Our thoughts on using the DJI Mavic Pro 3 drone for the first time over a couple of days in the land of wind and sand.
We took the drone boxed and brand new on a field test in Lanzarote. An obvious mistake but nevertheless we did!
Some background – Previous drones owned…
DJI Phantom 1 – Fly away: Lost
DJI Phantom 2 – Fly away and nose dived: Died
DJI Inspire 1 – Unlocked prop on take off over the sea: Sunk
DJI Inspire 1 v2 – With new owner: Survived
DJI Mavic Pro 2 – With new owner: Survived
DJI Mavic Pro 3 – In use
Before we go into a detailed account of the first use, here’s some things you might want to know –
Top 10 Annoying Things1 – The bag is too tight, too neat – no room for any additional kit2 – The tall sticks were tricky to hold in cold weather – quick fix was to remove them3 – The lack of DLog colour LUT – although this is now fixed in the new update called “Colour Display Assist”4 – Screen protector increased glare, and difficult to add a sunhood with the position of the sticks5 – Lost signal more with rock obstacles in between rather than the distance6 – The Auto Iris coming on and causing flicker… Turning it off with the touch screen a bit fiddly with cold hands7 – The twitchy landings sensors compared to Mavic 2 (switching to Sport mode whilst landing helps to fix this issue)8 – No dual remote option9 – The confusing order of files in media making deletion a risky action10 – No DLog option in Active Track / Quickshots / Master Shots – D Log has now been made available for Active Track
Top 10 Things We Liked1 – Speed and power2 – Control3 – Rock solid RTH4 – Picture Quality5 – The resolution and frame rate options6 – DJI RCPro Remote (no phone needed!)7 – Bypass Obstacle avoidance8 – Almost no connection loss between drone and remote9 – Zoom (although annoying that it can only shoot in 4K 30fps) – You can shoot 2x Zoom in 5K now.10 – Battery life
If you’ve got this far then read on for a more detailed look into our testing…
In January we got our hands on the new Mavic 3 drone. Previously we had the Mavic 2 with the original controller. With this new Mavic we decided to go for the Fly More package along with the DJI RC Pro remote. With the Fly More package we got everything needed to get up and running without any other purchases. The upgraded remote meant we didn’t need to hook up a phone as a screen, so no more annoying notifications, calls etc whilst flying along with a load of other improved performance features.
To test the Mavic 3, we decided to head over to Lanzarote and fly it round the volcanic landscape there. The first challenge was packing to travel, which with the supplied bag was a breeze. Everything from the Fly More package along with the drone and RC Pro remote had a snug fit into the Mavic 3 Bag. The bag was slimline enough to fit into a LowePro Ridgeline backpack so was easy to take on board the plane and fit into the overhead store. Another neat feature of the bag is that it transforms into either an over-the-shoulder bag or a backpack with built in straps so trekking about with the bag was very convenient. However once the bag was loaded up with the drone and accessories there wasn’t much room for anything else in it’s folded up state.
Before leaving we had updated the remote and drone to the latest firmware. This was essential as some of the features are not available with the shipped drone. Updating it to v01.00.0400 meant that we had some of the ActiveTrack features, but as we were to later learn not all the features that the current update now gives it…
So, setting up the Mavic 3 we wanted to test out all the features with a view to making a film about the volcanoes across Lanzarote. The first thing to figure out was what were the best video settings? The Mavic 3 has two cameras. The main camera is a Hasselblad 4/3rds CMOS camera and the secondary camera is a ½ inch CMOS telephoto camera. The main camera can shoot up to 5.1K at 60fps in D-Log. The telephoto camera can shoot 4K or 1080 at 30fps in explorer mode, but crucially it cannot shoot in D-Log. This means that if you want to shoot mainly in D-Log, shooting with any kind of zoom becomes a compromise (except the 2 x zoom). Essentially to use the telephoto lens, you are fixed to using 4K/1080 30fps in Standard colour mode. Although this colour looks good, it’s not great when trying to work into a 25fps edit that is mainly D-Log footage. A real disadvantage not to be able to shoot D-Log with the telephoto lens and something we hope DJI will introduce in later updates.
We decided to stick to 5.1K 50fps in D-Log for the majority of our shoot. Which was the best choice. The image quality is incredible. Amazingly detailed crisp pictures with large dynamic range at a full 10-bit D-Log colour profile. A huge step up from the DJI Mavic Pro 2. We also wanted to test out the high-speed options. The Mavic 3 can shoot full 4K at up to 120fps. When shooting crashing waves with a model running along the beach, we were able to get soft flowy images at 120fps that hadn’t been possible to capture on a drone this size before – another excellent feature of the Mavic 3.
Just to see what the ActiveTrack was capable of, we had a play around with the Master Shots feature. This basically records a set of pre-configured drone moves around a subject and pieces them together to give you options of different styles of edits. A little gimmicky and probably not something we would use in a professional capacity, but a neat feature if you wanted to quickly give someone an edit. As this uses some of the zoom features of the telephoto camera it means the footage is always limited to 4K, 30fps in Standard mode. Again, not something we would want to use in an edit.
One of the concerns with using the ActiveTrack on the Mavic 2 was making sure the drone didn’t fly itself into an obstacle that might have been outside of its field of view. This was generally obstacles that might be side on to the drone. Now the Mavic 3 has fully omni-directional obstacle avoidance with 5 different directional sensor pairs, which means it can avoid obstacles coming from any direction. This allows you to confidently track a subject knowing that obstacles coming from any direction are going to be detected. Another new feature of the obstacle avoidance are the options to have different styles of avoidance. You can either have the drone come to stop if it detects something (as per the Mavic 2) or fly around an obstacle – Bypass mode. So, with Bypass mode on, when you fly towards an obstacle the drone will traverse around the obstacle and navigate back onto its original course. In our testing this works well, but for filming it does give a slightly jerky feel to the drone at lower speeds so not something that you could try and incorporate into a drone move.
The DJI RC Pro remote was a very nice addition to our drone experience. The remote sits well in the hand with the screen below the thumbsticks. The 5.5” screen resolution is 1920×1080 and is bright enough to use comfortably in daylight. We added a screen protector to it, which in hindsight, added a little too much reflection so made it harder to use in direct sunlight, but without it the screen was easy to see. It features DJI’s new Occusync 3+ which gave us a rock-solid image transmission with direct line of sight. The only time we lost signal was when ducking behind a car to get into some shade to see the screen better.
The app is intuitive to use and easy to pick up if you are familiar with the previous DJI fly apps. When we were testing there were some features that were still “coming soon” so we weren’t able to test the full range of features. One missing feature that was a real hinderance was the lack of Colour Display Assist for D-Log. It made it very hard to see any detail in the picture when shooting in D-Log. The new update V01.00.0500 has now fixed this enabling a LUT to be toggled on and off whilst shooting in D-Log.
Flying the drone was as you would expect. Stable in the air, smooth and responsive. It feels faster than the Mavic 2 and with the extended battery life (about 30 mins per battery) we were able to fly much further and for longer. RTH worked very well and the speed at which it can return was much faster that the Mavic 2. Previously, when needing to return to home and land quickly you would need to descend and fly either forwards or backwards to get the most speed out of the drone. Now it descends at a much higher speed so it feels much safer when trying to get the drone back on a low battery. Landing, however was a different story. As it has a greater awareness of its surroundings with the upgraded obstacle avoidance, bringing it in to land was a lot twitchier. We used a large doormat as our landing mat, and although it was a good sized area, the drone would often not descend straight down and would hover, go side to side or rise up a couple of meters above ground level before finding the area below a safe enough zone to land in. A way to overcome this is to switch the drone into sport mode (S), once near the landing area, which cancels out the obstacle avoidance and allows for a more controlled landing, or a hand catch!
The DJI RC Pro remote comes supplied with a set of rather tall thumbsticks. These took a little getting used to. As they are taller, they were more sensitive and twitchier which affected manoeuvrability. At times we opted to take the thumbsticks off and just operate without. This was fine to operate with, however we will be on the lookout for some lower profile thumbsticks that are more similar to the Mavic 2 controller.
All in all, the Mavic 3 was amazing to use and the picture quality we got out of the main camera was incredible. If the secondary camera can be updated to shoot in D-Log then it will be a highly versatile piece of kit and something that we will be using for years to come. If you are in the market for an upgrade the camera on this drone feels like a massive step up from previous updates DJI have offered in the Mavic range.
Here’s what we produced from our tests…