DJI Mini 3 Pro Review – More expensive, better and with as few rules as possible

Summarized

The DJI Mini 3 has increased significantly in price compared to its predecessor, but is now also an alternative to the larger Mavic and Air drones. Thanks to its 249 grams, it falls into the lightest category, which means you can fly in more places without a mandatory drone course. Its more professional specs, with a bigger sensor, better gimbal and sensors that allow it to dodge objects, makes it an interesting alternative to the heavier ‘legacy’ drones. It’s amazing that DJI was able to cram so much technology into such a small and light housing. This makes it an interesting alternative to the larger and heavier drones, partly because of the rules. All in all, in our opinion, this is worth an Excellent Award.

Pros

  • More freedom thanks to low weight
  • Improved camera
  • 4k at 60fps
  • Nice controller(s)
  • Long battery life

Cons

  • Much higher price than the Mini 2
  • More wind sensitive than larger drones
Drones are ideal for aerial photography and video, but despite new innovations and models, they have become less popular in recent years. That has everything to do with regulations; you are not allowed to fly in many places and you have to do a mandatory drone course. Until now, there was one drone that, thanks to its low weight, was able to overcome many rules: the DJI Mini 2. Now there is the Mini 3 Pro, which is just as light but contains more professional features. Shortly before the official release on Tuesday, we were able to get started with it.
Rules and Exemptions

The rules for flying a drone were completely overhauled in early 2021. See the extensive article we wrote about it at the time. Until then, each country had its own rules, which differed greatly, but today the basic rules apply throughout the EU. Since then, drones have been classified into categories and classes to determine the risk. Simply put, amateur pilots, they are primarily classified by weight.

For drones heavier than 250g, a theory exam is mandatory. This can be done online and costs, depending on the type of drone and the classification A1, A2 or A3, approximately 50 to 200 euros. Such a drone certificate is valid for five years; after that you will have to take another theory test. For heavier drones over 900g, such as the Mavic Pro 2 series, an exam with additional questions is necessary, as well as a statement that you have experience; otherwise restrictions still apply.

All kinds of exemptions apply to drones under 250g, which is why DJI has also prominently written ‘249g’ on the aircraft. The risk of these small drones is estimated to be low due to their weight; the risk of serious injury is limited. You only need to register your drone with the RDW and do not take an exam. You can also fly over buildings and people with these light drones. Of course, provided you do not bother anyone, because the privacy rules that apply to cameras also apply to drones. You are therefore not allowed to follow and film people unsolicited.

There is another complication for drones above 250g. From 2024 , a Cx CE label determines in which subcategory a drone falls: from C0 to C4. Such a label should be on the packaging when purchased, but they are not there yet. Drones without such a Cx CE label are automatically considered a ‘legacy drone’. After a three-year transition period, these will all fall into the A3 subcategory from 2024. Strict rules apply to this, such as keeping a distance of at least 150m from people, buildings, industrial and recreational areas.

It is therefore not the case that you can do everything with a drone of less than 250g. It is also still prohibited to fly near airports, nor is it allowed in most Natura 2000 sites. The fact that almost every nature reserve plus the Wadden Sea and the Markermeer is classified as Natura 2000 does not help. You then have to find out for yourself whether there are exceptions or whether you continue to fly above a dike. See a drone map such as that of GoDrone or Aeret that shows even more specifically whether and when a zone is prohibited.

Comparison Mini 2 and Mini 3 Pro

The Mini 2 and Mini 3 Pro are almost the same size, both folded and unfolded. The design has been slightly modified. When the Mini 3 Pro hovers in the air, it doesn’t fly straight, but diagonally downwards, with its butt down. This is because the rear propellers are positioned lower than the front ones. If the Mini 3 Pro flies straight ahead, it hangs fairly horizontally in the air. The distinctive landing feet at the front are gone – he now lands on his stomach.

Both the camera module and the gimbal have become slightly larger. The camera sensor with its 1/1.3″ sensor is therefore a lot larger than the standard 1/2.3″ sensor of the Mini 2. In comparison: the new sensor is even slightly larger than the 1/1, 33″ sensor from Samsung’s S22 Ultra smartphone. That’s still smaller than the 1″ sensor on the DJI Air 2S, which we also found in the Phantom 4 and Mavic 2 Pro, but it comes close. A larger sensor usually means a wider dynamic range, more sharpness and better low-light performance. Some brief tests with the Mini 2 seemed to show a small positive improvement. Unfortunately, we could not test the low-light performance, because it is forbidden to fly after sunset. Several photos of impressive Asian skylines at night have appeared online;

DJI Mini 2 DJI Mini 3 Pro
Sensor 1/2.3″ 1/1.3″
Lens 24mm f/2.8 24mm f/1.7
Photo resolution 12mp 12-48mp
Video 4k 30fps 4k 60fps
Weight 249g 249g
Max. flight time 31 minutes 34 min (standard battery)
Battery capacity 2250mAh 2453 mAh (standard battery)
ActiveTrack no Yes
HDR no Yes
RAW photo Yes Yes
obstacle avoidance Bottom only Bottom, Front, Back
Vertical filming/photography no Yes
Starting price with controller €459 €829

The Mini 3 Pro, like the Mini 2, produces photos at 12 megapixels, but these now come from a 48 megapixel sensor. The sensor uses a quadbayer filter with blocks of 2×2 pixels that capture the same color of light, recalculating the image to 12 megapixels. The raw files initially had a 12-megapixel resolution in our pre-production model, but after an interim update just before the announcement, a 48-megapixel resolution also became available. HDR, 1080p slow motion and digital zoom are also possible. New is the ability to take vertical photos and videos, especially for platforms such as Tiktok and Instagram. The gimbal then rotates 90 degrees. Furthermore, the Mini 3 can film in 4k at 60fps, where the Mini 2 gets stuck at 30fps.

Two batteries

The Mini 3 Pro’s batteries are a different size than the Mini 2. They are physically larger and have a slightly higher standard capacity of 2453mAh, which is good for up to 34 minutes of flight time. That’s slightly more capacity than the Mini 2, with 2250mAh, which could stay in the air for about 31 minutes. In practice, the flight time is also lower than specified, because by default the drone already wants to return to the starting point when there is still 15 percent residual capacity, although that can be adjusted.

The fact that the battery is larger than that of the Mini 2 has a reason, because there is a second type with the ‘Plus’ addition with a larger battery capacity in the same housing. It has a capacity of 3850 mAh and is approximately 40 grams heavier. The maximum flight time will then be increased by 13 minutes, to a maximum of 47 minutes. This Plus battery is officially only for sale outside the EU, otherwise the Mini 3 would exceed 250g and fall into a heavier category. Although DJI will not be selling that larger battery here, it is quite conceivable that it will still be available via a detour. From the outside, you cannot see which type of battery is used.

ActiveTrack and Obstacle Avoidance

If you bought a Mini 2 to get out of the complicated rules, you must miss some features that were in the more expensive DJI drones from the beginning, such as in the Mavic series. These include front and rear sensors to detect and avoid objects and, in conjunction with them, ActiveTrack to track objects. DJI was forgiven for it, given the drone’s small size and limited weight.

Nevertheless, the manufacturer has now managed to build in these features without making the whole thing heavier. That is very nice because it offers much more freedom while flying. It is nice for novice users because it prevents your brand new drone from crashing to the ground unexpectedly, but also for advanced users, this is a big plus. This is very pleasant, especially at a greater distance, where you only have the live camera image to assess whether you are almost colliding with tree branches. The drone can independently dodge objects by choosing a route above, below or along it. This also works fine in practice, just like with previous DJI drones. We did occasionally suffer from some minor bugs because our device ran on beta software. We occasionally had trouble clicking away helper windows that appeared in the middle of the screen. Tracking objects or people and avoiding trees and signs at the same time worked well in practice. Sometimes he is a bit conservative with ActiveTrack. For example, he did not dare to fly through an opening of tree branches that were really wide enough. And sometimes he loses the subject.

Connection, wind sensitivity and flight time

You notice in practice that the Mini is a bit more wind sensitive than the larger drones, such as the Mavic series. However, this did not cause any problems during our flights. The Mini 3 Pro holds up well, even on the coast, and almost always produces smooth images. In strong winds, you get a wind warning a little earlier than with a large drone. The connection is fairly stable in an open field, but during our testing, we got a few weak signals and once a lost connection, after which the drone returned and the connection was re-established.

The flight time is approximately 25 minutes in practice, but that also depends on the wind conditions and which position you use. In sports mode it uses considerably more power and in cinematic mode the least. The latter is best for stable drone footage and the former for tracking fast objects or battling the wind. The normal position is a good compromise between the two.

Price

The Mini 3 Pro is a lot more expensive than its predecessor. Where the Mini 2 is currently for sale for around 450 euros, the version with the standard RC-N1 controller has a suggested retail price of 829 euros. DJI tries to artificially push the price down a bit by selling the Mini 3 Pro without a controller for 749 euros. That may be an option for those who already have a DJI drone and can use its controller for both, but it may not be practical if you ever want to sell your drone again.

It is little wrong with the existing RC-N1, which we know from previous DJI drones, including the Mini 2. It fits comfortably in the hand and the battery life is excellent. You use your smartphone as a screen by attaching it to the top of the controller, where it is powered by the controller.

Another option is the optional RC controller. It has a built-in screen and OS, so that a smartphone is no longer necessary. With 700cd/m², the screen is bright enough in bright sunlight. There are also various options, such as recording the screen display on an external microSD card. In practice, we found this controller slightly more pleasant to use, because it simply saves one action. Moreover, your phone can remain in your pocket. This is also more practical if you receive calls or messages while you are flying. The question is whether you are willing to pay the price for that. Moreover, we see two drawbacks. Your thumbs overlap the corners of the screen a bit, because it’s mounted on the bottom. Positioning at the top is just a bit more convenient. And you don’t have an internet connection by default, although you can use your phone as a hotspot for that. Without a WiFi hotspot, you will not see any map information and it will take a little longer before you have a GPS fix: approximately ten seconds after the connection to the drone has been made. That is important toset home point . Until then, there is also a message on the screen that the GPS location needs even more satellites. Both controllers are very pleasant to use, but our personal preference is for the RC version with the built-in screen, because you don’t have to sacrifice your phone.

With the new RC controller, the suggested retail price for the set is 999 euros. If you also want the Combo set – this is a separate box with a charger, bag and two extra batteries and propellers – you have to buy it separately for 189 euros.

With a Combo set, the price quickly exceeds 1000 euros, which is almost twice as much as a Mini 2 Combo set. For many people, the Mini 2 will suffice, but those who want more, such as the better camera, ActiveTrack and Obstacle Avoidance, now have an interesting alternative. Because there are no Cx CE labels yet, drones above 250g threaten to fall into the heavy A3 category as a ‘legacy drone’ from 2024. With the Mini 3 Pro, there is now an alternative that offers similar features to the larger drones, where you can prevent this for the time being. It’s great that DJI has managed to cram these features into 249 grams, but it is mainly the regulations that make the Mini 3 Pro attractive.