|From left to right: the Mavic Mini/SE, Mini 2, Mini 3 and Mini 3 Pro.|
On October 30, 2019, DJI announced its first-ever sub-250g drone, kicking off the DJI Mavic Mini family. Notably, a drone weighing less than 250g doesn’t need to be registered with the Federal Aviation Administration in the US or with equivalent agencies in many other countries, so long as the remote pilot isn’t using it for commercial purposes.
With a whole family of Mini models to choose from, it’s a challenge to keep them straight. In this article we’re going to compare them head-to-head to help you answer an imperative question: which sub-250g DJI Mini model is right for you?
The original Mavic Mini was revolutionary for DJI, but it only offered up to 2.7K/30p video capture and had a limited range of how far it could fly. Released roughly a year later, the Mini 2 came equipped with a 4K camera and added five QuickShot modes along with three ways to capture a panorama. While it included significant improvements, the camera still had a smaller Type 1/2.3 (6.3 x 4.7mm) sensor.
|The Mini 3 Pro and Mini 3 (left) have near-identical bodies, while the Mini 2 and Mavic Mini (right) are exactly the same. The Mini 3 Pro is the only one that includes obstacle detection and avoidance sensors.|
Earlier in 2022, the Mini 3 Pro was released, becoming the first sub-250g drone from DJI to offer obstacle avoidance, with sensors on three sides. It added an improved camera, with up to 4K/60p video and the ability to capture 48MP images. It also worked with DJI’s RC Pro remote, eliminating the need for a smartphone to control the drone. But it also lived up to its ‘Pro’ billing by being almost as pricey as drones in a class above.
This week, DJI announced the Mini 3. Much like the recent Mavic 3 Classic release, this model serves to fill a gap between the highest-end model in its class and a predecessor that is more than two years old. In this case, it wedges itself between the more advanced Mini 3 Pro and the long-in-the-tooth Mini 2.
Breaking it down
It should be obvious, after viewing this comparison chart, that the original Mavic Mini, that was tested for this article, and its SE counterpart, have simplistic, bare-bones offerings by today’s standards. A more interesting choice concerns the Mini 3 Fly More combo with RC-N1 remote, which is only slightly more expensive than the Mini 2 combo.
|Mavic Mini/SE||Mini 2||Mini 3||Mini 3 Pro|
$379 (Fly More combo)
$599 (Fly More combo)
$409 (without remote)
$499 (with RC-N1 remote)
$639 (with DJI RC remote)
$658 (RC-N1 Fly More combo)
$798 (DJI RC Fly More combo)
$669 (without remote)
$759 (with RC-N1 remote)
$909 (with DJI RC remote)
Fly More Kit an additional $189
|Camera||12MP, Type 1/2.3
(6.3 x 4.7mm)
|12MP, Type 1/2.3
(6.3 x 4.7mm)
|12MP, Type 1/1.3
(10 x 7.5mm)
|48MP, Type 1/1.3
(10 x 7.5mm)
|Lens||24mm (equiv.) F2.8||24mm (equiv.) F2.8||24mm (equiv.) F1.7||24mm (equiv.) F1.7|
|Photo Format||JPEG||JPEG+ Raw||JPEG+ Raw||JPEG+ Raw|
4K:2x, 2.7K:3x, 1080p:4x
|4K:2x, 2.7K:3x, 1080p:4x||4K:2x, 2.7K:3x, 1080p:4x|
|Max Video Resolution||2.7/30p||4K/30p||4K/30p||4K/60p|
|Video Bit Rate||40 Mbps||100 Mbps||100 Mbps||150 Mbps|
|Video Tranmission||Enhanced Wi- Fi, 720p/30p, 4km||DJI O2, 720p/30p, 10km||DJI O2, 720p/30p, 10km||DJI O3, 1080p/30p, 12km|
|Core Intelligent Functions||QuickShots||QuickShots, Panorama||
QuickShots (including Asteroid), Panorama MasterShots, Hyperlapse, APAS 4.0
|Max Flight Time||30 minutes||31 minutes||
38 minutes or 51 minutes*
|34 minutes or 47 minutes*|
|Obstacle Detection Sensors||Downward Vision System||Downward Vision System||Downward Vision System||Forward, Backward, Downward Obstacle avoidance|
|Dimensions||138x81x58 mm||138x81x58 mm||148x90x62 mm||145x90x62 mm|
*The Intelligent Flight battery gives the Mini 3 and Mini 3 Pro 37 or 34 minutes of battery life, respectively. The Intelligent Flight Plus battery gives each drone either 51 or 47 minutes. They are interchangeable but not available in all countries.
**Using the Intelligent Flight battery Plus will put the drone’s takeoff weight above 250g. It will need to be registered with regulatory bodies.
The Mavic Mini and SE: The incredible shrinking drone
|The Mavic Mini, which was tested for this article, and the Mini SE include a camera capable of capturing 2.7K/30p footage.|
The Mavic Mini is no longer in production, but it can still be found at a variety of retailers. However, the Mini SE is still for sale on DJI’s website. The SE has the same body as the Mini 2 and both models house a 12MP camera with a Type 1/2.3 (6.3 x 4.7mm) sensor, similar to that found in many smartphones. It features a 24mm (equiv.) lens with an 83º field of view and a fixed F2.8 aperture. It cannot capture Raw files.
|The Mavic Mini and SE include a very basic remote and set of features.|
Video can be captured at a maximum resolution of 2.7K/30p at a bitrate of 40 Mbps using the H.264 codec. Only .MP4 files are supported. It’s important to note that Auto Exposure Bracketing (AEB) is not available for capturing still images. Video capabilities are limited as well. There aren’t 10-bit or D-Cinelike profiles, so you’re stuck with less flexible video clips. Slo-Mo recording is also not available. While DJI’s signature QuickShots including Dronie, Helix, Rocket and Circle (these let the drone execute preprogrammed types of shots) are part of the software package, Hyperlapse (essentially a time-lapse sequence with the added element of motion) is missing from both Mini and Mini SE models.
Only a basic remote, which attaches to a smartphone, is compatible with the Mavic Mini and SE. This controller has a power button on the right-hand side, a ‘Return to Home’ button on the left, and gimbal wheels on top. Because the remote relies on Wi-Fi, range is limited to 4km (2.5 miles) and the live feed can look a bit grainy compared to the final footage. The maximum smartphone length is 160 mm (6.3″), which means that larger smartphones, including my iPhone 12 Pro Max at 160.8 mm, won’t fit comfortably into it. Flight time for the Mini/Mini SE, with a full battery in the most ideal conditions, is 30 minutes.
The Mini 2: The arrival of 4K video
|The Mini 2 was the first-ever sub-250g drone to boast a 4K camera.|
Released in November 2020, the Mini 2 was the first sub-250g drone to offer a 4K camera. With a 24mm equivalent lens, F2.8 fixed aperture and 83º FOV, it can capture 12MP images with its Type 1/2.3 (6.3 x 4.7mm) sensor. AEB is available for up to 3 shots and those can be combined into an HDR image. Panorama mode supports wide-angle, 180º and sphere. Those images will need to be stitched together in post-processing. Both JPEG and Raw images are supported.
Up to 4K/30p video can be captured at 100 Mbps with a H.264 codec. You can digitally zoom in on subjects up to 2X at 4K/30p, 3X at 2.7K/20p and 4X at 1080p/30p. Dronie, Circle, Helix, Rocket and Boomerang QuickShots are available, but Hyperlapse isn’t. Video can only be recorded in .MP4 format and a Log profile is not available.
The Mini 2 is compatible with DJI’s RC-N1 remote controller. The remote itself is larger than the drone and a smartphone clamps in on top. It has no LED screen but offers pertinent features including the ability to toggle between flight speeds (Sport, Normal, Cinematic) and recording buttons. DJI’s OcuSync 2.0 transmission gives the drone a range of up to 10km (6.2 miles). If you don’t want to use your smartphone, DJI’s Smart Controller is also compatible.
Flight time works out to a maximum of 31 minutes per battery, not much different than the Mavic Mini or SE. While specs will tell you that these smaller machines have a similar wind resistance compared to the more aerodynamic Mini 3 models, it simply isn’t true. I found both to drift a bit while contemporary successors held steady.
The Mini 3: Bigger sensor
|DJI’s Mini 3 brings modern updates to its predecessor, the Mini 2.|
The Mini 3 is a pricier and more sophisticated entry-level sub-250g drone. Like its Mini 3 Pro counterpart, it offers a Type 1/1.3 (10 x 7.5mm) sensor. A 12MP camera with a 24mm equivalent lens (82.1º FOV ) and fixed F1.7 aperture is mounted on a 3-axis gimbal that is also capable of rotating for vertical (portrait) shots – no cropping necessary.
AEB is present and captures differently exposed shots in sets of 3. You can also capture stills as wide-angle, sphere, and 180º panoramas. DJI is using a Quad Bayer sensor to create 12MP images, with pixels as large as 2.4μm (micrometer) for enhanced low-light performance. JPEG and Raw formats are both supported by the Mini 3.
4K/30p video in .MP4 format can be captured at 100 Mbps with an H.264 codec. You can zoom in on subjects up to 2X at 4K/30p, 3X at 2.7K/20p and 4X at 1080p/30p with 2X zoom. As with the Mini 2, Dronie, Circle, Helix, Rocket and Boomerang QuickShots are available, but Hyperlapse still isn’t. Finally, pilots who care about getting every ounce of detail from video should note that the Mini 3 doesn’t let you shoot with DJI’s Log profile.
|The Mini 3 works with both DJI’s RC-N1 remote and the DJI RC.|
The Mini 3 is compatible with the RC-N1, DJI RC, and Smart Controller remotes. DJI’s RC remote features all the buttons and wheels you need, plus a 5.5”, 700-nit touchscreen. DJI’s OcuSync 2.0 transmission gives the drone a range of up to 10km (6.2 miles).
Two different types of battery can be used with the Mini 3: the Intelligent Flight battery, which gives the drone up to 38 minutes of flight time, and the Intelligent Flight Plus battery, which maxes out at up to 51 minutes. Mini 3 and Mini 3 Pro batteries are interchangeable. Using Intelligent Flight Plus batteries will put the drone at a takeoff weight above 250g, however, which means it will need to be registered.
The Mini 3 Pro: Small size with more advanced features
|DJI’s Mini 3 Pro is top-of-the-line in the Mini family with obstacle detection and avoidance sensors, along with a 48MP F1.7 camera.|
The Mini 3 Pro, released in May 2022, is DJI’s top-of-the-line sub-250g drone. It includes a few features found in models a class above it including APAS 4.0, which allows you to track subjects and bypass or avoid objects. Unlike the cheaper options, the 3 Pro includes Hyperlapse, MasterShots and all QuickShots, including Asteroid, giving you maximum creative opportunities. Forward, backward and downward obstacle detection and avoidance is built in as well.
The Mini 3 Pro has a 48MP camera with a Type 1/1.3 (10 x 7.5m) sensor and dual native ISO (two conversion gain modes), and it supports tone-mapped HDR footage (which DJI says puts greater range into an SDR video). It can capture both 12MP and 48MP images using a 24mm (equiv.) F1.7 fixed-aperture lens with an 82.1º FOV. AEB offers brackets of 3 or 5 images. All panoramic modes are included, including the addition of Vertical.
|DJI’s Mini 3 Pro is the only model in the series that offers the ability to brake in front of or bypass obstacles.|
4K/60p video can be captured at a bitrate of 150 Mbps with both H.264 and H.265 codecs. As with the Mini 2 and 3, you can zoom in on subjects up to 2X at 4K/30p, 3X at 2.7K/20p and 4X at 1080p/30p, with 2X being advertised as ‘lossless.’ 10-bit color and DJI’s D-Cinelike profile were included shortly after the Mini 3 Pro launched.
DJI’s Mini 3 Pro is compatible with the RC-N1, DJI RC and RC Pro remote controllers. Obviously, you wouldn’t want to purchase the latter remote for $1,199 unless you absolutely needed a third-party app and didn’t want to use your smartphone to help control the drone. That being said, if you already own a Mavic 3 Cine or other high-end DJI model, then you could purchase the Mini 3 as a standalone unit.
DJI’s O3 transmission gives the drone a longer range of 12 km (7.5 miles) and a clear 1080/30p live stream with low latency. Battery life is respectively 34 minutes with an Intelligent Battery and 47 minutes with the Intelligent Battery Plus. As with the Mini 3, the Plus battery will unfortunately put the drone over the 250g weight limit, making it require registration to fly. Both the Mini 3 and Mini 3 Pro also have Level 5 wind resistance, meaning they can automatically withstand wind speeds up to 38.5 km/h (about 24 mph).
Who is each model best for?
As you can tell from the sample clips and photos, you get what you pay for.
The Mavic Mini and SE are undoubtedly the most bare-bones drones of the Mini family. They don’t have many of the fancy features or settings that help you capture amazing video or stills. This makes them an affordable entry point into the DJI ecosystem, though, and they’re potentially perfect for someone starting out who may not be sure if they want a drone long-term.
The Mini 2 is a great fit for someone with a budget in the $500 – $600 range. This model is capable of taking decent-looking photos and video clips. It’s the ideal option for hobbyists or budget travellers to take on vacation with their camera gear.
The Mini 3 is a bit pricier; however, you get a modern entry-level drone. Remote pilots desiring a sub-250g drone with a larger sensor and crisper, cleaner imagery that they can share on social channels will enjoy this offering. Just be sure you don’t mind that some of DJI’s more advanced features are missing.
As its name indicates, the Mini 3 Pro is geared toward more demanding drone pilots looking to create polished photos and video clips. Obstacle detection and avoidance means users can perform inspections or maneuver in tighter areas without worry. This is a drone suitable for high-end hobby flying or commercial-grade work.
A few hundred dollars separates each tier, but the differences are meaningful. Hopefully this article gave you some clarity on which model, given your budget and needs, is the best fit. Happy flying!