We immediately stopped the automatic tracking to avoid damaging the propellers, or simply crashing the drone. The Mavic 3 also got too close to the branches in a fairly restricted environment in the forest – see at 08:35.
We also regret the little room for maneuver left to the pilot in this mode: the interaction with the drone is too limited and it will come back anyway once you have let go of the joysticks. In this regard, the drone is placed at a different distance depending on the chosen subject (human, vehicle). In ActiveTrack tracking mode, the Mavic 3 is quite close to the person it is tracking. In addition to allowing a wider shot, a little more distance from the subject would certainly help to reduce the jolts caused by the permanent calculation of the algorithm.
App interface when framing a subject (for illustration here in QuickShots mode, and not in ActiveTrack 5.0)
The drone also manages to recognize and distinguish a human from a car or a boat before activating the follow-up, but on a motorcycle, you have to make sure to supervise the standing driver before he gets on. saddle. Also be careful when you are in a group: the drone will sometimes change people. Overall, the subject must be relatively demarcated from its surroundings, especially from the ground: wearing a brown coat next to a wooded path did not help the drone on our end.
Finally, if this obstacle detection is impressive and seems reliable in the vast majority of cases, it is necessarily the last percentages that slow us down from using the option without constantly keeping an eye on the drone and the thumb on the button. stop — located on the remote control. It must be said that at more than 2,000 euros per drone, confidence in the sensor/algorithm couple is not everything. Note that obstacle detection is disabled in Sport mode.
And the other automatic modes?
In reality, the ActiveTrack 5.0 mode that we have just detailed is part of a group of three features called FocusTrack. Yes, in addition to being able to follow a moving subject, the Mavic 3 also offers:
Spotlight 2.0: the drone always keeps the subject in the image and the pilot can continue to interact with the joysticks. The objective is precisely to focus on the movements and the height of the drone without having to worry too much about framing the subject. The latter can be static (a monument for example) or in motion, but, without action on your part, the drone will hover while adjusting the angle of the nacelle to frame it.
POI 3.0: the drone rotates around the subject according to the speed and direction of rotation chosen. Both static and moving subjects are handled.
These last two modes benefit from obstacle avoidance. They meet specific needs and they have proven to be very effective the few times we have used them. Please note: the three FocusTrack features can be used up to 4K and DCI 4K at 60 frames per second – therefore not 5.1 K or 120 frames per second. Owners of the Mavic 3 Cine Premium can also forget the Apple ProRes format. The latest Mavic 3 update has made 2x digital zoom and D-Log compatible with all three FocusTrack modes.
POI mode on a car
QuickShots on the Mavic 3
Finally, the Mavic 3 has two more automatic modes up its sleeve. The famous QuickShots already, these automatic movements that make fluid and stable shots accessible to novices or lazy people. Five types of movements are offered: Dronie, Helix, Rocket, Circle and Boomerang. They are found on the brand's other drones, such as the Mini 2 or the Air 2S.
Next, the MasterShots option, presented with the Air 2S. This is a more advanced version of QuickShots: after selecting the subject and a few other parameters such as distance, the drone chains itself 10 different movements then combines them into a small montage with music – which you can obviously share in 2-3 clicks on social networks. We were not convinced by this feature and we doubt that someone who has bought a drone for more than 2,000 euros would not take the trouble to make their own plans and especially their own assembly.
Up to 35 minutes of battery life!
That's it, consumer drones achieve more than enough autonomy. Without touching the promised 46 minutes of maximum endurance, the Mavic 3 proved to be very convincing. According to our tests in typical use, the drone generally lasts 30 to 35 minutes. In Sport mode, the Mavic 3 will unsurprisingly have to land sooner. In this regard, the first low battery signal offers us an RTH of around 15% remaining autonomy, then begins to beep in all directions once it has passed below the 10% threshold.
Here is a concrete example of the evolution of autonomy, by putting full throttle on the joysticks for a good part of the flight:
10:15 a.m.: takeoff of the drone and typical use, namely a few shots in Normal mode and a few automatic follow-ups;
10:43 a.m.: the drone displays 28% remaining battery life, we switch to Sport mode;
10:46 a.m.: 6 minutes estimated flight remaining and battery shows 17%
10:47 a.m .: the drone offers us an RTH after having reached 15% remaining autonomy;
10:49 a.m .: the drone lands alone, leaving us a slight margin of maneuver, it has 8% battery left once on the ground.
For a drone, such autonomy can only be underlined: almost 35 minutes with several minutes spent in Sport mode. That day, the flying conditions were favorable, with no wind. In a much more complicated situation at -7°C, the Mavic 3 lost 37% of its autonomy in 15 minutes, or 61% after 20 minutes of flight at -3°C. Finally in windy conditions near the coast, the Mavic 3 for example landed after 28 minutes of flight, with 11% remaining autonomy.
The remote control lost one of its four battery indicators after two full flights, ie 1 hour and 8 minutes of use. According to our tests, a Mavic 3 battery takes between 1h27 and 1h35 to recharge.
Please note, the 30 to 35 minutes of real flight allowed by the Mavic 3 does not prevent us from recommending the purchase of additional batteries, or from acquiring the drone in its Fly More version. Exactly, let's talk about it.
Take out the checkbook
The DJI Mavic 3 is sold for 2,099 euros for its basic version. Add 700 euros and you will get the Fly More bundle, which offers a total of three batteries (against one in the classic version), a charging station, a set of ND filters (4/8/16/32), but above all a great carry bag. While this is clearly the biggest bag offered for a DJI foldable drone, it proved to be extremely practical by design during our tests. Beyond the proposed finishes (DJI obliges), the bag can be carried by hand, over the shoulder or in backpack mode. The must for carrying a small jacket or a computer without taking another bag with you.
The Cine Premium version of the Mavic 3 is on another level. It asks for 4,799 euros for all the elements mentioned above in addition to the RC Pro radio control (sold for 999 euros alone) and above all Apple ProRes 422 HQ compatibility and the integrated 1 TB SSD to store such files.