I’m struggling to believe it’s been just over seven years since I reviewed my first DJI Drone. Reflecting on that, it’s just ridiculous how far we’ve come. The new DJI Mavic 3 Cine is the best compact drone you will find – but it comes at a price, and at that level might leave you wanting.
In 2014 drones didn’t come with cameras, you had to buy a gimbal and attach a GoPro, there was also no app or live view easily accessible – that was a whole other investment. Fast forward to 2022 and for $7,199 you can buy all the goodness that DJI has developed for a point and shoot drone experience that leaves Helicopter piloted shots from a decade ago in the dust.
Yes, the DJI Mavic 3 Cine is $7,199. And I have to be honest, most of you reading this could save $3,000 by just buying the standard Mavic 3 with the Fly More combo.
What you’re getting for the extra $3k is a lot, but in really simple terms, you’re getting on-board SSD storage (no more forgetting the SD card woes), the Pro remote controller with built-in screen, and some higher level cinematography settings such as Apple ProRes support.
This is a chunky drone, but still compact and portable in the way the Mavic first brought to the DJI lineup. That fold out style changed the game for the hobbyist and pro user. Instead of a huge backpack or case, this thing would fit in your existing backpack along with your laptop and other gear.
The Cine comes with a big carry bag, additional batteries and lens filters. That bag is actually bloody nifty design in it of itself. Open the top flap, open a hidden zipper and a new set of straps appear – turning the carry-bag into a backpack. Simple, but genius. You don’t need it to fly or carry things around – but if you ever need to pack a lunch – you’re covered with this bag.
The RC Pro controller is the best thing DJI has created for drone control at this level. It’s a small Android powered screen, running the DJI Fly app. So it’s familiar in every way to any user who has flown with their phone attached to the controller. Brightness is great, resolution is good – it really makes the flying experience better not having to pair something else or run cables.
This also means updates are a breeze. Pair with WiFi and then the device is off getting its own software updates, and in turn updating the Drone itself.
Up front is a dual camera system – interesting idea, and in “explore” mode you’ve got access to up to 28x zoom. But it’s all digital zoom outside of the limited telephoto on the lens switch. If you’re paying this much for a drone, please don’t be using digital zoom.
DJI say the range is something like 15km – though that would be illegal in any area – unless you have go-go-gadget eyes that can see a spec on the horizon that far away – I struggle once it’s 200m away.
And I will say, as we stood on the cliff-face overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the far-east coast of Australia, I dropped the drone down 20 meters to put it closer to water-level as the Cliff stood high above it, and I lost transmission.
There’s not many more heart-stopping moments than with a $7,199 drone hovering 5-10 meters above waves crashing onto rocks and you’ve lost transmission. The drone would have been 15m away from me, and 10-20 meters down. The rock-face that sat between us was enough to kill the signal, and that was disappointing.
However, in any other environment, this thing is almost uncrashable. As long as you’re not in sports mode or have disabled the sensors, the DJI Mavic 3 Cine will sense objects in any direction.
The display on the DJI Fly app really demonstrates your risk well, with not just a red-line but a distance indicator to let you know how far from the ground you are.
Internal storage on the devices means that the SD card slots are optional. And with 1TB on board, you’ve got plenty of high-quality video storage available.
The clarity of the 5K vision, let alone the 4K was stunning. I know a true pro photographer could probably pick apart some elements, but for the most part I think you’d rarely need manual mode on this drone, the settings are just so well done.
In reality, this is a small market. For many, or most in fact – the DJI Air 2S is going to do what you want, and its far more portable than this Mavic 3 Cine.
However, if you’re really looking to step up your game, particularly if you’re looking to get licensed, and make some money from drone photography and videography, then this is the place to be. It’s a big price to pay, but for an EASY 30 min flight time, that’s a big win.
Flight time is rated in the 40’s, but as ever, I’m not keen to risk flight to the battery limits. I was landing after 30 mins with no risk, and that’s a great flight time.
Take a moment to think about the drone market in the last seven years. So many brands entered the market, offered unique things, offered similar things – but in reality, just one brand survived, and thrives – that’s DJI.
It’s a credit to them for the build quality, image quality and overall user experience that seems to be at the core of what they do.
The DJI Mavic 3 Cine is their best example yet of all of that in one package. Expensive, yes. Capable, more than yes. This is not an entry level drone, it’s for those who have found their love for drone photography and want to take it to the next level.