DJI’s new flagship folding drone is here, and it’s bringing to the air an imaging arsenal never seen before: not one, not two, but three cameras. We’ve seen the Mavic 3 in two forms before – the original 2021 Mavic 3 and the scaled-back, more affordable Mavic 3 Classic – but the Mavic 3 Pro sits above them both. It’s DJI’s first folding drone to come with three lenses, while offering the same excellent flight system, safety features and overall design as the previous models in the range.
The Pro designation suggests it’s aimed at people who make money from aerial photography and videography, but how does it suit enthusiastic amateurs like us? And for owners of the existing Mavic 3 models, is it worth the upgrade?
Design: More of the same
There’s not much to say about this design that we haven’t already said in our previous DJI Mavic 3 review – because it’s essentially the same. The camera unit is obviously different, with three distinct modules rather than the two you get on the standard Mavic 3 and one on the Mavic 3 Classic, but aside from that it’s as you were: a fairly compact folding quadcopter made of hard-wearing plastic, with a microSD slot and USB-C port at the back.
When folded down, the drone becomes roughly the size of a water bottle. It weighs less than a kilo too, making it brilliantly portable. An included strap-on cover keeps the delicate parts (camera, gimbal and propellers) protected while you’re transporting the thing, but buyers who opt for one of the two ‘Fly More’ bundles get an excellent protective carrying bag included, which also has space for the controller, spare batteries, charging hub and more.
These bundles are more expensive than the £1,879 you’d spend buying the drone with a DJI RC controller and single battery but include lots of useful extras beyond the bag. For £2,549 you get the drone, three batteries, charging hub (which allows you to charge multiple batteries sequentially) RC controller, ND filter set and the RC controller, and for £3,169 you get the same but with the newer, higher quality RC Pro controller (the package we were sent for the purposes of this review). You can also buy a Cine version of the drone, which comes with a 1TB SSD built in and support for Apple ProRes recording; this is only available in a Premium Combo with the RC Pro controller and two extra batteries, which costs £4,109.
One small but key difference between previous Mavic 3 series models and this one is weight. The Mavic 3 Pro is over 900g, which bumps it into the C2 category of drone (both the Mavic 3 and Mavic 3 Classic fall into the C1 category). That means that, in the EU, there are greater restrictions on where it can be flown: C1-rated drones can be flown close to people and buildings, while C2-rated drones must be kept at least 50m away.
In the UK, where C categories no longer apply as a result of us diverging from EU laws (another beautiful Brexit ‘bonus’ to add to an ever-increasing list of them) it makes little difference: as it currently stands, UK users can’t fly any of the Mavic 3 range models within 150m of ‘residential, recreational, commercial and industrial sites’ or 50m of ‘uninvolved’ people. That’s something to consider before buying this or any other drone over 250g in weight.
Flight performance: Super safe, super simple
As with other Mavic 3 models, the Mavic 3 Pro is an absolute pleasure to pilot, with none of the anxiety that used to go hand-in-hand with drone flying.
On a full battery, you can expect around 43 minutes of flying time (a little less than the 46 minutes offered by the standard Mavic 3, but still impressive) and the omnidirectional object sensing system ensures you won’t crash into obstacles like trees, walls and pylons. The system covers all angles, and as long as you keep the drone flying in Normal or Cinema mode and don’t fly it in the dark, you should have little to worry about in terms of collisions. In Sport mode, all sensors are turned off in the name of greater speed and manoeuvrability, so beware.
The Mavic 3 Pro can move at a fair clip (up to 21m/s, which is over 40mph), is resistant against wind speeds of up to 12m/s, and has low-noise propellers that keep it fairly quiet when hovering. It comes with automatic take-off and landing, plus return-to-home and all sorts of built-in tracking capabilities: draw a box around an object and the drone will track it with the camera while flying itself or while you’re controlling it. All in all, the flight experience feels refined, safe and user-friendly.
We used the RC Pro controller to review the drone and found its twin sticks responsive and its live video feed beautifully clean and clear at ranges of up to a kilometre. DJI claims the Mavic 3 Pro can be controlled at much, much longer range, and we can believe it, but weren’t about to put that to the test and risk losing sight of it.
Image quality: Third time’s the charm
The big draw here is the new 48MP medium telephoto camera, which has a focal length equivalent to about 70mm on a standard camera. This joins the 20MP Hasselblad-branded wide-angle camera and 12MP telephoto previously seen on the standard Mavic 3 (although the latter has been given a slight quality bump thanks to a wider aperture) to create a three-camera setup you won’t find on any other drone.
With its large 4/3 sensor size and support for three different 10-bit colour profiles (D-Log, D-Log M and HLG, plus a fourth, Apple ProRes on the Cine edition), the Hasselblad camera remains the overall best camera in terms of detail, low-light performance and dynamic range. However, the two telephoto cameras are no slouches, particularly the new one which can also shoot 10-bit HLG and D-Log M footage (and ProRes on the Cine) while offering a greatly different perspective that’s particularly useful if you want to shoot smaller subjects from a distance. With its compression of the background layers, telephoto works better for this type of shot, and the extra camera is another valuable tool in the user’s arsenal.
We’ve shot and graded some sample footage (shot in D-Log M where available, then graded in DaVinci Resolve) which you can see here, and also taken a few still photos (in DNG RAW, then processed in Adobe Lightroom) with the various cameras to show their fields of view and quality.
Overall, this is the best of DJI’s consumer drones when it comes to image quality and flexibility, although there’s certainly room for improvement too: the 166mm telephoto lens still can’t capture 10-bit video, for instance, so it’d be nice to bring it into line with the other two cameras in this regard.
DJI Mavic 3 Pro verdict
The Mavic 3 Pro is a superb camera drone at a decent price (while it’s expensive, it’s basically the same price the regular Mavic 3 cost at launch around 18 months ago), but it’s certainly not for everyone.
If you’re a frequent drone user who needs the extra creative tool of the medium telephone lens, we have no qualms about recommending it to you – even if you already own the standard Mavic 3. It’s more of the same with a bit of additional special sauce. And, if you live in the UK, it’s no more restrictive in terms of where you can fly.
If you’re someone who just wants to get up in the air every now and then to grab some cool drone shots, the Mavic 3 Pro (and the other Mavic 3 models for that matter) could well be overkill. A Mavic Mini model probably suits your needs better, is much cheaper and can be flown in built-up areas, parks and close to people – and it’s even smaller and more portable to boot.
It’s not for everyone, but professionals will love this drone’s flexibility
Superb, flexible triple camera setup
Easy and safe to fly
Not much more expensive than standard Mavic 3
Weight restricts where it can be flown
Not all cameras support 10-bit video
DJI Mavic 3 Pro technical specifications
|20MP 4/3 CMOS, 48MP 1/1.3in CMOS, 12MP 1/2in CMOS
|8GB onboard, microSD expansion
|231x98x95.4mm (folded), 348x291x108mm (unfolded)