DJI has astonished the world with the wide range of capabilities of its Mavic 3 and Mavic 3 Cine drones, but what I really wanted to know was how much quality improves compared to the much cheaper Mini 2.
Both drones can shoot in 4K, have the same controller, and work in pretty much the same way. However, the Mini 2 falls just below that 250g drone weight sweet spot, meaning you can fly it in Canada without having to get your Basic or advanced drone licenses. This is a huge bonus for casual drone fans, as getting that license is more than a hassle.
That said, in my time with the Mavic 3, its smarter features and sharper video capabilities blew my mind every time I lifted it into the air.
The main specs of the camera that I am comparing today are the main lens of both drones. The DJI Mini 2 has a 12-megapixel 1 / 2.3-inch CMOS sensor. It has a fixed aperture of f / 2.8, which according to DJI is equivalent to a 24mm focal length.
The Mavic 3 features a much larger 4/3 CMOS sensor that can capture 20 megapixel images. It also features a variable aperture ranging from f / 2.8 to f / 11. The larger sensor and variable aperture are vital factors that allow this drone to take photos and videos in brighter and darker conditions than the Mini 2.
The Mavic 3 also has a half-inch CMOS sensor with a zoom lens, but its quality is pretty mediocre, and I found myself using it more just for exploring than taking photos or videos. Don’t get me wrong, it works in a pinch, but it’s nothing special. You can see examples of the zoom lens footage here.
How Photos Stack
The first thing that you will probably notice once you start looking at these images is that it is not easy to line up two drones to take two photos from the same place. I will also mention that I mainly used the cameras on automatic to see how the drone automatically exposed each scene. Each image is also an edited RAW DNG file, as it is also worth comparing the editability of each photo, given that most people are likely to use drone photography.
At first glance, I liked the Mini 2 image better, but I think it’s only because I was lucky enough to capture a better frame with a more dynamic cloud to help fill the gap. However, once I noticed how sharp the reflections are in the building in the background, my tone began to change.
The Mini shot also looks a bit more melancholic, but that’s because it has fewer stops of dynamic range, so the light pole in the foreground and part of the background look much more contrasting. I also flew the smaller drone about five minutes before the larger one and the sun hid behind a cloud between the two snubs, giving the Mini a more dramatic advantage under most circumstances.
Each camera definitely puts out a different look, but I think with a little more editing and maybe a little more foresight on my part, it could have made the Mavic 3 look more like the Mini 2 and possibly even a little better.
Again, I think the Mini 2 pulled the shot that I like a bit more. However, the detail on the Mavic 3 is unbeatable in some cases. The amount of detail he was able to capture on the grass and in the water is impressive. I did the Mini 2 flight first, and didn’t even know there was water in there until I flew the Mavic 3.
Maybe it was just the harshest sunlight when I flew the Mini, but I found the tree leaves on the Mavic 3 version look a bit more blurry, that is until you crop.
This is the same image as the previous one, but cropped in the lower left corner to show the loss of detail in the trees. The Mavic 3 holds up quite well. The Mini 2, on the other hand, begins to show where the smallest sensor falls behind.
Okay, at this point, if you were buying this drone for landscape photography that is shot at distances like this, I think it’s safe to say that the Mini 2 holds its own, at least in full light conditions. I don’t really have any complaints with either of these shots, and they both look fantastic, but as with most of these demos, the brighter lighting and contrast make the Mini 2 shots stand out.
The only caveat I’ll mention is that this image has the sky cut out because the Mini couldn’t capture any details while exposing the ground in the scene. While not perfect on the Mavic 3, the larger sensor on that drone was able to retain a lot more highlights.
This final test shows a more definitive comparison of the dynamic range on both cameras. While they both made me look like a fairly shapeless black silhouette straight out of the camera, I was able to retrieve a fairly remarkable amount of detail on my face and jacket in both images. This is the only image where I think the Mavic 3 looks much better than the Mini 2.
When it comes to video, it’s hard to show a direct comparison without flying both drones at exactly the same time.
Due to harsher lighting and YouTube compression, I think for most people Mini 2 footage will look better here. However, what I will say is that there are more controls with the Mavic 3 that would have allowed for more control and exposure. The raw footage before editing and uploading looked much cleaner.
When it comes down to it, the Mavic 3 has a slight advantage over the Mini 2. Still, when it comes to Ariel photography, unless you want to fly after dark or need maximum dynamic range, I think a lot of people will be pleased. what the Mini 2 can do with. Also, if we’ve learned anything today it’s that both cameras can take very comparable images that even a simple change in lighting can bring Mini’s photos and videos to the top.
The smallest drone has always exceeded its weight class, and it looks like it won’t stop even as 2022 starts poking its head around the corner. Also, this is just a theory, but I imagine that the DJI Mini 3 will fix a lot of the pain points I have with its camera.
When it comes to video, the Mavic 3 stands out above the Mini 3 with its sharper image and better slow motion capabilities. Not to mention the amazing Hasselblad color science missing from the smallest drone. That said, unless you feel like you need to get the most out of the more expensive option, you may be able to get away with an Air 2S. Or for casual wear, the Mini 2 can be surprisingly cool.
MobileSyrup uses affiliate associations. These associations do not influence our editorial content, although MobileSyrup may earn a commission for purchases made through these links.